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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is my shameless self-promotion:

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

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

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

Excerpts from the Study

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

Purpose of the Study:

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

Let’s define FSMS (Food Safety Management System)

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

AMC (Active Managerial Control)

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

Why are FSMS’s important?

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

What is a CFPM (Certified Food Protection Manager)

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

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

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

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

The Results

Study Conclusions

 

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

 

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

Digital Record Keeping In Restaurants is Coming

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OpsAnalitica’s Criticals First Approach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

P.S. two random thoughts

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

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

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

High Turnover = Lower Ops Consistency

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Invest in systems more than training:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Everyone has a Letter Grade in Their Window Now

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yelp:

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

Better Health Inspection Scores:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good luck

 

 

How to Implement Management by Checklist with follow-up in your Restaurants

Pilot flying with checklistManagement 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.

  1. Checklists help drive better operations; better operations lead to great guest experiences, great guest experiences lead to sales increases of 5 to 9%.  Pencil Whipped checklists don’t do any of these things!!!
  2. You see a completed checklist, and you believe that the checklist is accurate, and you base decisions off of it.  Ex:  All of our temperatures are safe, so I don’t have to take any corrective action.
  3. You are paying someone to lie to you on paper when you knowingly allow them to pencil whip.
  4. If you are doing temp logs and line checks, it is this safety documentation that you will use to prove to the health department and the insurance company that you have systems in place, if you ever get someone sick.  If they talk to your employees, and they will, and determine that your checklists are not accurate y0u are personally incurring a ton of liability, and there is a good chance that your insurance carrier won’t pay out any claims.

There are two types of checklists that you should be employing in your restaurant and they have different benefits:

  • Safety Checklists:
    • Temperature Logs:  logging all cold and hot hold temperatures several times a day to ensure safety
    • Sanitation Checks:  checking sanitizer buckets, dishwashers, chemical concentrations, cross contamination, unsafe food handling processes, proper labeling and storage
    • Line Checks:  temping, tasting, checking labels, portion controls, and safety
  • Management Checklists:
    • Manager flight plans:  manager daily tasks that need to be completed
    • Opening/Closing Procedures: making sure restaurant is ready
    • FOH/BOH readiness checks:

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.

  1. Break down your restaurants day into smaller parts:
    1. Opening
    2. Prep
    3. 1st Service
    4. Mid Shift
    5. 2nd Service
    6. Closing
  2. Break down each of those time periods into the responsibilities for the front and back of the house teams.
    1. Prep cooks
    2. Kitchen Readiness
    3. Server stations
    4. Dining Room
    5. Manager/Kitchen Manager
  3. You can either detail every item that needs to get done to set-up an area or you can group like items together.  In my opinion, because of the turnover in the restaurant industry, I would go with every item checklists for line employees and more summarized checklists for managers and senior personnel.  This way your checklists can be used as a continuous training tool and as a checklist.  Here are some examples of the different types of questions:
    1. Every Item:
      1. Grab prep list and review.
      2. Set -up 3 compartment sink, put 1 cap full of soap in sink 1, push sanitizer button for sink…
    2. Summary:
      1. Confirm that server station is set-up and ready for service.
      2. Make sure dining room tables are set and all condiments are put out.
  4. Prioritize the most important areas of your business and start there.
    1. Shorter is better; you don’t win any prizes for having unnecessarily long checklists.  Just the most important items and nothing more.
    2. Don’t be so focused on getting the checklists perfect before releasing them to the team; you will never know until people use them.
    3. Start by putting everything you can think of down and then remove items that you don’t need over time.
    4. It is better to have something that is good than to wait to have something that is slightly better.
    5. Checklists are iterative in nature and will evolve over time and as you business changes.
  5. The most important part of Management by Checklist is the follow-up.
    1. There is a pencil whipping problem in our industry.
    2. Paper checklists Suck
    3. Paper checklists don’t provide you with any accountability: you don’t know when they were started and when they were finished.  You may not know who did them.  They are incredibly easy to pencil whip.
    4. You need to use a system to complete your checklists that will allow you to hold your team accountable and provide you with the visibility to effortlessly follow-up with team members.  Click here to see how the OpsAnalitica Inspector can do those things.
  6. Start slow with a couple of checklists and then add more over time.
    1. Realize that doing checklists correctly can take time so staff accordingly and give people extra time so they aren’t rushed.
    2. Explain the “Why” behind doing checklists and ensure your team knows that these checklists are tools for them and you.
    3. Make sure they don’t think that you are punishing them or think that they aren’t doing a good job.
      1. A pilot that is 60 years old with tens of thousands of flying hours uses checklists to start the engines on a plane, every time.  Your line cook can use one to determine that they are prepped and safe for the shift.
  7. Staff push-back
    1. You are going to get a little push back from your team.
      1. You are asking them to do more work
      2. You are holding them more accountable to doing things correctly
      3. You are asking them to change
    2. You have to do what is right for the restaurant and running safer and better operations is always right.  If your team can’t see that, then they may not be the right team for you.
    3. Heaven forbid something bad happens at one of your restaurants, your team is going to leave and go to work for a competitor , and you are going to be left dealing with the devastating fallout.  Do the right thing for yourself and your business.

What are the benefits of managing by checklist with follow-up:

  • More consistent operations
    • One of the most frustrating aspects of managing restaurants is that the restaurant runs great for one manager and runs ok for another manager.
    • Inconsistent operations are Russian Roulette for your guests; they come in on a Friday when the A team is working and have a great experience, and they come in for a Sunday lunch and are disappointed.
  • Better Operations
    • Focusing your team on the most important aspects of running a great restaurant every shift will improve restaurant operations.
    • Completing the checklists helps you catch your mistakes before your guests do, this will lower food comps.
    • Better operations increase sales.
  • Great management tool
    • On a day when everything is calm and going to plan the checklist may feel redundant or like a waste of time, but they aren’t because they drive consistency of management, and they remind managers of what they have to do.
      • People like to do certain things and don’t like to do others.  Each manager thinks some things are more important than others based on their upbringing, personal experience, and pet peeves.
      • If everyone opens the restaurant slightly different or pays more attention to one thing or another than you get inconsistent operations and your team doesn’t know what to focus on.
    • The idea behind checklists is that you check the items off on the list, but you should be looking at everything else.
    • You have to change your team’s minds about checklists, don’t look at them as a burden but be happy that you don’t have to work from memory, you can free your mind, and use the checklist to guide your actions.  It will make you a happier and more creative manager.  A checklist is like adding extra RAM to your brain.
  • Faster training and onboarding
    • When you have a checklist management system in place, it is much easier to onboard and train new team members.
    • They can work autonomously faster because they are following the same checklists that you use every day.
  • Systemizing your restaurant allows you to grow faster and to repeat your success in more locations.
    • So many managers and owners want to grow to that second location, but they have a hard time because they have never systematized their businesses.
    • Because of that they have a hard time recreating the success of their first location at their second location, and as their time and attention move to the new location, the first location starts to have issues.
    • If you want to grow to multiple locations you have to invest in systems first.

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.

The Only Way to Sustainably Grow Your Restaurant’s Sales is through Better Operations

Screenshot 2016-04-12 14.52.05

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:

  • Moved the servers from 5 tables to 4 table stations- which all the servers hated at first.
  • We started using checklists to ensure that we were ready in the FOH for each shift, this included pre-shift meetings with the team.
  • We actively managed the dining room each shift focusing on service and turning tables.

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:

  • A 1-star increase on Yelp leads to 5 to 9% revenue increase.  Entrepreneur.com
  • One negative review on Yelp can cost you, 30 customers.  Entrepreneur.com
  • An A grade in your window, for those restaurants that have to contend with health inspection letter grades, can lead to a 5.7% bump in sales.  (Based on California Sales Tax Data for LA County)
  • Only 16% of Yelp reviews are fraudulent so don’t assume that every bad review you have is just a competitor out to get you – respond quickly and appropriately.  Entrepreneur.com
  • According to a recent study by AlixPartners, a global business consulting firm, “28 percent of diners surveyed say they would never eat at a chain affected by a food-safety outbreak, regardless of the geographic location of the outbreak.”  Tennessean
  • Olive Garden same-store sales are up 6.8%. This is what their CEO had to say:

“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.

I invite you to check out OpsAnalitica by clicking here.  To see a list of the checklists that every restaurant should be doing, I invite you to check out this other blog post.

If you are interested in seeing OpsAnalitica in action click here to watch a recorded demo video.

The Value of Operations Data at Your Fingertips

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:

  • Marketing activities remind your customers that you still exist. 
  • People come in to eat at your restaurant. 
  • You serve them food (operations)
  • They pay and leave either happy or sad, eager to share their experience with their friends or trash you on Yelp. 
Your restaurant’s operations: the food, service, speed, perceived value, cleanliness, and safety standards all determine how your guests will feel when they walk out of your establishment. 

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.

Norovirus Prevention on the Disney Fantasy

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:

Screenshot 2016-05-17 16.31.45

 

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/.

 

2016 Cruise ship Norovirus outbreaks

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.

IMG_4448

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.

IMG_4444 IMG_4446

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.

IMG_4447

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.

IMG_4442IMG_4445

Other things that I noticed:

  • All crew members that were handling food on the buffets were wearing gloves.
  • I watched crew members changing out utensils on the buffet mid shift replacing with fresh utensils.
  • They have an over abundant amount of crew members cleaning and sanitizing tables in between guests.
  • On the welcome aboard video, they point out where the ship’s doctor is located and ask you to please report there if you start to feel ill, they also discuss proper hand washing.
  • Any piece of equipment that a lot of passengers come in contact with is cleaned regularly.  For instance, you will see a crew member assigned to keeping the soda station on deck 11 clean and stocked all day long.
  • Across the ship, you will see crew members wiping railing and stuff down as a regular part of their daily cleaning routines.
  • The Cabana’s buffet probably serves a couple of thousand people for breakfast and lunch every day.  It is one of the cleanest buffets that I have ever seen, you just don’t see food spillage on it, there are people maintaining every station during service.

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.

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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.

Maybe You Shouldn’t Do Checklists

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:

  • Needs to hold managers accountable by tracking time, location, response cadence, and  actual geo location.
  • Needs to be able to identify unsafe operating conditions and communicate that to management.
  • Needs to as easy as paper to use, with minimal training time.
  • Needs to be as flexible as paper being able to capture different types of information, not just True and False questions.
  • Needs to be better than paper allow you to utilize mobile technology to take pictures and leave additional comments.
  • Most importantly you need to be able to get at the data you are collecting and start using it to make better operations decisions.

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.