Monthly Archives : October 2015

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Face the Facts: It’s a Drag and Drop World – Part III

Here’s part III of the series, the final installment. To catch up on part I click here, part II click here.

How to Craft a Workflow Strategy

  • Seek out a check-list driven workflow app provider that has restaurant specific knowledge.
  • Examine the pedigree of the management of the app provider.  The restaurant business is perhaps the most idiosyncratic business in the world.  Do they really know what goes on in the kitchen and on the floor?
  • Don’t be a guinea pig for a company that’s trying to break into the restaurant sector with new app development.
  • See how quickly the workflow app provider can implement you with their “off the shelf” apps, and how quickly they can customized a new workflow app for you.  Sometimes, as with OpsAnalitica, it’s as simple as upoading a spreadsheet.
  • Make sure your provider offers dashboard views of procedure compliance.
  • Make sure your provider offers analytics of your operations, because they are the “window into the soul” of your business. 

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Maximizing Your ROI

  • Technology at any cost is worthless unless it quickly pays back your investment.
  • Accountability management workflow apps, like those from OpsAnalitica, are famously quick to earn back initial investments… in part because they are relatively inexpensive to put in place to begin with.
  • When searching providers, be sure to look for an ROI calculator, or case studies that show how quick the earn-back was.

Finally, ask your accountability management workflow app provider for their input on which apps will do the most to optimize your restaurant locations.

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Face the Facts: It’s a Drag and Drop World – Part II

Here’s part II of this series. Part I was posted yesterday. If you haven’t read part I yet click here and read it first.

Signs you are ready for Workflow Management Apps

The obvious signs that you’re ready for workflow management apps are:

  • Your operations are unprofitable
  • You can’t identify where your problems originate
  • You suffer food quality issues
  • Your operations are in disarray
  • Your operations are disorganized
  • You can’t track or account for losses
  • You are suffering from high staff turnover
  • You are suffering from low employee morale
  • Your services or locations have been red-tagged
  • Your locations have failed a health inspection
  • Your services or locations have been panned on Yelp or TripAdvisor

All of the issues listed above can very likely be solved by creating best-practice workflows, and driving them into your operations through apps on mobile devices.

Let’s look at but one item from above: “You suffer food quality issues.”  A workflow can be instituted to track and Q/A all food items, from the moment they are dropped off, through their storage (temp controls, quantity, dating, expiration dates) to their use (inventory monitoring, ingredient checks) to their preparation (standardized menus deployed, kitchen staff protocols enforced), to their service (wait staff prep, facility prep) to clean up (facility open/close protocols enforced).

What’s best, management can use dashboard-style systems to monitor compliance and get alerts to workflow variations, in real-time, tied to the person responsible.

The question is not: “Are you ready for workflow management apps?” The real question is: “Who isn’t!?” 

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How Workflow Management Apps Improve Productivity

Workflow management apps, like those from OpsAnalitica, improve productivity for these basic reasons:

  • The apps standardize procedures and workflows mentioned above:
    • Line checks
    • Temp checks
    • Menu standardization
    • Setup checks
    • Open checklists
    • Closing checklists
    • Employee onboarding
    • Employee training
    • OSHA compliance
    • Health inspection compliance
    • Customized apps
  • The apps allow for compliance checkup
  • The apps can be adopted from standard workflows, or…
  • The apps can be customized to display entirely unique data sets

By putting procedures in place (either standardized procedures or procedures customized just for your organization), users can drive best practices through an organization, enforce compliance, and monitor variances.

Click here to read part III.

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Don’t Market Yourself Off A Cliff

Screenshot 2015-10-20 12.46.40Screenshot 2015-10-20 12.48.41

Two of the most iconic moments in film history are Thelma & Louise driving off that cliff and Butch and Sundance charging out the door to take on the Bolivian army.

They are scenes of people choosing their destruction.

There are restaurant owners and managers that do the same thing every day.

Screenshot 2015-08-09 08.41.41

We recently wrote a blog about how GrubHub was hurting restaurants that weren’t ready for the sales increases. Restaurants would put themselves on GrubHub and start to get a ton of delivery orders and then not be able to keep up with the volume of both deliveries and in-house guests.

When Groupon first came out, there were stories of restaurants getting so slammed with Groupon customers, especially around expiration dates, that they angered many first-time visitors and in a lot of ways did more harm to their business than good.  This happened to some amazing waffle guys in Denver that I spoke to.

When I first got on Groupon, I watched this idiot massage guy sell over 3,000 $39 90-minute massages in one day. I did the math, and it would have taken this guy over three years full-time doing these deeply discounted massages to get through all the Groupons he had sold. It was crazy. Ironically the next day he enlisted five other massage people to help him work all the Groupons and I don’t think my wife ever got hers.

Back in 2008 I ran the Franchise Assistance Program for a large sandwich franchisor. It was a tough job to have right at the beginning of the recession because a lot of our franchisees were hurting and required assistance.

I was only allowed to give qualified franchisees access to our delivery platform for free. Adding delivery makes a lot of sense for a sophisticated operator who has the bandwidth to market and successfully implement the program. Delivering food requires additional employees and can stress a team if you don’t have the proper set-up. Look at a Jimmy Johns, they have one sandwich line for their in-store customers and one just for delivery, they are set-up correctly.

Unfortunately, for most of our franchisees, delivery wasn’t something that could help them because they couldn’t implement it successfully.  For those franchisees who did it half-assed, it probably hurt them more than it helped them.

My point is this. There are tons of new technology solutions being marketed to the restaurant industry that will help you drive new sales: table kiosks, delivery, carry out, mobile ordering apps, etc.. They can be great tools for your business if your operations are rock solid, you staff up, and you put the systems in place to handle the increased volume.

If you don’t plan for the increase, it is like sending out a coupon that is priced incorrectly, a coupon where you lose money on every redemption. The coupon is the best deal ever, and people redeem it. You feel great about all the business you are getting until you see your bank statement. You marketed yourself right out of business.

A lot of these tools get a service charge per transaction or take a percentage of the sale, so their motivation is to get you a ton of transactions. Your motivation as a restaurant owner is to take great care of your guests and run a financially successful business. Those motivations can be at odds with each other. I think a lot of Groupon’s early customers felt that way.

If you are going to open a new sales channel, then you should do the following things:

  • Put together a financial plan to determine how much it is going to cost you in staffing, food inventory, etc.
  • Make sure you can afford to start this channel for at least 30 to 90 day period.
    • In some cases, you will get busy right away and the danger is in not being prepared.
    • In other cases, you may experience the opposite, which is not enough sales and you have increased your labor and food costs. You need to be able to hold on and give this test a chance to be successful.
  • Make sure you time starting the new channel correctly.
    • Don’t just turn it on, plan it out and start slowly.
  • Find out if the vendor can throttle you in their system to ensure that you don’t get slammed when you aren’t prepared.
    • It’s always better to drink from a trickle than a fire hose.
  • Focus on customer service and quality of product above all else.
    • If you do that then the increased sales will come and be sustained.
  • Make sure you are running safe and efficient operations before adding a new sales channel.
    • Volume increases bring out hidden issues in your operations very quickly.
    • Consider using an automated checklist program, OpsAnalitica, to ensure safety and readiness every shift.

Marketing and adding new sales channels can grow profitability and expand a restaurant’s trade area exposing it to new customers. Generating more cash and growth. This growth can only happen when the new channel is implemented flawlessly, and the quality of the product matches the customer’s expectations.

If operations cannot keep up with new demand, then the new channel can accelerate the demise of your business, and you can market yourself right off a cliff.

Face the Facts: It’s a Drag and Drop World – Part I

You either get dragged (or drag yourself) into restaurant management and accountability technology…

Or be forced to drop out for running an unprofitable business.

There is no middle ground.

That’s for one simple reason: Perhaps 15 years ago it was possible to run a business without a web page, but today it is not. You cannot run a successful restaurant without technology. It’s impossible to do so profitably. It’s just a matter of how much and what kind of technology you adopt.

The days of the hippy cafes or sandwich shops managed all loosey goosey are long gone.  Now, competitors with iPads, tablets, web apps, and interactive spreadsheets will eat your lunch, while serving lunch to all the customers who used to go to the old establishment.

Whether it’s food inventory management, staff scheduling, reservations, or automated line checks, restaurant management and accountability technology is here to stay, and it’s only getting more innovative, more seamless, more integrated.  In fact, the next wave of restaurant management technology is focused workflow and accountability management, and there are exciting solutions on the market today.

Enforcing Best Practice Management

  • Today’s workflow management and accountability technology actually enforces best practices.  The workflows are driven forth through procedurally organized critical paths.
  • That means automated management of such activities as:
    • Line checks
    • Temp checks
    • Menu standardization
    • Setup checks
    • Open checklists
    • Closing checklists
    • Employee onboarding
    • Employee training
    • OSHA compliance
    • Health inspection compliance
    • Any procedure: You name it, even custom workflows
  • These critical paths can be set up to be self-improving, and informed by positive feedback loops.
  • The procedures and workflow that used to be dependent on someone’s memory, or on a list taped to the walk-in… they can now be standardized in an app suite.
  • The value of any standardized workflow is only as good as your ability to put in the hands of all your workers.
  • App-driven workflows can be easily deployed on smart phones, iPads, and tablets.  Linked to the internet, the data that spins off from the apps can feed corporate awareness of operations at extremely granular levels.
  • Reporting and compliance can be monitored through management dashboards.

Click here to view part II.

Apps and Big Data: How They Are Changing The World of Multi-Location Restaurants – Part II

Here is part two. Part one was posted on Monday, click here to read part one if you haven’t read it already.

If sales drop, for seemingly no reason, Big Data can look at customer reporting sites like Yelp through an automatic data harvest to see if bad scores are driving away people.  Without Big Data, for all you know, your bad Yelp score may actually correlate with a broken air conditioner, and it should not be forcing you through the expensive process of a menu change-out.  Or, it may be that all your key performance indicators are indicating perfect operations, yet one of your locations is under performing all the rest by a meaningful degree, until… Big Data shows you that you must look elsewhere for the reason, and it’s the long-term road work project that’s driving people away. And that can be fixed with a call to the mayor and his department of public works.

Collect it with Apps

Clearly, Big Data holds the key of viewing performance metrics in an extremely creative and revealing way.  So, what has limited the use of Big Data in multi-location restaurants?

You need a method for collecting the data and feeding the Big Data analytics. And that’s where Apps and mobility come in to play.

Today, tablets and iPads are linked to the internet.  That’s no secret.

And we can put these tablets and iPads in the hands of workers for pennies a day. That’s no secret either.

The trick is to deploy clever apps that drive the workers through their inspection tasks so the enterprise is capturing the data at the right times and the right locations, no matter what the skill level of the worker. That’s what apps can do with a high degree of accuracy.

Call it workflow regimentation.

Call it process control.

Call it worker discipline.

Call it good training.

The trick is to have an app that A) prompts the timely collection of data, that B) records and stores the data (the need for CYA never dies), and most importantly, C) the app should serve as a portal to a Big Data analysis that you, at the enterprise level, can make use of to maximize the profits of your operations.  (The fact compliance with health laws is enormously easier with these types of apps is a major side benefit.)

So, when you think multi-location restaurants, you should think Big Data.  But when you think Big Data, you should ask what apps are the most appropriate for feeding the very algorithms on which your success depends.

Apps and Big Data: How They Are Changing The World of Multi-Location Restaurants – Part I

You’ve surely seen the hopeful ads about for how Big Data can help cure cancer and stop deadly attacks, but you know what Big Data is really ideal for?

Multi-unit restaurants.

That’s right.

Oh sure, we’ll need Big Data to cure diseases and save the world, but Big Data excels at process optimization and workflow analytics that are exactly what we need to make multi-location restaurants more profitable and to solve problems that, before Big Data, seemed mysterious to managers.

Specifically, Big Data is ideal for:

  1. Gathering large amounts of data from an unlimited number of sources, a.k.a. ingestion.
  2. Detecting patterns in that data; and these patterns can be extraordinarily complex, such as comparing third shift revenues across 16 locations, while tracking the additional or subtraction of menu specials, viewed by server, by gender, and correlated to the local weather.
  3. Synthesizing the data into key performance indicators, in an unlimited array of data slices, which are limited only by your imagination in dreaming up how you’d like to see and compare performance.
  4. Presenting the data in special-temporal presentations (graphs and vectors) that offer actionable intelligence and trend spotting.

Too Academic? Nope. 

Does all of that sound a little too academic and abstract?

It isn’t. Let’s take a closer look.

Here is a short list of common inspection data points for a typical multi-location restaurant:

  • Cold potentially hazardous foods maintained at 41F or below
  • Food products not held, or sold past expiration
  • Food properly covered and protected
  • Frozen foods held solidly frozen
  • Fruits and vegetables properly washed prior to processing and serving
  • Hot potentially hazardous foods maintained at 140F or above
  • Walk-in cooler product temperatures maintained at 41F or below.

As the information is collected for each of these data points, the restaurant worker needs to identify themselves, note the actual temperature, note the time of the inspection, note the location of the data, and perhaps make a comment / take a photo.

Typically, this has to happen multiple times a day.  So, the inspections are potentially undertaken by many different people, all with varying degrees of skill.

Now, take these inspection items (and this sample list from above is just a fraction of the items that need to be inspected daily) and multiple them by the number of locations you are managing.  The complexity of consolidating and analyzing this data in a pre-Big Data world (especially if it were just written down on clipboards and thrown in a binder) make the usefulness of this data practically nil.  Fact is, data was collected only as a CYA exercise in case there was ever a problem or an inspection, and you needed historical data records to review.  But now that Big Data has come into play, this data can be collected, and algorithms written, to accomplish these following Big Data tasks…tasks that were nearly impossible to accomplish just a few short years ago:

  1. Gather the data in real time, with auto-triggers and alerts that can watch trends and predict problems before they occur or that allow you to dispatch a worker with remedial actions, e.g. manager gets a text when the fridge temp rises above 41F.
  2. View the data at the individual location level, the regional level, or the enterprise level, or slice and dice the data to just look at, say, third shifts, or just at certain managers, or just at certain individual indicators, like “food sold past expiration” in relation to desperate workers trying to keep food costs inline to cover up theft, e.g. VP of Ops gets notified in real time so he can alert an area manager to conduct an inventory. That is how you drive accountability into your organization.
  3. Correlate any number of location data points to sales, or even to outside sources like Yelp or Trip Advisor. If the bathroom is filthy and the inspections are missed (as indicated by a lack of data points), it should come as no surprise the customers stop eating at that location and are posting bad reviews, e.g. the fix is easy, once you know the cause of the problem.
  4. Use big data to identify the cost control issues in your bottom 20% of restaurants that are eroding profits chain wide, develop an operational fix, and direct your area managers to focus their efforts on fixing those issues.  Then use your data collection to track the success or failure of those initiatives.  That is the accountability management that is enabled by Big Data.

Stay tuned for part II later on this week. Follow us on Linkedin so that you don’t miss part II.

Share Your Thoughts On The Industry

Every week we aspire to create content for you that will make a difference in your business. You guys have downloaded tens of thousands of reports, eBooks, tools, and articles.  

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Some weeks we create content that is very popular, and hundreds of you respond by downloading it.   

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If you could take just 3 minutes and tell me what is the single biggest challenge that you’re struggling with in your multi-unit restaurant operations right now.  

A) It would mean the world to me.  B), most importantly I’ll be able to use that information to gear my upcoming emails toward topics you specifically want to know more about.

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Keep on Inspecting!

Visibility: What Does It Mean For Multi-Unit Operators