Google FINDER and the Power of Data to make Restaurants Safer

Are you aware of Google’s FINDER algorithm? My guess is not yet but you will hear more about it in the future.  Check out this article from The Daily Mail UK .

Google has created a machine learning algorithm named FINDER, Foodborne Illness Detector in Real Time, that is capable of pairing search terms like “diarrhea” and “stomach cramps” with a person’s geolocation history to determine which restaurants they have visited recently and proactively detect which restaurants might be operating unsafely in real-time.

Here are some of the interesting facts from the Daily Mail Article:

  • Google ran a test across Chicago and Las Vegas in 2016 & 17.
  • FINDER detected that the percentage of unsafe restaurants across those cities were 52.3% vs. the health department inspection data which said that 22.7% were unsafe.
  • FINDER was more accurate than customer complaints. which are only accurate about 38% of the time. “Researchers believe this is because most people assume the cause of their food poisoning was the last place they ate at, causing them to file a complaint at the wrong restaurant. They point to medical studies that have shown foodborne illnesses can take 48 hours or even longer to become symptomatic after someone has been exposed. “
  • “[We] demonstrated that FINDER improves the accuracy of health inspections; restaurants identified by FINDER are 3.1 times as likely to be deemed unsafe during the inspection as restaurants identified by existing methods,’ according to the study.”

First off, I’m so impressed by the FINDER project, because they used readily available disparate data and combined it together to identify causality and to notify the proper authorities to investigate.

Here are my conclusions from the article:

  1. The idea that a health inspection or an internal audit conducted periodically is enough to identify unsafe restaurants is an antiquated and inaccurate way of managing food safety.
  2. This further confirms the FDA’s recent study, read our blog to learn more, that the best way to reduce the risk of foodborne illness is an FSMS (Food Safety Management System) that fosters daily active managerial control.
  3. In the future, we will see an increase in systems that are constantly monitoring and reporting on exceptions.  We do that today in our platform and we are continuing to look for ways to expand that exception reporting. To learn more about the OpsAnalitica Platform, click here.
  4. Restaurant operators that have been highly critical of reviews where a person said they got sick at their restaurant, there is some validity in that criticism.
  5. Iwaspoisoned.com, which we have lauded as a really cool platform for identifying foodborne illness outbreaks may have a very short lifespan because the accuracy of complaints is only 38% and this platform is more accurate.

The restaurant industry, like all industries, has a responsibility to operate at the highest standard and to police itself for the continued prosperity of all restaurants.  Restaurants get people sick on a daily basis, causing their patron’s great physical discomfort and costing society billions of dollars annually.

The FINDER study showed that over half the restaurants in the cities studied were unsafe. People get sick at restaurants all the time but because most restaurants only get inspected 1 or 2 times per year and it generally requires a doctor’s diagnosis to make an official foodborne illness complaint, it continues to get underreported and these unsafe restaurants are continuing to operate without any regulatory consequences.

The FDA needs to mandate through the Food Code a minimum standard of daily active managerial control procedures and digital record keeping for all restaurants. We recommend that they take a Criticals First approach to this standard.

Restaurants need to implement their own FSMS that promote daily active managerial control and then work those systems to run safer operations for their own well being. I’ll leave you with this thought. 80% of restaurants fail within the first 5 years, we in the industry have always equated that to bad operations, locations, and management. Would you ever go back to a restaurant that got you sick? I wouldn’t, I haven’t. I wonder how much of the restaurant failure rate could be potentially contributed to patrons not going back to restaurants that made them sick?

 

 

 

 

 

The Number 1 Factor For Reducing Critical Food Safety Violations is…

The number one factor for reducing critical food safety violations is…

Implementing a Food Safety Management System (FSMS) with daily Active Managerial Control (AMC)

The following is from the FDA REPORT ON THE OCCURRENCE OF FOODBORNE ILLNESS RISK FACTORS IN FAST FOOD AND FULL-SERVICE RESTAURANTS, 2013-2014 Prepared by the FDA National Retail Food Team 2018

Here are my conclusions from the study so you don’t have to read the whole thing

  1. The number 1 factor that predicts less food safety violations, in both Fast Food and Full Service restaurants,  is a well developed, documented and executed daily Food Safety Management System (FSMS) that drives Daily Active Managerial Control (AMC). 
    1. FSMS were the strongest predictor of data items being out-of-compliance in both fast food and full-service restaurants: those with well-developed food safety management systems had significantly fewer food safety behaviors/practices out of compliance than did those with less developed food safety management systems.- Page 39
  2. That the presence of Certified Food Protection Manager (CFPM) on staff positively correlates to having a better FSMS but doesn’t replace an FSMS.
    1. However, upon multi-factor regression, the correlations between certified food protection manager and out-of-compliance become non-significant, indicating that food safety management systems and not the presence of a certified food protection manager predict compliance with food safety behaviors/practices. – Page 40
    2. In fast food restaurants with a CFPM who was the person in charge at the time of data collection, the average FSMS score was 2.645, while the average score for fast food restaurants with no CFPM employed was 1.822. In full-service restaurants, scores were 1.842 and 1.348, respectively. This suggests that having a CFPM present at all hours of operation enhances food safety management systems and reduces the number of out-of-compliance food safety behaviors/practices. – Page 40
  3. If you don’t have a CFPM working every shift, then you might as well not have one at all.
    1. In fact, having a CFPM who was not present was almost no different than having no CFPM at all for the out-of-compliance food safety behaviors/practices evaluated in this study. – page 40
  4. The types of Jurisdiction the restaurant resides in and whether the health inspections that you receive are: Scored/Not Scored, Publicly Available/Not Publicly Available, or that Employee Food Safety Training is Required/Not Required didn’t affect the scores of the Fast Food or Full-Service Restaurants. This makes sense as health inspections only happen a couple of times a year. The quote below is for full-service restaurants but they stated similar conclusions for fast food restaurants
    1. Full-service restaurants located in jurisdictions that graded establishments did not have significantly different results (p = 0.0819) compared to full-service restaurants located in jurisdictions that did not grade. Establishments located in jurisdictions where there was a requirement to make inspection results public did not have significantly different compliance (p = 0.6820) than establishments in jurisdictions that did not require reporting. Establishments in jurisdictions that required food handler training did not have significantly different compliance (p = 0.0626) than establishments in jurisdictions that did not require food handler training. – Page 30
  5. Of the foodborne illness risk factors investigated in this study, restaurants had the best control over inadequate cooking. There remains a need to gain better control over improper holding/time and temperature and poor personal hygiene. Page 39
  6. Multi-unit operators had significantly lower instances of out-of-compliance items compared to single unit operators. Page 26 This was true for both Fast Food and Full-Service Restaurants.

In layman’s terms, you have to have food safety procedures for your restaurants daily operations, you have to train your team on how to follow those procedures, most importantly your managers have to complete daily monitoring activities (via checklists, logs, and/or IoT) to ensure that you are identifying and fixing any issues that you find in real-time.

Here is my shameless self-promotion:

  • The OpsAnalitica Platform is the backbone of any good Food Safety Management System. It provides your teams with access to Procedures, Training, and Monitoring functionality in real-time customized to every location and is the foundation of a well developed and documented FSMS. Please click here if you would like to learn more about our platform and how we can help you set up your FSMS. 
  • Time and temperature control was the number one food safety issue identified for both full-service and fast food restaurants. The OpsAnalitica platform integrates with temperature sensors and with our proactive notifications we can alert management to critical food safety violations in real-time so that any problems can be fixed immediately before they affect customers.
  • I have been shouting these conclusions for the last 3 years to everyone in the industry via this blog and our marketing and sales efforts. It feels good to be backed up by this study but the fact that in 68% of Fast Food and 86% of Full-Service Restaurants that there was an observance of improper temperature control means that the status quo system of having paper-based food safety procedures that are largely pencil whipped with no accountability or above store visibility is failing. We as an industry need to take this stuff more seriously.

As food service professionals, we owe it to ourselves, our customers, and our brands to take the conclusions from this report seriously and implement FSMS and daily AMC into our restaurants.

As I mentioned in a blog a couple of weeks ago, we heard from one of the head lobbyists for the NRA that they expect the FDA conversations around mandatory digit record keeping in restaurants to begin in 2019 and would expect to see updates to the food code in 2021. I believe that the conclusions of this report play right into those initiatives for well documented FSMS programs.

Excerpts from the Study

The rest of this blog is going to be summarizing the report and displaying the most interesting charts and graphs from it.  I will try to do my best to make my opinions clear and differentiated from the findings. The above link is my blanket footnote for the information below as you can reference the original text at any point.

Purpose of the Study:

The purpose of each restaurant data collection during the current 10-year study period is to investigate the relationship between food safety management systems (FSMS), certified food protection managers (CFPMs), and the occurrence of risk factors and food safety behaviors/practices commonly associated with foodborne illness in restaurants.

Let’s define FSMS (Food Safety Management System)

FSMS refers to a specific set of actions (e.g., procedures, training, and monitoring) to help achieve active managerial control. While FSMS procedures vary across the retail and food service industry, purposeful implementation of those procedures, training, and monitoring are consistent components of FSMS.

AMC (Active Managerial Control)

To help prevent foodborne illness, the FDA Food Code emphasizes the need for risk- based preventive controls and daily active managerial control (AMC) of the risk factors contributing to foodborne illness in retail and food service facilities. AMC is “the purposeful incorporation of specific actions or procedures by industry management into the operation of their business to attain control over foodborne illness risk factors” (FDA, 2013). A food establishment’s achieving AMC involves the continuous identification and proactive prevention of food safety hazards.

Why are FSMS’s important?

Inadequate FSMS are thought to contribute to the worldwide burden of foodborne disease (Luning et al., 2008). For example, HACCP has been shown to have positive effects on food safety, but the poor implementation of HACCP has been described as a precursor to foodborne outbreaks (Cormier, 2007; Luning et al., 2009; Ropkins and Beck, 2000).

What is a CFPM (Certified Food Protection Manager)

A CFPM is an individual who has shown proficiency in food safety information by passing a test that is part of an accredited program (FDA, 2013a). Research has shown that the presence of a CFPM is associated with improved inspection scores (Hedberg et al., 2007; Cates et al., 2008, Brown et al., 2014). Hedberg et al. (2006) found that the major difference between outbreak and non-outbreak restaurants was the presence of a CFPM.

Table 3 describes how the team rated the risk of different food service establishments, they didn’t study any risk category 1 businesses.

Table 4 talks about what they were looking for in the study.

This next image describes the different scoring criteria for FSMS’s. 

The Results

Study Conclusions

 

Thank you for reading this blog. If you want to learn more about OpsAnalitica, go to OpsAnalitica.com.

 

Real-time Collaboration is the Key to Getting Your Checklists Done Every Shift

Real-time Collaboration is a feature of the OpsAnalitica Platform, it allows multiple team members to work on a checklist at the same time as well as allowing you to start a checklist on one device and finish it on another. It is probably the most important feature for driving checklist compliance that we have released since we began the company and we are the only checklist platform that has this functionality.

Why is real-time collaboration so important for getting checklists done on time and why does anyone care? It splits up the work and reduces checklist completion time. Instead of a manager or chef being solely responsible to complete a very extensive and time-consuming checklist by themselves, the same checklist can be completed by a couple of team members simultaneously in 1/3 to half the time.

Checklist completion time is one of the biggest factors driving pencil whipping and non-completion of checklists. Who has an hour of uninterrupted time when running a restaurant? No one! If you are pressed for time, dealing the with the daily fires that all restaurant managers face, with the next shift rapidly approaching, it is easy to convince yourself that you don’t have time to do your checklists correctly. So most managers don’t.

94% of restaurant operators we surveyed stated that they didn’t think their teams were doing their checklists accurately.

Guest satisfaction, sales, and profits suffer when restaurants aren’t ready for the meal period. Checklists were developed to help managers ensure that they were ready for their guests every shift. When your checklists don’t get done the whole system breaks down and you run a worse restaurant.

Lack of follow-up is the other factor that drives checklists not being completed. Peter Drucker’s famous quote applies here, “What gets measured gets improved.”

If management at the store and area levels aren’t holding their employees accountable for doing their checklists, then they aren’t going to get done.  That is what we see in the industry today. Most companies have no system in place to manage daily operations at the above store level, area managers and directors don’t get notified when people aren’t doing what they are supposed to. Therefore they can’t intervene and drive the desired behavior at the store level.

Most companies have added questions on their audits about checklists compliance, but often times it is not worth enough points to significantly affect the audit score to cause a real consequence for not following procedure. This is one of the largest fundamental flaws in how restaurant companies have organized themselves.  Restaurant companies spend millions of dollars creating procedures, training materials, and on training employees but have no follow-up mechanism that ensures that the restaurants are complying and doing what they are supposed to.

Real-time visibility into restaurant operations, critical violation notifications, and checklist compliance are all things you get with the OpsAnalitica Platform, these features allow managers in all levels of the organization to see what is happening and hold their teams accountable. It is a game changer for running more consistent operations. In addition, if you use the platform to track your food safety process, the OpsAnalitica platform will be your digital recordkeeping platform helping you comply with the expected digital record-keeping mandates.

Using the OpsAnalitica platform with its real-time collaboration features will help you drive checklist compliance and run better, safer and more profitable restaurants. Our visibility and notification features will help your teams hold your managers accountable for following your procedures. This one-two punch is what is needed to run better restaurants and helps you control what you can control. If you are interested in learning more, check out Opsanalitica.com.

 

 

An Open Letter to the FDA & the National Restaurant Association in regards to Digital Record Keeping

Digital Record Keeping In Restaurants is Coming

It has been pretty widely known in the restaurant industry over the last couple of years that digital record keeping is going to be mandated for restaurants in the near future, it just makes sense.  The biggest bellwether of this impending change was FSMA, the Food Safety Modernization Act, which requires extensive digital record keeping for food service manufacturing facilities. I was speaking with a consultant and friend of mine, Scott Turner, who is a FSMA consultant and he was telling me that they originally wanted to combine the Food Code and FSMA into one standard for all food service manufacturing and restaurants, which would be the efficient and smart thing to do by the government, but hasn’t been implemented yet.

In September I attended at the Colorado Restaurant Show that is hosted by the Colorado Restaurant Association. At that show, they had a speaker from the National Restaurant Association who was the VP of State and Local Affairs. Basically, he is the chief lobbyist for the NRA in DC on State and Local issues that could affect the restaurant industry.  I spoke to him after his presentation and asked specifically about the digital record keeping mandate. He said that they were expecting the official conversations to begin in 2019, which is the midpoint of the 4-year food code cycle, and that we probably would see something in 2021 which is the next release year.

The question is; what is digital record keeping in restaurants going to look like and how should it be done?

We at OpsAnalitica are on the cutting edge of this issue and have a ton of experience with digital record keeping and food service operations for both the BOH/FOH and we have formulated our own approach to how this should be implemented across the industry. We call it Criticals First.

Let’s start with a quick review of where we stand today from a digital recordkeeping perspective.

The FDA publishes the Food Code, which is basically the Federal Governments guidance on best practices around food safety in restaurants and food service establishments every four years. The last release was 2017 and the next one will be 2021. Every 2 years in the cycle they make updates and start conversations around where the Food Code is going.  The Food Code is not mandated for every food service establishment in the country, it is the best practice. States and ultimately counties have the final say of what is the food safety standard for their jurisdictions. Basically, the states and counties review the food code and use what they want in their areas.

Let me preface this next statement, 99% of the time I’m not for more federal government regulation. Food Safety regulation is an area where a lot of money could be saved by foodservice operators and the government if there was 1 federal standard for food safety across the entire country.  We have national chains that are operating in almost every county in the country and in some cases have different regulatory standards county by county in the same state. You could run two restaurants in two different counties that are literally a couple of minutes from each other and have completely different record-keeping standards. Food safety is too important and there should be one standard across the entire country that all establishments are required to adhere.

The food code doesn’t currently mandate any food handling safety procedure or digital record keeping. They suggest that restaurants create and follow a HACCP program. In the Food Code, they state that one of the reasons that there isn’t a mandated HACCP standard for all restaurants in the country is that it would be a burden on the independent operators who might not have the sophistication and resources to create and manage a full HACCP implementation.

I tend to agree that not every restaurant needs a full HACCP plan and that varies by the type of food they are serving. Where I break from the food code is that there should be a national standard of mandated food safety checks and ops checks every meal period in every location no matter if you are a national chain or an independent restaurant. Those checks, which we’ll get into more detail on below, should be recorded digitally and reviewed by health inspectors during health inspections. There should be huge fines for not completing those checks regularly and being able to provide that information. I would go as far as saying that you should fail your health inspection for not completing food safety checks and documenting your results.

The public is relying on the government’s annual health inspections to ensure that food service establishments are operating safely. The reality is that restaurants get people sick all the time, check out Iwaspoisoned.com. There are systematic roadblocks for reporting foodborne illness, like the requirement of a doctors diagnosis that keep these issues underreported.

Also, health inspections happen so infrequently that restaurants often go months at a time without seeing an inspector, in  San Francisco, it was reported a few years ago that due to a lack of inspectors restaurants were going 18 months between inspections. My point is this, the public thinks the government is regulating this better than they are able to and the responsibility for food safety is squarely on the shoulders of the operators.

The only way inspectors can ensure that restaurants are running safe operations between their inspections is to have the operators conduct their own checks on a daily basis and record their results. The system breaks down if the health inspectors are unable to verify that those checks are being completed on a daily basis accurately. Food service establishments operating safely and checking their own operations daily is the first line of defense against foodborne illness (this doesn’t address ready to eat foods that are contaminated in the manufacturing process).

Let me wrap up what is currently happening with this last thought. As a customer, I don’t care if you are a mom and pop or a national chain, I want my food to be safe and I expect that you are checking your food safety operations every shift. You don’t get on a small plane and think it’s ok if they didn’t check the engine and the wings because it’s not being operated by a major airline, hell no, you expect small and large operators to follow the same safety standards.

OpsAnalitica’s Criticals First Approach

Every health inspection in the country has critical and non-critical items that the inspector is looking for, they generally contain but are not limited to:

  • Temperature control: Hot/Cold Hold, refrigeration, time controls, cooling procedures
  • Sanitation: Dish machine rinse temperature/chemical ppm, sanitizer buckets, no cross contamination, sanitary conditions
  • Storage: making sure products are being stored correctly
  • Rodents/Pests: no infestations
  • Foreign Contamination: no chance of foreign objects getting into food like dust or paint chips

The Criticals First approach we are recommending is to create checklists and logs for every location that are executed every meal period that focuses on the critical items in that operation. Checking temps of your refrigeration and your line items. Making sure sanitizer buckets and your dishwashing facilities are operating efficiently, doing a quick walk around to ensure that there is no cross contamination and that all of your products are being handled safely. These are the basic things that every foodservice operator is already expected to be doing every shift anyway.  This isn’t new and this isn’t rocket science.  The only thing we are adding is that operators should have to record these checks every shift and store them digitally to meet the future mandate for digital record keeping.

Restaurant operators should look at their current health inspection standard, identify the critical violations, create their checklists and start recording that data today. Health inspectors should take a crawl, walk, run approach with operators, especially independents and work with them to get their checklists and logs finalized to meet the counties standard. Once finalized, health inspectors should hold operators accountable for completing these checks every meal period because this is how we are going to ensure that restaurants are taking their food safety responsibility seriously.

As you can see this is a pragmatic approach to mandating a national food safety standard that takes into account the different types of operations. Now let’s talk about some standards of a good digital recordkeeping platform.

  1. Every record should be time/date stamped and that time date stamp should not be able to be tampered with.
  2. There should be a checklist duration captured, this will help identify if people are pencil whipping and not being forthright with their inspections.
  3. You should not be able to edit answers to questions after they have been submitted.
  4. It should be able to require comments and photos – to get more information.
  5. There should be adequate reports so that an inspector can see how an operation has performed over time both in the completing of their checklists but also to be able to identify individual issues over time.
  6. The system should be able to grant regulators access to reports and data without an account.

Taking a Critical First approach to mandating food safety procedures and requiring digital record keeping will not be an extraordinary burden on the food service industry. If implemented as we have described in this blog, it would be formalizing what food service operations are already expected to do.  Recording these activities digitally so they can easily be reviewed by inspectors is just adding that level of accountability that is currently missing from the system.

This is a pragmatic approach to increasing food safety across our country and providing restaurant patrons with an added layer of confidence and protection from foodborne illness.

P.S. two random thoughts

If you are a food service operator, you should make the move to digital record keeping today, because it is the right thing to do. Also, you should get locked into affordable pricing now, as soon as this is mandated you will see the prices increase dramatically because the providers, we included, will be able to charge more and you will have to pay it.

I predict that digital record keeping will happen nationally before 2021. When conversations begin in 2019, that will clue one of the big liberal states like California or New York, who enjoy setting the regulatory standards across the country to mandate digital record keeping in their states. Once that happens, the top 200 chains will have to adopt a strategy around digital record keeping immediately and they will implement it across their entire system vs. managing two processes.  Once the top 200 go, there will be no one with lobbying money fighting against this and therefore the country will move to this standard very quickly.

Thanks for reading and let me know what I missed and where I’m way off.

High Turnover = Lower Ops Consistency

The number one issue facing restaurant operators over the last couple of year, as told to us by restauranteurs at all levels in the business, is staffing and turnover. It is so hard to find good people to work in your restaurant and to keep them for any length of time.

I’m sure you are familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, thank you grad school.

 

Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs basically lays out a pyramid of human needs. Stating that you must fulfill the needs at the bottom of the pyramid first, food and water before you can move your way up to the top which is Self Actualization. To put it another way, you can’t become Self Actualized and achieve your dreams if you are huddled, starving, and cold, living in a damp dark cave not knowing when or if you will ever eat again and worried about being killed by an animal. Neanderthals weren’t self-actualized, they most likely spent 99% of their lives in pursuit of basic Physiological Needs. That is why there were no great works of art or literature that came from the caveman.

If there was a Maslow’s Restaurant Hierarchy of needs, then staffing would replace Physiological needs. You can’t run a restaurant without a team of people. We need good people to show up, work and take their jobs seriously. I remember when I was a restaurant manager at a large high volume P.F. Chang’s in the early 00’s. I was the floor manager and the worse part of my job was dealing with night shift call outs that took place every day. I would find myself on the phone after the lunch shift between 2 and 4 calling people to come in and cover shifts that people had called out of. Now a lot has changed with scheduling programs and that is great. It was hell.

What exacerbates the staffing problem in the restaurant industry is that we are always open. If you are a typical restaurant you are open at least 2 shifts a day 363 days a year. When you lose a person, and you don’t have anyone to back them up, customers don’t care. They want food and they want to eat it now. When you can’t find people or the people you have aren’t operating at full capacity because they are new and just out of training, it is the equivalent of your restaurant being deprived of oxygen and water. You can’t do anything else. You have to fill those shifts because the customers are coming.

One of the biggest consequences of not having a fully staffed and trained restaurant team is Restaurant Ops Consistency.

Let’s define Ops Consistency, it is the ability of the restaurant team to execute the daily operations of the restaurant to service guests.  It is running the restaurant. It is sidework, it is prep, it is making food and drinks and delivering them to guests, it is menu knowledge, providing tasty and safe food in a clean and inviting environment.

Think about going to a restaurant on the day that it opens, huge mistake. The team is new, they don’t know how to do everything yet, new employees tend to make more mistakes and they work slower,  they are green. The guest experience these teams are creating is the product of being brand new at their jobs.

Take this one step further, you could manage a restaurant that has been opened for years but if you have high turnover then you are constantly staffed with a mix of new employees and seasoned employees, in some restaurants the seasoned employees have only been there for a couple of months. The guest experience you are able to provide is going to be inconsistent and less than what an experienced team could provide. Your Ops Consistency, your guest experience, and ultimately your sales and profits will all go down.

OPERATIONS ARE WHAT THE GUEST IS PAYING US TO DO, IT IS THE CORE OF RUNNING A RESTAURANT, IT IS BASIC BLOCKING AND TACKLING. IF YOU DON’T OPERATE WELL YOU WILL GO OUT OF BUSINESS!!!

Operations consistency is probably the biggest challenge that is facing operators behind staffing and turnover and because filling shifts is the immediate fire that must be put out on a daily basis, it doesn’t get as much attention as it deserves, to the detriment to the business and the industry.

How do you make your operations more consistent in this staffing market?

Understand what your Employees are Costing You and create employee retention incentives:

How often do you give your restaurant employees raises or other incentives to stay with you? Executives in big companies get golden handcuffs, usually in the form of stock options or bonuses, to prevent them from leaving. As an industry, we have to figure out ways to create affordable golden handcuffs for our restaurant employees. If we know the average cost of hiring and training a new restaurant employee is $5,864 based on a report from the Center of Hospitality Research at Cornell University. Then we know that if we can spend less than that number and retain an employee for longer then we are winning. We have already agreed that a more veteran staff is capable of providing better customer experiences than a greener staff and that when you lower turnover it gives management more opportunity to proactively grow their business vs. focusing only on how are they going to get enough bodies to work the next shift.

Restaurant Managers need to understand the ROI for every new employee and job role:

  1. Calculate how much sales and profits an individual employee in a job role is responsible for creating per hour based off of past sales. The easiest way to do this would be to look at what a fully staffed restaurant looks like from a total hours perspective and divide that number into an average sales figure over a time period. The number you are ultimately trying to get to is how much profit per hour is an employee generating for your business, it is that number that you have to divide into your costs to determine the payback period and ROI for an employee.
  2. Then calculate your current new hire training costs, employee costs, etc. for each job role. Average out any slight pay differences.
  3. Look at what the payback period is for each employee, or how long do they have to work for you before they start to generate an actual return on your investment.

Once you have the number of hours an employee has to work before you make a dime on them, you will be able to make smarter decisions. Create incentives for them to stay longer, get rid of bad employees faster.  Every restaurant manager tracks labor cost % but very few know how many hours a new employee has to work for them to break even on that investment.

Remember that incentives don’t always have to be monetary but monetary ones will be more effective. Thanking people and buying them a drink or a meal can go a long way. If they make 100 bucks a shift with you and could make 200 a shift across the street, you probably won’t keep them.

One way to approach incentives is to create certifications or levels within their job role, tie skills acquired to pay raises, recognize longevity with raises and privileges. I will start you at $10 an hour and every 90 days that you stay with us, I will give you a $.25 raise. More senior employees get the best shifts, etc..

Be creative and know the actual cost of an employee leaving. Also, carry out exit interviews with no judgment, either over the phone or on an online survey tool. Try to understand why people are leaving so you can correct those problems. Also, if a person reports a reason for leaving that is an improper conduct issue, make sure to report it to HR to protect the company.

Invest in systems more than training:

I’ve said before, in other blogs, and I will say it again. I’m not advocating not training people. We have to train our teams to do their job functions but everything that is a repeatable daily task we should systematize.

Be Aware: The LMS companies will tell you that training is the answer to everything because they want you to buy an LMS system. In reality, training is important but paying people to remember things that are repeatable in nature is waste of time and money.

The culture systems people will tell you that high performing cultures are the most important thing and that you should buy a system that focuses on your culture. Culture has to be experienced by the team at the restaurant and provided by management not preached about.

There is that famous saying ” The beatings will continue until morale improves.” I always think about that when people talk to me about culture. I’ve worked at restaurants where we went through tons of culture training and then the management team wasn’t very good and didn’t live the culture they were preaching.

The reason historically the restaurant industry has put all of our eggs in the training basket when it came to operations consistency wasn’t because it was the most effective way to drive operations consistency it was the only thing you could really control in a multi-unit restaurant operation.

The technology didn’t exist to see what was happening in your operations or to hold your team accountable for following your procedures until the last few years. So everybody just pretended that the reason people weren’t following a procedure was that they didn’t know how to do that task. In reality, it was because they didn’t want to or didn’t remember or didn’t care about following the procedure as there was no consequence for not.

Things don’t get done in restaurants because management isn’t holding people accountable for following procedures. I’ve seen it myself, some set-up item isn’t done at the restaurant, if you walk up to the employee responsible and ask if they know how to do it, they can do it. They don’t need to be trained, they need to be reminded to do the task and held accountable for getting it done.

We as an industry have to break away from how we used to run restaurants and look at this situation critically. If you know that an average employee is only going to stay 6 months would you train them as if they are going to be with you for 10 years? Of course not. The reality is this; your employees will leave if they can make more money across the street. Stop training them on stuff that they don’t need to do their immediate job to lower your risk and cost.

Instead, invest in systems that can help employees become more productive quicker and that also increase your Ops Consistency. OpsAnalitica is Shift Readiness and Ops Consistency platform that allows you to script out the perfect shift in every location. It allows you to define what needs to be done every day from the manager to each job position so that those employees don’t have to think or remember what needs to be done.

OpsAnalitica can provide on the spot training and detailed instructions which will get employees productive quicker and ensure that all crucial tasks can be completed in a timely manner. OpsAnlitica provides you with real-time visibility into your operations so your location and above store management can see what is happening in the restaurant and take immediate action to ensure that Ops Standards are being executed and that guests are being taken care of. Most importantly it provides leadership with a feed of restaurant operations information so they can make data-driven decisions about their businesses.

This is one of the toughest restaurant labor markets in history. A combination of generational demographic changes, a strong economy, and overstepping government interference has made it harder and harder to find, train, compensate and retain good employees.  In addition to the stress of having to constantly find, hire and train new employees to keep the restaurant staffed. The second biggest consequence of this tight labor market is Operations Consistency.

Restaurants that suffer from high turnover always have a large complement of new employees who don’t have as much experience and aren’t as capable of delivering the same level of service as more experienced employees. The restaurants aren’t able to get ahead because all efforts are spent just keeping the restaurant fully staffed, leaving management little room to make the strategic decisions needed to grow their businesses.

Restaurant managers have to invest the time to create an ongoing and increasing incentive program to keep employees for longer to maximize their ROI on each employee. Restaurant companies need to invest more into systems, OpsAnalitica, that can take the guesswork out of running the restaurants for each position every shift and to focus on holding their teams accountable to following their procedures. By providing a system that can dictate what needs to be done and when, managers can get employees more productive quicker and reduce onboarding and training time, reducing those costs will increase employee ROI.

Your restaurant’s sales and profits and your strategic goals are going to suffer if you aren’t able to find, train, incentivize employees, and provide them with the systems that are going to make them better faster while ensuring that your operations consistency in every location is maintained. Ops consistency systems and retention incentives have to be your top priority for the long-term success of your restaurant.

 

 

 

Everyone has a Letter Grade in Their Window Now

If you haven’t heard yet, Yelp is now displaying health inspection scores on your restaurant page. Which means, every restaurant in the country could have a health inspection letter grade in their online window. Make sure you read the whole blog as I put together a list of things all restaurant operators should start doing in regards to this move by Yelp.

There is a great Forbes Article entitled Yelp To Display Health Inspection Ratings On Restaurant Pages Nationwide that I encourage you to read. To save you a little time I will summarize the big bullets from the article below:

  1. Yelp will be posting your Health Inspection Score on your business page.
  2. They plan to have 750,000 health inspection scores posted by the end of the year. There are about 1.1 million food service establishments in the US.
  3. They are getting the data from local governments and a startup named HDScores.
  4. HDScores has 1.2 million scores in 42 states
  5. Yelp gets 30,000,000 unique mobile visits a month, 50% of those are restaurant searches.
  6. “A Harvard Business School study, in collaboration with Yelp and the City of San Francisco, found that displaying restaurant hygiene scores on Yelp led to a 12% decrease in purchase intentions for restaurants with poor scores compared with those with higher scores.” – Forbes Article

What does all this mean to restauranteurs? It means that you have to actually take Yelp and your restaurant’s cleanliness more seriously than ever before because not doing so could affect your revenues and profits.

A lot of operators have scoffed at Yelp reviewers and Yelp the company for years. Thinking that every bad review was a competitor trying to steal your business or some snobby know-it-all that thinks they are a professional restaurant critic.  In addition, Yelp hasn’t always been the best corporate partner, accusations of review placement manipulation and strong-arm advertising tactics have been lofted at the site.

The fact is this, by posting health inspection scores, Yelp just made itself more relevant for restaurant patrons than it ever was before. With Yelp displaying health inspection scores, right next to customer reviews, pertinent data about the business, links to making reservations, and links to the menu. Most savvy customers are going to look at Yelp before they even visit the restaurant’s website.  Because the restaurant’s website isn’t going to advertise that they got 70% on their last health inspection, but it will be right there for the Yelp customer who is reviewing your Yelp page.

At first glance, Mr. Mike’s 3 stars and captioned reviews would not stop me from trying this restaurant, Their 58 out of 100 health score would. 

One thing restauranteurs have to acknowledge is that patrons have always cared about restaurant cleanliness, they want to eat in clean restaurants that serve safe and delicious food.  In the past, there was never an easy way for them to add health inspection scores into their decision-making process because it wasn’t easy to get them.

Now that this information is available, look at bullet point 6 above – a 12% decrease in purchase intent for low hygiene scores, you better believe that it will enter into their decision-making process. If you have a low Yelp star rating and a bad health inspection score, you could be in real trouble.

Another thing to consider with Yelp posting health inspection scores, it’s going to be a flawed process. HDscores and Yelp are dependent on county health departments to provide them with the inspection data. Each county is staffed differently and they all have different procedures for handling health inspections, critical violations, scoring, reinspections, etc..

In some cases, a restaurant might get a bad health inspection score with a lot of critical issues but they might correct all critical violations while the inspector is on site. They have a low score but have fixed their issues and are technically safe for business, it won’t matter because the low score is what is going to be recorded by the health department.

Another nightmare scenario for restaurant owners, you get a bad health inspection score and can’t get reinspected for 90 days because the county is backed up. Who knows how many times HDScores or Yelp query the health department databases to update their info or how quickly the health departments get their data updated from their inspectors? All of these time lags could affect how long a bad score stays up on Yelp’s website.

Normal people outside of the food service industry don’t understand the nuances of health inspections and they don’t care. Click here to see a summary of the health inspections for Mr. Mike’s above, I got to this page by clicking on the Health Score link right next to their health score on their Yelp page. The general public isn’t sanitarians and won’t know why bumpy surfaces on walls or the lack of a thermometer could be huge issues.

The general public assumes that all health inspections are equal, they are fair, and that they happen in a timely manner. They trust that the health inspector is looking out for their best interest and they are willing to believe them. My point is this, you aren’t going to be able to educate the general public on the in’s and out’s of health inspections and defend a bad score, they could care less about all the injustices in this system, they are just not going to eat at your restaurant.

The only way to make sure that these health inspection scores don’t hurt your business is to get A health inspection scores every time. The only way to do that is to implement basic sanitation and food safety programs in your restaurants and hold your teams accountable on a shift-by-shift basis to following those procedures so you are 100% ready for every health inspection.

For years, we at OpsAnalitica have been preaching for an increased emphasis on food safety, restaurant cleanliness, and increased hygiene. To be honest, this messaging has never worked for us. Restaurant Operators haven’t been reaching out to us saying, help make me safer so I can protect my customers and my brand. The reason why is because, before this move by Yelp, a bad health inspection score didn’t affect most restaurants in the country. You got inspected maybe twice a year and probably corrected most issues while the inspector was on-site. The score wasn’t posted anywhere that your customers could easily find, only a few jurisdictions post letter grades in the window, so a bad score didn’t affect customers perceptions of the restaurant. That has changed.

Here are some steps that restaurant operators need to take immediately to ensure that their restaurants aren’t negatively affected by their Yelp Rating and Health Inspection Score.

Yelp:

  1. Claim your Yelp page. An unclaimed page makes it seem that management is disengaged from its customers.
  2. Respond to good reviews by thanking the customer for their patronage.
  3. Try to contact customers that wrote bad reviews and handle customer complaints that show up on the site within 24 hours. This shows that management cares about its customers. Offer restitution for angry customers in exchange for getting them to remove or amend their reviews to show that you addressed their issues. Some people will abuse this, but in the long run, it is better to not focus on the negative scammers but to focus on wowing every guest that comes to your restaurant and to protecting your Yelp Reputation.
  4. Flood Yelp with good reviews of your own. Incent customers to review your restaurant on Yelp to ensure that you get a high star rating. Hand out cards with a shortened URL to your Yelp page or send an email with a link for a review. Offer a free dessert and have an iPad in the store, have them check-in and give you a good review and then buy them a piece of pie or cake. Every Yelp star is worth a potential 5 to 6% increase in sales. My guess is that sales stat is lower for chain and franchise restaurants but now that Yelp is showing health inspection scores, I will bet that those restaurants will start getting searched more.
  5. Accept that Yelp is a necessary evil and that it adds value to you and your customers. They provide guests with a way to learn about your business and communicate with you about their experiences in a more open way than you typically get from a one-on-one interaction or a guest satisfaction survey. In addition, they provide you with a free business web page that is on one of the most searched websites in the world. Search your restaurant and I guarantee that your Yelp page will be prominently featured on page 1 of your search results.  According to the Forbes article, Yelp is the 25th most visited website in the US. I’ve said this before many times, I was a traveling consultant for years, I used Yelp all the time to find restaurants in the cities I was visiting, I’ve never had a bad experience at a 5 star rated restaurant that I found on Yelp.

Better Health Inspection Scores:

  1. The only way to ensure that you are going to get A’s on your health inspections is to run an A restaurant every day.  It’s not hard to do and it is what you should be doing.
  2. There are two major components to running A restaurants. Proper Procedures and Execution. Most chain restaurants have food safety procedures in place and that doesn’t guarantee that they will get an A.  Procedures aren’t enough you have to hold your team accountable to executing on those procedures every shift.
  3. If you have procedures in place focus on execution. Focus on getting your teams to follow your procedures every shift in every location. It is better to focus on high compliance for a couple of critical checklists than to try to get low compliance on a lot of checklists and procedures. High compliance on critical checks!!!
  4. If you don’t have procedures in place at this time, take critical items first approach.  Look at your local health inspections, identify the critical violations, and build procedures that check those violations every shift. If you just focus on critical violations, you will run better restaurants and you will ensure that you are not going to get dinged on an inspection.
  5. Ditch the paper. Most companies still use paper checklists, you can’t get any accountability on paper checklists. You don’t have any visibility into whether or not your procedures are getting completed if your teams are doing them accurately, or that they are identifying critical violations.  Running restaurants using paper checklists is harder than it needs to be for managers at all levels of the operation. Using a digital checklist platform, like OpsAnalitica, can provide you with effortless accountability, real-time notifications, and digital record keeping of your safety procedures.
  6. One more note on ditching the paper, digital record keeping is coming to restaurants. It has already been mandated for food manufacturers and everyone is expecting that it will be implemented by the government in the next 1 to 3 years. If you are looking to focus on execution, run better restaurants, get an A on your next health inspection, and be ready for the future, you should look at moving from paper to OpsAnalitica, a digital record keeping and shift readiness platform.

Yelp has made itself more relevant than ever by posting health inspection scores on their site. I predict that this is going to change how people decide which restaurants they are going to visit by putting more emphasis on food safety, which is good for consumers and ultimately good for the industry. For restaurants to be competitive and to not have their health inspection score affect their sales, they are going to have to focus on cleanliness and food safety as core values of their operations because if they don’t their failure is going to be on their Yelp profile.

One of the core values of the OpsAnalitica Way, our guide to multi-unit operations, is control what you can control. Restaurant operators need to realize that they are in complete control of what happens in their four walls. Food safety and clean restaurants aren’t just under their control they are their responsibility to their customers and their brands.

We know that this is going to be an imperfect process and a lot of restaurants are going to get hurt in the short term as they get bad health inspection scores and those scores stay on their Yelp profile longer than they should due to inefficiencies between all the parties involved.  This is going to sound like a jerk thing to say, I don’t care. I don’t care one bit. Don’t have dirty restaurants, that is what we should be focusing on.  Focus on being great and doing what you are supposed to do and this change will not affect you at all and may even help increase your sales.

One last prediction, I bet that Yelp will see an increase in monthly restaurant traffic over the next 6 to 12 months because of showing Health Inspection Scores.

If you want to learn more about the OpsAnalitica Shift Readiness and Digital Record Keeping platform, please go to OpsAnalitica.com.

Good luck

 

 

Lack of Team Accountability is Stealing your Profits

If you’re not holding your team accountable for running the restaurant your way, then your employees are running it their way.  SHOCKER, they are doing what they think is best (or sometimes easiest for them) and not necessarily what is best for the restaurant. They are typically less experienced so what can you expect?

Over the last couple of weeks, we have done some deep dives, through our blog, on employee productivity and shift readiness. This week we are going to talk about how holding your teams accountable for following your standards, drives consistency in your operations, increases customer satisfaction, and organically drives sales and profitability.

Every day in every restaurant there is a set-up period where we bring in our staff to start getting the restaurant ready for your first meal period.  It can be the most expensive part of our day from a labor cost perspective because, in most restaurants, you have the most staff working without any sales being generated.

It has always been a juggling act, as a manager, to get your duties completed, deal with any fires that inevitably crop up, and make sure the employees got all of their tasks done correctly before the doors open.

This gets complicated today because so many restaurants operate on a model, where employees are expected to set-up their stations without truly being held accountable for following the restaurant’s system. In most restaurants, checklists are on the wall and not being filled out or marked to show they were followed or completed by an employee.

A checklist in the beverage station that looks like this:

  • Iced Tea
  • Coffee
  • Creamers
  • Lemons
  • Soda Station
  • Glasses

The problem with a list like this is that it is too generic, too unspecific. It puts the responsibility and the burden, on the employee to make decisions on what specifically needs to happen. Also, it is so vague that it is hard to hold someone accountable for meeting a standard.

What does Iced tea really mean?

  • Does it mean to make one or two pots of iced tea? If two, two of the same kind or different kinds?
  • Do you need back up tea bags ready to go? If yes, how many?
  • Does it mean you have to assemble the iced tea buckets?
  • When do you make the iced tea?
  • If I make iced tea but don’t have backups can I say that I’m done?

Also, this assumes that the employee remembers how to do this stuff correctly. The one giant lesson from Atul Gawande’s book The Checklist Manifesto is don’t rely on anyone’s memory because we as humans aren’t great at remembering details.  Add record levels of employee turnover, relative experience of the average employee, ESL, generation z, and any other host of factors to the list and relying on your employee’s memory and decision-making ability can be a risky proposition when you are trying to run consistently great restaurant operations.

If the manager doesn’t get a chance or doesn’t catch that an employee didn’t get something done to standard then we end up finding out about it after the fact.

The problem is after the fact generally comes to light when something has negatively affected a guest. By not holding the team accountable for following the procedures that we have in place, we hurt our customer satisfaction, sales, and profits.

Here is the deal:

  1. We have to spell out our procedures specifically:
    1. To help our employees know exactly what we want to have done and when.
    2. To make them more efficient at setting up the restaurant increasing employee productivity while continuously retraining employees.
  2. We have to hold our employees accountable for executing exactly what we expect.
    1. There is no half following a procedure you either do it 100% or you may as well not have done it at all.

Processes that need to be completed 100%, are called all or nothing processes. If a pilot does everything they need to do to land the plane except put the wheels down, does it count? If you do everything you are supposed to do to set-up the beverage station and except grab glasses, does it count?

No!!!! Obviously, the plane example is more severe than the glass example but in both cases, someone is inconvenienced.  Don’t be fooled, in a lot of ways the restaurant industry has just as many life and death decisions being made every day as a pilot.  Look at the Dickie’s BBQ where the guy put cleaning chemicals in the sweet tea, and that woman took one sip and felt her insides being eaten away by the acid. If a cook grabs expired food and gets an old, recovering, or young person sick, it could be as catastrophic as a pilot forgetting to do something. 5 people died from the latest romaine lettuce E-Coli outbreak in the summer of 2018.

We need our employees to do things a certain way and we need them to do it that way every time. The only way that is going to happen is if the manager Inspects what they Expect and holds the team accountable for following their procedures.

Some signs that your team isn’t following your procedures.  80% of what is supposed to be done by any team member gets completed every day and 20% doesn’t. Regularly during meal periods things that should have been done during set-up weren’t done and you as the manager are running around trying to fix someone’s mess up.

If you are VP of Ops, go read your Yelp reviews, try to trace back the comments to your readiness procedures.  With a little reading between the lines, you will be able to trace back a lot of non-employee complaints to exactly where the restaurant fell down in getting ready for the shift.

What is interesting is that when we leave it up to the employee, sometimes their personality and how they work aligns with the goals of the restaurant and sometimes it doesn’t.

They are so good at stocking their station but they don’t do XYZ no matter how many times you ask them.  Sound familiar?

Here is what is really happening, they aren’t following any of your procedures as you have them designed.  They are setting up their station based on what they can remember or what is easiest and most comfortable for them and it is just a coincidence that on some of the items they like to do align with your procedures.

Let’s use an example of a grill cook. You have 10 things that the grill cook has to do before each shift to be ready for the meal period. One of those items is stocking their station. This grill cook stocks their station every time.  One of the other things that your grill cook doesn’t do consistently is check for expiration dates.  This grill cook is consistently grabbing whatever item is closest and easiest to reach on the shelf and that is causing FIFO and freshness issues.

If your grill cook was following your procedure then they would stock their station and check for expiration dates. What is really happening is that the grill cook hates running out of stuff because getting in the weeds is super stressful for them, so they stock correctly to avoid that personal pain. They don’t like looking for things, don’t understand the why behind FIFO or freshness, so they don’t check the labels.

Once again, they aren’t following your procedure, they are doing what they think is best based on their experience, and it may not be what is good for the business.  In this example, your business suffers higher food costs because the manager isn’t holding the cook accountable for following the procedures on using oldest food first.

The only way to get employees to do what you need them to do, to put the business and shift-readiness first, is to hold them accountable to follow your systems. To make it more painful to not follow procedures, because you are delivering timely feedback and holding them accountable for their decisions in real-time. Also you are now continuously retraining on the workings of your operations which is important.

We know we need to hold our teams accountable, how do we make it easy for restaurant managers to do this on a daily, shift-by-shift basis.

Management by Exception

We need to use software, the OpsAnalitica Platform, to give employees what they need, measurable standards and to spell out exactly what they need to do. At the same time a system that alerts managers when people haven’t done what they are supposed to or found an issue.

Management by exception assumes everything is happening as planned and has a built-in process to tell you when there are issues. This frees up mental space and time, instead of checking everything it allows the manager to go about their duties and then tells them when there is an issue that they need to check.

What is great about implementing a management by exception system is that the system takes on the task of holding your employees accountable for following your procedures.  The OpsAnalitica software is that extra person on your team who has nothing else going on but making sure people are doing what they are supposed to be doing.

The reason you would choose the OpsAnalitica platform to hold your team accountable is because we have one of the easiest platforms to use and our managed service, we will administrate the platform for you ongoing, means that you have an extra team member taking the management of this new software off of your plate freeing you up to run your restaurants.

Accountability = Consistency 

Every guest that comes to your restaurant has an expectation of what to expect based off of the brand you have created.  When they get what they expect in a timely manner from friendly people, they leave happy.  The experience reaffirms what they believe they know about your location and your brand

When they don’t get what they expect they leave unhappy.  When guests are happy they return at their normal interval or even sooner, which keeps sales the same or can increase them.  When guests are unhappy the take longer to return or may not return at all, that lowers sales.

One of the biggest factors on whether a guest is happy or unhappy comes from their last dining experience, which is completely under the control of the restaurant management team.  Shift readiness plays a huge part in servicing guests and meeting expectations.  Holding your team accountable for following your procedures so your restaurant operates as designed is how you accomplish that.

If you want to be successful you have to spell out exactly what you want your employees to do, and hold them accountable for doing it your way every shift.  Those are the first steps to driving customer satisfaction, which leads to increases in sales and profitability.

Shift Readiness Separates Great Restaurants from Good Enough Restaurants

We are going to do a deep dive into the concept of restaurant shift readiness. Shift readiness is making sure that your restaurant is 100% ready for each meal period from a: cleanliness, stock (FOH/BOH), food taste, freshness, and safety perspective so that you can make the most of your sales opportunity each shift in every location.

Shift readiness is one of the most expensive labor periods for every restaurant and shift readiness activities are undertaken by every restaurant in the country. Getting it right is super important from a sales and profitability perspective.

We are going to go deeper and define shift readiness as the restaurant management philosophy that it is, break it down tactically, and explain how you can achieve it.

One of our clients, Darrin White, said this the other day around Shift Readiness:

We want to be habitually brilliant at the basics. If we do…. we will blow the competition out of the water.

Philosophy:

Shift readiness is a restaurant management philosophy that understands how operations decisions affect profitability, accounts for the perishable nature of the meal period, has an absolute focus on maximizing guest satisfaction and sales on a shift-by-shift location-by-location basis.
Shift readiness is more than just a bunch of tasks that you do each day it is management philosophy that guides your decision making and prioritizes your actions to achieve operations success.

Perishable Meal Periods

The hospitality product by definition is a perishable product. There is only one January 10th, 2018 lunch ever in any single location, in the entire history of the world there will never be another.  Every day our meal periods expire, like brown lettuce, to never generate us another penny of revenue.

If you only get 1 shot at every meal period, you have to maximize your guest satisfaction, sales, and profits each shift. This is a different way of thinking, good enough just won’t cut it when you only have 1 chance to get it done. Perishability adds a level of urgency to your thinking.

Here is some quick math to illustrate how important every meal period is to your restaurant’s success.

  • There are 13 – 28-day accounting periods a year.
    • That means that for any period there are on 56 lunch and dinner meal periods.
  • Average restaurant profit margin is between 5 to 15%.
    • Most restaurants are closer to 5% but for our math, we’ll use 10%

You only have 6 meals periods a month to turn a profit. No do-overs and no second chances!

This equation assumes that all meal periods are equal, which they probably aren’t, but that is ok. The point is, that only a few meal periods a month are going to generate all of your profits for that period. 50 of the lunch and dinners are just going to pay for your costs.

Most importantly – you don’t know which 6 meal periods are going to be the profit generators. Nor are you guaranteed 6 profit generating meal periods, as a matter of fact, you only get the 6 profit generating meal periods if you crush the other 50. 

If this doesn’t create some urgency to focus all of your efforts on maximizing each shift opportunity, you are in the wrong business.

You must use this urgency, this perishability, as a motivational battle cry to your managers and your teams. Have we done enough, are we perfect, are we 100% ready? Because if we aren’t then we are going to squander this opportunity and then it’s gone forever.

Every meal period where you fail, where ticket times are long, where your guest satisfaction is low, where the restaurant isn’t running great, can actually put you in a hole that you then have to dig out of.

Operations Decisions Affect Profitability

Operations are the running of the business, the selling and delivering of food to our customers, they are how we generate sales and profits.

How you operate, the decisions that you and your team are making every day affects your sales, costs, and profits. A lot of the time your team is making decisions that affect your profits and you don’t even know they are making them. 

This is the no-accountability trap that so many have all fallen into. We train our teams on how to do their jobs, we have checklists and procedures posted on the wall or on a clipboard in the office, but nobody is using them.

94% of restaurant managers we surveyed said that their teams weren’t following their procedures.

If you aren’t holding your team accountable for following your shift readiness procedures every single shift, then you are allowing your team to decide how to run your business and how much money you should make. Not to rub it in, but your team that isn’t compensated by restaurant profitability, that will go across the street if your business slows down,  the same team that has a 73% chance of turning over in the near future is in control of your livelihood when you don’t hold them accountable to working your way.

The profitability equation breaks down like this:

Sales – Costs (labor, food, & fixed) = profits

For this analysis, we can ignore fixed costs because a lot of that is out of the restaurant manager’s control.  We are also not going to spend a ton of time diving into controlling food and labor costs as those concepts are pretty well known.  We are going to focus most of our conversation on how operations affect sales.

Labor Costs

When we talk about labor costs in regards to shift readiness we really want to focus on making sure that the employees that you are paying for are working as efficiently and accurately as possible to achieve your shift readiness goals.

Because of the high turnover in the industry, we also want to focus on minimizing initial onboarding and training time by really focus on must know skills vs. nice to have info and to improve training productivity to get employees generating revenue faster. Check out our blog on increasing productivity here.

Food Costs

When we look at food cost specifically in regards to shift readiness we want to make sure we are practicing FIFO, proper portion control (make sure people are using the right size scoops and spoons and not just grabbing any utensils), and that we are stocking stations to PAR to keep ticket times low.

The single most important thing you can do before each meal period is to taste the food before you serve it to guests to ensure that it is delicious and safe, this will reduce comps and lower food costs.

Sales

So much of the shift readiness discussion we are going to be having is how proper shift readiness can positively affect your ability to generate sales and how poor shift readiness can hurt sales.

A restaurant is a lot like a factory, we have meal periods where we are producing goods and selling them. One of the biggest factors for success is that we maximize customer throughput during the meal period.

Another way to phrase that is we want to serve as many people as we can every meal period and anything that slows down our ability to take their orders, deliver their food, and get them out of the restaurant to make room for the next guest is costing us sales and profits.

Let’s look at a couple of common examples and how poor shift readiness affects sales and customer satisfaction.

When you look at these scenarios,  you should immediately see a few patterns:
  1. Each one of these scenarios negatively affects customer satisfaction, sales, and profits.
  2. Every one of these issues was 100% avoidable 

These are the types of scenarios that you run into all the time in good enough restaurants but rarely see in great restaurants. None of them are horrible, no one got a finger in their chili, but they erode customer satisfaction and lower sales and profits, it’s death by 1000 cuts.

Are these kinds of scenarios playing out in your restaurants?

How to be Shift Ready Every Shift

The good news is that any restaurant can be 100% shift ready, the key is to hold your teams, at all levels, accountable to work your systems. This was very hard to do in the past but technology has jumped forward, and it is now possible to hold people accountable for following your systems in every location on every shift with OpsAnalitica right from your phone.

The systems you have already created, the checklists, the procedures, the training will all work and deliver the intended readiness if you can hold people accountable in real-time to using them.  That is where OpsAnalitica can change your world:

  • Script out every shift in every restaurant, taking the guesswork out of what needs to be done and when to be ready.
  • Using our mobile platform your team will complete your readiness requirements on a shift-by-shift basis.
  • The platform will alert management when your team identifies a problem or isn’t getting things done.

By using OpsAnalitica in your restaurants you can get increases in sales, profits, employee productivity, and you will be running safer restaurants. To learn more, check out our case study. 

There isn’t a magic bullet to being successful, it is a relentless focus on the basics, of controlling what you can control, and inspecting what you expect that is going to deliver the results that you want.

Maximize Customer Satisfaction, Sales, and Profits

It all comes down to this. Every meal periods is a new opportunity to take exceptional care of guests, generate sales and profits.  The only way you can maximize this opportunity is to be 100% ready to go before customers come into the building.

Making sure that the restaurant is clean and inviting, that you are fully stocked at every station both FOH/BOH so that when you are in the rush you never have to slow down service. Most importantly, that your food is tasty, safe, fresh, and prepared to the recipe.

If you do all these things every shift in every location and your people are friendly and happy to be there. Then your customers are going to get exactly what they expected to get and turn into repeat customers.

The best marketing you can do is deliver on your brand promise in every interaction with your customer. 

That is how you organically grow your guest satisfaction, sales and profits. Scroll up and read our case study and be blown away at how much running better operations and being shift ready can do for your business.

Conclusion

Shift readiness is a restaurant management philosophy that understands that every meal period is perishable and that you have to treat it with urgency and respect if you want to be successful, that you/your employee’s operations decisions affect customer’s satisfaction, sales, and profits.

It knows that the only way you can be a profitable restaurant is to maximize every meal period opportunity. It holds ownership responsible to implement the tools that will hold your team accountable for following your systems consistently across all your locations on a shift-by-shift basis.

Every day, in every restaurant, you and your team make a conscious decision to do get 100% shift ready for that meal period and maximize your opportunity or by not holding your team accountable you making the decision that you only want to be good enough.

Great restaurants are systematized operations and focus on readiness and service every shift, and good enough restaurants don’t. 

I’ve worked in great restaurants where we achieved amazing results and I’ve worked in good enough restaurants until they went out of business. Life is too short to not be striving to be great. Let us help you achieve your goals by making sure each one of your restaurants is ready to go every day.

Increase Employee Productivity

With the 100% turnover rate in the industry and some of the lowest nationwide unemployment in years, according to Modern Restaurant Management’s Success Survey 60% of restauranteurs indicate that finding and retaining employees was the top area of opportunity in the industry. #3 was attracting/retaining customers. #4 on the survey was optimizing speed and efficiency to drive productivity.

This has brought the topics of customer satisfaction and employee productivity top of mind for managers looking to maximize employee ROI and minimize the affects of employee turnover on their business.  .

When you are looking at employee productivity you only have two main levers to pull: reduce labor cost and/or increase sales.

The fastest way to increase employee productivity is to generate more sales with the same number of employees working the same amount of hours.

The easiest way to increase sales organically is to make sure your restaurant is 100% ready for every shift, this gives you the best chance to wow customers and exceed their expectations. Also, being ready is completely in your control as a restaurant manager and your job.

The best way to improve shift readiness is to use the OpsAnalitica Platform for holding your team accountable to be 100% ready for every meal period. Check out our case study to see how we helped increase productivity and sales for one our clients here.

In this guide, we are going to assume you are at maximum sales and you are looking for other ways to increase employee productivity.

Here are some of the realities operators are struggling with on a daily basis that affect employee productivity.

  1. High turnover – you hire employees, train them at a considerable cost, then they leave.
  2. No hand – to quote George Costanza “I‘ve got no hand, Jerry!” The Status Quo in restaurants today is that you have made huge investments in training and figuring out the best procedures to run the restaurant,  your teams kinda use them but it’s hard to enforce, and your customer satisfaction is taking a hit.
  3. Can’t get ahead – you are so busy staffing and training that you can’t focus on anything else.

Does any of this sound familiar? Here are some quick thoughts:

  1. You can’t stop people from leaving, don’t build your business around individuals, structure your business around roles and systems. Consistently move people into different roles throughout the restaurant, this could be different stations or jobs.
    1. Provide systems, a shift readiness app, to support your team and to ensure consistency of operations on a shift-by-shift basis.
    2. Take a more generalized approach to your team, don’t rely on a few rockstars or lock them into one role, try to create a deep bench of people who can do everything. Think Moneyball.
    3. Reward people for giving you two week and 1 month notices if they work out there time, this feels weird because their leaving, but your goal should be to keep the restaurant operating as consistently as possible and this could give you some breathing room to find someone new and get them trained.
    4. Pay a referral fee even if the person is leaving if they can help you find their replacement.
    5. Try to streamline initial onboarding training, to reduce the initial labor cost, and get new hires on the floor quicker.
  2. You know the best way to run the restaurant, you have spent countless hours/dollars training all employees on how to do their jobs and you have checklists/procedures posted on the wall, and nobody including your managers are using them fully. It’s your customer satisfaction, sales, and profits that are suffering. Now with mobile technology and apps like OpsAnalitica you can get literally script out the entire shift for each role by day and hold people accountable to executing the exact way you want them to on a location-by-location, shift-by-shift basis. This is a game changer for running better operations!
    1. You can dictate what needs to be done and when by each team member.
    2. You can see what has and hasn’t been completed in real-time.
    3. You can hold people accountable for following the system and making sure that the restaurant is 100% shift ready at the beginning of every meal period, which gives you the best chance to maximize your sales and profit opportunity every shift.
    4. One of the most infuriating things for a restaurant operator is to have to comp a meal, get yelled at by a customer, or get a bad social media review for something that the team was supposed to do.  You are shooting yourself in the foot for sloppy management. 
  3. I know from personal experience when you are caught in the turnover trap, that it is so hard to execute on other priorities because staffing is always the fire that needs to be put out immediately.
    1. Be patient, power through, and execute on items 1 & 2 above as much as you can every shift, keep chipping away every chance you get.
    2. Also, remember that OpsAnalitica offers our platform as a managed service, so we are that extra employee who can set-up and get the software set-up in your restaurants with minimal effort on your part and keep it up to date ongoing. Not one of our competitors offers this level of service or partnership.

Let’s dive deeper into how we can increase productivity. We are going to focus on efficiency, accuracy, and we are also going to look into strategies to shorten and maximize training efforts.

Efficiency

Let’s first examine a typical employee shift in the restaurant industry, this can go for managers and employees.

  1. Set-up: getting ready for the meal period – Employees are a Cost
  2. Meal Period: selling food to guests – Employees are Generating Revenue 
  3. Restock/Closing: getting prepared for next shift or closing down operations for the day – Employees are a Cost

Everything we do is in support of maximizing our sales and profit generating opportunity during the meal period and minimizing our costs during the before and after periods. If you can make your employees more efficient so they can execute their set-up and closing tasks quicker while maintaining accuracy then you are increasing employee productivity.

The best way to increase employee efficiency is to use a shift readiness platform for every position on the shift, including managers. Don’t just post checklists on the wall, use a system like OpsAnalitica, where employees can walk around the restaurant with the tasks on their phone or a mobile device. This cuts down on time and errors.

Here is an example of station set-up checklist with a help file spelling out directly what the employee needs to get.

Ex: Instead of getting one thing, the iced tea bucket, an employee can go to the dish area and grab all of the things they need to set up the beverage station at one time because you can spell out in detail everything they need to get in one trip vs. having to walk back to the station to consult the checklist posted on the wall or try to remember everything they need. Unnecessary walking around is a waste of time you are paying for and leads to missed items which reduces your shift readiness and is inefficient.

I hope you understand that making people more efficient and productive isn’t going to be one big thing, like everything else in the industry, it is going to be the sum of a lot of little changes that are going to add up to big savings.

Atul Kwande wrote the Checklist Manifesto, an amazing book about checklists how they are used in different industries, here are a couple of quotes to illustrate these points:

In a complex environment, experts are up against two main difficulties. The first is the fallibility of human memory and attention, especially when it comes to mundane, routine matters that are easily over-looked under the strain of more pressing events.
Faulty memory and distraction are a particular danger in what engineers call all-or-none processes: whether running to the store to buy ingredients for a cake, preparing an airplane for takeoff, or evaluating a sick person in the hospital, if you miss just one key thing, you might as well not have made the effort at all.

An example of an all or none process is getting the restaurant set-up for the meal period.  It doesn’t matter that you got the entire iced tea station set-up but forgot to make the tea. As a customer, I’m still waiting for my tea. In today’s world, something as stupid as that can cost you a customer or get you a bad review on Yelp.  Every person literally has 10, 20, or 50 other options in their area where they can go to eat.  We have to be perfect because the competition is so fierce.

The ultimate goal is to get more done with less: less employees, less hours, less mistakes. In real terms, you are looking to bring in fewer set-up employees or reduce the time it takes to set-up/close the restaurant. Even a 15 minute labor reduction per shift will have a positive affect on your bottom line and increase your employee productivity.

Accuracy

Using a shift readiness platform will also increase accuracy. Accuracy is as important as efficiency when trying to increase employee productivity. It doesn’t help you if you cut labor cost if the restaurant isn’t set-up correctly and you are upsetting customers. Once again using a shift readiness platform increase accuracy because everything is spelled out and mobile.

You will never achieve accuracy and meet your employee productivity goals if you aren’t holding your team members individually accountable to following your shift readiness procedures.  If you aren’t using a shift readiness platform in your restaurants and you are still using paper systems, holding your team accountable is a nightmare and quite frankly your systems don’t get done. What are you going to do, have everyone fill out a paper checklist, take a picture, scan it in, or fax/email it to you every shift. What a nightmare and a huge waste of time? We surveyed restaurant operators who weren’t using a shift readiness system and 94% of them believed that their teams weren’t executing their checklists properly or were pencil whipping.

When I was in charge of the Franchise Assistance Program at Quiznos I saw the wrong team destroy sales volume in months that took the owners year to build. The restaurant team isn’t executing, the customers stop coming back, sales start to drop slowly at first but then quicker, all the employees jump ship and go across the street and you as the owner or manager are left trying to rebuild.

If you want to increase employee productivity you have to implement a system that will effortlessly allow you to hold your teams at all levels accountable for doing their jobs. You can’t do it on paper, you need a shift readiness application that will alert you when things are wrong or not getting done so you can quickly hold people accountable and keep moving your operations forward. With our platform we focus on management by exception, we focus on alerting you to issues and when you get no news that is good news because everyone did what they were supposed to do.

Right there, if you move to a system where your team uses mobile checklists to set-up and restock the restaurant. They will be able to accomplish these tasks faster and more accurately than the status quo of today. This will mean that you will be able to increase employee productivity, profits, and by being 100% ready for every shift you will organically grow sales.  Once again, we have seen this in the real world, check out our case study.

A New Training Focus

One of the largest employee costs is new hire training. The standard in the industry is a mix of book work (LMS/online training/training manuals) and practical following training, where the trainee follows the trainer, paying two employees to do the job of one.  It is incredibly costly and it is very focused on memorization and skill display. Any cost savings in that initial and ongoing training program can greatly affect employee productivity by reducing total employee labor costs and turnover by getting new employees productive quicker.

Right now in the industry, we are overtraining our teams. I know that sounds like heresy and let me be clear that I’m not advocating not to train people, but let’s look at the facts, we have had and will continue to have a 100% employee turnover rate in the industry. Every dollar of extra training that you engage in is one more dollar you have to earn back to get an ROI on an employee.

The goal should be to effectively train a new employee so they can execute their job to standard in as little time as possible. You don’t get extra points for overtraining someone who is going to leave; is there any amount of training you can do that will keep someone at your restaurant even though they can make more money across the street? 

The LMS companies will tell you all day long that job and culture training are the keys to everything employee related, and we have typically spent more on training than operations systems in the past because we could better control training than operations, OpsAnalitica has changed that paradigm.

  1. Training Musts
    1. Job role functions.
      1. Grill cooks need to know how to make hamburgers and servers need to know how to serve tables.
    2. How to be a human
      1. This covers customer service, sexual harassment, appropriate speech in the workplace, etc..
    3. Rely on Systems
      1. Train people to use the systems that are provided to them to be more productive. We don’t want people relying on their memory nor do we want to pay them to memorize.
  2. Area’s to cut Training Costs
    1. Culture
      1. I think it is important to impart history and values, but a culture has to be lived not preached.
      2. When it comes to culture hold your teams accountable for living the culture not wasting time training the culture.
    2. Repeatable Tasks
      1. This is where using a shift readiness app can greatly reduce training costs, don’t spend a dime teaching people how to do these repeatable shift readiness tasks other than how to use the app to complete the process. 
      2. Ex: Instead of paying two people to do closing sidework, hand the trainee the app that outlines specifically what to do and where to find everything and let them execute the list and complete the task. Then can ask questions when they aren’t sure.
      3. This will train the employee on how to use the app while actually completing the work.

By reducing initial training time, you lower labor cost, and total employee costs, and by using a shift readiness app to drive behavior you will drive productivity and consistent service. This is such low hanging fruit, any reduction will show up in your bottom line.

Next Steps

If I was your restaurant consultant and you tasked me with the goal of increasing employee productivity, this is how I would go about it:

  1. Focus on creating role-based shift readiness system for your restaurant.
  2. Implement a shift readiness app, OpsAnalitica, and get it implemented in my restaurants.
  3. Focus on achieving 100% shift readiness for every shift, in every location, each day. This will start to help you organically increase sales by wowing customers.
  4. Once I had my role based app working, I would turn my attention to streamlining my training program cutting out unnecessary training that is being covered by program.
  5. Evaluate how long it is taking my employees to set-up/restock/close the restaurant accurately with the new system and look for places where I could reduce hours or team members during those periods.

This methodology has you focusing on 100% readiness first, which will help increase your guest satisfaction, and lead to organic sales increases as guests get what they expect every visit and will make you a better restaurant.  It will also provide you with the system infrastructure to help you deal with employee turnover and get new employees productive faster and with less expense. Once you have achieved these goals, you can then start to look to optimize your labor spend reducing your costs. Basically, with this approach, you will be able to increase sales and reduce costs which is an employee productivity double whammy.

To sum this whole blog up, using a shift readiness app like Opsanalitica is one of the keys to increasing employee productivity. OpsAnalitica will:

  • Take the guesswork out of running the restaurant for your managers and teams
  • Make your employees more efficient and more accurate as they complete their job tasks
  • Reduce your initial new employee onboarding training time and costs
  • Provide you with the data you need to reduce labor costs without compromising your standards
  • Increase your guest satisfaction by ensuring that your restaurants ready for guest every shift.

To learn more about OpsAnalitica can help you achieve all of this, please click here to schedule a quick introduction call.