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Face the Facts: It’s a Drag and Drop World – Part III

Here’s part III of the series, the final installment. To catch up on part I click here, part II click here.

How to Craft a Workflow Strategy

  • Seek out a check-list driven workflow app provider that has restaurant specific knowledge.
  • Examine the pedigree of the management of the app provider.  The restaurant business is perhaps the most idiosyncratic business in the world.  Do they really know what goes on in the kitchen and on the floor?
  • Don’t be a guinea pig for a company that’s trying to break into the restaurant sector with new app development.
  • See how quickly the workflow app provider can implement you with their “off the shelf” apps, and how quickly they can customized a new workflow app for you.  Sometimes, as with OpsAnalitica, it’s as simple as upoading a spreadsheet.
  • Make sure your provider offers dashboard views of procedure compliance.
  • Make sure your provider offers analytics of your operations, because they are the “window into the soul” of your business. 

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Maximizing Your ROI

  • Technology at any cost is worthless unless it quickly pays back your investment.
  • Accountability management workflow apps, like those from OpsAnalitica, are famously quick to earn back initial investments… in part because they are relatively inexpensive to put in place to begin with.
  • When searching providers, be sure to look for an ROI calculator, or case studies that show how quick the earn-back was.

Finally, ask your accountability management workflow app provider for their input on which apps will do the most to optimize your restaurant locations.

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Face the Facts: It’s a Drag and Drop World – Part II

Here’s part II of this series. Part I was posted yesterday. If you haven’t read part I yet click here and read it first.

Signs you are ready for Workflow Management Apps

The obvious signs that you’re ready for workflow management apps are:

  • Your operations are unprofitable
  • You can’t identify where your problems originate
  • You suffer food quality issues
  • Your operations are in disarray
  • Your operations are disorganized
  • You can’t track or account for losses
  • You are suffering from high staff turnover
  • You are suffering from low employee morale
  • Your services or locations have been red-tagged
  • Your locations have failed a health inspection
  • Your services or locations have been panned on Yelp or TripAdvisor

All of the issues listed above can very likely be solved by creating best-practice workflows, and driving them into your operations through apps on mobile devices.

Let’s look at but one item from above: “You suffer food quality issues.”  A workflow can be instituted to track and Q/A all food items, from the moment they are dropped off, through their storage (temp controls, quantity, dating, expiration dates) to their use (inventory monitoring, ingredient checks) to their preparation (standardized menus deployed, kitchen staff protocols enforced), to their service (wait staff prep, facility prep) to clean up (facility open/close protocols enforced).

What’s best, management can use dashboard-style systems to monitor compliance and get alerts to workflow variations, in real-time, tied to the person responsible.

The question is not: “Are you ready for workflow management apps?” The real question is: “Who isn’t!?” 

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How Workflow Management Apps Improve Productivity

Workflow management apps, like those from OpsAnalitica, improve productivity for these basic reasons:

  • The apps standardize procedures and workflows mentioned above:
    • Line checks
    • Temp checks
    • Menu standardization
    • Setup checks
    • Open checklists
    • Closing checklists
    • Employee onboarding
    • Employee training
    • OSHA compliance
    • Health inspection compliance
    • Customized apps
  • The apps allow for compliance checkup
  • The apps can be adopted from standard workflows, or…
  • The apps can be customized to display entirely unique data sets

By putting procedures in place (either standardized procedures or procedures customized just for your organization), users can drive best practices through an organization, enforce compliance, and monitor variances.

Click here to read part III.

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Face the Facts: It’s a Drag and Drop World – Part I

You either get dragged (or drag yourself) into restaurant management and accountability technology…

Or be forced to drop out for running an unprofitable business.

There is no middle ground.

That’s for one simple reason: Perhaps 15 years ago it was possible to run a business without a web page, but today it is not. You cannot run a successful restaurant without technology. It’s impossible to do so profitably. It’s just a matter of how much and what kind of technology you adopt.

The days of the hippy cafes or sandwich shops managed all loosey goosey are long gone.  Now, competitors with iPads, tablets, web apps, and interactive spreadsheets will eat your lunch, while serving lunch to all the customers who used to go to the old establishment.

Whether it’s food inventory management, staff scheduling, reservations, or automated line checks, restaurant management and accountability technology is here to stay, and it’s only getting more innovative, more seamless, more integrated.  In fact, the next wave of restaurant management technology is focused workflow and accountability management, and there are exciting solutions on the market today.

Enforcing Best Practice Management

  • Today’s workflow management and accountability technology actually enforces best practices.  The workflows are driven forth through procedurally organized critical paths.
  • That means automated management of such activities as:
    • Line checks
    • Temp checks
    • Menu standardization
    • Setup checks
    • Open checklists
    • Closing checklists
    • Employee onboarding
    • Employee training
    • OSHA compliance
    • Health inspection compliance
    • Any procedure: You name it, even custom workflows
  • These critical paths can be set up to be self-improving, and informed by positive feedback loops.
  • The procedures and workflow that used to be dependent on someone’s memory, or on a list taped to the walk-in… they can now be standardized in an app suite.
  • The value of any standardized workflow is only as good as your ability to put in the hands of all your workers.
  • App-driven workflows can be easily deployed on smart phones, iPads, and tablets.  Linked to the internet, the data that spins off from the apps can feed corporate awareness of operations at extremely granular levels.
  • Reporting and compliance can be monitored through management dashboards.

Click here to view part II.

Apps and Big Data: How They Are Changing The World of Multi-Location Restaurants – Part II

Here is part two. Part one was posted on Monday, click here to read part one if you haven’t read it already.

If sales drop, for seemingly no reason, Big Data can look at customer reporting sites like Yelp through an automatic data harvest to see if bad scores are driving away people.  Without Big Data, for all you know, your bad Yelp score may actually correlate with a broken air conditioner, and it should not be forcing you through the expensive process of a menu change-out.  Or, it may be that all your key performance indicators are indicating perfect operations, yet one of your locations is under performing all the rest by a meaningful degree, until… Big Data shows you that you must look elsewhere for the reason, and it’s the long-term road work project that’s driving people away. And that can be fixed with a call to the mayor and his department of public works.

Collect it with Apps

Clearly, Big Data holds the key of viewing performance metrics in an extremely creative and revealing way.  So, what has limited the use of Big Data in multi-location restaurants?

You need a method for collecting the data and feeding the Big Data analytics. And that’s where Apps and mobility come in to play.

Today, tablets and iPads are linked to the internet.  That’s no secret.

And we can put these tablets and iPads in the hands of workers for pennies a day. That’s no secret either.

The trick is to deploy clever apps that drive the workers through their inspection tasks so the enterprise is capturing the data at the right times and the right locations, no matter what the skill level of the worker. That’s what apps can do with a high degree of accuracy.

Call it workflow regimentation.

Call it process control.

Call it worker discipline.

Call it good training.

The trick is to have an app that A) prompts the timely collection of data, that B) records and stores the data (the need for CYA never dies), and most importantly, C) the app should serve as a portal to a Big Data analysis that you, at the enterprise level, can make use of to maximize the profits of your operations.  (The fact compliance with health laws is enormously easier with these types of apps is a major side benefit.)

So, when you think multi-location restaurants, you should think Big Data.  But when you think Big Data, you should ask what apps are the most appropriate for feeding the very algorithms on which your success depends.

Apps and Big Data: How They Are Changing The World of Multi-Location Restaurants – Part I

You’ve surely seen the hopeful ads about for how Big Data can help cure cancer and stop deadly attacks, but you know what Big Data is really ideal for?

Multi-unit restaurants.

That’s right.

Oh sure, we’ll need Big Data to cure diseases and save the world, but Big Data excels at process optimization and workflow analytics that are exactly what we need to make multi-location restaurants more profitable and to solve problems that, before Big Data, seemed mysterious to managers.

Specifically, Big Data is ideal for:

  1. Gathering large amounts of data from an unlimited number of sources, a.k.a. ingestion.
  2. Detecting patterns in that data; and these patterns can be extraordinarily complex, such as comparing third shift revenues across 16 locations, while tracking the additional or subtraction of menu specials, viewed by server, by gender, and correlated to the local weather.
  3. Synthesizing the data into key performance indicators, in an unlimited array of data slices, which are limited only by your imagination in dreaming up how you’d like to see and compare performance.
  4. Presenting the data in special-temporal presentations (graphs and vectors) that offer actionable intelligence and trend spotting.

Too Academic? Nope. 

Does all of that sound a little too academic and abstract?

It isn’t. Let’s take a closer look.

Here is a short list of common inspection data points for a typical multi-location restaurant:

  • Cold potentially hazardous foods maintained at 41F or below
  • Food products not held, or sold past expiration
  • Food properly covered and protected
  • Frozen foods held solidly frozen
  • Fruits and vegetables properly washed prior to processing and serving
  • Hot potentially hazardous foods maintained at 140F or above
  • Walk-in cooler product temperatures maintained at 41F or below.

As the information is collected for each of these data points, the restaurant worker needs to identify themselves, note the actual temperature, note the time of the inspection, note the location of the data, and perhaps make a comment / take a photo.

Typically, this has to happen multiple times a day.  So, the inspections are potentially undertaken by many different people, all with varying degrees of skill.

Now, take these inspection items (and this sample list from above is just a fraction of the items that need to be inspected daily) and multiple them by the number of locations you are managing.  The complexity of consolidating and analyzing this data in a pre-Big Data world (especially if it were just written down on clipboards and thrown in a binder) make the usefulness of this data practically nil.  Fact is, data was collected only as a CYA exercise in case there was ever a problem or an inspection, and you needed historical data records to review.  But now that Big Data has come into play, this data can be collected, and algorithms written, to accomplish these following Big Data tasks…tasks that were nearly impossible to accomplish just a few short years ago:

  1. Gather the data in real time, with auto-triggers and alerts that can watch trends and predict problems before they occur or that allow you to dispatch a worker with remedial actions, e.g. manager gets a text when the fridge temp rises above 41F.
  2. View the data at the individual location level, the regional level, or the enterprise level, or slice and dice the data to just look at, say, third shifts, or just at certain managers, or just at certain individual indicators, like “food sold past expiration” in relation to desperate workers trying to keep food costs inline to cover up theft, e.g. VP of Ops gets notified in real time so he can alert an area manager to conduct an inventory. That is how you drive accountability into your organization.
  3. Correlate any number of location data points to sales, or even to outside sources like Yelp or Trip Advisor. If the bathroom is filthy and the inspections are missed (as indicated by a lack of data points), it should come as no surprise the customers stop eating at that location and are posting bad reviews, e.g. the fix is easy, once you know the cause of the problem.
  4. Use big data to identify the cost control issues in your bottom 20% of restaurants that are eroding profits chain wide, develop an operational fix, and direct your area managers to focus their efforts on fixing those issues.  Then use your data collection to track the success or failure of those initiatives.  That is the accountability management that is enabled by Big Data.

Stay tuned for part II later on this week. Follow us on Linkedin so that you don’t miss part II.

Share Your Thoughts On The Industry

Every week we aspire to create content for you that will make a difference in your business. You guys have downloaded tens of thousands of reports, eBooks, tools, and articles.  

http://bit.ly/1M83oSQ  

Some weeks we create content that is very popular, and hundreds of you respond by downloading it.   

Other weeks we miss the boat completely.   

If you could take just 3 minutes and tell me what is the single biggest challenge that you’re struggling with in your multi-unit restaurant operations right now.  

A) It would mean the world to me.  B), most importantly I’ll be able to use that information to gear my upcoming emails toward topics you specifically want to know more about.

Click here to take survey.

Keep on Inspecting!

Visibility: What Does It Mean For Multi-Unit Operators

An Amazing Story About Checklists

Wow! What an amazing write up about checklists in Restaurant Hospitality. It’s an older article from 2012, but it’s timeless. There’s no better use case for implementing checklists than what the author lays out in this article.

He talks about taking the unknown out of making sure that your staff is getting things done and doing it correctly. He mentions that your own life experiences drive what’s “common sense” to you and since your staff hasn’t had the same life experiences your views of common sense will be different. Thus laying out what you want accomplished into a checklist ensures that the things you want done will get done, your way.

There are some great tips in the article (copied below) about how to go about creating your checklists. Also talks about the ever evolving checklist that changes over time. That makes complete sense as the way you do business today may (probably) won’t be the same as you do it down the road.

He also talks about accountability and if you don’t actually follow up on the checklists and look at them your staff will notice and stop doing them all together. Everyone is busy and if they perceive a task as being unimportant they will push it to the end of the list. So following up on the checklists and using them as coaching opportunities will ensure that they continue to get done, which is what you want.

Now the one thing that is missing from all of this is the automation piece. Being that it’s 3 years old can have something to do with it as mobile technology has come a long way in the last years. It was around for sure, but the devices, bandwidth, affordability, and usability of technology has progressed at warp speeds the last few years.

Conducting all of your checklists on a mobile device and storing the data in the cloud available for anyone in the organization (with the proper permissions) to view is the final piece to the puzzle. Now you can make sure that not only are the checklists are getting done, but who really did it, when did they complete it, how long did it take them to complete it, etc. You can put rules and processes in place based on the answers submitted so the follow up can be automated. You can manage by exception through management dashboards and proactive reports.

None of those things can happen when you are collecting the data with pen, paper, and a clipboard. Right now it’s so simple and affordable to implement. Plus all your employees are so tech savvy so they will have no problem doing the checklists on their phone or the store ipad.

Click here to watch a video of a checklist app in action!

I have copied the full article from Restaurant Hospitality below:

Checklists help ensure tasks get done your way

If you think all of your employees possess the common sense to complete tasks successfully, you’re wrong. Employing a simple checklist eliminates the need for common sense.
Do you sometimes just want to fire everyone in your restaurant and do all the work yourself? Do you wonder why people can’t just do it the way you want it done? Do you ever find yourself saying, “It’s common sense?”

Common sense is a shared understanding based on experience. I can tell you right now that your managers, each and every one of them, do not share your experiences. They have not grown up in your shoes. They do not possess the same core values. They are not you and will not automatically do things your way just because you think they should have common sense.

You can overcome your assumptions about common sense with an easy two-step process.

Step 1: Create checklists for everything!

Creating checklists sounds so simple, yet I can’t even begin to count how many restaurants don’t have them. And when checklists do get drafted, many restaurant owners are not explicit enough about what they want done or how they want it done.

Here’s the easy way to avoid this pitfall. Grab a pad of paper, stand outside your front door and start writing down everything you see on a daily basis that needs to get done. Especially note the things that really get your blood boiling because they seem so obvious. Continue writing as you walk through your restaurant.

Be precise in your expectations. For example, “Clean glass on front door every two hours, starting with opening shift.” Then list the times.

When your list is complete, task one of your managers to customize opening and closing checklists incorporating every item on your list for every position. Remember, you cannot be too specific.

You have no idea how happy this will make your management team. They’re happy they no longer have to read your mind or endure your inevitable freak out. With lists in hand, your management team will be cool, calm and collected when they see you coming. They can say with confidence they didn’t miss anything if they followed the simple checklist.

Side note: Your checklists are never finished. You will continue to add all of the new things that drive you crazy as they come up. Don’t be surprised if your checklists are two to six pages long. But also don’t be surprised at how well they work.

Step 2: Follow up on the checklists.

Now that you have your checklists and have trained your managers and staff to use them, the easy part is done. You will see results almost immediately. I guarantee it.

But here’s what tends to happen. About three weeks after implementing checklists, when your managers see that you are not looking in the designated binder to confirm the checklists are being used, your managers will start to slack off. And once they slack off, everyone else will slack off. Eventually they’ll quit using them altogether.

How do you hold them accountable? To start, review the checklists daily at first. Find what your managers are missing and point it out. Better yet, show them how you want it done. It’s your job to coach your managers and help them be successful.

Once you see they are following them routinely, you can start to randomly spot check them a few times a week. These checklists will keep everyone on the same page for as long as they’re maintained, but you must check them or they will go away.

When you don’t communicate your expectations to your managers, you’re setting them up to fail. You’re also setting yourself up for endless frustration. Checklists give you an easy way to communicate your expectations and an easy way for your managers to know what is expected of them. This way, everyone is happy.

Today’s Struggles of Restaurant Management

It is hard to believe that I got my first restaurant job 30 years ago.  I was fourteen years old; I remember because I had to get a work permit, I was a grill cook at a Jerry’s Subs and Pizza in the Columbia Mall.

I got my hotel restaurant degree 8 years later, and I remember one of the big themes at school was manager burn-out.  We were still in that time when restaurant managers were expected to work 80 hours a week.

As I look at how the industry has changed over my lifetime, it is amazing to me how much harder it is today to be a restaurant manager than it was back then.

I think in the past restaurant management was a physically tough job.  Over time, I think it has become less physical and more mentally tough.

Our latest eBook:  Restaurant Management The Struggles of Today’s World discusses some of the issues facing restaurant managers today.  I encourage you to get your free copy emailed to you by clicking here.

Even though restaurant management is getting tougher, I think it is ultimately good for manager’s and the industry. As the manager’s of the future are forced to become more well rounded and to wear more operational hats, they will gain valuable skills, and the learning process will be interesting to say the least.

Ultimately all things evolve, and restaurant management is not immune.  So push the Dinosaur Manager’s out of your operations and look for those eager learners who are ready for their next big challenge.  Get them started with a copy of our Free eBook by clicking here.

Food-borne Illness Just Got Very Serious

It’s of course always a serious issue, but there hasn’t been a sentence such as the one laid down last week for the former owner of Peanut Corp of America. A 28 year prison sentence for the salmonella outbreak at his manufacturing facility in 2008/2009 that killed 9 people and got another 714 people really sick.

Now granted there was gross misconduct/neglect by the owner and upper management in this case which, I’m sure, played a large role in the sentencing, but either way the bar has been set very high. The message has been sent that the courts will not take these cases lightly.

Food manufacturers and service businesses need to do everything they can to prevent these kinds of outbreaks or ownership/management can face prison time. Add that on top of all the bad publicity especially in this day and age of social media and the internet where news spreads like wild fire in minutes. Facilities and food need to be checked and inspected regularly to make sure that there is a minimal chance of an outbreak.

Documentation is also a key factor. In this case the documentation worked against Peanut Corp of America in that they had emails going back and forth outlining lies etc. (Here’s an article from MSNews Now). Of course if it wasn’t the case that the company knowingly shipped contaminated food the sentence would have been less, but how less? Who knows? If they were able to show documentation that proved that they inspected their operations and food daily that would have helped as well.

The reality is that being in the food business you are dealing with human lives and it’s not a responsibility to be taken lightly. Just as airline pilots to a pre-flight inspection every single flight the food industry including manufacturers, restaurants, etc. need to perform similar checks every shift to insure that the food is safe. They also need to prove that these checks are being done consistently and diligently when they are supposed to be done.

Check out our blog from last week for some thawing and holding tips that you can start using immediately. Click here for an article with more details on the sentencing etc.

Click here to download our Better Practices Guide to Self Inspecting.