Two officers had stopped at McDonald’s in Old Rufford Road, Ollerton, at around 1am on Monday when a group walked in accompanied by a smell of cannabis.
After becoming suspicious of a 4x4 vehicle parked in the car park, the officers discovered it was showing incorrect number plates.
A further search of the vehicle uncovered power tools, gloves and its correct number plates.
Three men, aged 34, 32 and 32 were arrested on suspicion of theft and going equipped to steal.
They remain in custody.
Inspector Matthew Ward, of Nottinghamshire Police, said: “This was a great bit of work by officers who just happened to be in the restaurant as the suspects walked in.
“Following a brief conversation, the officers became suspicious of a vehicle parked outside and soon had these suspicions confirmed.
“Three men are now in custody and our investigations are continuing.”