Monthly Archives : November 2015

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Due Diligence and Due Care for Restaurant Managers

 

I believe that the hospitality industry should adopt Due Diligence and Due Care as management concepts that we fully embrace and implement into our business processes.  Due Diligence and Due Care are words associated with investing, and contracts. In my last position working in cyber security, those terms were defined as:

  • Due Diligence: Identifying threats and risks.
  • Due Care: Acting upon identified threats to mitigate risks.
In the context of restaurant management, I look at Due Diligence as doing what it takes to serve safe food in a safe environment.  I didn’t say delicious food I said safe food.  Meaning that we use HACCP principles to ensure that the food products that we are serving have been manufactured, delivered, stored, and prepared safely.
Most restaurants today are, or should be, conducting daily inspections of their facilities paying attention for critical food safety violations.  Making sure food is stored safely, chemicals are stored away from food, temperature discipline is maintained both in cooling and heating.  We aren’t introducing foreign contaminants into the food preparation areas and that all of our employees are healthy and trained in proper hygene are just some of the areas that we should be inspecting every shift.  At OpsAnalitica we are learning that daily restaurant audit checklists are a key to keeping consumers safe.
250X250 LI
As we have seen recently with the Chipotle e-coli outbreak they don’t even know which item(s) caused the outbreak at several of their restaurants earlier this month.  This is speculation on my part, but since the e-coli outbreak happened at several locations it would make sense that it wasn’t one person that got everyone sick but that a food item that was shipped to multiple restaurants was responsible.  It will be interesting to learn what caused this outbreak.
Using a restaurant checklist app to conduct daily checklists and managers following up on all violations is the best and cheapest way to perform our Due Diligence in providing safe food for our customers.  Due Diligence is only half of the battle, Due Care is the other half.
Due Care procedures are the processes that you have in place for when you identify an issue.  The key to Due Care is consistent and documented remediation of issues.
You may be familiar with the phrase “It’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up” that gets you into trouble.  That is especially true when you are doing your Due Diligence, conducting a pre-shift inspection, and you identify an issue but then you don’t correct the issue safely.
An example:  a restaurant supervisor completes a temperature log for a walk-in refrigerator, and records a 65-degree temperature.  The person completing the temperature log isn’t aware that this temperature is in the danger zone, doesn’t do anything to fix the issue, they just serve the food and they get a lot of people sick.
We as a nation are very intolerant of companies that had enough forethought to identify a critical area on an checklist but then not have a plan to fix the issue when the dangerous conditions are identified.  We find that unacceptable, and for good reason, you wouldn’t want to fly in a plane where the pilot knew a wing was missing but decided to take-off.
In the above example, we would hold the company responsible for not having the systems in place to notify management that their was an issue and not training their supervisor well enough to know that a 65-degree walk-in is dangerous.  Using a restaurant checklist app that could automatically email an exception report of temperature violations to the appropriate managers would be a great first step in providing due care.  Correcting the issue and documenting what actions were taken would close the loop on this issue and fulfill HACCP Rule #7 for documentation.
Look at your real-world experience, we understand when people make mistakes or accidents happen.  We get furious and litigious when mistakes are made and the people responsible are clueless when they should have known better.  We get even with businesses that profit while their customers get hurt.
As hospitality professionals, we have to make sure that our organizations, size doesn’t matter, have well documented Due Diligence and Due care processes in place.  More importantly we have to train, consistently follow, and document those processes in their application.  It is when we consistently apply our processes that we have a chance of protecting our brand and our businesses when we make a mistake.
If you would like to learn more about how conducting daily checklists can help you run more profitable restaurants, I invite you to download our free white paper here.

5 Reasons Why You Should Automate Checklists

We have recently received more proof from our clients that automating checklists and conducting manager follow-up are increasing restaurant profits.  Our customers see a 1/2 to 1% reduction in food cost when their restaurants conduct daily line checks and  follow-up with the OpsAnalitica platform.

Automation and apps add value that’s why they’re everywhere. They make things easier, more efficient and provide a ton of usable data like exception reports that can show your managers where they need to focus their attention on a daily basis.

Here are five reasons why you should digitally conduct your daily line checks, restaurant audit checklists and inspections:

  1. Paperless – less time spent doing the busy work of printing, looking for paper, replacing toner, troubleshooting printer malfunctions, hole punching, and filing of inspections.
  2. Rich Data – tablet based inspection platforms can allow you to capture photos, temperatures, and comments in addition to answering questions.
  3. Reporting – Data is available immediately in the cloud and can be used to drive better decisions.
  4. Accountability – digital checklists provide an auditable data stream that you can use to hold managers accountable.
  5. Better Operations – when checklists are completed, and managers are held accountable, the result is better operations.

Check out the video below to learn how our clients are saving food cost with daily line checks and follow-up.

Screenshot 2015-11-18 05.29.49

In-N-Out Rightfully Protecting Their Brand

By now most of you have heard that In-N-Out Burger has filed a lawsuit against DoorDash for delivering their delicious burgers without their permission.

On a side note I’ve been craving In-N-Out ever since this story broke. Double double animal style is near impossible to beat. Unfortunately, there isn’t a location within a reasonable distance to St. Louis.

Anyway back to business. I completely understand their stance on the issue. In-N-Out has built an amazing brand with a very loyal fan base. It’s built on simplicity, scarcity (outside of the west coast), delicious burgers, and “hidden” menu items. They don’t want another company representing their brand without any rules.

There’s a lot of control that is lost by handing your food off to a third party for delivery:

  • Food safety – holding and handling properly.
  • Food quality – nobody goes to In-N-Out for cold limp fries, thin milkshakes, and a cold burger on a soggy bun.
  • Customer service – I’m not saying that In-N-Out is the Nordstom of the restaurant industry when it comes to customer service, but I’m sure they have standards that they train their staff to follow.
  • They may not want delivery to be part of their model. Maybe part of their brand is the experience of going to a location and ordering a burger the old fashioned way.

All of this goes out the window when a third party is delivering your food, especially when the relationship wasn’t entered into mutually. It’s tough enough to outsource a portion of your business when you want or need to because of the control issue. But when you hire a third party you can put in agreements that will hold them accountable if they are in default.

In the In-N-Out situation they are putting a lot at risk with basically zero reward. If someone gets sick or gets cold food they aren’t going to blame DoorDash. They are going to look at the bag and see In-N-Out Burger, that’s who gets blamed.

In addition to potential brand damage with bad press there’s huge liability potential. If someone gets sick now In-N-Out is involved in a lawsuit for something that may have not been their fault.

The more you can control the better off you are in the long run. In-N-Out doesn’t need delivery to boost sales. They are doing the right thing by nipping this in the bud and stopping it before it becomes a problem.

Food safety is a concern for all of us, I would like to invite you to watch our Free Webinar on Writing SMART Pre-shift Inspections by clicking here.

6 Types of Food Comps and How You Can Reduce Food Costs

Busy Kitchen

I was recently talking to one of our clients about the OpsAnalitica Inspector, and he was telling me how it helps their company reduce Food Costs.

See if this sounds familiar, their managers have always been required to do pre-shift line checks. Even before they had implemented OpsAnalitica they did their line checks like most people do, on a clipboard with pen and paper.

With OpsAnalitica, each manager knows that their Area Manager can look at a report and see when and if they completed their line check each shift. Our client said that he first looks for restaurants that aren’t completing their line checks and then he looks for the inevitable increase in food cost that follows. No line check = increased comps. That is one of the ways he determines which restaurants he will be concentrating on.

When you don’t do line checks, you are letting your customer find your mistakes instead of catching them yourself.

In the spirit of this story, I have identified six different types of food comps and what you can do to stop or reduce them.

1. Crazy or dishonest customer
I mention this one first because I believe that the perception in the industry is that crazy customers are the number one reason for food comps but if you tracked your comps by reason my guess is that crazy customers would account for a small amount of total comps.

There are people who don’t read menu descriptions or don’t ask questions. They order food that they hated in the past but want to give another try or they can’t eat because of allergies.  These customers don’t want to pay for it if they aren’t going to eat it.

Let’s take it one step further, there are crooks out there, they are a small percentage of people who eat at your restaurant, but they do exist.  They order food with every intention of eating some of it and then lying about it to get the dish removed from their bill.

I went through some advanced customer service training when I worked for The Grove in Los Angeles; the training was based on the Ritz-Carlton method. The Groves owner’s standpoint was this, that yes there are people who are going to lie and think they pulled a fast one on you. Those liars are such a small percentage of your customers that it isn’t worth confronting them or allowing your staff to provide less service to them because they believe that the person is lying.  The cost to your business or your reputation, if you are wrong, is so much higher than one comped dish.  If you allow you or your team to make those judgment calls, and you get it wrong with a genuine person, they may never come back. You just have to suck it up as a cost of doing business.

As a manager, I always had a hard time with this because I didn’t like the feeling I had in my stomach when I could tell that one of these liars thought they were so cool and got away with something. It bothered me, but I grinned and beared it because our owner was right, and when I was able to fix a situation for a customer of ours that we genuinely made a mistake on, I was thankful for the power that I had to rectify the situation and deliver on our service promise.

Now with Yelp and Social media I think this is even more important today to treat every customer like gold because these reviews can live online forever.

You can’t do anything about this type of food comp other than training your servers well around the menu and paying attention to items that are getting returned more than others.  If you identify certain items that are returned more often, get them off your menu or ensure that servers are fully explaining the items to guests as they order. Ex “Just so you know this isn’t your traditional calamari that is deep fried and breaded, this is a stewed calamari that is in a bowl of sauce.”  Try to head the comp off a the pass with over communication.

2. Server Screw-up
Servers make mistakes. There are any number of reasons for these mistakes: didn’t hear the customer correctly, didn’t ask clarifying questions, didn’t understand the menu item or how the dish is prepared, was overwhelmed at the moment, was hung over or tired.

I was pretty consistently hungover or overly tired in my twenties. When I came into work hungover, I made mistakes, and the restaurant comped some food.

Server orders the food incorrectly and the guest returns it.  You solve this by tracking comps by server. You coach and train servers that have more comps and if you can’t fix them then they may not be the right fit for your restaurant. You do pre-shift meetings and evaluate your team before the shift and make adjustments when you have to. Send servers home that are hung over or look like they slept in their uniforms, make an example of people and hold everyone to the level of professionalism that you expect. Spend more time training servers before they hit the floor in their sections, it’s more than just menu knowledge its table management.

3. Kitchen makes order incorrectly
This type of comp is very similar to number 2 Server Screw-up, it’s just on the other side of the house. The kitchen makes an order incorrectly, and the guest returns the item. Kitchen mistakes happen more often when there are modifications to the dish, and they don’t make it correctly. The solution is the same, train your staff to ask more questions. A cook should never complete a dish unless they fully understand what they are doing. Servers should be trained when there are a lot of modifications to an order to go back to the kitchen and explain the mods to the cooks or check with the cooks if they are doable before ordering.  If you have cooks that don’t know how to make the menu items, then you have to train and coach them and if they don’t improve this probably isn’t the right restaurant for them.

4. Kitchen makes recipe mistake
This type of comp is different from making an order wrong this is where they made an ingredient, a sauce for example, incorrectly and it tastes horrible. Kitchen prepares food with horrible tasting ingredient and guest send food back.

Kitchen recipe mistakes are one of the easiest issues to catch if you do line checks. A manager should taste every sauce, every soup, all side dishes each meal to ensure that they taste the way they are supposed to. Then you can catch your mistakes before your customer catches them for you. Recipe mistakes are 100% avoidable when doing line checks. In our experience, a restaurant that makes more of their food from scratch on a daily basis will see a greater reduction in food cost from performing line checks.

5. Kitchen takes too long to make food
Food taking too long to get to the table is a double a whammy because it is probably affecting more than one table and can generate a lot of comps when nothing was wrong with the food. There are several reasons this can happen:

  • The kitchen is just slammed because everyone sat at once.
  • The kitchen is slammed because they weren’t stocked to par and not all of their food is thawed and ready – slowing down cook times. This once again should be caught and addressed during the line check.
  • The kitchen or the service staff are making mistakes and there a lot of refires that are jumping in line and overwhelming the kitchen staff.

If this is a consistent issue, then you have to take the proper management actions and get the right people on your team.

6. Food runners make mistakes

Food runners sometimes drop off food at the wrong table. I think the rule is that if they leave the food on the table and walk away or the guest touches the food then they can’t give it to the correct guest, and now we have a comp. This is a training and communication issue. They should be trained not to leave a table where there is any question that the food isn’t correct. If they keep the dish on their tray or off the table, they can figure out what is happening and avoid the comp.

Take Aways

After looking at these different types of food comps, you can boil them down to a couple of core issues.

  • Managers that have not confirmed they are ready for service – line checks and pre-shifts.
  • Bad communication – training and hiring decisions.

1. Using line checks and pre-shifts to confirm that you are safe and ready for service are a no-brainer is the low-hanging fruit in these scenarios because you are 100% in complete control of doing this. Whether you are the manager of 1 location or 100’s of locations you can benefit from implementing a pre-shift/line check protocol in your restaurants. The key to making your line check protocol a success is following-up with your managers on a daily basis to make sure they are doing these pre-shifts correctly. If you implement pre-shifts with follow-up you could see your comps and food waste go down; we’ve seen as much as 1/2 to 2% with some of our clients.

2. Bad communication stems from hiring and training issues and are much harder to address because each person is different and each shift that they work is unique. When you are training your team, make sure they understand the why behind what you are asking them to do. Make sure you train them on using clarifying questions and always to get more information before ringing up an item or making an item.

3. Show the team what comps cost the restaurant. I think that it’s beneficial to do training around food cost and how it affects the business. I’ve seen this attitude where employees compare what they would buy a steak for in the grocery store and how much the restaurant sells it for. They believe that the restaurant is swimming in profits, anyone who has ever managed a restaurant knows the truth.

Hold a training session where you show your BOH and FOH teams the cost of each part of a menu item. Factor in labor and everything else that goes into serving this plate to a guest, go crazy here and really dig deep into your costs. A good way to do that is to divide the average meals served in a month into all of your fixed costs (insurance, rent, loans, etc.) and do the same with your non-food variable costs (profit % of rent, power, etc.).  Calculate the true all inclusive plate cost and watch your teams reactions when they understand that there is really only a small percentage of profit on every dish. Explain to them that when we make a mistake or have to comp a dish how that adds up. By explaining the numbers to your team and how comps affect those numbers, you will hopefully see some change in behavior.

If you don’t do this already, I recommend that you track the causes of your food comps in your register system or on paper. It could be as simple as:

  • Server Error
  • Kitchen Error
  • Food Runner Error
  • Customer Didn’t Like.

Review those numbers after a period and look for patterns.  This exercise should tell you where you can focus some attention to your business.

Comps are a fact of life because we are in a people business. I’m a big believer in Control what you can Control and manage to the rest. So many of the comps that we highlighted were because of a lack of communication between the customer and the server, the server and the kitchen team, the kitchen team and the server, or the kitchen team and the food runners. Those people comps we have to manage to as best we can and make the hard decisions when we have to.

Doing line checks and pre-shifts is part of the control what you can control philosophy.  Restaurant managers should be doing line checks every shift and following up with their teams to ensure they are getting done accurately. If you do this, you will be able to reduce comps and food waste.

If you would like to learn more about how OpsAnalitica can help you with line check compliance and reducing your food comps, click here  to watch our OpsAnalitica demo video.

Tough Year for Chipotle

It’s been a tough year for Chipotle. From pork supplier issues to a salmonella outbreak in Minnesota, a norovirus issue in California, and now the latest e coli outbreak in the pacific northwest closing some 43 locations.

Now you can’t blame all of these issues on Chipotle. The pork supplier was a case of Chipotle sticking to their guns on responsibly sourced ingredients, but it still cost them a good amount sales. But it will pay off in the long run with their ravenous fans.

The food-borne illness outbreaks, however, are completely opposite issues. This is bad press for the king of the hill. You have to wonder if there is something broken in their processes or supplier selection. Just in passing I’ve heard from a few different people, not in the restaurant industry, that quality has gone down recently. All this points to something that isn’t working as it should.

It’s interesting because we talked to Chipotle a while back about our solution. The response we got was that the culture at Chipotle doesn’t allow for checklists and follow up. Their philosophy is that if you hire the right people and treat them well they will do the right thing. This is absolutely true. To an extent.

The issue is that everyone is different and has had different life experiences. This brings about a different view of the world for everyone. So thing that you as the business owner know are important may not seem as important to your managers. If left to their own discretion they will not focus as much on the things that you want them to as they will naturally gravitate to ares they think are most important and where they feel they can add the most value. How much you pay them will have zero influence. They might just do what they think is most important better.

This can leave your operations somewhat vulnerable. If you are paying a couple extra bucks more than the competition you will attract better talent for sure, but you still need to have defined processes and inspect what you expect.

The reality is there are real consequences in our industry for getting someone sick. Just take a look at the ex Peanut Corporation of America owner and CEO. He was recently sentenced to 28 years in prison. Granted he was blatantly negligent and knowingly shipped tainted product. But the bar has been set. Food safety has to be taken very seriously.

Having a repeatable, documented process is the only way to minimize these outbreaks. A strategy around consistent daily execution will help you run safer restaurants all around.

Click here to check out a recording of our webinar, Setting Up An In-House Self Inspection Program.

Free Management by Exception Webinar

We would like to invite you to our Running Better Restaurants in Less Time webinar, on 11/5/2015 at 3:00 pm Centralclick here to register.

This webinar is going to be packed full of best practices around managing your restaurants by exception.

Management By Exception (MBE):  is a practice where only significant deviations from set standards, ex: unsafe temperatures or operating conditions, are brought to the attention of management. The idea behind it is that management’s attention will be focused only on those areas in need of action and immediate follow-up.

We are going to cover the following topics:  

  • Management by Exception for Restaurants
  • The Power of Exception Reports & Dynamic Scoring
  • How to Implement Exception Reports in your Company
  • Building Exception Reports in the OpsAnalitica Report Builder

This webinar is going to be full of good information, and you are guaranteed to leave with some ideas that you could implement in your business immediately.

Register Here – act now as these webinar’s fill up quick.

We all know that the only way to get location managers to do what we need them to do is to hold them accountable and follow-up.

Implementing a MBE program in your chain will give you the tools to follow-up quickly and consistently.

Webinar:  Running Better Restaurants in Less Time

Time & Date:  11/5/2015 3:00 pm Central

Click to Register