Creating and Executing a World Class Restaurant Audit Program

 

Restaurant Audits, OER’s, Quality Inspections are just some of the names that restaurant/hotel chains use to describe their location audit process. The names are different, but the intent is the same, get a fresh set of eyes on the location and measure how they are doing vs. the brand standards.

Remember the reason you conduct restaurant audits is that you need to protect your brand from yourself. Poor operations or unsafe restaurants can erode brand equity and lower sales for the entire chain. Food Safety is of paramount importance, and with our current social media-driven culture a foodborne illness outbreak can spread like bacteria over the web and can reduce sales by about 1/3 nationally and keep them there indefinitely.

For some chains, especially franchise systems, the conducting of the restaurant audit may be one of the few times a year a representative from the corporate office will visit the location so it can’t be overstated that you don’t want to waste that visit with an ineffective audit program.

When designing or updating your audit program, there are a couple of questions that you want to answer first.

  1. What technology are you going to use to conduct these audits?
  2. What are you looking to get out of your audits?
  3. How often are you going to be visiting the locations?
  4. Who is going to be conducting the audit?
  5. How comprehensive, how much stuff are we going to cover, in the audit?
  6. How long do you expect this audit and any subsequent coaching to take?
  7. How are you going to handle action plan items?
  8. Have you thought about Site Visits?

1. What technology are you going to use to conduct these audits?
You do not want to do your audits on paper, Google Docs or a combination of paper/Excel for scoring. Your audit is one of the most important interactions you have with the location, and you need to make sure you are capturing as much data as possible at the question level including photos and auditor comments and paper and excel are not made for this.

We have heard from some of our clients that have switched from paper to the OpsAnalitica Platform that we have cut their audit times by 75%, in most cases this results in several hours of busy work per audit. This reduction in needless paper pushing provides your auditor more time to interact with the restaurant teams coaching and training or if that isn’t their role it allows them to conduct more audits per day.

These are some features that you should be looking for when choosing auditing software.

  • Tablet/Phone/Laptop based software – you will use mobile devices to conduct the audit, but most people will want to use their computers to plan and manage themselves.
  • Geolocation – the ability to know that the auditor was on-site when conducting the audit.
  • Able to inspect offline – you won’t always have wifi at the location
  • Ability to take pictures
  • Ability to leave additional comments at the question level
  • Auditor Help Functionality – where an auditor can get more information about the standard at which a question is being judged or easily share the corporate standard with the location management team.
  • Flexible scoring
  • Tagging – question, and response tagging aids in deep dive analysis of the audit results.
  • Audit Report – this needs to be auto-generated by the system, printable is fine, but an online version is better as audit reports with photos and comments can be very long, and you want to make sure that people can enlarge the photos.
  • Action Plan Tasks that can be tracked and verified.
  • Auditor Functionality that allows them to plan their audits effectively
  • Reports that allow you to compare auditors to chain for auditor calibration
  • Gap and Question level reporting where you can look at the audit results across the organization to identify Operations issues that need to be addressed.
  • API – to pull app data out of the system and use in other BI tools.

To wrap of the technology portion of this blog, you want the technology you choose to be robust but also easy to use and bulletproof. When people are in the locations, they need to be able inspect and not be screwing around with their tech. Your field teams need a platform that will assist them in the planning, conducting, and follow-up stages of their audits. That provides them and the management teams their auditing with a seamless experience. From a corporate perspective, you want the software you choose to be flexible, easy to update, and you should be looking for a software partner that can work with you to refine your process over time.

2. What are you looking to get out of your audits?
We have found that a lot of people don’t have an answer to this question.

  • Are audits just an excuse for sending the field teams to the restaurants?
  • Are you looking to capture operations data so you can refine your internal procedures and run better restaurant operations chain-wide?
  • Are you just concerned with food safety or adherence to brand standards?
  • Are you auditing because that is what we do, but you don’t use the data unless an individual restaurant needs to be shut down for violations?

It’s ok, based off of your business model to subscribe to any of the above or something else. I would suggest that you get clear with your team about your stated audit goals. I am a firm believer that you should be auditing to collect data on your restaurants and to use that data to identify locations that put the brand at risk and to drive system-wide operational changes.

You should know what kind of results you want from the audits you are conducting because the answer should influence every other question.

3. How often are you going to be visiting the locations?
Audit frequency is a determining factor in a lot of different parts of your audit program. The fewer times a year you plan on visiting a location, the more comprehensive your audit should be. If you are going to be visiting more often, then you can have a shorter inspection, or you can vary certain sections of your audit so that you look at core critical issues every time and less important sections alternate between different visits.

Most restaurant chains that we have worked with audit between 1 and 4 times a year. Chipotle for instance is auditing 12 times a year, though we haven’t heard many restaurant companies conducting that many audits per year.

We have worked up a use case that can save a company a lot of money if they use daily checklists to augment their auditing program, they can conduct fewer audits per year on the top 20% of their restaurants without sacrificing brand protection or overwhelm their field teams. If you want to learn more about that, schedule a short call here.

Two other factors to keep in mind when determining how often you are going to be visiting.
1. How complicated are your operations? If you are a quick service chain with a minimal amount of on-site prep, examples would be a sandwich or ice cream chain; then you may determine that fewer audits are fine for your business because you have less risk based on the simplicity of your food prep and model.

Whereas if you are a full-service restaurant that is prepping most of your food on-site, you incur more food safety and quality risks, and therefore it may warrant more audits.

2. What is your geographic footprint? Are your restaurants in one city or are they spread out around the country? Are your auditors going to be traveling to audit the restaurants, incurring travel expenses for each restaurant they visit or do they live in their territory and can just drive to their locations to conduct the audit?

Travel expenses should be factored into determining auditing frequency. In some cases, it may make more sense to use 3rd party auditors when travel expenses dictate. This can also be affected by who is conducting the audit and what their role in the company is.

4. Who is going to be conducting the audit?

We have found that there are people in 3 different roles conducting audits in restaurants, they all have their pros and cons:

  • Field team member: usually an area manager or director.
  • Dedicated QA person: this person works for the brand, and their whole job is to conduct audits.
  • 3rd Party Auditor: like Steritech of EcoSure

Field team members are usually directly responsible for the restaurants they are auditing.  This is a very cost-effective model because the person is already on the team, they have intimate knowledge of the restaurants, and they are well versed in the operating standards of the chain, which allows them to audit and coach as they go.

The cons of using your field team to audit are that they aren’t impartial and there are inherent conflicts of interest in their scoring. For instance, a field team members performance is often tied to their patch of restaurants.  So by being completely honest and scoring restaurants appropriately, especially if the restaurant is underperforming, that score can reflect poorly on the field team members ability to manage their territory. In some cases, this could affect their take-home pay or bonus.

We know of many chains, Focus Brands and Quiznos for instance, where auditing is a small part of the field team members job.  A lot of their job is more sales related, selling franchisees on upgrades to systems, technology, remodels, etc..  Or just selling the franchisee on following the brand standards.  If your job is to sell and to audit, there is another conflict of interest where doing both parts of your job are at odds with each other, and most people will choose the path of least resistance.

Whenever you have conflicts of interest with your auditors, you can expect to get inaccurate audit scores, with the scores skewing up.  The problem with this is that you will have a false sense of security when it comes to the operational readiness and food safety aspects of your chain. You could believe everything is fine and then be blindsided by an issue.  Remember with data; garbage in is garbage out.

Dedicated QA people are a great way to combat the inherent conflicts of interest with using your field team people to conduct audits as QA people aren’t tied to the operating metrics of the restaurants they inspect.

The biggest cons to using QA people is that they often aren’t able to coach or train as well because they aren’t operators they are QA people.  There is also the inherent cost of having QA people on your payroll, having dedicated people who just inspect increases your audit costs in a lot of cases because you will still be sending your field teams to visit the restaurants.

3rd party inspectors are probably slightly less independent than QA people and more expensive per audit.  3rd party inspection services, like Steritech, field highly trained auditing teams that go around the country inspecting many different kinds of restaurants.  Because they have sophisticated equipment and training, they are very good at auditing.  Plus Steritech calibrates their auditors to brand standards and keeps them honest.

They can be very expensive, several hundred dollars per audit. You have to take cost into account when deciding to use a 3rd party vs. your own resources.  We have heard that Yum uses 3rd party auditors and pays for the initial quarterly inspection but if a unit fails the inspection, then the franchisee has to pay for a reinspection.

I’ve always been suspicious that 3rd party auditors could skew scores to ensure that their company keeps the contract. I don’t have any evidence of this and I’m sure the 3rd party auditing firms control this but there is an incentive to tell corporate what the want to hear so that they keep using the 3rd party firm.

5. How comprehensive, how much stuff are we going to cover, in the audit?

This goes back to everything we have discussed so far.  What are you going to do with the data, how often are you going to audit, and who is going to be conducting the audit?

You have to decide for yourself and your goals about how comprehensive your audit is going to be.  Here are some things that definitely should be in a comprehensive audit.

  • Food Safety – a must have for audits
    • This should include checking for all critical health violations.
      • Dishwashing – Dishmachine rinse and chemicals or 3 compartment sinks
      • Sanitizer Buckers
      • Handsinks
      • Proper food storage both dry and in the coolers
      • Labels on all food
      • Dumpster areas and rodent control
      • TEMPERATURES!!!!!!!
  • Restaurant Cleanliness and Maintenance – speaks to brand standards
    • General restaurant cleanliness
    • Wear and tear on building
      • Obvious signs of damage
      • Lack of upkeep
    • Bathrooms and dining areas
    • Kitchen cleanliness and organization
  • Food Taste
    • Pick random items, especially if they are prepared on-site and taste test.
    • Tasting food reduces comps when you catch your own mistakes.
  • Brand standards
    • Menu boards and POP
    • Guest service – observe transactions and rate the service provided
  • Administration
    • Proper employment records for all employees
    • Checklists and food safety documentation
      • Food safety documentation is one that often gets overlooked and not having this should cause a massive hit to audit score.
      • We have a pencil whipping problem in the US when it comes to food safety documentation, and it is unacceptable.
      • If you ever get someone sick at a restaurant, it is your documented adherence to food safety procedures that will give you the best chance of limiting your liability.  The FDA subpoenaed all of Chipotle’s logs a couple of years ago.  When you can’t supply that documentation, you are basically admitting to not following established best practices for food safety and therefore are more guilty.
      • You can effortlessly track and keep all your food safety records, track checklist compliance, and more if you use the OpsAnalitica Platform for daily checklists.
    • Required Employment Signage
    • Food Safety Certification Training

6. How long do you expect this audit and any subsequent coaching to take?

Audit time needs to be understood for planning reasons.  How many audits can you do a day? How many audits are you expected to do a month or a quarter?

We ran some numbers for a time savings business case a couple of years ago, and it is staggering how quickly audit time can add up.  As an example, if you can save 2 hours per audit and you do ten audits per month, that ends up being six weeks of time saved at the end of the year.

Understand for yourself how long these are expected to take so you can properly plan your audit program and make sure that your team can conduct their audits and do their other job functions if applicable.

7. How are you going to handle action plan items?

This is probably the most important part of auditing, and subsequently, one of the hardest things for auditors to do is to manage all of the action plan items that are created on audits. Action Plan items speak directly to the legal concepts of Due Diligence and Due Care.

In very lay terms, due diligence is doing your audit, self-policing your locations to make sure they are operating up to your brand and food safety standards.  Due care means having a plan in place to handle deficiencies and document that those issues are rectified.  The problem becomes when you audit your restaurants, identify issues, and then don’t take care of them.

We have all seen the news reports, the company knew this was an issue but didn’t do anything to fix it.  Knowing but not fixing greatly increases your liability but more importantly plays horribly in the media if it ever comes to that.

The basics for handling action plan items are:

  1. You have to identify action plan items.
  2. You should create one action plan task per item to ensure that all are handled.
  3. Assign the responsibility of rectifying the item to a person(s).
  4. Assign a due date for when the issue needs to be fixed.
  5. Verify, usually through pictures or re-inspection, that the item has been fixed.
  6. Document all of this in case the issue you identified caused someone harm.

Following up on action plan items is best accomplished by a task management program.  You can use email if you don’t have a task management program but email is very lax on enforcement, and you are more prone to miss action plan items.

We hear from our clients and prospective clients that completing action plan items is one of the hardest things they have to deal with because often time the auditor has moved on to their next audit and aren’t at the restaurant to supervise. Obviously, if you do several audits a week and you identify multiple issues per audit, it starts to add up very quickly.

I don’t know how other software platforms handle this but we have an explicit action plan task that can be created off an inspection report and links back to the item. You can track all of your action plan tasks in your inbox and you are notified as they are completed or if they are late.

It is great to have people fix their audit issues on the spot when possible.  Just like using tasks, you need a way to document the fix for reporting purposes. In our system, if you don’t want to create a task you can add additional photos and comments on the inspection report for documentation purposes.

Put together a system that allows you to easily assign and track that each deficiency that you identify is fixed in an appropriate time frame.  You open yourself up to a lot of liability if you can’t ensure that items are being fixed.

8. Have you thought about Site Visits?

There are three levels of operations inspections that chains should be doing to drive better operations.

  1. Audits: used to identify operating trends and restaurant performance
  2. Site Visits: quick critical only focused checklists that non-location employees complete every time they visit a restaurant.
  3. Daily Checklists: used to drive behavior and to document food safety procedures on a daily basis.

Site visits are seldom used and recorded by most major chains, I believe that their audit software doesn’t do a great job of facilitating multiple inspections, and this is a huge mistake.  Site visits are 10 to 15 question checklists that focus on the most critical operating standards from a FOH/BOH perspective.  They should be completed everytime a person from the restaurant chain, that doesn’t work at the location, visits the restaurant.

Site visits provide the following benefits:

  1. You collect more operations data:
    1. These are quick and take place at different times of the day so you can get interesting data about how well the restaurant is operating during the rush or right after.
  2. More flexible than audits:
    1. You don’t want to be changing your audits to constantly reflect current operational priorities because this dilutes their historic relevance. Instead, you can use site visits to gauge how well the restaurants are doing on current operational initiatives.

Using site visits in conjunction with your Audit program will help you understand how the restaurant is performing in between audits and provides very interesting operations data. It also allows you to identify and quickly address critical issues.

In conclusion, auditing is about protecting your brand from yourself. It is about ensuring that your restaurants are operating at or above standard. Audits are about teaching and coaching your team members, providing feedback, and holding people accountable.

Restaurant Audits are an integral part of managing multi-unit restaurant and hotel chains.  They provide us with a report card on how we are doing.  I highly encourage you to review your audit process using some of the standards I highlighted in this post. If you are looking for consulting assistance to review your audit program or restaurant audit software to conduct your audits on, please feel free to schedule a call with us at OpsAnalitica by clicking here.

We welcome the opportunity to discuss what you are currently doing, show you how our software could help you optimize your process, and to give you a quote.

 

 

 

The number one metric driving cloud software is…

It’s called Customer Success, and it’s going to be one of the major forces—perhaps the overall #1 driver—that will reshape the cloud-computing industry in 2018. Bob Evans

Bob Evans recently wrote a great article in Forbes about Customer Success and how it is one of the biggest drivers for cloud companies.  I highly recommend that your read the full article entitled: Why Salesforce.com, Workday And ServiceNow Are Obsessing Over This New Cloud Metric by clicking here.

Before I get into a high-level recap of the article, we at OpsAnalitica have known about the importance of customer success from day 1. That is why we offer the OpsAnalitica Managed Service and we are the only restaurant checklist and audit platform who does this.

Meaning we’ll administrate the platform for you and we do that for the same price our competitors charge to leave you swinging in the wind. You cannot find a partner that is more committed to your success than us because we’ll manage the software for you, if you want.

Article Recap

Bob quickly covers the history of enterprise software.

  1. In the past: 5 years ago, a software company sold you some software. You paid for it and it was your responsibility to get it to work in your environment which is where 90% of software problems occurred.
  2. Cloud computing: now you pay for a subscription to software, the software company does everything you used to do for you, like installing, hosting, managing, uptime etc. That is why everyone wants you to pay for the software every month because they are incurring costs on your behalf monthly.  Gone are the days that you bought software once and never paid for it again.
  3. Just having software in the cloud that is working all the time isn’t enough. Cloud companies have to focus on delivering the ROI that they promised when they sold you and that is Customer Success.

A customer success focus is a natural evolution of cloud computing.  Cloud computing solved getting the software to work and now we are turning our attention to getting you a return on your investment which should have been everyone’s focus from day 1.

The article goes on to interview several CEO’s and speaks with them about their takes on customer success.

I’m going to wrap up with this.  Your software vendors are your partners.  You are entrusting them with your information and they are promising you a return on your investment that will make your business better.  Hold your vendors accountable, choose your vendors wisely, and remember that we work for you.

I know that a lot of people miss the good old days when you could buy some software and you only paid for it once.  I think a lot of those people don’t remember how hard it was to get the software up and running and to keep it working.  I’m going to leave you with one thought last thought; I remember that the salespeople for a large sales company used to say, “don’t confuse sales with implementation” meaning your job is to sell at all costs and if what you sell is impossible to implement that is someone else’s problem, usually the customers.

Cloud computing is here to stay so are monthly software fees, it is truly a better way to go, and with the right vendors, it can make all the difference.

 

 

 

Finding, Hiring, and Keeping Great People Identified as Number 1 Restaurant Management Issue

 

We recently asked our email list of over 9,000 recipients “what was their biggest restaurant operations issue?” The unequivocal 1st place answer was:

Finding, Hiring, and Keeping employees.

Which sucks for me because I don’t have a magic solution to this issue, especially one that I can make money on.

To be a service to you guys, I went and found some articles about hiring and retaining for you and I will link to them below.

When I was a restaurant manager, here is what I used to do to hire and keep employees.  By the way, finding good employees is easy if you can keep good employees because you will get referrals and friends of your current team.

  1. Make work fun. Have fun with your team every shift.
    1. Have shift contests for the FOH and BOH
    2. Make Jokes
    3. Serve good food at the employee meal
    4. Don’t just include the servers of FOH, make sure all team members get to participate in the fun.
  2. Thank everyone and recognize people’s contributions constantly.
    1. Recognizing people is probably the most important thing you can do, just say thank you.
    2. I’ve found that people who feel appreciated are less likely to bounce when things get tough.
  3. Focus on your culture – live it and breath it.
    1. Every restaurant can have a cool culture.
    2. The culture is set by the management team and employees and then reinforced by management.
    3. Own it and make sure every decision and rule that you implement reinforce your culture.
  4. Conduct pre-shift meetings
    1. The pre-shift meeting is one of the most important things you can do to accomplish the first three things on this list.
    2. It is the only time that you get to communicate to your entire team together on a shift basis.
    3. Don’t be lazy and skip it because you are skipping the most effective team building and retention tool you have.
  5. Run a great restaurant.
    1. People forget that operations are the key to everything in the restaurant.  Do you know which restaurants in your area don’t have a turnover problem? The ones that are busy, because they are great restaurants, and everyone that works there is making money, staying busy, and feeling good about their job.
    2. You can do all the other things on the list, but if your restaurant is slow and people aren’t making money, or they are bored, the reality is, they are going to leave eventually.
      1. If they leave, you are never going to get out of the massive turn-over cycle, your service levels and food quality will steadily decline as you will always have a new staff, which will alienate your declining customer base until you eventually go out of business.
    3. Your restaurant operations are the one thing that you are in complete control of, and you have no excuse for not executing flawlessly every shift.

Here are a couple of articles about the restaurant industry’s turnover and hiring issues:

I know it’s hard out there in this market.  Implementing changes is always a slow process, and it requires discipline and consistency.  It is possible to thrive in this market as well.  Focus on the basics, your daily operations on a shift by shift basis.  Focus on controlling what you can control, which is everything in your four walls and ignore the outside distractions.  Take care of your people, and your customers and your business will grow.

If you want to learn how OpsAnalitica can help you run better operations on a shift-by-shift basis, go to OpsAnalitica.com

 

 

Emails Stink – Tasks Rule

How many emails do you get a day?

The average worker receives about 80ish emails a day and sends around 30.

Email was originally invented to get rid of paper interoffice memos. It has obviously morphed into so much more than that, it has become so ubiquitous in our lives that most of us can’t live without it.

Also, most people have used folders and labels and many other organizing schemes to turn email into things that it was never intended to do, mostly it is how we manage our to-do lists and assign tasks to people.

Email was never intended to be a task solution. As a matter of fact, it is a horrible task solution and the fact that you get so many emails a day just compounds its inadequacies.

If you want to get things done and have your teams execute then you need to use tasks instead of email.

The perfect task has the following attributes.

  • It is assigned to one or more people who are notified that they have something to do.
  • Tasks are one-to-one – ex: deep clean and organize the storeroom.
  • Tasks have a due date
  • You are notified when a task has been completed or is late.

So many of use email to assign work because it is right there and it is so easy to use but it doesn’t do any of the things we just mentioned as paramount for getting things done. Also, email is so free form that we often violate the rules of tasks for speed but we end up causing ourselves more headaches and follow-up on the back end.

Some common email task mistakes:

There is no accountability with email

As we said earlier, people get 80 work emails a day. New emails get buried in your inbox quickly. I don’t know how this is possible but emails get lost all the time, you know you read it but you can’t find it.

Also, we have all used the excuse that we didn’t see an email when asked about by a colleague or a friend why we hadn’t responded.  Being overwhelmed by the amount of email you get and missing things in email is so commonplace today that we all let each other off of the hook for the occasional lapse. Which is fine except for when you need something done.

With a Task system you assign a task to a person, they are notified that they have a task. You can easily track the tasks status and progress updates. In our system, you will get notified of a new task by push notification, email, or internal message.

Burry your task requests in a longer email

Have you ever sent an email with a bunch of to do’s or tasks and then none of it gets done? There is an expectation when writing an email that you at least put a person’s name in there and say and an introductory sentence.  The next thing you know your request or task is buried in a paragraph.  This makes it that much more likely that it won’t get done.

With a task, there is no requirement for a greeting or chit-chat.  You get a description of what needs to be done and when it needs to be done by.

Send a list of tasks in an email

Email doesn’t require us to be one-to-one when assigning tasks, as a matter of fact, it would be considered weird if you sent 10 separate emails with 1o individual tasks. This is probably the most common mistake of assigning work through email.  You create a list of things you want to be done but as soon as you add the second item, you lose accountability.

I can’t tell you how many times I have fallen into this trap.  I sent an email with a list of things to be done, the person did the first thing and then replied it was completed.  Completed what? Did you complete my whole list?  So now you go back and forth several times trying to get every item completed.

Tasks take a little longer to get started because you should create one task per request but they save you so much in accountability and follow-up that it makes the initial time increase completely worth it.

Emails don’t have due dates

We all get so busy that due dates just creep up on us.  They come and go and if you don’t have a reminder you will simply miss the day.  You can’t assign a due date to an email, so you are putting all of the responsibility for remembering that you wanted something done on yourself.

With a task system, you set a due date and it will notify you when things are due and tell all people associated with the task when it has been completed or if it is late.

Status & Updates get Scattered

With a task system, most tasks have a status.  In-progress, completed, etc.. You can use these statuses to figure out where everything you have assigned is currently at.  It makes it so much easier to manage when you have this type of visibility.

Also, updates can be tracked in the task program and therefore you can see everything that is happening.  With email people can reply back but then your email chain gets so scattered or you have so many emails that it becomes hard to find the update information.

As I stated at the beginning of this blog, email is probably the number one used business tool today.  It is great at what it does but it isn’t great at tasks. I would recommend to any of you who are managing a team to investigate moving from using email to using a task program instead and just using email for communication.  The productivity gains and reduction in stress will be worth the switch.

At OpsAnalitica, we have just released our task management functionality inside of the OpsAnalitica Platform.  You can now create action plan and ad hoc tasks and use the system to manage your operations.  If you would like to see the task management in action, please schedule a demo here.

 

 

Common Mobile Ordering App Mistakes

I’m one of those people who like to order ahead on an app and pick stuff up and bring it home. I’ve got two very frustrating stories of trying to do this recently and one great experience. In this blog I will outline what I was doing and the things in those experiences that were frustrating so you can avoid setting up a system that does the same things.

Story 1:

I wanted to order some breakfast and bring it home because I had a call starting shortly and I knew I was 5 minutes from the restaurant, so I thought I would order real quick then drive over to the restaurant and pick up my eggs and then run back home. I knew I would be cutting it close, but I also knew that if this all worked as intended that I could pull it off.

1st I went to a growing micro-chains website and went through the whole process of trying to order on their website. I got to the payment page, and you can’t order on their website unless you create an account.

Mistake # 1: Allow guest checkout. Not everyone wants to join your loyalty club or create an account. Plus you can still get their email so you can send them a receipt, so them not creating an account doesn’t hurt you from future marketing.

So then I created an account and all that entails. I had to enter my info, address, password, etc. There was an issue with their website, and it said gift card vs. credit card and I didn’t have a gift card, so I wasn’t able to order through the website.

Mistake # 2: Make sure your mobile ordering works as intended and don’t just test it with an account. Your test cases should include setting up a new account and then ordering and other use cases that a new customer might encounter.

Mistake # 3: Don’t make people fill out all their information when they are ordering from a mobile device. It is hard to type on mobile devices so just capture the bare minimum of data needed to complete the order and then use a follow-up campaign and incentive to get them to give you the rest of their information. A coupon for when you complete your registration is a perfect example of that.

I must admit that the idea for this blog was born on this day so instead of just bailing and going through the McDonald’s drive-through, which is right across the street, I decided to persevere and try using their app.

I downloaded their app, and it required me to register to order. I assumed that the account I created on their website would work on their app. WRONG.

Their website and app don’t sync, and they don’t make that clear. So I spent a couple of minutes trying to log into their app with my website credentials that I had just created before I realized this isn’t going to work and registered on the app where I re-entered all of my info into the account.

Mistake # 4: Have your stuff sync!!!!!!! Common really? I just went through and filled out all this info on your website, and it doesn’t work with your app.

The chain is probably using two different platforms for their website ordering and their app. They may even have a nightly sync set-up or something else. Sharing this kind of data isn’t hard and should be done on a real-time basis. Also, don’t have two different ways to order online, just have one, or use an integrated platform. Problem solved.

Finally, I got my eggs ordered, and I picked them up and ate them, and they were delicious. As I said earlier, I stuck this out because I wanted to see what the deal was but I wonder how many people would have bailed and done something else. I have also eaten at this restaurant several times since then and haven’t used their app since.

Story 2:

I was with my family, and we were up in the Colorado mountains and going to rent a pontoon boat for a 2-hour cruise around a lake. There was a national sub-franchise restaurant down the road, and I decided that we would order online and then pick up the subs and eat them before our boat ride.

I went on to their mobile ordering site and started to get everyone’s suborder, customizing each sandwich and getting drinks and chips, etc..

The website worked great until checkout. Then they wanted me to log in and create an account. So I did.

For some reason, once you create your account the system logs you out and you have to log back in. Well, it wouldn’t take my stupid password.

As a quick side note. Setting passwords on your mobile devices is way harder to do than on a computer because your phone auto corrects and most computers don’t. People think they typed one thing and the phone changes it to another and you have no clue what your password is because it is hidden for security reasons. I see this all the time with our app and new clients.

Mistake # 1: Provide a Show Password option, Amazon does this on their Audible app. It is really easy to do and helps you battle autocorrect.

Mistake # 2: Don’t have the website log you out and make you log back in after you create an account. The proper workflow would be to return you to your shopping cart to complete your order.

Returning you to your shopping cart is completely doable, and it shows that the developers of this online ordering platform have lost touch with what the customer is trying to do. They are trying to order sandwiches not trying to register an account. Who has time to go around and register themselves on different websites? Prisoners do, and that is it.

If you are purchasing this software for your restaurants, keep that in mind, your potential customers are trying to order, and anything that slows that down or gets in the way of that is very bad for your business.

I had to create two accounts before I could get the password to work. This also took me trying to reset the original password several times and not being able to log into the site to complete my order and pay for my food.

One positive thing about this experience. Is that I had multiple browser tabs open and when I finally got logged in my shopping cart was still there, and I didn’t lose everyone’s order. That would have been the straw that broke the camels back.

I finally placed my order; this took 20 minutes.

Then I drive to the restaurant, and when I get to the restaurant the tickets have been printed, and they are sitting next to the register. They aren’t on the line getting made. The time it took me to drive to the restaurants was probably 5 minutes.

I almost lost my shit, but I have a very strict don’t mess with the people who are making your food policy unless you aren’t planning on eating the food.

So when I walk-in and I have to tell the cashier that those are my orders and then she puts them on the line to get made I was pretty livid because I was on a clock and nothing about pre-ordering was helping me beat that clock.

Mistake # 2: The system told me when to expect my order, when mobile orders come in that are ASAP then you make them now. They have already been paid for so what the hell are you waiting for?

I got my order finally and got back and was late to my boat rental but the food was good, and everyone was happy.

Now for a good story. In full disclosure, Mici Italian, a micro-chain in Denver Colorado is a client of ours, but they also have a restaurant 5 minutes from my house. They have a great online ordering experience.

The app and their website are synced to each other. They remember your previous orders and from the app or the website you can one-click re-order a previous order. Their system just works.

They use hungerrush.com as their platform, and I have told them that their online experience is amazing. I have also recommended them to several of my neighbors, partly because their online experience is so good.

To sum these stories up. Your mobile ordering experience is an extension of your brand and your level of service. If ordering on your mobile website or app is frustrating that is equivalent to having a bad customer service experience.

It can even be worse than having a bad service experience in a restaurant because you may not even know about the issue and have no way of saving the experience. I believe that most people would not have completed these purchases.

I have said this in other blogs, but everyone in the industry is selling mobile ordering and delivery as these magic bullets that can rescue falling same-store sales numbers. At a 30,000 foot level, they make sense.

What no one wants to talk about is the new levels of complexity that get added to your business. It’s not just another order coming in; it requires IT, and technology skills, additional management training, and a whole new set of potential fail points both from a technology and customer service perspective.

What I would say is don’t rush into these platforms and services but to do a lot of competitive research and see what you like and what you don’t like and bring people into your organization that knows how to execute this stuff at a high level.

New sales channels can help grow your business but if the complexity of executing those sales channels creates bad customer interactions those sales get negated quickly.

Interview with Chef Keith Jones – Renaissance Man

This is an interview with Chef Keith Jones. Keith and I have known each other since 1994 when I worked with him at The Metropolitan Club in Englewood Colorado. This is a great interview with Keith who has done and continues to do a little of everything in the hospitality business. We touch on the importance of mentors and a lot of other great topics in the business. I think a lot of you will like this episode because Keith has as expanded his horizons out of the restaurants but stayed in food service.

How Mobile Text Coupons Improve Customer Loyalty and Boosts Sales

This blog post is by our guest blogger, Ken Rhie, CEO of Trumpia. It’s a great article on using digital coupons to build customer loyalty and boost sales.

How Mobile Text Coupons Improve Customer Loyalty and Boosts Sales

More and more companies are realizing that sending coupons to your customer’s mobile phones is a game changer. Digital coupons are easier to create and a lot simpler for customers to remember than traditional printed coupons. Clipping coupons is quickly becoming a thing of the past, as mobile coupons are redeemed 10x more often than print, and they can be generated instantly.

Here are 5 reasons that texting customer mobile coupons will see help drive sales and increase your bottom line:

Higher Redemption Rates

Of course, the point of your coupons is to boost sales. Text coupons are more likely to get opened and clicked than emails. Mobile coupons were 14% more likely to be opened and 34% more likely to generate click-throughs to websites. People prefer immediate offers and want coupons that are personalized for their shopping habits. Because of their high open rate, text messages lead to more sales.

Fewer Costs

Digital ads and text coupons are great because they require very little from you. While you might want to have a professional design a graphic for your coupon, you don’t have to worry about printing or paper costs. You can save on a lot of time, effort and material expenses by shifting over to mobile text coupons. They can be generated and sent instantly, so if your store is having a slow day you can send out a coupon for 10% off a product you are promoting.

Better Timing

If you schedule your coupons in advance, then those posts can even be made in advanced. You do not need to be available when you want to engage your audience. Better yet, you can plan ahead and create coupons that coincide with important events or holidays that impact your brand or your customers. Planning ahead means less chaos in formatting and sending out those messages the day of your big sales.

Better Tracking

Paper coupons are almost impossible to track – leaving holes in your analytics and no contact information for future content. Text messages are opened 98% of the time and read within 3 seconds. Once a customer has seen your coupon, you can follow up with them and see if they want to offer you more information so that you can give them more personalized deals. For example, if you send them a coupon for a meat lovers pizza and they redeem it, you can then follow up and see if they would be interested in future meaty pizzas! The more information you have on a customer, the better you can keep them satisfied and coming back for more.

Increased Value

Tracking isn’t just good for your strategy efforts, it increases the value your brand can offer the customer. Mobile Marketing Watch found that 26% of their mobile users increased the amount of items in their carts when coupons targeted their favorite products. And, 65% of their audience redeemed their targeted coupons within 5 minutes. People are willing to spend more time and even shift to mobile payment methods if they see that their favorite products are featured in coupons. In a world where comparable competitor products are literally a click away, savings and convenience matter.

Mobile coupons should be part of your mobile strategy. For more information on how to improve your customer satisfaction, loyalty and conversion rates with a good mobile coupon texting campaign, click here!

 

Author Biography:

Ken Rhie
Ken Rhie is the CEO of Trumpia, which earned a reputation as the most complete SMS solution including user-friendly user interface and API for mobile engagement, Smart Targeting, advanced automation, enterprise, and cross-channel features for both mass texting and landline texting use cases. Mr. Rhie holds an MBA degree from Harvard Business School. He has over 30 years of experience in the software, internet, and mobile communications industries.

Filling out vs. Completing Checklists (there’s a big difference)

Pretty much everyone that we speak to tell us that they do checklists daily, every shift, in order to get their restaurants ready to serve guests. About 80% are doing them on paper. Of those 80%, 94% believe that they are getting pencil whipped. Meaning that they can tell someone simply filled out the checklist quickly with the desired information because it’s required. They did not provide any real insight.

There’s a huge difference between filling out a checklist and completing a checklist.

Filling out = Pencil Whipped. No thought put into any of the tasks or answers. Simply going through the motions because it’s a requirement of the job. Usually filled out right next to where the clipboards are hanging on the wall with the checklist on it. This adds zero value. It may as well not be done because it’s a waste of time, although only about 30 seconds up to a couple minutes, but still why bother? If a task isn’t going to add value then don’t do it. Restaurant operators, managers, and employees are busy enough as it is so adding busy work makes no sense.

Completing = applying due diligence and due care to the task-list. Walking to each station/area and giving each task/item the attention it deserves. Some items will require more time than others, but if you have implemented systems and checks that you deem important to the success of your operations you should expect that they are being checked diligently. An added, but very valuable benefit to completing vs. filling out a checklist is that by simply walking the restaurant checking items the “inspector” will undoubtedly notice other things, not necessarily on the checklist, that may be out of whack and attend to them before it becomes an issue. This is huge and often gets overlooked.

Most everyone that we talk to tell us that they use checklists to ensure that every location, every day, every shift is operating consistently, staying compliant with brand and safety standards, and to ultimately run better restaurant operations. That is absolutely the largest benefit of checklists in general, but the assumption is that they are being completed not filled out. Our research shows that most of the time, 94%, that is not the case. Restaurant operators are frustrated with the lack of daily operations visibility, especially if they aren’t able to be in every location every day. They tell us  that sales and profitability suffer when there’s a lack of operations compliance and consistency.

Our clients have implemented a system that is just as easy to use as a pen and paper which gives them the peace of mind knowing that their procedures are being followed every shift. They know which checklists have been completed, which haven’t, who completed them, which have been pencil whipped, what time they were completed, and where they were completed in real-time through the management dashboard on their tablet, phone, or laptop. They enjoy complete operations visibility all the while driving system compliance and consistency.

The Task-list Scheduler tells each location exactly which checklists need to completed and by what time. OpsAnalitica clients are able to identify trends and focus areas through our robust tagging, dynamic scoring, and reporting engine that offers easy to digest chain-wide reporting.  Again all in real-time on any device.

If you are frustrated with not knowing exactly how each of your restaurants are operating on a shift by shift basis click here to learn more about the OpsAnalitica Platform and see how simple it is to use. We might be able to help you run better operations as well.