Category : Restaurant Industry

HomeArchive by Category "Restaurant Industry"

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.

Using Daily Checklists on the OpsAnaltiica Platform as Field Team Force Multiplier

The traditional field structure in multi-unit restaurant organizations starts at the restaurant level and goes to an Area Mgr or Director, eventually rolling up to a VP of Ops and COO. For bigger organizations, there is obviously going to be more layers of management between the store and top people.

The person with the hardest job in the management structure is the Area Manager. They have the most direct responsibility; when I worked at Quiznos, our Field Business Leaders had around 50 restaurants each. They were directly responsible for these locations with very little actual control.

Even on a great day as an area manager, you may only be able to visit a couple of restaurants for an hour or two. Forget it; if your patch is spread out over a large geographic area, you might not visit some of your restaurants more than one time per quarter.

The area managers role has also expanded over time. Area managers were originally there to provide operations supervision. Assist the store level managers to execute better, conduct some training, make sure that the restaurants were following the corporate standards.

In a lot of chains, area managers are expected to handle the ops roles from above and to be franchise salespeople, auditors, tech experts, new store openers, etc..

The Area Manager’s role and patch size have continued to expand over time, and it is becoming harder and harder for them to make a difference at the restaurant level.

I could write a whole other blog on area managers being used as franchisor salespeople and auditors. Those two roles are in direct contrast to each other, and the incentives are misaligned.

One last point on area managers, they are expensive. The median salary, bonus, and benefit cost of an area manager in Denver, CO is $146K. Now if they have to travel for work or they get a car, you can add another 25 to 50K to that number.

Regional Restaurant Manager from Salary.com

What is one way we can help area managers be more effective?
We need to give them the management tools that allow them effectively manage their territory.

Area managers need systems that give them real-time visibility into their store’s operations and financials. The POS systems can provide you with the daily sales numbers from each of your locations.

The issue has always been in getting real-time restaurant operations data that would allow an area manager to see what is happening in all of their restaurants; this has always been a problem in the past because daily operations checklists and audits are manual and in most restaurants still on paper.

That is where the OpsAnalitica Platform comes into save the day. When our platform is deployed in all of your restaurants, your area managers will have real-time visibility into what is happening operationally at all of their locations. They will know when things aren’t getting done, they will be alerted to critical violations and will be able to hold their managers accountable right from their mobile device.

This is a game changer in multi-unit restaurant management because for the first time an area manager can see what is happening at every location right now. They can effectively follow-up with restaurants from anywhere. They can identify and help restaurants mitigate problems before they become forest fires.

Real-time field management is a completely new way to manage restaurants, it becomes a force multiplier for your field team, and it saves you money. As a matter of fact, it pays for itself in increased restaurant sales and the subsequent franchisee fees from those sales, check out our case study to see how much money using OpsAnalitica can generate in your restaurants for the franchisor and the restaurant operator.

Let me give you a real-world example to illustrate this fact. When we launched Torpedo Sandwiches at Quiznos, we inspected every location in our chain. For two weeks every field person and about ten corporate employees traveled the country and physically visited and audited every restaurant, over 4000 in total. What do you think that cost us?

The big things we were looking for:
– the restaurants were displaying all of the marketing materials
– the restaurant knew how to make the sandwiches
– the restaurants were ready for the promotion

With OpsAnalitica you can deploy a checklist that requires the end user to take photos of their menu boards, photos of the different sandwiches, you can gather readiness data on all of your restaurants. Remotely. You can see which restaurants have done this and haven’t done it before the promotion and then follow-up appropriately.

Another client of ours runs over 50 short checklists a day and restaurant readiness has gone through the roof.  Their field teams know when each restaurant is doing what they are supposed to through the day and are alerted when a restaurant is falling behind. A quick text message to the store is all that is needed to get the restaurant back on track.  If critical violations are discovered the field team member can investigate right from their phone and determine the best cause of action to take.

If you couple the OpsAnalitica Platform with a centrally managed checklist program, where corporate provides the mandated checklists and is consistently refining those checklists to address business goals, it becomes a potent operations combination. One of the features that make OpsAnalitica unique is that corporate can create core checklists but still allow restaurants and franchisees to build their own for their locations. Check on this blog on the OpsAnalitica way.

For area managers to be effective, they need the tools to manage their ever-expanding job responsibilities. OpsAnalitica can provide area managers with real-time ops visibility into their locations allowing them to more effectively manage restaurant operations in their territories.

Corporate can keep a finger on the pulse of their operations, creating a feedback loop and constant improvement cycle.

The program pays for itself from restaurants running better operations and will lead to better operations chain wide.

There is one last key to success to make this kind of force multiplier program work. You need complete system adoption. You can’t leave it up to restaurant managers/franchisees to decide for themselves.

If you don’t mandate the solution then you will be managing two systems, and it will not be sustainable nor will you reap any benefits. When everyone is on the platform that is when you get the economies of scale.

To learn more about the OpsAnalitica platform check out OpsAnalitica.com or check out our case study.

Creating and Executing a World Class Restaurant Audit Program

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. Who is going to be conducting the audit?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The basics for handling action plan items are:

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

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

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

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

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

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

8. Have you thought about Site Visits?

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

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

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

Site visits provide the following benefits:

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

The number one metric driving cloud software is…

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

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

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

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

Article Recap

Bob quickly covers the history of enterprise software.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

 

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

Finding, Hiring, and Keeping employees.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Emails Stink – Tasks Rule

How many emails do you get a day?

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

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

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

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

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

The perfect task has the following attributes.

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

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

Some common email task mistakes:

There is no accountability with email

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

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

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

Burry your task requests in a longer email

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

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

Send a list of tasks in an email

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

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

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

Emails don’t have due dates

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

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

Status & Updates get Scattered

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Really Know Your Customers And What They Want

In this interview, we talk with Rob Siegal who owns Trajectory Insights, a consumer marketing and branding firm. He talks about how brands use this information to make more informed decisions and change themselves to stay relevant with their current and aspirational customers. www.trajectory-insights.com/

Trajectory Insights About Us: Trajectory Insights uses both data-driven quantitative and deep understanding qualitative research approaches to provide actionable growth strategies and tactics based on consumer and customer behaviors to set our clients on growth paths.

A Passion for Restaurant Operations

Islam Ahmed shares his experience in the restaurant industry and his passion for running great operations. He discusses his time with Chipotle and what he believes has contributed to their recent struggles. Tommy gets a little bit of a different perspective from a less seasoned restaurant industry evangelist.

Check out the podcast below:

From a Tent to the Shark Tank

In this episode of the OrderUp Show Erik interviews Co-founder and COO of Tom and Chee, Corey Ward. Corey shares his story about how he first got into the restaurant industry as a kid. His first job out of college coloring comic books. To draining his bank account and spending his rent money to setup a tent on Fountain Square in Cincinnati to sell grilled cheese and tomato soup to ice skaters. This of course led to the successful restaurant concept, Tom and Chee.

Check out the interview below: