Author : Tommy Yionoulis

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5 Tips to Writing Better Restaurant Line Checks

Chef-Tasting-Food-300x294

Every restaurant should be doing some form of line check for each meal period.  The reason you do line checks is to ensure that your food is safe and ready to serve to your guests.  Line checks allow you to catch your mistakes before your guests do, which reduces food comps.  They also allow you to check for line readiness:  FIFO is being observed and your not selling newer food and wasting older food, proper portion controls are in place, back-ups are thawed and that the line is stocked and ready for the rush, which improves execution and sales.

We have one client who saved 1.2% in food cost when they were doing line checks on the OpsAnalitica Platform vs. when they weren’t.  That equated to a $2,200 per month savings from just better food management.

The hard part about writing good line checks is that you have competing priorities to deal with.  You have safety and quality vs. time.  If your priority is time, then you can sacrifice safety and quality to speed up your line check.  If your priority is brand protection (safety & quality), then you can have an incredibly thorough line check, but it could take longer to complete.

Like all things in this world, compromise is going to be the key to writing an effective line check.  You want to check everything but do deeper checks on high-risk items. Below is a photo of one of our client’s line check kits, it includes tasting spoons and a dirty spoon container, gloves, test strips, alcohol wipes, and thermometers.

Line Check Kit

  • Line check question Attributes:  the perfect line check question should include the following parts.
    • Item Name:  Alfredo Sauce
    • Pan Size:  1/4, 1/2 pan
    • Safety Control:  temp range or time
    • Portion Control:  weight or portion size
    • Par: how much you have to have on hand to make it through the shift
    • Every Item Checks:
      • You should make sure that each item is properly labeled with the make and expiration dates because that is what the health inspector is going to do.
        • Note in the comments if item wasn’t properly labeled.
      • Taste every prepared item: dressings, sauces, sides; that is safe to sample for taste and quality.
        • You can make notes in comments if items taste bad.
        • The key here is to fix bad tasting items so your guests don’t have to taste them.
    • This is where the competing priorities come into play as you could temp each item, confirm the above attributes and taste the item and describe it’s quality but to do all of that becomes three questions that need to be answered. That line check could become very long very fast.
    • Staying with the example of Alfredo sauce I would write the question like this:  Ex:  Alfredo Sauce – 1/4 pan – 145 to 160 – 3oz ladle – 1 up 1 warmer.
      • SPEED TIP:  Don’t have the people conducting your line checks make comments on things that are good only have them comment on exceptions.
    • I would also have them record the temp of this item because it has a proper holding temperature range.  Not all items do, but when there is a top range that could affect quality, then it is a good practice to get those temperatures because it would give you data to analyze if food costs are high.
  • Temperatures Questions:
    • Temp everything but you don’t need to record every temp.
      • In my opinion, it is ok to temp items on the line, verify they are safe and note that you checked the item without writing down every temperature.
      • This practice will ensure safety and speed up your total line check.
    • Always record temps for:
      • High danger items: chicken, shellfish, pork, sauces like hollandaise, etc..
      • Delicate items where a too high or too low temperature could drastically affect quality.
      • High food cost items where you could take a big comp hit if this item goes bad before you have a chance to sell it.
    • Think like a health inspector.
  • Time as a control:
    • It is perfectly valid to use time as a control on items that need to be stored at room temperature.
    • The key to this kind of question is recording the time that the item went out on the line so you can prove that you are timing it and making sure you are discarding the items after 4 hours.
    • It is also good to have some kitchen timers or something that you can set to show that you are paying attention.
  • Critical Item Questions:  These are items that a health inspector is going to check and could get you a Critical item violation.
    • Make sure you have all the critical items covered every shift on your line checks:
      • Food being stored properly in walk-in
        • Cross contamination, labels, covering, soups and sauces being cooled correctly.
      • Sanitizer Buckets with test strips
        • You may even want to record the ppm on your line check.
      • Hand sink is clean, stocked with soap and paper towels, and that the water is hot.
      • Nothing on the floor
      • Chemicals stored in the correct place away from food.
  • Shorter is better than Longer:
    • You don’t get any awards for writing longer line checks.  It comes down to balance between brand protection and speed to complete.
    • Focus on the most critical items for your restaurant and leave out any fluff.
    • I see too many super long line checks that take 50 to 90 minutes to complete.
    • When you complete your line check go and test it in the real world for a couple of shifts and see how long it takes to complete and try to pair it down if it is too long.
    • Make sure that every question can be answered by every location or give the option for N/A.

Writing line checks is not sexy work, but a good line check is a foundation for running better operations and growing sales and profits.  Once you write your line check the only way to ensure that it is getting done correctly is to Inspect what you Expect and to follow-up with your managers when you see inconsistencies.  Without follow-up, your line check could be pencil whipped, and your investment in it will not show any returns.

If you would like to learn more about how OpsAnalitica can help you hold your managers accountable and effortlessly follow-up, then click here to watch our demo video.

 

 

87% of Restaurants Surveyed Plan to Invest in Restaurant Tech to Improve Operations

Great blog post from eMarketer, to see the complete article click on the title – Restaurants Invest in Technology to Improve Overall Efficiency.   “Most US restaurant IT decision-makers plan to invest in technology to improve operational efficiency.”  87% said that Operational Efficiency was important compared to 55% they were going to make investments in guest engagement/loyalty.  

Screenshot 2016-05-10 15.37.32

Other Interesting facts from the article:

  • 37% of restaurant IT decision-makers said they’re investing in technology to increase employee productivity.
  • 7% of respondents said they’re investing in the technology because they want to keep up with their competitors.
  • 5% are doing so to keep up with franchisee expectations.

Screenshot 2016-05-10 15.37.52

One of the best ways to improve efficiency and run better operations is to start managing by checklist with follow up.  If you would like to learn more about how to get your checklists into the cloud, check out our demo video.

 

How to Implement Management by Checklist with follow-up in your Restaurants

Pilot flying with checklistManagement by checklist is exactly what you think it is; it is the art of managing your restaurants by using short, focused checklists to ensure that the most important operational details aren’t missed on a shift-by-shift restaurant-by-restaurant basis.  The practice is modeled after airplane pilots and their use of checklists.

Checklists work, plain and simple.  We recently surveyed over 100 restaurant owners and managers.  We asked the question; do you think that you could save money and serve safer food if you used checklists?  They all said yes, 100% yes.

There is a great book out about checklists, The Checklist Manifesto; the book discusses how checklists are driving better operations and protecting professionals from failures across multiple industries.  Here are some quotes from the Checklist Manifesto, by Atul Gawande

Here, then, is our situation at the start of the twenty-first century: We have accumulated stupendous know-how. We have put it in the hands of some of the most highly trained, highly skilled, and hardworking people in our society. And, with it, they have indeed accomplished extraordinary things. Nonetheless, that know-how is often unmanageable. Avoidable failures are common and persistent, not to mention demoralizing and frustrating, across many fields—from medicine to finance, business to government. And the reason is increasingly evident: the volume and complexity of what we know has exceeded our individual ability to deliver its benefits correctly, safely, or reliably. Knowledge has both saved us and burdened us.

In a complex environment, experts are up against two main difficulties. The first is the fallibility of human memory and attention, especially when it comes to mundane, routine matters that are easily over-looked under the strain of more pressing events.

Faulty memory and distraction are a particular danger in what engineers call all-or-none processes: whether running to the store to buy ingredients for a cake, preparing an airplane for takeoff, or evaluating a sick person in the hospital, if you miss just one key thing, you might as well not have made the effort at all.

Good checklists, on the other hand are precise. They are efficient, to the point, and easy to use even in the most difficult situations. They do not try to spell out everything–a checklist cannot fly a plane. Instead, they provide reminders of only the most critical and important steps–the ones that even the highly skilled professional using them could miss. Good checklists are, above all, practical.

First there was the recipe – the most basic checklist of all.  Every dish had one.  The recipes were typed out, put in clear plastic sleeves, and placed at each station.  Adams was religious about her staff’s using them.  Even for her, she said, “following the recipe is essential to making food of consistent quality oover time.”

If you have been working in restaurants, especially chain restaurants, then you know all about checklists.  The restaurant industry has simultaneously embraced and turned our backs on checklists.  When a typical employee or manager gets trained to work in a restaurant, especially at a training restaurant, a large part of their training is checklists.  Op’s manuals are full of checklists.  Checklists help boost productivity because they take away the guesswork from running the restaurant.  We’ve seen huge managerial productivity gains when new managers are given checklists and systems to follow during their training period. They are able to be effective faster and they learn quicker.

Then once our training is done and the manager gets to their home restaurant, we stop using them or even worse, we allow our teams to pencil whip them.  We recently asked restaurant managers and owners how many of them thought their teams were doing their checklists accurately? 94% of them thought their teams were pencil whipping.

Pencil whipping a checklist is worse than not doing it at all for several reasons.

  1. Checklists help drive better operations; better operations lead to great guest experiences, great guest experiences lead to sales increases of 5 to 9%.  Pencil Whipped checklists don’t do any of these things!!!
  2. You see a completed checklist, and you believe that the checklist is accurate, and you base decisions off of it.  Ex:  All of our temperatures are safe, so I don’t have to take any corrective action.
  3. You are paying someone to lie to you on paper when you knowingly allow them to pencil whip.
  4. If you are doing temp logs and line checks, it is this safety documentation that you will use to prove to the health department and the insurance company that you have systems in place, if you ever get someone sick.  If they talk to your employees, and they will, and determine that your checklists are not accurate y0u are personally incurring a ton of liability, and there is a good chance that your insurance carrier won’t pay out any claims.

There are two types of checklists that you should be employing in your restaurant and they have different benefits:

  • Safety Checklists:
    • Temperature Logs:  logging all cold and hot hold temperatures several times a day to ensure safety
    • Sanitation Checks:  checking sanitizer buckets, dishwashers, chemical concentrations, cross contamination, unsafe food handling processes, proper labeling and storage
    • Line Checks:  temping, tasting, checking labels, portion controls, and safety
  • Management Checklists:
    • Manager flight plans:  manager daily tasks that need to be completed
    • Opening/Closing Procedures: making sure restaurant is ready
    • FOH/BOH readiness checks:

Safety checklists ensure that you are operating safely and should prevent any critical violations on health inspections.  Conducting daily safety checks are our biggest moral responsibility to our guests and the most important thing we can do from a brand protection standpoint.  Temp logs and sanitation checks aren’t sexy but they are so important.  Line checks, especially when you are tasting food items do have a positive effect on profitability, they allow you to catch your own mistakes before your guests do and reduce food comps.  We have seen our clients reduce food costs by 1/2 to 2% based on the type of restaurant.

Management checklists drive better operations on a restaurant-by-restaurant shift-by-shift basis.  They protect managers from memory failures especially when they are putting out fires.  They make it easier for junior managers to learn faster and reduce training time.  Restaurants that use management checklists to focus managers on what is most important create better guest experiences and drive sales increases.

Here are some steps to creating a Management by checklist system.  1st you build the checklists, you should have safety and management checklists.  Once that is completed you can implement the follow-up system.

  1. Break down your restaurants day into smaller parts:
    1. Opening
    2. Prep
    3. 1st Service
    4. Mid Shift
    5. 2nd Service
    6. Closing
  2. Break down each of those time periods into the responsibilities for the front and back of the house teams.
    1. Prep cooks
    2. Kitchen Readiness
    3. Server stations
    4. Dining Room
    5. Manager/Kitchen Manager
  3. You can either detail every item that needs to get done to set-up an area or you can group like items together.  In my opinion, because of the turnover in the restaurant industry, I would go with every item checklists for line employees and more summarized checklists for managers and senior personnel.  This way your checklists can be used as a continuous training tool and as a checklist.  Here are some examples of the different types of questions:
    1. Every Item:
      1. Grab prep list and review.
      2. Set -up 3 compartment sink, put 1 cap full of soap in sink 1, push sanitizer button for sink…
    2. Summary:
      1. Confirm that server station is set-up and ready for service.
      2. Make sure dining room tables are set and all condiments are put out.
  4. Prioritize the most important areas of your business and start there.
    1. Shorter is better; you don’t win any prizes for having unnecessarily long checklists.  Just the most important items and nothing more.
    2. Don’t be so focused on getting the checklists perfect before releasing them to the team; you will never know until people use them.
    3. Start by putting everything you can think of down and then remove items that you don’t need over time.
    4. It is better to have something that is good than to wait to have something that is slightly better.
    5. Checklists are iterative in nature and will evolve over time and as you business changes.
  5. The most important part of Management by Checklist is the follow-up.
    1. There is a pencil whipping problem in our industry.
    2. Paper checklists Suck
    3. Paper checklists don’t provide you with any accountability: you don’t know when they were started and when they were finished.  You may not know who did them.  They are incredibly easy to pencil whip.
    4. You need to use a system to complete your checklists that will allow you to hold your team accountable and provide you with the visibility to effortlessly follow-up with team members.  Click here to see how the OpsAnalitica Inspector can do those things.
  6. Start slow with a couple of checklists and then add more over time.
    1. Realize that doing checklists correctly can take time so staff accordingly and give people extra time so they aren’t rushed.
    2. Explain the “Why” behind doing checklists and ensure your team knows that these checklists are tools for them and you.
    3. Make sure they don’t think that you are punishing them or think that they aren’t doing a good job.
      1. A pilot that is 60 years old with tens of thousands of flying hours uses checklists to start the engines on a plane, every time.  Your line cook can use one to determine that they are prepped and safe for the shift.
  7. Staff push-back
    1. You are going to get a little push back from your team.
      1. You are asking them to do more work
      2. You are holding them more accountable to doing things correctly
      3. You are asking them to change
    2. You have to do what is right for the restaurant and running safer and better operations is always right.  If your team can’t see that, then they may not be the right team for you.
    3. Heaven forbid something bad happens at one of your restaurants, your team is going to leave and go to work for a competitor , and you are going to be left dealing with the devastating fallout.  Do the right thing for yourself and your business.

What are the benefits of managing by checklist with follow-up:

  • More consistent operations
    • One of the most frustrating aspects of managing restaurants is that the restaurant runs great for one manager and runs ok for another manager.
    • Inconsistent operations are Russian Roulette for your guests; they come in on a Friday when the A team is working and have a great experience, and they come in for a Sunday lunch and are disappointed.
  • Better Operations
    • Focusing your team on the most important aspects of running a great restaurant every shift will improve restaurant operations.
    • Completing the checklists helps you catch your mistakes before your guests do, this will lower food comps.
    • Better operations increase sales.
  • Great management tool
    • On a day when everything is calm and going to plan the checklist may feel redundant or like a waste of time, but they aren’t because they drive consistency of management, and they remind managers of what they have to do.
      • People like to do certain things and don’t like to do others.  Each manager thinks some things are more important than others based on their upbringing, personal experience, and pet peeves.
      • If everyone opens the restaurant slightly different or pays more attention to one thing or another than you get inconsistent operations and your team doesn’t know what to focus on.
    • The idea behind checklists is that you check the items off on the list, but you should be looking at everything else.
    • You have to change your team’s minds about checklists, don’t look at them as a burden but be happy that you don’t have to work from memory, you can free your mind, and use the checklist to guide your actions.  It will make you a happier and more creative manager.  A checklist is like adding extra RAM to your brain.
  • Faster training and onboarding
    • When you have a checklist management system in place, it is much easier to onboard and train new team members.
    • They can work autonomously faster because they are following the same checklists that you use every day.
  • Systemizing your restaurant allows you to grow faster and to repeat your success in more locations.
    • So many managers and owners want to grow to that second location, but they have a hard time because they have never systematized their businesses.
    • Because of that they have a hard time recreating the success of their first location at their second location, and as their time and attention move to the new location, the first location starts to have issues.
    • If you want to grow to multiple locations you have to invest in systems first.

The disconnect in the industry is this, 100% of restaurant managers and owners believe that checklists will help them run better restaurants.  88% of those same owners used paper checklists.  94% of them believed that their teams weren’t completing them accurately.  The issues is paper checklists suck at holding people accountable.  You don’t know when they started or finished their checklist.  You don’t even know who really completed them.

Follow-up is the key to a management by checklist system and running better operations.  Being able to see that a checklist was completed on time before service started and then to be able to quickly determine what the issues were and address them is how you ensure checklists are getting done and that you are running safe operations.    If you aren’t in the restaurant, you can’t see that the checklist was even completed or get a look at any of the data on the checklist.  You need to use a system like OpsAnalitica to effortlessly conduct checklist follow-up and drive pencil whipping out of your operations.

Ultimately, great restaurant operations are the only way to sustainably grow your business.  Management by Checklist with follow-up can and will play a huge part in driving those better operations.  We can help you with the follow-up piece, to watch our OpsAnalitica demo video click here.

Diagnosing Falling or Stagnant Sales

Falling Sales Image

Too many restaurant operators mistake marketing problems for operations problems.  They look at falling or stagnant sales, and they think I’ve got to increase marketing spend to get my sales back up.  How do you know if your falling sales are a marketing problem or operations problem?  Here are a couple of questions you can ask yourself to help you determine the cause.

  • Have I recently changed my marketing spend?
  • Have I recently changed how I’m marketing?
  • How are my online reviews? Are they getting better or worse?
  • Have I recently increased my prices?
  • Is there a new competitor in your area that is affecting your business?
    • Be careful in just blaming competition, it is very rare that a competitor can put you out of business overnight; people want to blame outside forces vs. taking responsibility for their issues.
    • Having said that if a newer better mall or dining area opens up and you are in the old one, that can be an issue, and you may need to consider moving, opening a second location, or asking for some rent relief.
    • If it is a competitor, then you have to focus on beating them in the marketplace with service and value.
  • Have you recently lost a key team member?
  • Are my comps going up?
  • Are my complaints going up?
  • Does your food taste as good as it did six months ago?
  • Am I experiencing higher than normal staff turnover?
  • What was your most recent health inspection score; was it higher or lower than your previous score?

If you have made major changes to your marketing program, that may be the cause of your sales stagnation.  If you have recently stopped couponing or changed/stopped advertising then you may truly have a marketing problem.  The easiest solution, if you made a change, is to go back to the old way of doing things if that was working for you.

If you can’t go back to what was working before than solving a marketing problem takes patience, and it takes a plan.  Don’t just spend money to spend money that doesn’t work.  You may need to make a change in your marketing channel, change in ad’s, or an increase in marketing spend.  You should always be looking for an ROI in every dollar that you spend on marketing.  In theory, marketing should pay for itself so increasing effective marketing spend should pay for itself with sales increases.

If you have determined that your issue isn’t marketing, then you may have an operations problem.  Operations problems are good and bad.  The good part of an operations problems is that running better operations are completely within your control.  The bad part of operations problems is that fixing them can be hard and take patience and consistency.

The first thing you need to do is figure out who or what is the cause of your issues.  In restaurant’s most of your operations problems come from a team member(s) who is either doing something wrong or who has a bad attitude.  It’s not like there is a restaurant machine and it can go on the fritz, we are a people business, and almost everything that we do involves people.

If it’s a training issue, that is easy to fix with a little training.  If it’s a people issue, those are harder to deal with quickly.  I’m not an hr expert, but I can tell you this.  You need to decisively, and legally, deal with any people issues quickly.  One bad team member can wreck an entire operation, they are like little cancers and must be dealt with swiftly and decisively.  Start a 3 step process of coaching them up, if they resist or don’t change, then they need to go before they do more damage to your business.

Every bad guest review on Yelp can cost your restaurant 30, potential customers.  In my experience, I have coached several employees back from the brink but the 80/20 rule is in full effect and for every two employees that I coached up, eight employees ended up firing themselves.  There is something about people when they make up their mind, and either consciously or unconsciously they fire themselves.

Ultimately when you identify that you have an operational problem, you need to get back to basics and fix it as quickly as possible.  Once it is fixed, it can be a long slog to get back to growing sales.  It goes back to being an experience by experience battle.  Every good experience earns you back a little goodwill, and every bad one erodes it.

One of the best ways to drive operational consistency is to put in systems and hold your team accountable to following them every shift.  Management by checklists with follow-up is one of the fastest, cheapest, and easiest systems to implement.  Checklists drive consistency shift-to-shift and better operations.

To see a list of the checklists that every restaurant should be doing, I invite you to check out this other blog post.

If you are interested in seeing OpsAnalitica in action, click here to watch a recorded demo video.

The Only Way to Sustainably Grow Your Restaurant’s Sales is through Better Operations

Screenshot 2016-04-12 14.52.05

It’s time to return to basics and focus on what works for long-term sustainable sales growth, which is better operations.  Nobody wants to hear better operations because they are either delusional about the current state of their operations, or they don’t want to put in the hard work and discipline of focusing on running better operations.

Nothing that you will do, no new system (delivery or take out), no new technology like a better POS or better website, is going to do more for your business than having delicious food, in clean well-managed restaurants, with great customer service.  NOTHING!!!!  If you didn’t want to be an operator and focus on being excellent, then this isn’t the business for you.

I was the dining room floor manager of a busy restaurant in 2001 we added $80,000 a week to revenue over a ten month period.  That is right 80K a week, not a month, and we didn’t spend an extra dollar in marketing nor did we add any new sales channel.  You know how we did it:

  • Moved the servers from 5 tables to 4 table stations- which all the servers hated at first.
  • We started using checklists to ensure that we were ready in the FOH for each shift, this included pre-shift meetings with the team.
  • We actively managed the dining room each shift focusing on service and turning tables.

You see we had latent demand that before we focused on operations we weren’t getting because our service was slow and quite frankly not that good.  When we made the sections smaller, brought in more servers, invested in training those servers on the menu, customer service, upselling, etc.  They had more time to do a better job servicing guests.  When we focused each shift on making sure that the restaurant and the team were ready, it was easier to wow guests.  I’m not telling you anything that you don’t already know; better operations, focusing on the little things, and providing an excellent experience is your best marketing initiative and the quickest way to grow sales.

Here is some information that provides more evidence to the better operations theory:

  • A 1-star increase on Yelp leads to 5 to 9% revenue increase.  Entrepreneur.com
  • One negative review on Yelp can cost you, 30 customers.  Entrepreneur.com
  • An A grade in your window, for those restaurants that have to contend with health inspection letter grades, can lead to a 5.7% bump in sales.  (Based on California Sales Tax Data for LA County)
  • Only 16% of Yelp reviews are fraudulent so don’t assume that every bad review you have is just a competitor out to get you – respond quickly and appropriately.  Entrepreneur.com
  • According to a recent study by AlixPartners, a global business consulting firm, “28 percent of diners surveyed say they would never eat at a chain affected by a food-safety outbreak, regardless of the geographic location of the outbreak.”  Tennessean
  • Olive Garden same-store sales are up 6.8%. This is what their CEO had to say:

“We’re just running better restaurants today,” Lee said during the company’s earnings call Tuesday. “I don’t think we should discount the importance of ensuring we’re properly staffed, our teams are properly motivated, simplifying the operation, reducing the size of the menu, processes and procedures.  NRN

“One of the things we’re focused on now is trying to keep things simple,” Lee said. “Simple is hard. Doing simple things every day is really hard. That’s what’s given us the biggest lift at Olive Garden. We’re not relying on promotional activity to drive business.”  NRN

Look at your experience in restaurants. The restaurants that serve delicious food with great service that are clean and well managed on average are much busier than their competitors who fall down in any of those areas.

There are so many outside factors affecting your restaurants every day, from minimum wages, weather, street construction, commodity prices, competition, shifting dining trends, government regulations, cook shortages, and social media to name few.  It can feel overwhelming.  How do you manage all of those outside factors and run your restaurant?  The answer is to control what you can control and react as best you can to outside forces.

If you know that you aren’t doing all that you could be doing in your business to run better operations, make a plan and start focusing 100% on your most critical issues and check them off the list one at a time.  

The quickest and most effective way to run better operations is also one of the easiest systems to implement:  checklists with follow-up.  Checklists focus your managers on those most important items each shift that have to be done to operate at your best.  They are self-documenting and easy to use.  By executing checklists every day in the same order, they build a routine and drive consistency shift to shift.  Checklists work, we asked 107 restaurant managers and owners recently if they thought that managing by checklist would help them run safer and better operating restaurants, and 107 of them said yes.

Most restaurants today have checklists in place, but they are conducted on paper, paper checklists make it impossible to hold your team accountable.  We recently conducted a survey and 94% of restaurant owners, and managers believed that their teams weren’t completing their checklists accurately.  94% of paper checklists are being pencil whipped and therefore the restaurant isn’t getting any of the benefits of safer and better operations because people aren’t conducting the checklist.

The key to getting the benefits of your checklists is to use a system like OpsAnalitica that can hold your managers accountable and make pencil whipping a thing of the past.  By simply moving your checklists to a tablet we can track start and end times, duration, and make the data available on any device from anywhere.  You will always know if your team is doing what they are supposed to be doing.

Better operations can increase your sales anywhere from 5 to 9%.  Checklists can play a major part in running better operations on a shift basis.  It is consistent daily execution that will yield the highest returns and generate those positive reviews and word of mouth recommendations that will grow sales organically and in a sustainable manner.

I invite you to check out OpsAnalitica by clicking here.  To see a list of the checklists that every restaurant should be doing, I invite you to check out this other blog post.

If you are interested in seeing OpsAnalitica in action click here to watch a recorded demo video.

Norovirus Prevention on the Disney Fantasy

In one of the best Seinfeld episodes ever, George is trying to get a bigger apartment in his building only to find out that a survivor of the Andrea Doria shipwreck got it because the coop board felt bad for the guy.  Read the script below:

Screenshot 2016-05-17 16.31.45

 

The buffet can be the real ordeal on cruise ships because its when the guests are all touching utensils, and if anyone of them is sick and didn’t wash their hands very well, you could pick up a bad case of Norovirus. I got this cruise ship norovirus outbreak data below from http://www.cruiseminus.com/cruise-ship-norovirus/.

 

2016 Cruise ship Norovirus outbreaks

What I think is interesting is that most of the outbreaks affect less that 10% of guests, the average is 7.3%.  The news makes it seem that the whole ship is hold up in their rooms in agony when in reality only 1132 people were sickened out of 20,027 passengers.  I don’t want to make light of ruined vacations, and I’ve heard that Norovirus illness is brutal. It is just more evidence that the news media is looking out for themselves and their ratings above all else.

Please enjoy this blog originally published on 3/22/16:

I recently completed a cruise on the Disney Fantasy, and I noticed quite a few norovirus prevention measures being employed by Disney on the cruise that I wanted to point out. I must state for the record that I didn’t go into the kitchens or interview any of the team members, these are just my observations on what I saw Disney doing as a passenger on the ship, I think you will find some of these measures interesting.

Returning to the boat from being on-shore there is always a sanitizer station and a crew member requesting that you sanitize your hands.  The crew member looked at me like I was crazy when I was taking this picture but then when I got done and started to walk onto the ship she asked me to sanitize my hands.  You are going to see that most of what Disney does, pertains to hand washing, but that is probably one of the most important anti-norovirus measures you can take besides supply chain safety.

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Here are two different hand washing direction signs posted for passengers.  One was in our cabin bathroom, and one was in a public restroom.  Norovirus is commonly spread when people have fecal matter or vomit on their hands and then touch ready made food or buffet utensils, or they get their germs on a fork or plate, and a crew member touches those items while bussing a table and then could spread it to themselves or other guests. I thought this was a very rational and different approach to battling norovirus.  In the industry, we are used to seeing hand washing signs for the crew but not in restrooms for customers.  Cruise ships are very densely packed, and isolated places and norovirus could just as easily be spread from a guest to a crew member as the other way around.

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Here is an example of a sign that I have never seen before in a public restroom.  This sign says to use a paper towel to avoid touching doorknobs.  The OCD part of me loves this sign.

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It doesn’t matter which restaurant you are going to on the ship: a buffet, a sit-down, or a quick service outlet.  There are always anti-bacterial towels in dispensers, on the counter, or being passed out by a crew member.  There are two dinner seatings every night, and when there is a mass seating in a dining room, there are several crew members standing at the door handing out wipes to every passenger.

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Other things that I noticed:

  • All crew members that were handling food on the buffets were wearing gloves.
  • I watched crew members changing out utensils on the buffet mid shift replacing with fresh utensils.
  • They have an over abundant amount of crew members cleaning and sanitizing tables in between guests.
  • On the welcome aboard video, they point out where the ship’s doctor is located and ask you to please report there if you start to feel ill, they also discuss proper hand washing.
  • Any piece of equipment that a lot of passengers come in contact with is cleaned regularly.  For instance, you will see a crew member assigned to keeping the soda station on deck 11 clean and stocked all day long.
  • Across the ship, you will see crew members wiping railing and stuff down as a regular part of their daily cleaning routines.
  • The Cabana’s buffet probably serves a couple of thousand people for breakfast and lunch every day.  It is one of the cleanest buffets that I have ever seen, you just don’t see food spillage on it, there are people maintaining every station during service.

One last thing that I thought was cool was this portable electric faucet, see below.  This faucet was set up at an outdoor smoothie station in the middle of a sidewalk on shore.  There was no running water to this station as it is portable.  The station has two buckets, 1 for clean potable water, and the second for waste water.  Having personally worked a lot of outdoor events at country clubs and restaurants this was the first time I had ever seen one of these devices.

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Some things that Disney does on the cruise ship would be easy to duplicate in our restaurants, and some things would be harder because of the difference in labor spending and labor rates.  Obviously having hand sanitizer in your restaurant in the entrance way or passing our sanitizer wipes when guests are seated would be very easy to do.  Paying to have a person stand in the doorway of your restaurant to hand out sanitizer wipes would probably not be cost effective.  Bathroom signs when done well don’t bother me.

If you think about this from Disney’s perspective, they have two main things they have to worry about.  If they get passengers sick, then they have a bunch of angry customers and like the rest of us, they risk the long term brand damage that it causes.  They pride themselves on being a premium product.  They also have to keep their teams safe and healthy because once they are at sea, they can’t call in other people.  Imagine a scenario where a couple hundred of their crew and passengers get sick on a cruise; it would stress their entire system and with the close quarters on a cruise ship and limited resources, it could be a real mess for them and cost them a lot of money.  I think there were over 4,000 passengers and 1,500 crew members on our cruise.

I hope you found these precautions interesting and if you would like to learn more about how OpsAnalitica helps you run safer, better, and more profitable restaurant check out our demo video here.

Maybe You Shouldn’t Do Checklists

How could paper checklists be bad?  Paper checklists are bad because people pencil whip them or lie on them.  We recently conducted a survey of over 100 restaurant owners and managers.  94% of respondents believed that their teams weren’t completing their checklists accurately.

Which raises the question; why would a sane person have their team complete checklists that they know are being lied on?

A sane person wouldn’t, because they know that it is a waste of time and money.  It costs money to develop checklists.  It costs money to print checklists.  It costs money to complete checklists.  It costs money to file and store checklists and when it is time to get rid of them it costs money to shred and recycle checklists.

Yet as an industry we do spend money to have people complete checklists on paper even though we know they are being pencil whipped. Why do we do that?

The limitations of paper checklists aside, the fact that we still have people pencil whipping checklists in our businesses is because even a 30% accurate checklist is better than no checklist.

Let’s stick with the thought that even a partially completed checklist is better than no checklist.  A person who completes a line check 30% accurately is still checking 30% more items than a person who skips their line check.  They have a better chance of catching an error in preparation or finding an unsafe item and correcting it before it get’s someone sick.

Imagine a world where restaurants employees completed all of their checklists accurately and when they didn’t you were at least able to catch that they didn’t and coach them about the importance of doing them correctly.  How much better would your restaurant run?

If every shift your team checked everything that was important enough to make it on a checklist.  They checked every temp, tasted items, checked sanitation and portion controls.  The restaurant when opened was clean and ready for guests.

Do you think that running better operations would translate into more sales, safer restaurants, happier guests, and most importantly more profits?

Of course running better ops would accomplish all of that.  If running better operations couldn’t do that then we wouldn’t spend a penny on training or any operational initiative, we would only spend money on marketing because the only way to get sales would be to con people to come to your restaurant one time.

By the way, this is what the restaurant managers and owners told us on our survey.  100% of them agreed that checklists could help them run better and safer operations.  That is right 100%.

Because checklists when completed diligently and followed-up on work.

The problem with paper checklists is that you can’t tell when they were started, when they ended, who did them, and if they were pencil whipped.  Basically paper cannot help you hold people accountable.  Also, this is for multi-unit owners who cannot be in every location every day, you can’t magically see paper hanging on a wall in a restaurant from your office.

What our industry needs is a checklist solution that is as easy to complete as paper checklists but allows us to hold our managers accountable and get visibility into our daily operations.

This solution would need to do the following things to be effective:

  • Needs to hold managers accountable by tracking time, location, response cadence, and  actual geo location.
  • Needs to be able to identify unsafe operating conditions and communicate that to management.
  • Needs to as easy as paper to use, with minimal training time.
  • Needs to be as flexible as paper being able to capture different types of information, not just True and False questions.
  • Needs to be better than paper allow you to utilize mobile technology to take pictures and leave additional comments.
  • Most importantly you need to be able to get at the data you are collecting and start using it to make better operations decisions.

A solution that could replace paper checklists and hold people accountable at the store level up through the corporate level of a system could drive better, safer, and more profitable restaurants.

A restaurant company that could deploy a solution like this and start holding their unit managers more accountable and harness this new feed of operations data could optimize their operations and beat their competition by running more efficiently and making better decisions.

Think about the data that corporate restaurant management has access to today.  They have register, inventory/ordering, and customer service data and they use that data to make the best decisions that they can.  If you used a checklist solution to capture pertinent operations data at the store level, which would drive better operations.  You could also use the date with your other data feeds such as sales, inventory, and customer service to create a complete picture of how your restaurants were operating. Remember that operations affect sales, inventory, food costs, and customer service, its not he other away around.

It would be a major competitive advantage for any restaurant system that took advantage of operations data.  Look at how companies like Walmart, FedEx, Nordstrom, and Google use data to streamline operations and generate increased profits.  Restaurant chains could do the same thing if they had the data, which they have, but just need to get it into an accessible, usable format.

How do you do this in your chain?  You should implement the OpsAnalitica Inspector platform in your system for daily operations checklists and corporate inspections.  The OpsAnalitica Inspector will hold your managers and teams more accountable at the restaurant level and our custom reporting and data warehouse will provide you with the data that you need to optimize your business.

The future of the restaurant industry is possible today for those chains that are bold enough to take the first step forward.  If you are interested in learning more please click here and set up a call with our team.

The Restaurant Industry’s Dirty Little Secret

Busy Kitchen

The dirty little secret in the restaurant industry is that we know a lot of our restaurant safety-documentation is not completed accurately.

Every day in restaurants across the country, restaurant managers are supposed to complete temperature logs, line checks, and other safety checks to ensure that they are operating safely. A lot of those logs are pencil-whipped, or to state it more bluntly they are lied on.

The reasons for the lies are numerous:  ran out of time, who cares no one ever looks at them, I know we are safe, we’ve never gotten anyone sick, etc.. This behavior is so commonplace in the industry’s culture that it is almost a joke.

I was recently in a meeting with some restaurant executives, and we were discussing their line checks, their checks included food temps and sanitation items. The company’s policy was restaurant managers would complete two line checks a day, one before each meal period.  Area managers would review the line checks once a quarter when they performed their site inspections. I asked these executives, are these checks getting done twice a day? When your area manager is going through their site inspection are they seeing 180 of these a quarter?  Everyone in the room chuckled, “yes, they all get done accurately every shift”  was the ha ha response.

Daily checklists not being completed or being completed inaccurately seems to be a common issue no matter how large or small the restaurant system is.  We recently talked with a chef of a restaurant who was working there six days a week, and she didn’t feel like she knew if the checks were getting done accurately and she was only managing that location.  That speaks to how hard it is to manage in restaurants, you can’t be everywhere all the time.  We spoke with a multi-unit franchisee who stated that he has walked into his restaurants and looked at the temp logs on the wall and knew they had been pencil whipped.

We recently conducted a survey of over 100 restaurant managers and owners from around the world. Here are the results:

  • 100% of respondents believed that conducting checklists could help them run safer and more profitable restaurants
  • 42% of respondents conducted daily line checks
  • 45% of respondents conducted daily temp logs
  • 88% conducted checklists on paper

This final stat is the kicker:

  • 94% of respondents believed that their checklists were not being filled out accurately.

Here is the light at the end of the tunnel.  We just did a deep dive with one of our clients who has used the OpsAnalitica platform for 20 months. They were able to cut critical food safety violations by 55% when they did their daily checklists.  How; because they saw stuff that was wrong every shift and they fixed it. When you actually do your checklists, they do work and you run safer and better operations.

The reason pencil whipping is so rampant in the industry is because 99% of the time it doesn’t matter.  It is a hard truth to hear, but it is true.  If it mattered, then we as an industry would have corrected this issue by now.

To fully understand pencil whipping we have to break down the safety checklist into it’s two parts:  checking to ensure items are safe and documenting the items safety status.

When you pencil whip a checklist or log you are committing two sets of lies:

  1. You are stating that you checked the safety of the items on the checklist.
  2. You are falsifying a safety document.

The reason that you are being asked to check the safety of these items is because they have been identified as high-risk factors that could contribute to getting someone sick or even potentially killing them.  If you check the item and catch a problem, then you have an opportunity to fix that problem before it affects your guests.  That is why we do the checks.

When you don’t check the safety of high-risk items or of your sanitation procedures, you are rolling the dice with other people’s lives and it is no different than driving a car drunk or shooting a gun into a crowd.  It can have the same exact consequences.  I know that sounds dramatic but ask the families of those people who died from eating a Blue Bell ice cream last summer.

The second offense is just dumb; you should never put your name or complete any official document with knowingly false information on it.  This goes back to that early statement that 99% of the time this won’t come back to haunt you until the day it does, and then you will regret that decision.

If your restaurant get’s someone sick, look at Chipotle they just had their safety documentation from every unit subpoenaed, are you going to want to stand by all of the false documents.  The lawyers and investigators are going to use that documentation to show your wanton disregard for your safety procedures.  If you are a manager or an owner, take this one step further; do you think your employees would lie for you on the stand in that scenario?  My guess is that when asked they are going to tell the truth.

Here is something that most restaurant owners don’t know about, most restaurant liability and food borne illness insurance policies have writers in them that release the insurance company from responsibility if the restaurant is acting unsafely.  Here are some actual writers that we pulled from a policy:

  • 3.13  Any Food Borne Illness that occurs after the Insured has knowledge of a defect or deviation in the production, preparation or manufacture of the Insured Product(s), or circumstance(s) which have or are likely to result in such deviation or defect, and fails to take corrective action.
  • 3.19  Any dishonest, willful, wanton, fraudulent, criminal or malicious act, error of omission by the Insured(s).  This is your Pencil Whipping Clause!!!!
  • 3.21  Any Food Borne Illness that occurs where the Insured is or ought to be aware that the Insured is in violation of the corporate mandated food handling or food procurement procedures and has not taken action to rectify the violation.

We have all heard about insurance companies doing whatever it takes not to pay out claims are you willing to risk that consequence on pencil whippers.

What do you do?  

I hope that we all have come to the conclusion that completing checklists accurately makes sense because we are acting responsibly as operators and we are looking out for the best interests of our customers and brands.  If you are going to incur the costs of creating and mandating that checklists get completed, then you have to hold manager’s accountable for getting them completed on-time and accurately.  That means that every shift that safety and quality checklists are completed before we start serving guests and that the managers take the time to check each item and record the items safety status on the checklist.  That is the only way that you can generate an ROI from your checklists and ensure safe operations.

There are a ton of ways to do this.  If you are going to stick with paper checklists, then you can have the person time date stamp when they started and ended each checklist.  If you are a multi-unit operator, you can have your restaurant manager’s fax in their checklists to corporate each day or scan and email them.  The reason most people don’t do this is because it is a giant waste of time and it pushes the burden of managing all of this paper to different people in the business.

With today’s technology, the easiest way to manage your checklists is to use a checklist system app.  These are the features you should be looking for in a checklist app:

  • Works on different devices: phones and tablets
  • Works on different operating systems, technology moves to fast and you don’t want to be stuck on an obsolete platform
  • Doesn’t require wifi to complete a checklist – wifi isn’t always great in kitchens and can stop you from inspecting outside
  • Supports different question types – not just True False – you need to be able to capture different types of answers and report off of them
  • The system should be able to reference additional help and training documentation so inspectors can understand the why behind the question and the answer scale
  • Is quick – the quicker it is to complete a checklist the greater the chance it will be completed every shift accurately
  • Make sure you can build custom reports so you can get the data you are collecting in a format that works for your organization
  • The system should hold managers responsible and track what is happening when they complete an inspection
  • Should be easy to use and train on so that checklists are completed consistently across the organization even as you experience turnover
  • Should be easy to administrate or even better the provider should offer a full-service plan so that you can get up and running quickly and stay up and running over time – remember employee turnover

Pencil whipping has been happening in our industry for years, but it needs to come to a stop.  There is a benefit to completing these safety and operational checklists every shift.  Not only at the restaurant level to ensure that you are safe and ready for service but also at the corporate level where operations data can be collected and used to assist the restaurants.  Keeping people safe is a moral and brand imperative and the best way to do that is through solid operations that are driven by checklists.

If you aren’t using daily checklists to manage your operations, or you are using paper, there is a better way.  I invite you to click here to learn more about the OpsAnalitica Platform.  We can help you digitize your checklists and get you up and running doing your checklists a better way today.  We have a managed service offering that takes all of the burdens of setting up and managing your checklist program off of your shoulders and puts it on ours, we can have you up and running in as little as a day.  If you are a DIY type of person we have a plan that fits your needs.  The first step is jumping on a quick call and learning more about how we can help you.  Click on the learn more button at the top right of your screen.

 

What does the Ford Pinto have to do with restaurants?

Ford Pinto

Do you remember the Ford Pinto Case from the 70’s?  Ford Pintos had a flaw in their design, and if they were hit in a rear-end collision at a speed greater than 20 mph the fuel tank could rupture, and there could be a fire.  Unfortunately, several people were killed in accidents because of this issue. 

The reason this case is still talked about today is because Ford management knew about the problem and decided based on cost estimates that it was more expensive to fix the cars than to pay the families of people who were killed in accidents.  

What does the Ford Pinto case have to do with running a restaurant today?  

We recently conducted a survey of restaurant managers and owners.  Here are some of the results:

  • 100% of respondents agreed that using checklists would help them run more profitable and safer restaurants.
  • 88% of respondents used paper checklists in their operations today.
  • 94% of respondents believed that their teams were not completing checklists accurately.  

I know that none of us want to be a Ford executive from the 70’s in our restaurants.  How could you sleep at night knowing that you aren’t doing enough to keep people safe?

If you conduct checklists on paper, and you are like the 94% of respondents who believe your checklists aren’t getting done accurately you have two choices:  

1.  You should stop doing checklists altogether; why would you waste the money you are spending on labor having people do checklists inaccurately that you don’t use?  FYI: we think this is a bad idea.

2.  Or, you should start doing checklists correctly and holding your team accountable using the OpsAnalitica Inspector.  Our clients see:

  • A 1/2 to 1% decrease in food cost when they conduct daily line checks with follow-up.  
  • Area managers spending more time coaching restaurant mgrs and less time doing busy work.
  • Safer restaurants across the board and have the documentation to prove it.
  • Increased manager and employee engagement as restaurants start operating safer and more profitably.  

You will never get the benefits of doing checklists:  better, safer, and more profitable operations; if they aren’t being completed accurately.  The problem with paper checklists is that you can’t hold people accountable. 

With OpsAnalitica, we drive accountability by:  

  • Time/date stamping and geocoding each response.  
  • Calculating how long it took to be completed.
  • Showing answer cadence.
  • Tracking who completed the inspection and their answers.  
  • When checklists were started and submitted.

It is only through accountability and follow-up that you can truly get the ROI on your checklists.  

I invite you to download our FREE ebook: Restaurant Profits: It’s about Nickels, Dimes, and Quarters by clicking here.

In this eBook we discuss how using checklists can help you improve restaurant profitability.  Get you copy emailed to your inbox here.

Fighting Norovirus with OpsAnalitica

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There is no medical cure for Norovirus; if you contract it you simply have to ride it out. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t anything you can do as a multi-unit restaurant manager to protect your restaurants, brand, and profits.

With Norovirus, the best offense is going to be a good defense. Here are some steps we are suggesting that you take to protect your company.

  1. Train  your team about Norovirus:
    1. Train your current team and add Norovirus training to your new hire on-boarding.
    2. Get our Free Norovirus Training Guide by clicking here.
    3. Make sure you cover the following topics:  symptoms, transmission, recovery period, employees responsibility to alert management if they contract Norovirus or get sick.
  2. Use the OpsAnalitica Inspector to digitallycapture employee signatures after they receive Norovirus training.
    1. Create a simple checklist that you have employees fill out stating that they have received Norovirus training and they understand their responsibility to notify managment.
    2. This documentation will be time and date stamped and provided written proof of your pro-activity on this subject.
  3. You need to start asking employees every shift if they are well enough to work or experienced any Norovirus symptoms in the last 48 hours?
    1. You can do this in pre-shifts or even field time clock questions if your system supports that.
      1. One note, if you put this into the timeclock make sure there is a way for the time clock system to notify management that someone said yes immediately.  The worse thing you could do is identify on your time clock that someone was experiencing symptoms but not take appropriate action before the shift.
    2. You have to be prepared to send people home if they say “Yes”.
  4. Use the OpsAnalitica Inspector to create daily shift logs.
    1. The problem with paper or old school digital shift logs is that they are very difficult to report off of across an organization.
    2. If you convert your antiquated shift log to an OpsAnalitica shift log, you will be able to ask true-false questions with comments.  Ex:  Did you send anyone home today for being ill? (If True, please document in comments)
    3. This allows you to run very detailed reports across your system to help you identify risk and ensure that your unit managers are doing the right things.
  5. If you do send someone home for being ill, you should immediately conduct a deep cleaning of the areas that the person worked and document that cleaning with the OpsAnalitica Inspector.
    1. Use a flexible deep clean checklist to document that you took immediate action and what areas of the restaurant that you cleaned after the employee went home.
    2. You should also track in the inspector and on your waste sheets any food that your team through away because it came into contact with the sick person.

64% of Norovirus outbreaks come from restaurants.  The news media and patrons are becoming more educated about Norovirus and are holding restaurant management responsible.  The key to fighting Norovirus in your operations is to educate your team and document your procedures.  If you get someone sick, and there is an investigation,  you ability to prove through documentation that you did the right things from a management perspective: training, sending sick employees home, deep cleaning and throwing away food is what is going to help you move past the outbreak.

Where OpsAnalitica takes documentation to the next level is that we time-date stamp and geocode every submission.  Because the data goes to the cloud we can build very detailed reports that look at all units in your chain and then email relevant data to the right people on a schedule.  Now corporate management can be made aware of any issues that arise pro-actively and have all of the data they need at their fingertips.  Checklists with effortless follow-up drive compliance and better operations.  To learn more about the inspector, schedule a demo by clicking here.

Norovirus is a fact of life; it can be a death sentence for the very young, old, and infirmed.  It can be a restaurant killer for those operations that don’t take it seriously.  Buffalo Wild Wings stock went down over 6% in a couple of days from a small isolated outbreak in KS.  Chipotle’s stores have seen a double digit drop in sales year over year and Norovirus has played a huge part in the sales decline.  Could your restaurant handle a 30% decline in sales for six months plus?  I don’t know of many that could.

Get a free copy of our Norovirus Training Guide.