Author : Tommy Yionoulis

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Feds Subpoena Chipotle’s Documentation

The Denver-based chain was served with another subpoena on Jan. 28 by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California requiring Chipotle to produce documents and information about the company’s practices at all restaurants system wide. click here to read full article 

I don’t think you have to be a legal genius to see what the government is trying to do here. My guess is that they are going to try and show that Chipotle wasn’t operating safely and that it was a system wide problem.   

By subpoenaing documentation across all restaurants it is pretty easy to build a case where the numbers look bigger than the percentage.  When you have 1,755 restaurants, NRN Top 100 Unit Count June 2015.  If each of those locations missed 1 temp log a week that is 91,260 missed temp logs in a year.  

Do you even know if your restaurants are doing their daily checklists? If you don’t have an automated system how could you?   

How many temp logs does your chain miss in a week?  Even if you did them all you are bound to have lost a few from soda spills and misfiling.   

What is even worse is if you get a bunch of those documents back from the restaurants and they are incomplete, or appear to be pencil whipped.  That would be direct proof that you aren’t doing your due diligence as a company.  If the government can prove that management knew that the restaurants weren’t all operating safely and wasn’t doing anything about it, there is your Ford Pinto case.   

Anyone that follows OpsAnalitica knows that we have been harping on this stuff forever and a day because it matters.  

Here is the crazy thing, if Chipotle was an OpsAnalitica client and they conducted all of their checklists and inspections on our platform, they could pull a report and send it off.  

Restaurant safety goes beyond training, culture, daily checklists.  A large part of it is documentation and record keeping.  You can say you are safe all day long but can you prove it.   

There is a reason that one of the 7 HACCP principles is record keeping and documentation.   

We are committed to helping you run safer restaurants.  From our white papers, to our platform, to our new managed service license.  We will help you run the safest restaurants you can and do it in the most efficient way possible.   

Click here to download our free guide, 7 Tips to Faster Better Line Checks.

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.

 

Restaurant Checklists are like Condoms

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Restaurant checklists are like condoms; nobody wants to use them, but they work.

I recently read the Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande, and he articulated perfectly everything that we have been preaching here at OpsAnalitica and so much more.  Please enjoy some paraphrased quotes from the Checklist Manifesto.

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4.  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.

5.  One essential characteristic of modern life is that we all depend on systems—on assemblages of people or technologies or both—and among our most profound difficulties is making them work.

6.  But now the problem we face is ineptitude, or maybe it’s “eptitude”—making sure we apply the knowledge we have consistently and correctly.

7.  Checklists seem to provide protection against such failures. They remind us of the minimum necessary steps and make them explicit. They not only offer the possibility of verification but also instill a kind of discipline of higher performance.

8.  They supply a set of checks to ensure the stupid but critical stuff is not overlooked, and they supply another set of checks to ensure people talk and coordinate and accept responsibility while nonetheless being left the power to manage the nuances and unpredictabilities the best they know how.

9.  Failures of ignorance we can forgive. If the knowledge of the best thing to do in a given situation does not exist, we are happy to have people simply make their best effort.  But if the knowledge exists and is not applied correctly, it is difficult not to be infuriated.

A lot of these quotes were written in the context of medical practice as Atul Gawande is a surgeon in Boston.  As you read them, it is so easy to apply them to restaurant management.

Quote #1 could be applied to how much more complicated it is to manage a restaurant today than it was 50 years ago.  Restaurant managers today have so many more systems and people to manage than they did even ten years ago.  I managed at a high volume restaurant, and we ran 20 to 30 front of the house staff per shift on our busy nights, and that restaurant was doing $120K a week plus. There is complexity from the sheer volume that some restaurants can generate.

Quote #2  sounds like what happens to a restaurant manager who is trying to get ready to open a restaurant and then has a major equipment or system failure to solve. They have to focus on getting a solution implemented before they open their doors and they could get so focused on solving the issue they miss other vital activities needed for running a safe restaurant.  A manager flight plan is crucial for these moments.

Quote #3 refers to all or none processes.  Most critical safety violations are all or none processes.  Meaning it is great that you have sanitizer buckets in all of your stations, but if you didn’t use test strips to ensure that the concentration is correct, then you might as well have not even bothered.

Quote #4 is tough for the restaurant industry because we need to have detailed checklists, in the case of a line check, you need to taste every item and report that it is good or temp every pan.  Because we use our checklists for CYA documentation purposes, ours will probably be a little longer.  That is not to say that a manager flight plan or pre-shift meeting checklist cannot be more high level.

Quote #5 speaks directly to all of the technology flowing into restaurants. Gone are the days of the cash register, ticket pad, and wheel.  A modern restaurant may have any or all of the following systems: POS, Inventory, Checklist, Take-out and Delivery System, Social Media, Website, Scheduling, Pagers, and potentially Table Tablets.  You have to manage all of those systems while serving food to people and everything that it takes to do that.

Quote #6 our restaurant managers today are so much better trained and more equipped to run restaurants than their predecessors.  This increase in skill is because of the excellent training that chains provide to their managers, the amount of certificate and degree programs, and the support and training that is available throughout the industry to help teach restaurant managers.  Once again it’s not the breadth of knowledge that is important so much as that it is applied consistently and correctly.  It doesn’t matter that you know that the dishwasher rinse water needs to be 180F if you don’t check that it is at 180.

Quote #7 have you ever stood in the kitchen and been like “have I done that already?”  I have horrible short term memory. I used to run the omelet bar at a country club Sunday buffet in college.  If you ordered an omelet from me I would ask you 4 to 5 times what you ordered.  The fact is that running a restaurant is very systematized and you conduct the same tasks every day.  If you open 3 or 4 days in a row you will be hard pressed to remember if you checked the bathrooms today already or was that yesterday.  The days can run together.  Following a checklist every day and checking off each task as it is completed provides written verification of what you have done and reminds you what tasks are most important.

Quote #8 speaks to using checklists to remind us to check the critical stuff but you can also have checks in there to remind your managers to stop and check-in with other members of the team.  Ex:  Get with the kitchen manager and confirm 86’d items.

Quote #9 sounds like what Chipotle is going through right now or how the public will treat your restaurant and you brand when you screw up on something that you should have known better.  Look at Chipotle today or Jack in the Box from the 90’s, customers expect us not to get them sick or harm them.  They don’t easily forgive those kinds of mess ups.  It is a testament to Chipotle’s brand equity that they are weathering this issue so well.

Quote #9 also, in my opinion, speaks to the need to utilize a digital checklist app, like OpsAnalitica, to conduct and record all of your checklists.  When using our app to conduct your checklists, you get accountability management and effortless documentation built in.  As restaurant managers, it is imperative that you can see what is happening your restaurants.  With today’s technology customers expect that corporate management knows exactly what is happening in every location every day.  We in the industry know that that level of visibility is not common in corporate and even less so in franchise systems.

Customers don’t distinguish from franchisee run or corporate restaurants.  They make their purchasing decision by the brand and the brand promise that they see in marketing.  If one of your locations screws up and gets someone sick, your entire chain will pay the price in reduced sales and lost brand equity.  Having visibility into daily operations and systems in place to follow-up on issues are imperative.

In conclusion: the answers to better, safer and more profitable restaurants are checklists. Checklists when created thoughtfully, used consistently, and are followed-up on, provide the structure to guide our managers through the important tasks of their day.  Checklists drive consistency and ensure that the little details don’t fall through the cracks.

I would like to give you our list of standard checklists that restaurant managers should be using:

  • Refrigeration Temp Log – Opening and Closing of Restaurant
  • Manager Flight Plan – These are the key tasks that a manager needs to get done each shift at the opening of the restaurant and before service periods.
    • This checklist is massively important because a lot of these items are prone to be missed when fires erupt and managers lose focus.
  • SMART Pre-Shift:  This is our proprietary checklist for preshifts, it includes sections on:
    • Sanitation:  sanitizer buckets, dishwashers, cross contamination
    • Management Responsibilities:  key manager flight plan activities that need to be completed before guests enter the building
    • Accountability:  FIFO, Portion Control, Line Check
    • Readiness:  Entry, Server Stations, Bathrooms, Dining Room
    • Temperatures:  this is a hold and cold hold temperature log
    • If you would like to watch our pre-recorded webinar about our SMART Pre-Shift Checklists, click here.
  • Hold and Cold Temperature Logs:  this is the temp log that you do after you start service, ensuring that all refrigeration and hot hold items are holding temp
  • Line Check:  temperatures, portion scoops, taste items, labels
  • Pre-shift Meeting:  Stations, Tip of the Day, Specials, 86 items
  • Bathroom cleanliness: please, please, please don’t have a piece of paper on the wall in your bathroom.
  • Staff Appearance Checklist:  check uniforms and appearance of staff, this is a great time to find out if everyone on the team is feeling healthy.

Here are some non-standard, not every day, checklists and inspections you should be conducting:

  • Fire extinguishers and fire suppression system
  • Annual location review: look at the state of your location, traffic flow, demographics, if in a mall or shopping center the health of the overall location.
  • Outside of building including parking lot
  • Full location inspection
  • Ceiling tiles and decor:  ripped booths and stained ceiling tiles are like smells after a while you don’t notice them anymore.
  • Equipment maintenance checklists:  make or utilize checklists for common equipment maintenance.

Click here if you would like us to email a pdf of our list of checklists right to your inbox.  If you would like help writing your checklists, OpsAnalitica offers consulting services just reach out to us on our support page.

If you would like to get a copy of the Checklist Manifesto, it will change how you look at and manage your restaurants. Here is a link to purchase the book through Amazon.com.

As always if you think I’m missing something or I’m way off then please leave a comment and let me know. I’m happy to update these blogs with better information at any time.

Flavorless Pizza

Last weekend I ordered pizza from a new place in our neighborhood that we had never tried.  We had friends over, and they swear by this place, so we gave them a shot.

The pizza was flavorless.  My friend who orders from them regularly commented on how the pizza wasn’t up to par.  My guess is that someone over there screwed up on their sauce recipe because the pizza looked properly constructed.

My order was $30 for a pizza, wings, and a salad.  I’m not going to order from them again for quite some time if ever.  You only get one chance to make a first impression, and they didn’t do well.

So now, all of their hard work to get me as a new customer was for nothing.  All of the marketing, the mailers, the signage, the making great pizza for my friends so many times amounted to nothing in my case.

Here is the kicker, this entire scenario was avoidable by doing a line check and tasting their sauce and ingredients before the shift.  A line check would have caught this issue, and they would have had time to fix their sauce.

Had they done a line check and served the pizza they thought they were; I might be an enthusiastic new customer of theirs.

Line checks are not optional.  They are a required for running a successful restaurant.

I would like to give you our new white paper, 7 Tips for Faster Better Line Checks today by clicking here.  In this white paper, we do a deep dive on some ways to make your line check more effective and quicker to execute.

Click to have your copy of 7 Tips for Faster Better Line Checks delivered to you inbox today.

Hope you have a safe and profitable New Years Eve!

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.

7 Tips for Faster Better Line Checks

Chef Tasting Food

Pre-shift line checks are a requirement for running a successful restaurant.  Line checks provide management the ability to inspect their restaurant before the meal period to:

  • Ensure that they are stocked properly, Pars
  • The right food is on the line, FIFO
  • That everything is safe to serve, Temperature Control
  • The correct serving ladles and spoons are being used, Portion Control
  • That all food is fresh and tastes correct, Food Comp Reduction
  • Basic food safety and cleanliness practices are being met, Sanitation

If you are not conducting line checks every meal period, from my experience, you don’t even know what you don’t know about what is going on in your kitchen.  My guess is that if you started doing line checks  you would be very surprised at what you find.

Here are some tips to make your line checks faster and more effective:

  1. Thorough is Better:  Look at every item that you are going to be serving that shift.  Don’t assume that because it was checked on the last shift that it is still good to serve.
  2. Make a line check kit:  It doesn’t have to be fancy but you should grab a full pan and load it up with the things you are going to need to conduct your line check and then bring the kit with you to each station in the restaurant.  A good kit should contain:
    1. Sanitizer bucket with 1 wet towel for cleaning off thermometer probes
    2. 1 dry towel
    3. Sanitizer test strips
    4. Dishwasher test strips if different
    5. 1 bucket with clean spoons for tasting (figure out how many spoons you will need to taste every item and bring that many)
    6. 1 bucket for dirty spoons
    7. Thermometer(s)
    8. Fryer oil test kit if you use one
    9. Post-its and a pen – for leaving notes for crew
  3. Write SMART Questions:  For any food item you should:
    1. Temp the item
    2. Taste the item when appropriate
    3. Ensure it is labeled correctly with expiration date
    4. Check that it is in the correct container size
    5. Has the correct portion control in place (spoodle, ladle, measuring cup, check weight of random item, etc..)
  4. Use Multiple Thermometers:  The average probe thermometer takes 1 to 5 seconds to register a temp.  If you are going to be temping your entire line you are adding unnecessary time to your line check if you only use 1 thermometer.  Use at least two or four at a time.  By the time you place the 4th thermometer the 1st one has probably registered the temp.  This will speed up your line checks
  5. Check for critical violations:  You should take this opportunity to be looking for other critical violations in your restaurant:
    1. Sanitizer buckets: proper concentration, towels, temperature
    2. Dishwasher: water temperature, sanitizer concentrations, etc..
    3. Improper food storage:  look in dry storage and refrigerator units for proper shelves, cool down procedures, covers, and labels
    4. Temperatures:  record temps for all cold and hot hold units
  6. Correct any critical violations immediately:  As you are walking around conducting your line check if you stumble upon a critical violation you need to fix it immediately.  Fixing might consist of you stopping what you are doing and fixing it yourself or delegating it to a member of the crew.  You need to flag that item and re-check that it was fixed before service starts.
  7. Use a Digital Checklist App like OpsAnalitica Inspector:  The OpsAnalitica Inspector drives line check compliance through our accountability management functionality.  When you use the OpsAnalitica Inspector for your restaurant checklists you will know who completed the checklist, when it was completed, if the line check was pencil whipped, and you will be able to see the answers from any connected device in the world.  You will also be able to identify any issues and immediately follow-up with your management team to ensure that they are corrected before they can affect safety and quality.  Our clients that use the OpsAnalitica Inspector for line checks see a 1/2 to 1% decrease in food costs due to reduced comps and better inventory management.  Our clients are reporting increased temperature compliance and safety.  The fact is that paper line checks that no one ever look at are a waste of time and are given the appropriate amount of attention but when line checks are conducted digitally and followed up on the end result is better, safer and more profitable restaurants.

We hope you find this list helpful in making your line checks more effective and quicker to complete.  If you would like to learn more about the OpsAnalitica Inspector and how it can drive line check compliance please click here to watch our demo video.

Here is an additional guide that you might find useful:

  1. Calibrate your thermometer

Chipotle’s Woes Could Happen to Any of Us

A couple of years ago I met with a Chipotle Director to show him the Inspector app of that time.  My hope going into the meeting was that he would have been so blown away that he would have walked us into the VP of Ops office.  

He didn’t, full disclaimer, he wasn’t officially speaking on behalf of Chipotle when he decided not to bring it to his bosses, we were just two guys having dinner. 

The reason I’m even recounting this to you was his reasoning for not wanting to bring it to his bosses.  In his opinion, the culture at Chipotle was not about checklists. Chipotle’s culture is based on the belief that if you hire the right people, train and empower them than you don’t need checklists.   

I agree with their philosophy on hiring great people and would argue that checklists are vital to all industries but especially to the restaurant industry. 

Checklists provide focus, and when checklists are completed thoughtfully and followed-up on, they drive safety and consistency in operations.   

Chipotle’s CEO officially apologized this week and said that the controls they are putting place are going to make them the safest place to eat in the country.  Here is a link to a Slate Article Chipotle is So, So Sorry for Sickening all Those Students. 

The last paragraph of the article states that Chipotle is planning on more audits, which is a good thing.   

The only way to ensure that you are running safe operations is through consistent daily checklists and inspections of your locations by your employees.   

I would like to give you, for free, our 4 Daily Must-Do Steps to Safer Restaurants white paper.  It details a model of for the kind of self-inspection program you should consider implementing in your restaurants.   

Get your copy of the 4 Daily Must-Do Steps to Safer Restaurants by clicking on the link.   

If you are interested in starting a daily self-inspection program in your restaurants in 2016, you should know that there is still time.  We can get OpsAnalitica implemented in most chains within 1 business day.   

Click on the schedule a demo link to see the platform in action or if you have any questions give me a call or send me an email any time.

Why Getting Rid of Tipping in Full Service Restaurants is Stupid

Chef Instructing Trainee In Restaurant Kitchen

Full-service restaurants are unique in American business in that the incentive systems for service employees are perfectly aligned with the goals of the business.

It is an amazing sight to see employees working to benefit themselves and simultaneously benefitting the owners and managers of the establishment. Allow me to explain.

Servers in restaurants make a small minimum wage, mostly for taxes, and tips. Those tips are a percentage of their sales and that percentage in my experience can range from 10 to 30%. I was a really good server, and when I was on, I could easily make 30% per table, though 20% is the norm and occasionally you would get less than that.

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When a server is compensated by tips, they are driven by their personal benefit to provide great service to their guests in the hopes of making a higher tip percentage. Maximizing the servers personal revenue per shift and the ROI for their time.

The servers are also incentivized to make recommendations and to upsell their guests to enhance the guests experience and to get the maximum check value on each table. In my experience if you sell the table too much food or super expensive items that they weren’t expecting it can hurt your tip percentage as the guest feels that they have been taken advantage of or scammed.

Servers also get paid on volume. Meaning that a server on a busy shift wants to turn each table as many times as they can without rushing their guests out of the restaurant. Once again there is a fine line between pushing someone out the door, which if the guest feels rushed could affect the server’s tip percentage vs. being very efficient at delivering the check and processing payment so the guest leaves and the server can get another party at that table.

To sum up servers are incentivized to deliver great service, to maximize check value without going overboard, and to move customers in and out of the restaurant as quickly as the guest allows. When servers work toward these incentives, they maximize their earnings for that shift.

The restaurant owners benefit from servers that take great care of guests, increase sales by upselling, and move guests efficiently through the restaurant maximizing throughput and sales each meal period.

Both groups incentives are properly aligned with each other, and they both win and lose together.

Another point that needs to be made is that both teams lose together as well.

If servers provide horrible service and guests stop coming both the servers and owners of the restaurant will suffer. The owners will suffer more as the servers will eventually leave and the owners will be stuck with a business that has become known for bad service.

If the owners don’t do a good job of delivering a great product the servers and the owners will suffer because people won’t come to the restaurant, sales will be down, and the servers won’t make as much money.

In this relationship the servers and owners once again are linked at the hip.

There are other employees in the restaurant that are directly compensated off of the servers earnings. Bussers, bartenders, food runners, and sometimes hosts are all affected by server tips. When I was a waiter at P.F. Chang’s this is how we distributed our tips:

Total tips for night $200:

  • Busser: 15 to 20% or $40 – a busser usually served 2 to 3 servers, and I always tipped 20% because a busser can bury a server, or make it hard for the server to turn tables. It was important to me to make sure that I took care of my busser.
  • Food Runner: 10% or $20
  • Bartender: 1% Sales or $10
  • Bartenders and food runners, if there are more than one working, pool their tips from the servers and distribute amongst the team that was working that shift and are paid a higher minimum wage.

A lot of these cities are proposing a $15 minimum wage and getting rid of tips. When I was working as a server on a good Friday night, I planned on making $120 to $140 net in 5 to 6 hours. At $15 an hour and a 6-hour shift you are making $40 less a shift than you would have been if you were working for tips.

I’ve read an article that we blogged about in the spring that was pro no tips where the servers said they liked the paycheck but that they were making less money. I don’t know of a great server that would trade working for tips for an hourly wage because they know that they will make less money.

Another argument that is being put forth by people who don’t like tips is in regards to BOH staff: cooks, dishwashers, prep cooks, etc..

These are completely different jobs and have different risk levels and different rewards. A cook is guaranteed a higher base wage each hour of each shift. A cook gets paid their full wages for the hours they work if the restaurant is slow or busy. Therefore, a cook or BOH employee assumes no risk or variance in their wages shifts to shift.

An FOH staff member: server, busser, a bartender is completely dependent upon the level of business and their service for tips. The FOH staff assumes a large amount of personal risk and opportunity cost each day that they go to work.

I can’t tell you how many times I was sent home early because the restaurant wasn’t busy. Each shift the restaurant staffs themselves anticipating being very busy and if the business isn’t there the manager’s cut staff and send people home early.

What is amazing about sending people home early is that it isn’t looked at as a bad thing by most restaurant employees. I would say that schedule flexibility is one of the main reasons people chose to work in the hospitality industry.

Managers ask the staff who would like to go home early, and there are usually volunteers who have something else they want to do and they leave and the people who need money stay.

In my experience if you get cut and sent home early too often you will probably go and look for another job at a different restaurant.

The argument that BOH employees aren’t treated fairly because of tipping is wrong. Salary is based on upon risk and reward and in my experience working in both the BOH and FOH it isn’t an issue for the employees working those jobs.

Also, we live in a free country, and we are all employed at will, nobody is forced to work anywhere or in any position people choose their jobs and employees and can quit at any time.

What happens if we get rid of tipping across the board?

When you work for an hourly wage, your incentives change and, therefore, your behavior will change as well.

In the examples above we discussed how servers are incentivized to take great care of their guests because that level of service will influence their tip percentage. That incentive no longer exists because the level of personal service you give doesn’t directly affect your wages.

You can make the case that a bad server who gives bad service will eventually be fired.

We discussed how servers were incentivized to upsell and make recommendations to increase the check to a level that will enhance the customers experience without going overboard. That incentive is now gone because the one thing that we didn’t mention earlier is that upselling and making recommendations requires more work of the server.  The server has to think, react, ask questions, put themselves out there if the recommendation isn’t liked, deliver more food, and do more work.  It is much easier to be an order taker and not do any of that stuff.

On an hourly wage system, you are not incentivized to do more work. Hourly workers that don’t get compensated by output are incentivized to do the least amount of work per hour.  An example: why would you go through the hassle of selling a bottle of wine, presenting it, opening it, letting the guest taste it, and then serving it if it doesn’t directly enhance your bottom line.  If a server is in the rush and they have to do a wine service it can take a couple of minutes and can throw them deeper into the weeds.  Why tipped servers sell bottles of wine today is because a $30 bottle can enhance your tips by 5 to $6 dollars for that table.

Enjoy these excerpt from Office Space the Movie

Peter Gibbons: The thing is, Bob, it’s not that I’m lazy, it’s that I just don’t care.
Bob Porter: Don’t… don’t care?
Peter Gibbons: It’s a problem of motivation, all right? Now if I work my ass off and Initech ships a few extra units, I don’t see another dime, so where’s the motivation?

Finally, we discussed that servers working for tips are incentivized to turn tables quickly to maximize their tips per shift. This incentive is removed as turning tables is once again more work for a server with no reward. The server that is paid an hourly wage only incentive is to stay on the clock as long as possible per shift to maximize their personal revenue.

If you think that I’m making this stuff up, or I’m overly dramatic, eat at a restaurant in France or any other country where the service staff is paid hourly and not by tips. There is a reason that French waiters are stereotyped for horrible service it is because they majority of them deliver horrible service. The service in other countries doesn’t compare to the level of service that we get every day in the America.  Check out this blog from a Frenchman about service.

These are my predictions for the industry if we move to no tipping policies:

  1. Restaurant owners that move to a no tipping policy will make less money than they did when they had employees that were compensated with tips.
  2. Servers who work for an hourly wage will make less money than they did when they worked for tips.
  3. Full-service restaurants that are less expensive will have a harder time with no tips than more expensive fine dining restaurants because they are more dependent on volume than price premium.
  4. Americans will enjoy worse service in restaurants that don’t have tips then they will in restaurants where tipping is still the norm.

At the end of the day, the American full-service restaurant is a highly successful social experiment that demonstrates that when you have alignment of incentives and goals employees and ownership can win together.

One last thought:  why do you get better service at Nordstroms then Macy’s when the job is exactly the same?  My guess is that the Nordstrom employee gets a % of their sales.

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.
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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.