Feds Subpoena Chipotle’s Documentation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pencil Whipping Happens

Let’s talk about the art of Pencil Whipping. Here’s the “official” definition from Wiktionary:

Verb
pencil whip ‎(third-person singular simple present pencil whips, present participle pencil whipping, simple past and past participle pencil whipped)

(idiomatic) To approve a document without actually knowing or reviewing what it is that is being approved.
(idiomatic) To complete a form, record, or document without having performed the implied work or without supporting data or evidence.Knowing the auditors were coming in just a week, we chose to pencil whip the quarterly inventory forms for the last year.

Synonyms
rubber stamp

I suspect that most of you know this is happening in your restaurants whether it be line checks, temp logs, pre-shifts, restaurant audits, safety inspections, or any of the other checklists that you may be performing on a regular basis. There are several excuses for pencil whipping any of these, some more plausible than others, but when it comes to food safety none of them are acceptable.

Running late for example. Tommy was recently talking to a buddy of his and he admitted that when he was a chef he would wind up in a situation where he was running behind and would just quickly initial everything on his line check because it was required to be filled out. Note that I didn’t say that he completed his line check, he simply did the minimum required to be compliant with the rules. This is a classic Pencil Whip. All well and good until someone in your restaurant gets sick because you served food that wasn’t the right temp.

Another very common Pencil Whip stems from the mindset of “Nobody looks at these anyway so why should I invest any time in it I’ve got better things to do. I know everything is fine.” This is very dangerous, but it also makes sense. If every day you fill out a checklist and then file it in a drawer in the office, knowing that nobody ever looks at it. Then twice a year the paper shredding truck arrives to make room for more. You might feel the same way. Make sure you are following up on your checklists.

Then there’s the “I forgot so I’ll just fill it out later” pencil whip. This is going to happen from time to time, but if you are tracking them you will know that it wasn’t completed on time. This can now be a coaching moment on how important line checks are to the overall success of the operations.

If you are doing line checks, inspections, checklists, etc. without follow up I will guarantee you that some of them are being pencil whipped. This is putting your business at risk.

It’s very easy to put off food safety improvement until tomorrow, until tomorrow is the day you get someone sick. Look at Chipotle, I just read today that they have been subpoenaed to produce documentation about practices, chain-wide, for the last 3 years. We already know how much their sales have suffered recently, but there are huge costs associated to these types of things as well. It’s a big deal.

Make sure that you are doing everything that you can to minimize food-borne illness. Start by ensuring that your line checks are being completed diligently and not pencil whipped. Click here to download our free guide, 7 Tips to Faster Better Line Checks

Keep on Inspecting!

Alerting, Forced Comments, and Task Management in Checklists

Thermometer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

OpsAnalitica’s Managed Service Offering

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

restaurant_inspector

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

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

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

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

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

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

Resources:

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

 

Food Safety Concerns Among Consumers Increase

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep on Inspecting!

Choose Restaurant Specific Software Vendors

Busy Kitchen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep on Inspecting!

Restaurant Checklists are like Condoms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flavorless Pizza

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hope you have a safe and profitable New Years Eve!

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

7 Tips for Faster Better Line Checks

Chef Tasting Food

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is an additional guide that you might find useful:

  1. Calibrate your thermometer