In this blog post, we recorded an audio podcast, of our shift readiness blog. This discusses shift readiness as tasks but also as a philosophy. To read the original blog, click here.
In this blog post, we recorded an audio podcast, of our shift readiness blog. This discusses shift readiness as tasks but also as a philosophy. To read the original blog, click here.
Management by checklist is exactly what you think it is; it is the art of managing your restaurants by using short, focused checklists to ensure that the most important operational details aren’t missed on a shift-by-shift restaurant-by-restaurant basis. The practice is modeled after airplane pilots and their use of checklists.
Checklists work, plain and simple. We recently surveyed over 100 restaurant owners and managers. We asked the question; do you think that you could save money and serve safer food if you used checklists? They all said yes, 100% yes.
There is a great book out about checklists, The Checklist Manifesto; the book discusses how checklists are driving better operations and protecting professionals from failures across multiple industries. Here are some quotes from the Checklist Manifesto, by Atul Gawande
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.
In a complex environment, experts are up against two main difficulties. The first is the fallibility of human memory and attention, especially when it comes to mundane, routine matters that are easily over-looked under the strain of more pressing events.
Faulty memory and distraction are a particular danger in what engineers call all-or-none processes: whether running to the store to buy ingredients for a cake, preparing an airplane for takeoff, or evaluating a sick person in the hospital, if you miss just one key thing, you might as well not have made the effort at all.
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.
First there was the recipe – the most basic checklist of all. Every dish had one. The recipes were typed out, put in clear plastic sleeves, and placed at each station. Adams was religious about her staff’s using them. Even for her, she said, “following the recipe is essential to making food of consistent quality oover time.”
If you have been working in restaurants, especially chain restaurants, then you know all about checklists. The restaurant industry has simultaneously embraced and turned our backs on checklists. When a typical employee or manager gets trained to work in a restaurant, especially at a training restaurant, a large part of their training is checklists. Op’s manuals are full of checklists. Checklists help boost productivity because they take away the guesswork from running the restaurant. We’ve seen huge managerial productivity gains when new managers are given checklists and systems to follow during their training period. They are able to be effective faster and they learn quicker.
Then once our training is done and the manager gets to their home restaurant, we stop using them or even worse, we allow our teams to pencil whip them. We recently asked restaurant managers and owners how many of them thought their teams were doing their checklists accurately? 94% of them thought their teams were pencil whipping.
Pencil whipping a checklist is worse than not doing it at all for several reasons.
There are two types of checklists that you should be employing in your restaurant and they have different benefits:
Safety checklists ensure that you are operating safely and should prevent any critical violations on health inspections. Conducting daily safety checks are our biggest moral responsibility to our guests and the most important thing we can do from a brand protection standpoint. Temp logs and sanitation checks aren’t sexy but they are so important. Line checks, especially when you are tasting food items do have a positive effect on profitability, they allow you to catch your own mistakes before your guests do and reduce food comps. We have seen our clients reduce food costs by 1/2 to 2% based on the type of restaurant.
Management checklists drive better operations on a restaurant-by-restaurant shift-by-shift basis. They protect managers from memory failures especially when they are putting out fires. They make it easier for junior managers to learn faster and reduce training time. Restaurants that use management checklists to focus managers on what is most important create better guest experiences and drive sales increases.
Here are some steps to creating a Management by checklist system. 1st you build the checklists, you should have safety and management checklists. Once that is completed you can implement the follow-up system.
What are the benefits of managing by checklist with follow-up:
The disconnect in the industry is this, 100% of restaurant managers and owners believe that checklists will help them run better restaurants. 88% of those same owners used paper checklists. 94% of them believed that their teams weren’t completing them accurately. The issues is paper checklists suck at holding people accountable. You don’t know when they started or finished their checklist. You don’t even know who really completed them.
Follow-up is the key to a management by checklist system and running better operations. Being able to see that a checklist was completed on time before service started and then to be able to quickly determine what the issues were and address them is how you ensure checklists are getting done and that you are running safe operations. If you aren’t in the restaurant, you can’t see that the checklist was even completed or get a look at any of the data on the checklist. You need to use a system like OpsAnalitica to effortlessly conduct checklist follow-up and drive pencil whipping out of your operations.
Ultimately, great restaurant operations are the only way to sustainably grow your business. Management by Checklist with follow-up can and will play a huge part in driving those better operations. We can help you with the follow-up piece, to watch our OpsAnalitica demo video click here.
It’s time to return to basics and focus on what works for long-term sustainable sales growth, which is better operations. Nobody wants to hear better operations because they are either delusional about the current state of their operations, or they don’t want to put in the hard work and discipline of focusing on running better operations.
Nothing that you will do, no new system (delivery or take out), no new technology like a better POS or better website, is going to do more for your business than having delicious food, in clean well-managed restaurants, with great customer service. NOTHING!!!! If you didn’t want to be an operator and focus on being excellent, then this isn’t the business for you.
I was the dining room floor manager of a busy restaurant in 2001 we added $80,000 a week to revenue over a ten month period. That is right 80K a week, not a month, and we didn’t spend an extra dollar in marketing nor did we add any new sales channel. You know how we did it:
You see we had latent demand that before we focused on operations we weren’t getting because our service was slow and quite frankly not that good. When we made the sections smaller, brought in more servers, invested in training those servers on the menu, customer service, upselling, etc. They had more time to do a better job servicing guests. When we focused each shift on making sure that the restaurant and the team were ready, it was easier to wow guests. I’m not telling you anything that you don’t already know; better operations, focusing on the little things, and providing an excellent experience is your best marketing initiative and the quickest way to grow sales.
Here is some information that provides more evidence to the better operations theory:
“We’re just running better restaurants today,” Lee said during the company’s earnings call Tuesday. “I don’t think we should discount the importance of ensuring we’re properly staffed, our teams are properly motivated, simplifying the operation, reducing the size of the menu, processes and procedures. NRN
“One of the things we’re focused on now is trying to keep things simple,” Lee said. “Simple is hard. Doing simple things every day is really hard. That’s what’s given us the biggest lift at Olive Garden. We’re not relying on promotional activity to drive business.” NRN
Look at your experience in restaurants. The restaurants that serve delicious food with great service that are clean and well managed on average are much busier than their competitors who fall down in any of those areas.
There are so many outside factors affecting your restaurants every day, from minimum wages, weather, street construction, commodity prices, competition, shifting dining trends, government regulations, cook shortages, and social media to name few. It can feel overwhelming. How do you manage all of those outside factors and run your restaurant? The answer is to control what you can control and react as best you can to outside forces.
If you know that you aren’t doing all that you could be doing in your business to run better operations, make a plan and start focusing 100% on your most critical issues and check them off the list one at a time.
The quickest and most effective way to run better operations is also one of the easiest systems to implement: checklists with follow-up. Checklists focus your managers on those most important items each shift that have to be done to operate at your best. They are self-documenting and easy to use. By executing checklists every day in the same order, they build a routine and drive consistency shift to shift. Checklists work, we asked 107 restaurant managers and owners recently if they thought that managing by checklist would help them run safer and better operating restaurants, and 107 of them said yes.
Most restaurants today have checklists in place, but they are conducted on paper, paper checklists make it impossible to hold your team accountable. We recently conducted a survey and 94% of restaurant owners, and managers believed that their teams weren’t completing their checklists accurately. 94% of paper checklists are being pencil whipped and therefore the restaurant isn’t getting any of the benefits of safer and better operations because people aren’t conducting the checklist.
The key to getting the benefits of your checklists is to use a system like OpsAnalitica that can hold your managers accountable and make pencil whipping a thing of the past. By simply moving your checklists to a tablet we can track start and end times, duration, and make the data available on any device from anywhere. You will always know if your team is doing what they are supposed to be doing.
Better operations can increase your sales anywhere from 5 to 9%. Checklists can play a major part in running better operations on a shift basis. It is consistent daily execution that will yield the highest returns and generate those positive reviews and word of mouth recommendations that will grow sales organically and in a sustainable manner.
If you are interested in seeing OpsAnalitica in action click here to watch a recorded demo video.
Operations data are the data points that are generated every meal period in a restaurant that directly affect sales and profitability. Let’s break it down:
Remember we are restaurant operators and operations are our business. Operations data points are the measurement of our operations. Until this time in the restaurant industry it has been next to impossible to capture, organize, and analyze operations data for even a single restaurant location never mind a national chain.
There are two main reasons for this, the first is that we aren’t a completely automated business. We are predominantly a human business where people, not automated machines are the means of production. Number two the technology didn’t exist or it was too expensive to capture the data.
With the invention of tablets and smart phones we now have powerful handheld devices that can be used to capture operations data. A smartphone used every day to consistently capture operations data can feed a data analysis initiative that can drive down waste and increase profitability.
In the spirit of ops data and running better operations we are giving away our ebook, SMART Inspections, Drive Big Data. Click here to get it delivered to your inbox.
I will leave you with this thought. As technology becomes more prevalent in the industry, the companies that can identify, test, and implement new solutions more quickly will have a distinct competitive advantage in the marketplace.
In one of the best Seinfeld episodes ever, George is trying to get a bigger apartment in his building only to find out that a survivor of the Andrea Doria shipwreck got it because the coop board felt bad for the guy. Read the script below:
The buffet can be the real ordeal on cruise ships because its when the guests are all touching utensils, and if anyone of them is sick and didn’t wash their hands very well, you could pick up a bad case of Norovirus. I got this cruise ship norovirus outbreak data below from http://www.cruiseminus.com/cruise-ship-norovirus/.
What I think is interesting is that most of the outbreaks affect less that 10% of guests, the average is 7.3%. The news makes it seem that the whole ship is hold up in their rooms in agony when in reality only 1132 people were sickened out of 20,027 passengers. I don’t want to make light of ruined vacations, and I’ve heard that Norovirus illness is brutal. It is just more evidence that the news media is looking out for themselves and their ratings above all else.
Please enjoy this blog originally published on 3/22/16:
I recently completed a cruise on the Disney Fantasy, and I noticed quite a few norovirus prevention measures being employed by Disney on the cruise that I wanted to point out. I must state for the record that I didn’t go into the kitchens or interview any of the team members, these are just my observations on what I saw Disney doing as a passenger on the ship, I think you will find some of these measures interesting.
Returning to the boat from being on-shore there is always a sanitizer station and a crew member requesting that you sanitize your hands. The crew member looked at me like I was crazy when I was taking this picture but then when I got done and started to walk onto the ship she asked me to sanitize my hands. You are going to see that most of what Disney does, pertains to hand washing, but that is probably one of the most important anti-norovirus measures you can take besides supply chain safety.
Here are two different hand washing direction signs posted for passengers. One was in our cabin bathroom, and one was in a public restroom. Norovirus is commonly spread when people have fecal matter or vomit on their hands and then touch ready made food or buffet utensils, or they get their germs on a fork or plate, and a crew member touches those items while bussing a table and then could spread it to themselves or other guests. I thought this was a very rational and different approach to battling norovirus. In the industry, we are used to seeing hand washing signs for the crew but not in restrooms for customers. Cruise ships are very densely packed, and isolated places and norovirus could just as easily be spread from a guest to a crew member as the other way around.
Here is an example of a sign that I have never seen before in a public restroom. This sign says to use a paper towel to avoid touching doorknobs. The OCD part of me loves this sign.
It doesn’t matter which restaurant you are going to on the ship: a buffet, a sit-down, or a quick service outlet. There are always anti-bacterial towels in dispensers, on the counter, or being passed out by a crew member. There are two dinner seatings every night, and when there is a mass seating in a dining room, there are several crew members standing at the door handing out wipes to every passenger.
Other things that I noticed:
One last thing that I thought was cool was this portable electric faucet, see below. This faucet was set up at an outdoor smoothie station in the middle of a sidewalk on shore. There was no running water to this station as it is portable. The station has two buckets, 1 for clean potable water, and the second for waste water. Having personally worked a lot of outdoor events at country clubs and restaurants this was the first time I had ever seen one of these devices.
Some things that Disney does on the cruise ship would be easy to duplicate in our restaurants, and some things would be harder because of the difference in labor spending and labor rates. Obviously having hand sanitizer in your restaurant in the entrance way or passing our sanitizer wipes when guests are seated would be very easy to do. Paying to have a person stand in the doorway of your restaurant to hand out sanitizer wipes would probably not be cost effective. Bathroom signs when done well don’t bother me.
If you think about this from Disney’s perspective, they have two main things they have to worry about. If they get passengers sick, then they have a bunch of angry customers and like the rest of us, they risk the long term brand damage that it causes. They pride themselves on being a premium product. They also have to keep their teams safe and healthy because once they are at sea, they can’t call in other people. Imagine a scenario where a couple hundred of their crew and passengers get sick on a cruise; it would stress their entire system and with the close quarters on a cruise ship and limited resources, it could be a real mess for them and cost them a lot of money. I think there were over 4,000 passengers and 1,500 crew members on our cruise.
I hope you found these precautions interesting and if you would like to learn more about how OpsAnalitica helps you run safer, better, and more profitable restaurant check out our demo video here.
How could paper checklists be bad? Paper checklists are bad because people pencil whip them or lie on them. We recently conducted a survey of over 100 restaurant owners and managers. 94% of respondents believed that their teams weren’t completing their checklists accurately.
Which raises the question; why would a sane person have their team complete checklists that they know are being lied on?
A sane person wouldn’t, because they know that it is a waste of time and money. It costs money to develop checklists. It costs money to print checklists. It costs money to complete checklists. It costs money to file and store checklists and when it is time to get rid of them it costs money to shred and recycle checklists.
Yet as an industry we do spend money to have people complete checklists on paper even though we know they are being pencil whipped. Why do we do that?
The limitations of paper checklists aside, the fact that we still have people pencil whipping checklists in our businesses is because even a 30% accurate checklist is better than no checklist.
Let’s stick with the thought that even a partially completed checklist is better than no checklist. A person who completes a line check 30% accurately is still checking 30% more items than a person who skips their line check. They have a better chance of catching an error in preparation or finding an unsafe item and correcting it before it get’s someone sick.
Imagine a world where restaurants employees completed all of their checklists accurately and when they didn’t you were at least able to catch that they didn’t and coach them about the importance of doing them correctly. How much better would your restaurant run?
If every shift your team checked everything that was important enough to make it on a checklist. They checked every temp, tasted items, checked sanitation and portion controls. The restaurant when opened was clean and ready for guests.
Do you think that running better operations would translate into more sales, safer restaurants, happier guests, and most importantly more profits?
Of course running better ops would accomplish all of that. If running better operations couldn’t do that then we wouldn’t spend a penny on training or any operational initiative, we would only spend money on marketing because the only way to get sales would be to con people to come to your restaurant one time.
By the way, this is what the restaurant managers and owners told us on our survey. 100% of them agreed that checklists could help them run better and safer operations. That is right 100%.
Because checklists when completed diligently and followed-up on work.
The problem with paper checklists is that you can’t tell when they were started, when they ended, who did them, and if they were pencil whipped. Basically paper cannot help you hold people accountable. Also, this is for multi-unit owners who cannot be in every location every day, you can’t magically see paper hanging on a wall in a restaurant from your office.
What our industry needs is a checklist solution that is as easy to complete as paper checklists but allows us to hold our managers accountable and get visibility into our daily operations.
This solution would need to do the following things to be effective:
A solution that could replace paper checklists and hold people accountable at the store level up through the corporate level of a system could drive better, safer, and more profitable restaurants.
A restaurant company that could deploy a solution like this and start holding their unit managers more accountable and harness this new feed of operations data could optimize their operations and beat their competition by running more efficiently and making better decisions.
Think about the data that corporate restaurant management has access to today. They have register, inventory/ordering, and customer service data and they use that data to make the best decisions that they can. If you used a checklist solution to capture pertinent operations data at the store level, which would drive better operations. You could also use the date with your other data feeds such as sales, inventory, and customer service to create a complete picture of how your restaurants were operating. Remember that operations affect sales, inventory, food costs, and customer service, its not he other away around.
It would be a major competitive advantage for any restaurant system that took advantage of operations data. Look at how companies like Walmart, FedEx, Nordstrom, and Google use data to streamline operations and generate increased profits. Restaurant chains could do the same thing if they had the data, which they have, but just need to get it into an accessible, usable format.
How do you do this in your chain? You should implement the OpsAnalitica Inspector platform in your system for daily operations checklists and corporate inspections. The OpsAnalitica Inspector will hold your managers and teams more accountable at the restaurant level and our custom reporting and data warehouse will provide you with the data that you need to optimize your business.
The future of the restaurant industry is possible today for those chains that are bold enough to take the first step forward. If you are interested in learning more please click here and set up a call with our team.
I’m sure you have experienced this a million times….
I’m going to share a story from my days at bartending in a very busy mountain town.
Spring break was one of the busiest times of the year. Two-hour waits for dinner and up to an hour wait for lunch. No real break between the shifts because we got the apres ski crowd after a busy day on the mountain.
During March, there would be a lot of cash just burning a hole in our pockets, like most ski town residents we would need to unwind at the end of the night. It could sometimes turn into a 4 or 5-hour process and would inevitably make the next lunch shift pretty rough.
It was always a bad idea when all of us would go out together because now instead of 1 or 2 of the staff operating at 75%, we would have 90% of the staff operating at 50%.
Never failed, every time that happened we’d get an early lunch rush. Side work was half-assed, tables weren’t set, outside heaters weren’t on, umbrellas were down, snow on the front patio. You get the picture.
We’d ingest as much coffee as we could stand and GO TO WAR!
The service was horrible because you are trying to complete side work while serving guests. Drinks took forever because there weren’t enough glasses at the soft drink stations, not enough lemons cut, it was a disaster. It hurt our tips and certainly hurt lunch sales.
Anyone who has ever managed a restaurant has worked a shift like this. You walk in the door and your staff looks like the slept in their uniforms and don’t get me started about the smell, like a damp cellar.
Instead of proactively managing your shift, you start your day putting out FIRES.
Instead of walking your dining room and checking it for readiness you are herding CATS.
In the spirit of this story, we’d like to share our FOH Readiness Checklist. Click here to download it for free!
Even if you have a FOH Checklist, you should take a minute and check out ours.
We hope you find it helpful.
If you are interested in learning more about how OpsAnalitica is helping restaurant operators run safer, more profitable restaurants, click here, to watch a quick 14 minute demo video.
There is no medical cure for Norovirus; if you contract it you simply have to ride it out. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t anything you can do as a multi-unit restaurant manager to protect your restaurants, brand, and profits.
With Norovirus, the best offense is going to be a good defense. Here are some steps we are suggesting that you take to protect your company.
64% of Norovirus outbreaks come from restaurants. The news media and patrons are becoming more educated about Norovirus and are holding restaurant management responsible. The key to fighting Norovirus in your operations is to educate your team and document your procedures. If you get someone sick, and there is an investigation, you ability to prove through documentation that you did the right things from a management perspective: training, sending sick employees home, deep cleaning and throwing away food is what is going to help you move past the outbreak.
Where OpsAnalitica takes documentation to the next level is that we time-date stamp and geocode every submission. Because the data goes to the cloud we can build very detailed reports that look at all units in your chain and then email relevant data to the right people on a schedule. Now corporate management can be made aware of any issues that arise pro-actively and have all of the data they need at their fingertips. Checklists with effortless follow-up drive compliance and better operations. To learn more about the inspector, schedule a demo by clicking here.
Norovirus is a fact of life; it can be a death sentence for the very young, old, and infirmed. It can be a restaurant killer for those operations that don’t take it seriously. Buffalo Wild Wings stock went down over 6% in a couple of days from a small isolated outbreak in KS. Chipotle’s stores have seen a double digit drop in sales year over year and Norovirus has played a huge part in the sales decline. Could your restaurant handle a 30% decline in sales for six months plus? I don’t know of many that could.
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.
Let’s talk about the art of Pencil Whipping. Here’s the “official” definition from Wiktionary:
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.
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!