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Digital Checklists are More Important Than Ever To Minimize the Effects of High Employee Turnover

I’m going to do my best to keep this blog short and sweet. Here is the deal:

  1. Employee Turnover is at an all-time high but employee tenure is the more important measure to understand. Tenure is how long our employees are staying in their jobs.
  2. Because the average employee is staying such a short amount of time we have to re-design how we onboard, train, and operate our restaurants to minimize the effects of this turnover and their associated costs.
  3. Checklists are a key component in reducing employee training costs and running more consistent daily restaurant operations. The only checklists that actually work are ones that are managed through a Checklist App where you have visibility and accountability.

7 Shifts, the Scheduling Company, compiled 7 Restaurant Scheduling Stats of 2017. Click on the image below to see the whole infographic. The facts were crazy but these on how long employees on average stay in a job really stood out to me as scary.

High restaurant turnover is an all-encompassing thing, I know this because I’ve lived it. When you have high turnover you don’t have time to think about anything else, you’re constantly engaged in hiring, training, and backfilling positions. All other pro-active things that you want to do for your restaurant get neglected. How can you work on that new menu or special when you have 3 open positions for tonight’s dinner rush. It’s brutal.

The reality is, you have 57 days with a server, 54 days with a cook, and 124 days with your most expensive employee, your manager. These numbers really paint a picture of what restaurant operators are facing. Add to that the lowest unemployment in decades in the US and things are bleak for restaurant hiring.

Now that you see what the average tenure of an employee is; do you still think it is prudent to spend 4 or 5 days on-boarding/training a person that is only going to be around 54 days? That training time for a server/cook could equate to 10% of their entire employment period at a higher than normal hourly wage.

Here is what we have to do in the industry to minimize these effects.

Shift your Training to Focus on Employee Productivity as Fast as Possible

You have an employee that is going to stay 55 days. The difference between 3 to 5 days of initial training is significant. 3 Days of training is 5.4% of their tenure vs. 9% at 5 days. Think about the ROI jump on that employee when you get them productive quicker.

The easiest place to cut training cost is to reduce the initial onboarding and training period. You do it by:

  1. Cutting all superfluous training out of the curriculum and focus 100% on must-have job role knowledge. Ex: Cooks need to know recipes, servers need to know how to use the POS and steps of service. Get new hires into their stations contributing to sales ASAP.
  2. Systematize Everything: Anything that is repeatable has to be in a checklist or in-station Job Aid. You can’t spend a second training people how to remember to do a repeatable task. Instead, you need to teach them that there are systems available to guide them through these tasks as they are doing them and how to use these systems.
  3. Shift to More Daily Training: You have to shift training from a front-loaded multi-day activity and move the non-job role must-have items to a daily format. Pre-shift meetings for all members of the restaurant are a way to still deliver this culture and non-job specific training in a short couple of minute sessions. Repeating this training over time is very effective.
  4. Simplify as much as you can. For instance, and a lot of people have done this, put allergen, gluten, health information right on your menu. That makes it easy for customers to find out what items they can eat and reduces the amount of training you have to provide FOH employees on the menu. For the BOH, reduce as many steps as possible for prep and in your recipes. Anywhere you can find efficiency without compromising quality, you should make the change. A great example is a lot of quick-service restaurants have assembly cards in the different cooking stations, this helps with consistency but can also reduce upfront training time because there is a job aid right in their station. You have to do that because your employees aren’t around long enough to learn super complex processes.
  5. Use your employee’s phones to your advantage: Nothing infuriates me more than wanting something from an employee at a restaurant, waiting for them to see me, and they are looking at their phone. I get it. Phones can distract people from doing their jobs and there should be consequences when that happens. On the flip side, tablets are expensive. Cheap Android tablets with cases cost around $125 to $200. iPads can cost $400 to $1000’s of dollars. 99% of your employees have smartphones that can be used on your Wifi for free to engage in training and to complete checklists. You can’t mandate that they use their own phones, you have to provide an alternative, but you can allow them to use their devices to make your business better and their jobs easier and more convenient. Treat their devices as a force multiplier.

Short Checklists for All Repeatable Tasks and Job Aids for Singular Tasks

Most Pilot checklists are 5 or so questions. Turing the engines on isn’t one 50 question checklist that takes an hour, it might be 3 5-question short checklists with high-level items on them. We have a chain client that has a 30 to 40 total, 5 to 6 question checklists for every station. They take a minute to complete but they cover the most important items from a shift readiness perspective for each station. Their readiness went through the roof when they implemented this system.

Short checklists get done at higher percentages of compliance than longer checklists. You are always going to have a need to have some very thorough checklists and they tend be longer, line checks, food safety checks spring to mind and that is fine. Focus on making a lot of your checklists, short and easy to complete. Also, if you have long checklists, make sure you choose an app that supports real-time collaboration where multiple people can work simultaneously on the same checklist, that will help speed it up and drive higher compliance.

You should use checklists for tasks/processes that require multiple steps or multiple items. Job Aids should be used for single steps. You would use a checklist for setting up the beverage station because it involves multiple steps and multiple items. You would use a job aid to show how to make the Iced Tea.

The concept of multi=checklist and single=job aid can be applied to all departments. Also, use common sense when it comes to creating job aids. You don’t need a job aid on how to clean the front door with windex. You may want one on how to cut lemons because lemon slice size affects food cost and customer satisfaction.

Digital checklists and the OpsAnalitica Platform

Your restaurant’s team is constantly turning over. In a lot of restaurants, the most senior person could have 4 months of tenure or less. Everyone is new all the time and you are constantly training and on-boarding new employees.

You need to create systems that they have to follow so you can ensure food safety, shift readiness, and consistent customer experiences. You need systems that can be easily updated and centrally managed so that changes to operations can be quickly implemented at a minimum cost.

You also need a way to hold the team accountable for using the checklists and systems you have created. Because institutional knowledge of your operations in this environment can be very low, you need a way to bubble up issues to upper management in real-time and an ability to view what is happening at any location from any device.

Don’t forget about deep clean and preventative maintenance. You need to bring those activities into your checklist system so you track them. To make sure you are doing those activities so you don’t incur unnecessary repair costs, downtime, and losses. Also, because of the short tenure of employees, the current employees won’t have a clue if the last maintenance activities happened before they worked for you.

The entire restaurant industry has managed itself with paper checklists for years. The problem is, paper checklists don’t get done and there is no way for an above store leader to manage operations with them easily and effectively. We all know that our paper checklists are getting pencil whipped, 94% of managers surveyed said they knew their employees weren’t following them.

The OpsAnalitica Platform is the perfect platform to replace your paper checklists with. As the low-cost leader in the restaurant digital checklist space, we can provide your team with the platform that will replace your paper checklists for a cost that is less than the Red Book per month per location.

Our platform will provide you with real-time visibility, enhanced accountability, and critical notifications, in a fully customizable app that works on any Android or iOS device.

As the overall economy continues to grow, as the labor pool continues to shrink, restaurant employee turnover is going to stay a concern for the near future. As restaurant operators, we need to look for ways to streamline our hiring, on-boarding, training, and daily operation processes so that we can minimize the effect of this high turnover on our teams and on our customer satisfaction. One of the easiest and quickest ways to do this is to move your paper checklists, that aren’t getting done, to an app where you can hold your teams accountable to following your ops procedures.

OpsAnalitica Beats Paper Checklists and the Red Book

At OpsAnalitica, we were the first to preach daily checklists and their benefits for running better and safer daily operations, improving visibility and managerial accountability using an app. While our competitors were preaching auditing your way to restaurant health, we knew that audits were incapable of driving behavior change at the restaurant level.

As we have done analysis on how our prospects/clients conducted their operations in the real world before using our app, what we realized is this, their process wasn’t broken, it was their tool that was broken. I’m speaking about paper based restaurant checklists and food safety systems.

Whether you print your checklists every week or your purchase the Red Book. It doesn’t matter, your checklist compliance, shift readiness, management accountability, safety processes, and record keeping are all suffering not because they aren’t well thought out or that you didn’t do a good job of training your teams, they’re suffering from the inherent weakness of paper.

Paper based systems have the following issues:

  1. Paper can’t proactively bubble up issues to management.
  2. Data on paper is essentially useless because it can’t be viewed by people who aren’t at the location and it is expensive and time consuming to get it into a database where it can be queried and used to make better decisions.
  3. You can’t hold your team accountable to following your paper based procedures – this is paper’s biggest weakness.
  4. Pencil Whipping, your managers aren’t using your systems as they were intended and your profits are suffering.

Now there is a better way to run your restaurants, a way to ensure that your teams are following your procedures every shift. A way to have issues bubbled up to management immediately so they can react quickly to squash them. A way to have real-time visibility into all of your restaurants from your phone, and to stop pencil whipping which directly affects customer satisfaction, sales and profits.

Ditch Paper and Go Digital. The OpsAnalitica Platform is cheap, less than the cost of the Red Book per month, and an easy replacement for your paper checklists. The benefits of using the system, as described above, we fix all the accountability and visibility issues that you have with paper. We do it by simply taking your current process and changing its medium from paper to a phone or tablet, that’s it.

Imagine a world where you go into your restaurants and your teams followed every procedure during their set-up. You conduct a spot check on your line and all you food had been temped and tasted and everything is exactly as it should be. You have a restaurant that welcomes a health inspection or 3rd party audit, because things are to spec. A restaurant where guests are excited to dine because they always have a good experience. That restaurant is completely possible and there is no secret on how to operate it.

It’s shift readiness and consistent execution. It’s blocking and tackling, it’s following your checklists every shift in every location. The thing is, you already have your procedures, you have already done the hard work of figuring out all the stuff your teams need to run your restaurants with perfection. The problem is they aren’t doing it and you can’t hold them accountable to doing it while you are using paper checklists as your system.

Paper based lack of accountability affects all restaurants; regardless of size, type, and revenue. Chains and single unit operators alike face the same issues when it comes to holding their managers accountable to following procedures.

I was talking to the members of the c-suite of a brewery restaurant chain. They were telling me how thorough and important their line checks were to their operations. How they audited the restaurants once a quarter and that they checked line check compliance on the audits. So I asked the question, are you auditors seeing 180 line checks when they audit? Everyone in the room just laughed. Oh yeah, they all get done, Ha Ha Ha.

What is that old quote, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. That is the restaurant industry when it comes to operations procedures and checklists. The restaurant industry spends tons of money and time figuring out the best way to run the restaurants to maximize customer satisfaction and efficiency. We are masters at figuring out how to run these restaurants, to simplify processes so they can be executed at the most base level. We are truly brilliant at that part of running restaurants.

The crazy part is, we don’t do a good job of holding anyone accountable to following any of our procedures. Because with paper it is too hard to do that effectively so we just don’t do it. We laugh about our teams not following our procedures and yet we spend a ton of money developing those procedures. Why spend the money developing them if no one is doing them?

That pencil whipping mentality is so ingrained in our operating culture because, once again, up until the invention of platforms like OpsAnalitica you couldn’t get the visibility or accountability you would need to stop it.

It’s time for a change, it’s time for restaurant operators to hold their teams accountable to following their procedures because that is their jobs and because when they don’t do it customer satisfaction, safety, sales, and profits all suffer.

If you would like to learn more about how the OpsAnalitica platform can change your business, click here.