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Alerting, Forced Comments, and Task Management in Checklists

Thermometer

A lot of our prospective clients ask us if we can force comments, create alerts or tasks when there are safety violations on their checklists.  We don’t offer these features, not for technical reasons, but for liability and management reasons.  I’m going to use this blog to explain our thinking on this subject.

Alerts and tasks sound great on paper, the reality is that they open you up for additional unnecessary liability and work.  It has a lot to do with how and when restaurants conduct checklists and the nature of our business.  Let’s start from the beginning.

An alert is a way of drawing attention to an issue, but it doesn’t require that you take any action.  Because it doesn’t require you to take action, it is often ignored.  Also, and this is a theme throughout this topic, there is a limitation in computer logic that may create false alerts.

Let’s discuss false alerts quickly by using the example of 50-degree mayonnaise on your line.  If this mayonnaise had been in a cooler all night, and you took it’s temperature, and it was 50 degrees this is a critical violation and probably a sign that your cooler is broken and everything that goes along with a broken cooler.

There is also another example where 50-degree mayonnaise is not a critical violation.  Some mayonnaise is shelf stable and can sit at room temperature indefinitely until opened. At that point, it needs to be refrigerated, and you have 4 hours to get that mayonnaise down to a safe temperature.  If you were out of mayo and opened a new container and stocked up your line, then this would not be a critical violation until that Mayo had been in the danger zone for 4 hours or more.

How would a computer know this?  It can’t know that the Mayo was safe or not safe it can only look at the temperature and create an alert based on whether or not that temperature is in or out of range.  But in this case, the alert is a false alert, it is busy work that requires a person to look at something that isn’t an issue.  This is one question out of possibly 50 to 150 questions.  We have several clients with 150+ item line checks.  How many real vs. false alerts could be generated on a 100 question line check per shift?

Think of yourself in this situation, how many false alerts would you look at before you stopped looking?  Look at your cell phone and your app badges, those little numbers that tell you that there is something in the app that requires your attention.  How often to you see those and think, I need to do something about this?

In our opinion alerts are useless because: they don’t drive accountability at the user level.  Also, the lack of context that the systems have and the dynamic conditions that exist in a professional kitchen make it hard to reduce false alerts.

Forcing Comments when a temperature is out of range, or a safety violation is discovered is another thing that feels like a good idea but when it is done has some potentially negative consequences.  Forcing a comment is extra work for the person conducting the checklist.  It is extra work that is only incurred on questions when there is something wrong.

When I type in a 42-degree temperature, I have to do this extra work but when I type in a 39-degree temperature I don’t.  Have you ever heard of the Hawthorne Effect; it posits that people act differently when they know they are being observed.  Have you heard of the Lazy Ass effect; where people are lazy and if they don’t understand the importance of what they are doing might be tempted to alter answers to not have to do as much work, such as lower temps by a degree or two to not have to enter a comment.  Have you heard of the I Don’t Want to Get in Trouble Effect; where a person doesn’t want to be the person who answered the question that was obviously wrong so much so that the app forced me to explain what was happening?

All of these effects are real and happen.  Look at how many people pencil whip their paper checklists today because they know, no one can catch them.  Our concern is that by forcing comments, we are reinforcing a negative and incentivizing people to take the easy way out and not to give us accurate data.  Data accuracy is of paramount importance to completing checklists, especially when they have to do with safety.

In our platform, we allow people to enter whatever temperature they recorded with a thermometer without any prompting for a comment or the creation of an alert.  When they submit their checklist, the score of the checklist may be altered based on optional scoring rules but that is for each client to decide.  We encourage our client’s to train their teams to enter comments explaining why a temperature was out of range, but it is not mandated.  Training to enter a comment is a small but important difference between mandating and managing to this standard.

It is a lot like the reverse psychology I have to use to on my 3-year-old.  If I want her to stop doing whatever she is doing that is going to cause me to spend thousands of dollars at the urgent care. I can tell her to stop, she won’t listen to me and will continue doing it or modify her behavior just enough to have me move on.  This in my mind is like the mandating the comment because I’m forcing it to happen and it is a negative interaction, one that she would like to avoid.

If I go to her and say “hey, we aren’t going to watch Princess Sophia if you keep jumping on the bed.” She will stop jumping immediately because she made the decision herself and because she wanted something and she sees it as a positive interaction.  That is what we want from the person completing the checklist.  We want them to identify unsafe conditions an let us know what actions they took to fix those issues voluntarily and with praise from management.

There is also value to the organization in seeing which of your manager’s are following through on these types of issues.  It provides insight into your managers work performance and provides opportunities for training and coaching.

If you are going to use tasks to measure your compliance and to prove that you are addressing all safety issues, then you can’t do it halfway.  It’s an all or nothing proposition.  It becomes a standard at which you have to manage to, 100% or nothing.  Here is a scenario that could happen when using tasks.

Most line checks and temp logs are conducted right before service starts for a shift. We often see line checks being completed up to 10 minutes after a restaurant is open for business.  It is a common occurrence that a restaurant could get slammed right as it opens and that the manager who just conducted the line check might not have time to complete and close all tasks before they are called away to run their shift.

You now have a situation where you identified a potential food safety issue, notified a manager, but did not address it before the food was served to customers.  In reality, that manager may not have time to get back to their computer or tablet and close those tasks until the restaurant has slowed down several hours later.  You know, and I know that the restaurant may have fixed that issue before service or that the food wasn’t in the danger zone or any other reason that a restaurant professional would know.

How would that look to the media or a lawyer who is trying to sue you for getting their client sick?  I think that it would be used against you.  Tasks work great for knowledge workers who are at their desks and computers for their entire shift and can quickly get tasks resolved and close them.  Restaurant managers are in constant motion during their shift and are wrong if they are in the office during service; their job is to be managing out in the restaurant.  Tasks for restaurant managers that are time sensitive could pose issues for a company from a liability perspective.

Another weakness of tasks in the restaurant industry has to do with a number of questions and locations.  Let’s say you want tasks to go to your district/area managers when restaurants have a critical temp issue.  If I’m an area manager with 50 locations, our area managers back at Quiznos had 50 or more locations.  You conduct 4 to 5 temp logs a day; you get one temp task per temp log, and you could be looking at 250 tasks a day that needs to be addressed and closed.  It isn’t uncommon to have a 1 item that is in the danger zone on a 20 or 30 question temp log or line check.

Once again you have to close these tasks if you are managing by tasks.  There is no halfway; you can’t not close tasks if that is how you are tracking compliance.  Managing the resolution and closing of all these tasks becomes untenable for larger organizations.

At OpsAnalitica, we replace alerting, forced comments, and tasks with summary reports. Summary reports allow our inspectors to conduct inspections quickly and then in the background we group like issues together and email them to area managers on a schedule.  These reports allow the area managers to look at the issues and the comments and use their judgment on how they are following up with their restaurants without overwhelming them with communication.

Ultimately the goal of using an automated checklist app is to collect great operations data and to run safer restaurants.  You don’t want to do anything that is going to take away from those goals or puts you or your organization into a situation where you were trying to do the right thing, but you increased your liability.

 

OpsAnalitica’s Managed Service Offering

There are two things that I know to be absolutely true:

  1. If you use the OpsAnalitica Inspector to automate your checklists – YOUR RESTAURANTS WILL BE SAFER!
  2. Restaurant managers don’t have time to take on additional projects no matter how important they are.

That is why we have created our Managed Service License, the first in the industry.

When the restaurant tech industry is going in the direction of do-it-yourself – we are going in the direction of restaurants by providing you with more personal service.

You will get all the benefits of having safer, better, and more profitable restaurants without having to find an internal resource to learn how to run and administrate the platform. For as low as $10/month/location you can offload this work to us.

With a Managed Service License, we’ll take care of everything related to the set-up, daily administration, and report building for your organization.

The only technical thing you will need to know how to do is tell us what you want.  It is that simple.

You and your organization will be able to focus on conducting inspections, checklists and reviewing reports.

There is no other easier way to run safer restaurants and get better visibility into daily operations than the OpsAnalitica Inspector Managed Service.

The craziest thing is that our managed service license is only $10 a month more than our Inspector + license.  That is nothing.  We are going to be the cheapest employee you have that doesn’t go on vacation or require any benefits.

Click here to watch a video message from Tommy Yionoulis, one of the founders of OpsAnalitica, to learn about our new managed service offering.

NO MORE EXCUSES, YOU CANNOT AFFORD TO WAIT ANOTHER DAY WHEN IT COMES TO ENSURING RESTAURANT SAFETY.

A restaurant safety issue could wreck everything that you are working so hard to build . Could your system survive a 30% drop in sales?  My guess is not many of us could.
We didn’t want to just talk about our amazing new  Managed Service offering,  Click here to get our white paper:  4 Daily Must Do Steps to Running Safer Restaurants.

If you have any questions give me a call or send me an email any time. Or if you are interested in seeing an OpsAnalitica demo, click here to schedule.

E-coli, Norovirus, Food Safety, and Checklist Resources

restaurant_inspector

Part of our responsibility is to provide you with content and tools to help you run your business. This blog post will contain links to other resources that we have found on E-coli, Norovirus, and General Food Safety issues.  If you know of some other great tools, please add them in the comments and we’ll update our list.

As you look at these different resources you might be asking yourself how can checklists and checklist platforms like OpsAnalitica help me run safer restaurants?

Operations checklists play a huge part in running safer restaurants because they focus managers on what is important on a shift by shift basis.  Whether your checklist is having a manager check temperatures or sanitizer concentrations.  Or they are using checklists for sanitizing or cross contamination prevention.  Manager’s who use checklists diligently run better operations than those who don’t.  The checklist keeps them focused and reminds them of all the steps that they need to complete a task and to run safer operations.

Situational Checklists can also guide managers on how to properly address situations that might not happen very often.  Checklists on how to manage a foodborne illness outbreak at their restaurant, or a cleaning checklist that they use if they send an employee home who is sick.  These kinds of checklists ensure that every “i” is dotted and “t” is crossed in an efficient manner.

A platform like OpsAnalitica takes checklists to the next level because we provide visibility and accountability at all levels of the organization.  We can see if a manager is following the checklists or pencil whipping them.  We can provide visibility from the CEO down to the manager of a unit.  Plus our system is self-documenting and organizing.  When you complete a checklist on our system it is filed and stored in the cloud accessible from any connected device.  No more scrambling to find all of your old temp logs or wasting time filing and organizing, they are just there when you need them.

Here are some resources I found that I thought were good and not too long.

Resources:

One common denominator in food service safety from HACCP to SQF, to the CIFOR response plan is checklists and documentation.  Checklists are not a nice to have they are a must have in running safe restaurants.  Check out the OpsAnalitica Inspector and see how we can help you run better, safer, and more profitable restaurants.

 

Food Safety Concerns Among Consumers Increase

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Just this week I came across the above graphic and an article out of QSR Mazazine citing a national study that showed 74% of consumers expect better food safety. The same study also found “that while a slight majority (53 percent) of U.S. consumers say that their level of concern about food safety has stayed about the same in the past few years, 46 percent of consumers say their level of concern has increased and only 1 percent report it has decreased”. Click here to read the full article.

Now more than ever, thanks in part to the Chipotle situation, there’s  a lot of scrutiny on the restaurant industry. When such a great, popular, well trusted brand can have issues the sentiment is that it can happen to anyone. And it can.

Multi-unit operators need to be able to know that every location is running safely, every shift. For a single unit operator it’s easier because they are at their location, in person, every day, for the most part. When you have 15 locations spread out across town or 100 across a region of the country or thousands throughout the world you can’t possibly be at every location every day. Therefore, you need to rely on a very well trained staff to execute in the manner they were trained. The easiest, most efficient manner to manage these expectations is through checklists with follow up. You need to inspect what you expect.

Every restaurant chain in the world has access to their register and customer service data for every location at all times, but very few have access to their daily operations data such as temp logs or know for sure that every location completed a full line check before each meal period including staff/FOH readiness, refrigeration temps, holding temps, quality tasting, checking for FIFO, and any other chain specific items related to food safety and guest experience. That is ridiculous, that is very, very important data which when monitored correctly will reduce foodborne illness outbreaks.

In the franchise system world it’s even more important. Consumers, for the most part, don’t understand that it’s Tommy that owns these 10 McDonald’s if they get sick at McDonald’s their are going to go after corporate. Tommy will be in trouble too, but the news story is the large chain got someone sick. It doesn’t matter where it happens either. If someone gets sick in Seattle the brand will suffer in Florida as well. Food safety is important stuff which we all know, but in today’s world information travels at light speeds and spreads like wild fire. Food safety has to be a priority and needs to be managed constantly.

The number in the above graphic isn’t exactly chump change. This is going to draw attention to consumers and thus government officials to try to get this number down. Stay ahead of the curve and start managing by checklists now. It’s not a decision you will ever regret.

Click here to get our list of 8 Daily Must Do Checklists for Restaurants delivered to your inbox for free.

Keep on Inspecting!

Choose Restaurant Specific Software Vendors

Busy Kitchen

A prospective client was evaluating the OpsAnalitica Platform against a competitor’s inspection platform recently.  Even though on the surface we are very similar in that we allow people to conduct restaurant inspections through an app, when you look deeper we are worlds apart.  You see this other platform is a 3rd party inspection audit platform that is being used in many different industries.

OpsAnalitica is a restaurant checklist and reporting app, and we only focus on restaurants.  As you continue to dig into both platforms, you can very clearly see the design choices that were made to accommodate each platform’s core clients.

One quick example:  the competitors platform is for 3rd party auditors, so they chose to rely heavily on printing reports and leaving them on-site as the inspector is going to leave.

The OpsAnalitica Platform was designed to be used by the company to self-inspect so we focus on advanced reporting options through our portal because our clients are going to have access to the portal.

As we continued to look at the competitor’s website it became very apparent that restaurants weren’t their focus, they have pictures all over their site of factory workers and jets.  They don’t even call out the restaurant industry as a focal point.  Choosing a software vendor that isn’t hyper-focused on your industry is a big deal, and I will explain why in a second.

Having multi-industry appeal might not seem like a big deal, and you might say, “well why wouldn’t a software vendor sell their product to a wider audience?”. They should if their product is universal, like Microsoft Excel, and a lot of times it’s completely fine, but there are instances where it can be trouble for one of the industries.

The restaurant industry is one of these industries because it’s unique in certain aspects:  multi-language support, limited time to conduct inspections and checklists, unique data needs, hostile operating environment, training requirements, etc..

The issue becomes design choices, customer enhancement requests, and new features.

I’ve been in the software business for a long time now and here’s how new software is designed and feature requests are evaluated and prioritized.

Every software company will poll their clients for feedback on what they’d like to see as far as new features/products, etc. Software developers can develop some incredible stuff that will blow your mind away, but if it doesn’t add any value to the core customer experience, it’s worthless.

It would be like a vegan restaurant advertising the highest quality, juiciest, most perfectly prepared filet mignon in the world. It might be the best thing ever, but does nothing for their clients.

Clients and product managers have an idea of what they would like to see in the platform based off of their real world experience and where competition is driving the market.  Often what clients and product managers want for the product are conflicting.

This conflict makes it difficult to decide which enhancements to engineer into the product. The tendency will be to lean towards requests from the most valuable clients to the company.

If you aren’t in the same industry as a firm’s biggest clients, your needs will not be prioritized because your requests won’t be in-line and benefit the core client base. There’s a large chain that we are working with right now that expressed this exact concern with a solution they have currently. Since it isn’t a restaurant solution, they aren’t able to get their desired enhancements implemented promptly.

In the case of this competitor, if they are primarily focused on large industry and aircraft as their website suggests, then a restaurant features may not make sense for those other industries and probably won’t get implemented into the product.

Remember, every extra button click, or piece of functionality costs money to develop and maintain.  There are real dollars and limited time at stake for software companies to add features and functionality to a platform, and they try their best to make sure the features have mass appeal and will generate maximum ROI.

In the OpsAnalitica case where we focus on the restaurant industry, there is a lot of consistency in what the clients are requesting, and that makes it very easy for us to evaluate and prioritize the development of their requests.

Our question flagging functionality that allows inspectors to flag a response for review before they submit a checklist was requested by a client and added to the platform within a month.

At OpsAnalitica, our background is multi-unit restaurant operations. Our restaurant checklist and reporting platform are developed specifically for the multi-unit restaurant operator.

If you are a multi-unit restaurant operator, and you are looking for a checklist and reporting app be wary of vendors servicing mainly manufacturers or airline/trucking fleets, hospitals, construction, etc., but also have a few restaurant clients. You want to make sure that your voice will be heard and that your challenges will drive the future of the solution.

Click here to watch a 14 minute recorded demo of the OpsAnalitica platform or if you would rather be able to ask questions and dive a little deeper into the platform click here to schedule a live demo.

Keep on Inspecting!