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Reducing Food Costs and Running Safer Restaurants with Checklists

Busy Kitchen

Back in February we did a webinar with Ryan Gromfin, The Restaurant Boss, entitled Reducing Food Costs and Running Safer Restaurants. This is a straight training webinar on how to use restaurant checklists to run better operations and increase profits. Ryan is a cool dude and we kept it light with real world stories and examples. There is a special offer at the end of the webinar to schedule a meeting with us to discuss your restaurant checklist needs and to get some free coaching. We are honoring the pricing and the offers made in this webinar so if you want, you can sign-up and take advantage.

Please enjoy this webinar on using restaurant checklists to run better operations.

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CTCdYs5rlEc&feature=youtu.be[/embed]

If the webinar doesn’t load in your browser, click here to watch in YouTube.

We have made several enhancements to the Inspector since this webinar was recorded, to see the latest functionality I invite you to click here to watch a short two-minute overview video.

5 Tips to Writing Better Restaurant Line Checks

Chef-Tasting-Food-300x294

Every restaurant should be doing some form of line check for each meal period.  The reason you do line checks is to ensure that your food is safe and ready to serve to your guests.  Line checks allow you to catch your mistakes before your guests do, which reduces food comps.  They also allow you to check for line readiness:  FIFO is being observed and your not selling newer food and wasting older food, proper portion controls are in place, back-ups are thawed and that the line is stocked and ready for the rush, which improves execution and sales.

We have one client who saved 1.2% in food cost when they were doing line checks on the OpsAnalitica Platform vs. when they weren’t.  That equated to a $2,200 per month savings from just better food management.

The hard part about writing good line checks is that you have competing priorities to deal with.  You have safety and quality vs. time.  If your priority is time, then you can sacrifice safety and quality to speed up your line check.  If your priority is brand protection (safety & quality), then you can have an incredibly thorough line check, but it could take longer to complete.

Like all things in this world, compromise is going to be the key to writing an effective line check.  You want to check everything but do deeper checks on high-risk items. Below is a photo of one of our client’s line check kits, it includes tasting spoons and a dirty spoon container, gloves, test strips, alcohol wipes, and thermometers.

Line Check Kit

  • Line check question Attributes:  the perfect line check question should include the following parts.
    • Item Name:  Alfredo Sauce
    • Pan Size:  1/4, 1/2 pan
    • Safety Control:  temp range or time
    • Portion Control:  weight or portion size
    • Par: how much you have to have on hand to make it through the shift
    • Every Item Checks:
      • You should make sure that each item is properly labeled with the make and expiration dates because that is what the health inspector is going to do.
        • Note in the comments if item wasn’t properly labeled.
      • Taste every prepared item: dressings, sauces, sides; that is safe to sample for taste and quality.
        • You can make notes in comments if items taste bad.
        • The key here is to fix bad tasting items so your guests don’t have to taste them.
    • This is where the competing priorities come into play as you could temp each item, confirm the above attributes and taste the item and describe it’s quality but to do all of that becomes three questions that need to be answered. That line check could become very long very fast.
    • Staying with the example of Alfredo sauce I would write the question like this:  Ex:  Alfredo Sauce – 1/4 pan – 145 to 160 – 3oz ladle – 1 up 1 warmer.
      • SPEED TIP:  Don’t have the people conducting your line checks make comments on things that are good only have them comment on exceptions.
    • I would also have them record the temp of this item because it has a proper holding temperature range.  Not all items do, but when there is a top range that could affect quality, then it is a good practice to get those temperatures because it would give you data to analyze if food costs are high.
  • Temperatures Questions:
    • Temp everything but you don’t need to record every temp.
      • In my opinion, it is ok to temp items on the line, verify they are safe and note that you checked the item without writing down every temperature.
      • This practice will ensure safety and speed up your total line check.
    • Always record temps for:
      • High danger items: chicken, shellfish, pork, sauces like hollandaise, etc..
      • Delicate items where a too high or too low temperature could drastically affect quality.
      • High food cost items where you could take a big comp hit if this item goes bad before you have a chance to sell it.
    • Think like a health inspector.
  • Time as a control:
    • It is perfectly valid to use time as a control on items that need to be stored at room temperature.
    • The key to this kind of question is recording the time that the item went out on the line so you can prove that you are timing it and making sure you are discarding the items after 4 hours.
    • It is also good to have some kitchen timers or something that you can set to show that you are paying attention.
  • Critical Item Questions:  These are items that a health inspector is going to check and could get you a Critical item violation.
    • Make sure you have all the critical items covered every shift on your line checks:
      • Food being stored properly in walk-in
        • Cross contamination, labels, covering, soups and sauces being cooled correctly.
      • Sanitizer Buckets with test strips
        • You may even want to record the ppm on your line check.
      • Hand sink is clean, stocked with soap and paper towels, and that the water is hot.
      • Nothing on the floor
      • Chemicals stored in the correct place away from food.
  • Shorter is better than Longer:
    • You don’t get any awards for writing longer line checks.  It comes down to balance between brand protection and speed to complete.
    • Focus on the most critical items for your restaurant and leave out any fluff.
    • I see too many super long line checks that take 50 to 90 minutes to complete.
    • When you complete your line check go and test it in the real world for a couple of shifts and see how long it takes to complete and try to pair it down if it is too long.
    • Make sure that every question can be answered by every location or give the option for N/A.

Writing line checks is not sexy work, but a good line check is a foundation for running better operations and growing sales and profits.  Once you write your line check the only way to ensure that it is getting done correctly is to Inspect what you Expect and to follow-up with your managers when you see inconsistencies.  Without follow-up, your line check could be pencil whipped, and your investment in it will not show any returns.

If you would like to learn more about how OpsAnalitica can help you hold your managers accountable and effortlessly follow-up, then click here to watch our demo video.

 

 

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.

The Restaurant Industry’s Dirty Little Secret

Busy Kitchen

The dirty little secret in the restaurant industry is that we know a lot of our restaurant safety-documentation is not completed accurately.

Every day in restaurants across the country, restaurant managers are supposed to complete temperature logs, line checks, and other safety checks to ensure that they are operating safely. A lot of those logs are pencil-whipped, or to state it more bluntly they are lied on.

The reasons for the lies are numerous:  ran out of time, who cares no one ever looks at them, I know we are safe, we’ve never gotten anyone sick, etc.. This behavior is so commonplace in the industry’s culture that it is almost a joke.

I was recently in a meeting with some restaurant executives, and we were discussing their line checks, their checks included food temps and sanitation items. The company’s policy was restaurant managers would complete two line checks a day, one before each meal period.  Area managers would review the line checks once a quarter when they performed their site inspections. I asked these executives, are these checks getting done twice a day? When your area manager is going through their site inspection are they seeing 180 of these a quarter?  Everyone in the room chuckled, “yes, they all get done accurately every shift”  was the ha ha response.

Daily checklists not being completed or being completed inaccurately seems to be a common issue no matter how large or small the restaurant system is.  We recently talked with a chef of a restaurant who was working there six days a week, and she didn’t feel like she knew if the checks were getting done accurately and she was only managing that location.  That speaks to how hard it is to manage in restaurants, you can’t be everywhere all the time.  We spoke with a multi-unit franchisee who stated that he has walked into his restaurants and looked at the temp logs on the wall and knew they had been pencil whipped.

We recently conducted a survey of over 100 restaurant managers and owners from around the world. Here are the results:

  • 100% of respondents believed that conducting checklists could help them run safer and more profitable restaurants
  • 42% of respondents conducted daily line checks
  • 45% of respondents conducted daily temp logs
  • 88% conducted checklists on paper

This final stat is the kicker:

  • 94% of respondents believed that their checklists were not being filled out accurately.

Here is the light at the end of the tunnel.  We just did a deep dive with one of our clients who has used the OpsAnalitica platform for 20 months. They were able to cut critical food safety violations by 55% when they did their daily checklists.  How; because they saw stuff that was wrong every shift and they fixed it. When you actually do your checklists, they do work and you run safer and better operations.

The reason pencil whipping is so rampant in the industry is because 99% of the time it doesn’t matter.  It is a hard truth to hear, but it is true.  If it mattered, then we as an industry would have corrected this issue by now.

To fully understand pencil whipping we have to break down the safety checklist into it’s two parts:  checking to ensure items are safe and documenting the items safety status.

When you pencil whip a checklist or log you are committing two sets of lies:

  1. You are stating that you checked the safety of the items on the checklist.
  2. You are falsifying a safety document.

The reason that you are being asked to check the safety of these items is because they have been identified as high-risk factors that could contribute to getting someone sick or even potentially killing them.  If you check the item and catch a problem, then you have an opportunity to fix that problem before it affects your guests.  That is why we do the checks.

When you don’t check the safety of high-risk items or of your sanitation procedures, you are rolling the dice with other people’s lives and it is no different than driving a car drunk or shooting a gun into a crowd.  It can have the same exact consequences.  I know that sounds dramatic but ask the families of those people who died from eating a Blue Bell ice cream last summer.

The second offense is just dumb; you should never put your name or complete any official document with knowingly false information on it.  This goes back to that early statement that 99% of the time this won’t come back to haunt you until the day it does, and then you will regret that decision.

If your restaurant get’s someone sick, look at Chipotle they just had their safety documentation from every unit subpoenaed, are you going to want to stand by all of the false documents.  The lawyers and investigators are going to use that documentation to show your wanton disregard for your safety procedures.  If you are a manager or an owner, take this one step further; do you think your employees would lie for you on the stand in that scenario?  My guess is that when asked they are going to tell the truth.

Here is something that most restaurant owners don’t know about, most restaurant liability and food borne illness insurance policies have writers in them that release the insurance company from responsibility if the restaurant is acting unsafely.  Here are some actual writers that we pulled from a policy:

  • 3.13  Any Food Borne Illness that occurs after the Insured has knowledge of a defect or deviation in the production, preparation or manufacture of the Insured Product(s), or circumstance(s) which have or are likely to result in such deviation or defect, and fails to take corrective action.
  • 3.19  Any dishonest, willful, wanton, fraudulent, criminal or malicious act, error of omission by the Insured(s).  This is your Pencil Whipping Clause!!!!
  • 3.21  Any Food Borne Illness that occurs where the Insured is or ought to be aware that the Insured is in violation of the corporate mandated food handling or food procurement procedures and has not taken action to rectify the violation.

We have all heard about insurance companies doing whatever it takes not to pay out claims are you willing to risk that consequence on pencil whippers.

What do you do?  

I hope that we all have come to the conclusion that completing checklists accurately makes sense because we are acting responsibly as operators and we are looking out for the best interests of our customers and brands.  If you are going to incur the costs of creating and mandating that checklists get completed, then you have to hold manager’s accountable for getting them completed on-time and accurately.  That means that every shift that safety and quality checklists are completed before we start serving guests and that the managers take the time to check each item and record the items safety status on the checklist.  That is the only way that you can generate an ROI from your checklists and ensure safe operations.

There are a ton of ways to do this.  If you are going to stick with paper checklists, then you can have the person time date stamp when they started and ended each checklist.  If you are a multi-unit operator, you can have your restaurant manager’s fax in their checklists to corporate each day or scan and email them.  The reason most people don’t do this is because it is a giant waste of time and it pushes the burden of managing all of this paper to different people in the business.

With today’s technology, the easiest way to manage your checklists is to use a checklist system app.  These are the features you should be looking for in a checklist app:

  • Works on different devices: phones and tablets
  • Works on different operating systems, technology moves to fast and you don’t want to be stuck on an obsolete platform
  • Doesn’t require wifi to complete a checklist – wifi isn’t always great in kitchens and can stop you from inspecting outside
  • Supports different question types – not just True False – you need to be able to capture different types of answers and report off of them
  • The system should be able to reference additional help and training documentation so inspectors can understand the why behind the question and the answer scale
  • Is quick – the quicker it is to complete a checklist the greater the chance it will be completed every shift accurately
  • Make sure you can build custom reports so you can get the data you are collecting in a format that works for your organization
  • The system should hold managers responsible and track what is happening when they complete an inspection
  • Should be easy to use and train on so that checklists are completed consistently across the organization even as you experience turnover
  • Should be easy to administrate or even better the provider should offer a full-service plan so that you can get up and running quickly and stay up and running over time – remember employee turnover

Pencil whipping has been happening in our industry for years, but it needs to come to a stop.  There is a benefit to completing these safety and operational checklists every shift.  Not only at the restaurant level to ensure that you are safe and ready for service but also at the corporate level where operations data can be collected and used to assist the restaurants.  Keeping people safe is a moral and brand imperative and the best way to do that is through solid operations that are driven by checklists.

If you aren’t using daily checklists to manage your operations, or you are using paper, there is a better way.  I invite you to click here to learn more about the OpsAnalitica Platform.  We can help you digitize your checklists and get you up and running doing your checklists a better way today.  We have a managed service offering that takes all of the burdens of setting up and managing your checklist program off of your shoulders and puts it on ours, we can have you up and running in as little as a day.  If you are a DIY type of person we have a plan that fits your needs.  The first step is jumping on a quick call and learning more about how we can help you.  Click on the learn more button at the top right of your screen.

 

Don’t Neglect the FOH

I’m sure you have experienced this a million times….

I’m going to share a story from my days at bartending in a very busy mountain town.

Spring break was one of the busiest times of the year. Two-hour waits for dinner and up to an hour wait for lunch. No real break between the shifts because we got the apres ski crowd after a busy day on the mountain.

During March, there would be a lot of cash just burning a hole in our pockets, like most ski town residents we would need to unwind at the end of the night. It could sometimes turn into a 4 or 5-hour process and would inevitably make the next lunch shift pretty rough.

It was always a bad idea when all of us would go out together because now instead of 1 or 2 of the staff operating at 75%, we would have 90% of the staff operating at 50%.

Never failed, every time that happened we’d get an early lunch rush. Side work was half-assed, tables weren’t set, outside heaters weren’t on, umbrellas were down, snow on the front patio. You get the picture.

We’d ingest as much coffee as we could stand and GO TO WAR!

The service was horrible because you are trying to complete side work while serving guests. Drinks took forever because there weren’t enough glasses at the soft drink stations, not enough lemons cut, it was a disaster. It hurt our tips and certainly hurt lunch sales.

Anyone who has ever managed a restaurant has worked a shift like this. You walk in the door and your staff looks like the slept in their uniforms and don’t get me started about the smell, like a damp cellar.

Instead of proactively managing your shift, you start your day putting out FIRES.

Instead of walking your dining room and checking it for readiness you are herding CATS.

In the spirit of this story, we’d like to share our FOH Readiness Checklist. Click here to download it for free!

Even if you have a FOH Checklist, you should take a minute and check out ours.

We hope you find it helpful.

If you are interested in learning more about how OpsAnalitica is helping restaurant operators run safer, more profitable restaurants, click here, to watch a quick 14 minute demo video.

What does the Ford Pinto have to do with restaurants?

Ford Pinto

Do you remember the Ford Pinto Case from the 70’s?  Ford Pintos had a flaw in their design, and if they were hit in a rear-end collision at a speed greater than 20 mph the fuel tank could rupture, and there could be a fire.  Unfortunately, several people were killed in accidents because of this issue. 

The reason this case is still talked about today is because Ford management knew about the problem and decided based on cost estimates that it was more expensive to fix the cars than to pay the families of people who were killed in accidents.  

What does the Ford Pinto case have to do with running a restaurant today?  

We recently conducted a survey of restaurant managers and owners.  Here are some of the results:

  • 100% of respondents agreed that using checklists would help them run more profitable and safer restaurants.
  • 88% of respondents used paper checklists in their operations today.
  • 94% of respondents believed that their teams were not completing checklists accurately.  

I know that none of us want to be a Ford executive from the 70’s in our restaurants.  How could you sleep at night knowing that you aren’t doing enough to keep people safe?

If you conduct checklists on paper, and you are like the 94% of respondents who believe your checklists aren’t getting done accurately you have two choices:  

1.  You should stop doing checklists altogether; why would you waste the money you are spending on labor having people do checklists inaccurately that you don’t use?  FYI: we think this is a bad idea.

2.  Or, you should start doing checklists correctly and holding your team accountable using the OpsAnalitica Inspector.  Our clients see:

  • A 1/2 to 1% decrease in food cost when they conduct daily line checks with follow-up.  
  • Area managers spending more time coaching restaurant mgrs and less time doing busy work.
  • Safer restaurants across the board and have the documentation to prove it.
  • Increased manager and employee engagement as restaurants start operating safer and more profitably.  

You will never get the benefits of doing checklists:  better, safer, and more profitable operations; if they aren’t being completed accurately.  The problem with paper checklists is that you can’t hold people accountable. 

With OpsAnalitica, we drive accountability by:  

  • Time/date stamping and geocoding each response.  
  • Calculating how long it took to be completed.
  • Showing answer cadence.
  • Tracking who completed the inspection and their answers.  
  • When checklists were started and submitted.

It is only through accountability and follow-up that you can truly get the ROI on your checklists.  

I invite you to download our FREE ebook: Restaurant Profits: It’s about Nickels, Dimes, and Quarters by clicking here.

In this eBook we discuss how using checklists can help you improve restaurant profitability.  Get you copy emailed to your inbox here.

Feds Subpoena Chipotle’s Documentation

The Denver-based chain was served with another subpoena on Jan. 28 by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California requiring Chipotle to produce documents and information about the company’s practices at all restaurants system wide. click here to read full article 

I don’t think you have to be a legal genius to see what the government is trying to do here. My guess is that they are going to try and show that Chipotle wasn’t operating safely and that it was a system wide problem.   

By subpoenaing documentation across all restaurants it is pretty easy to build a case where the numbers look bigger than the percentage.  When you have 1,755 restaurants, NRN Top 100 Unit Count June 2015.  If each of those locations missed 1 temp log a week that is 91,260 missed temp logs in a year.  

Do you even know if your restaurants are doing their daily checklists? If you don’t have an automated system how could you?   

How many temp logs does your chain miss in a week?  Even if you did them all you are bound to have lost a few from soda spills and misfiling.   

What is even worse is if you get a bunch of those documents back from the restaurants and they are incomplete, or appear to be pencil whipped.  That would be direct proof that you aren’t doing your due diligence as a company.  If the government can prove that management knew that the restaurants weren’t all operating safely and wasn’t doing anything about it, there is your Ford Pinto case.   

Anyone that follows OpsAnalitica knows that we have been harping on this stuff forever and a day because it matters.  

Here is the crazy thing, if Chipotle was an OpsAnalitica client and they conducted all of their checklists and inspections on our platform, they could pull a report and send it off.  

Restaurant safety goes beyond training, culture, daily checklists.  A large part of it is documentation and record keeping.  You can say you are safe all day long but can you prove it.   

There is a reason that one of the 7 HACCP principles is record keeping and documentation.   

We are committed to helping you run safer restaurants.  From our white papers, to our platform, to our new managed service license.  We will help you run the safest restaurants you can and do it in the most efficient way possible.   

Click here to download our free guide, 7 Tips to Faster Better Line Checks.

Pencil Whipping Happens

Let’s talk about the art of Pencil Whipping. Here’s the “official” definition from Wiktionary:

Verb
pencil whip ‎(third-person singular simple present pencil whips, present participle pencil whipping, simple past and past participle pencil whipped)

(idiomatic) To approve a document without actually knowing or reviewing what it is that is being approved.
(idiomatic) To complete a form, record, or document without having performed the implied work or without supporting data or evidence.Knowing the auditors were coming in just a week, we chose to pencil whip the quarterly inventory forms for the last year.

Synonyms
rubber stamp

I suspect that most of you know this is happening in your restaurants whether it be line checks, temp logs, pre-shifts, restaurant audits, safety inspections, or any of the other checklists that you may be performing on a regular basis. There are several excuses for pencil whipping any of these, some more plausible than others, but when it comes to food safety none of them are acceptable.

Running late for example. Tommy was recently talking to a buddy of his and he admitted that when he was a chef he would wind up in a situation where he was running behind and would just quickly initial everything on his line check because it was required to be filled out. Note that I didn’t say that he completed his line check, he simply did the minimum required to be compliant with the rules. This is a classic Pencil Whip. All well and good until someone in your restaurant gets sick because you served food that wasn’t the right temp.

Another very common Pencil Whip stems from the mindset of “Nobody looks at these anyway so why should I invest any time in it I’ve got better things to do. I know everything is fine.” This is very dangerous, but it also makes sense. If every day you fill out a checklist and then file it in a drawer in the office, knowing that nobody ever looks at it. Then twice a year the paper shredding truck arrives to make room for more. You might feel the same way. Make sure you are following up on your checklists.

Then there’s the “I forgot so I’ll just fill it out later” pencil whip. This is going to happen from time to time, but if you are tracking them you will know that it wasn’t completed on time. This can now be a coaching moment on how important line checks are to the overall success of the operations.

If you are doing line checks, inspections, checklists, etc. without follow up I will guarantee you that some of them are being pencil whipped. This is putting your business at risk.

It’s very easy to put off food safety improvement until tomorrow, until tomorrow is the day you get someone sick. Look at Chipotle, I just read today that they have been subpoenaed to produce documentation about practices, chain-wide, for the last 3 years. We already know how much their sales have suffered recently, but there are huge costs associated to these types of things as well. It’s a big deal.

Make sure that you are doing everything that you can to minimize food-borne illness. Start by ensuring that your line checks are being completed diligently and not pencil whipped. Click here to download our free guide, 7 Tips to Faster Better Line Checks

Keep on Inspecting!

Alerting, Forced Comments, and Task Management in Checklists

Thermometer

A lot of our prospective clients ask us if we can force comments, create alerts or tasks when there are safety violations on their checklists.  We don’t offer these features, not for technical reasons, but for liability and management reasons.  I’m going to use this blog to explain our thinking on this subject.

Alerts and tasks sound great on paper, the reality is that they open you up for additional unnecessary liability and work.  It has a lot to do with how and when restaurants conduct checklists and the nature of our business.  Let’s start from the beginning.

An alert is a way of drawing attention to an issue, but it doesn’t require that you take any action.  Because it doesn’t require you to take action, it is often ignored.  Also, and this is a theme throughout this topic, there is a limitation in computer logic that may create false alerts.

Let’s discuss false alerts quickly by using the example of 50-degree mayonnaise on your line.  If this mayonnaise had been in a cooler all night, and you took it’s temperature, and it was 50 degrees this is a critical violation and probably a sign that your cooler is broken and everything that goes along with a broken cooler.

There is also another example where 50-degree mayonnaise is not a critical violation.  Some mayonnaise is shelf stable and can sit at room temperature indefinitely until opened. At that point, it needs to be refrigerated, and you have 4 hours to get that mayonnaise down to a safe temperature.  If you were out of mayo and opened a new container and stocked up your line, then this would not be a critical violation until that Mayo had been in the danger zone for 4 hours or more.

How would a computer know this?  It can’t know that the Mayo was safe or not safe it can only look at the temperature and create an alert based on whether or not that temperature is in or out of range.  But in this case, the alert is a false alert, it is busy work that requires a person to look at something that isn’t an issue.  This is one question out of possibly 50 to 150 questions.  We have several clients with 150+ item line checks.  How many real vs. false alerts could be generated on a 100 question line check per shift?

Think of yourself in this situation, how many false alerts would you look at before you stopped looking?  Look at your cell phone and your app badges, those little numbers that tell you that there is something in the app that requires your attention.  How often to you see those and think, I need to do something about this?

In our opinion alerts are useless because: they don’t drive accountability at the user level.  Also, the lack of context that the systems have and the dynamic conditions that exist in a professional kitchen make it hard to reduce false alerts.

Forcing Comments when a temperature is out of range, or a safety violation is discovered is another thing that feels like a good idea but when it is done has some potentially negative consequences.  Forcing a comment is extra work for the person conducting the checklist.  It is extra work that is only incurred on questions when there is something wrong.

When I type in a 42-degree temperature, I have to do this extra work but when I type in a 39-degree temperature I don’t.  Have you ever heard of the Hawthorne Effect; it posits that people act differently when they know they are being observed.  Have you heard of the Lazy Ass effect; where people are lazy and if they don’t understand the importance of what they are doing might be tempted to alter answers to not have to do as much work, such as lower temps by a degree or two to not have to enter a comment.  Have you heard of the I Don’t Want to Get in Trouble Effect; where a person doesn’t want to be the person who answered the question that was obviously wrong so much so that the app forced me to explain what was happening?

All of these effects are real and happen.  Look at how many people pencil whip their paper checklists today because they know, no one can catch them.  Our concern is that by forcing comments, we are reinforcing a negative and incentivizing people to take the easy way out and not to give us accurate data.  Data accuracy is of paramount importance to completing checklists, especially when they have to do with safety.

In our platform, we allow people to enter whatever temperature they recorded with a thermometer without any prompting for a comment or the creation of an alert.  When they submit their checklist, the score of the checklist may be altered based on optional scoring rules but that is for each client to decide.  We encourage our client’s to train their teams to enter comments explaining why a temperature was out of range, but it is not mandated.  Training to enter a comment is a small but important difference between mandating and managing to this standard.

It is a lot like the reverse psychology I have to use to on my 3-year-old.  If I want her to stop doing whatever she is doing that is going to cause me to spend thousands of dollars at the urgent care. I can tell her to stop, she won’t listen to me and will continue doing it or modify her behavior just enough to have me move on.  This in my mind is like the mandating the comment because I’m forcing it to happen and it is a negative interaction, one that she would like to avoid.

If I go to her and say “hey, we aren’t going to watch Princess Sophia if you keep jumping on the bed.” She will stop jumping immediately because she made the decision herself and because she wanted something and she sees it as a positive interaction.  That is what we want from the person completing the checklist.  We want them to identify unsafe conditions an let us know what actions they took to fix those issues voluntarily and with praise from management.

There is also value to the organization in seeing which of your manager’s are following through on these types of issues.  It provides insight into your managers work performance and provides opportunities for training and coaching.

If you are going to use tasks to measure your compliance and to prove that you are addressing all safety issues, then you can’t do it halfway.  It’s an all or nothing proposition.  It becomes a standard at which you have to manage to, 100% or nothing.  Here is a scenario that could happen when using tasks.

Most line checks and temp logs are conducted right before service starts for a shift. We often see line checks being completed up to 10 minutes after a restaurant is open for business.  It is a common occurrence that a restaurant could get slammed right as it opens and that the manager who just conducted the line check might not have time to complete and close all tasks before they are called away to run their shift.

You now have a situation where you identified a potential food safety issue, notified a manager, but did not address it before the food was served to customers.  In reality, that manager may not have time to get back to their computer or tablet and close those tasks until the restaurant has slowed down several hours later.  You know, and I know that the restaurant may have fixed that issue before service or that the food wasn’t in the danger zone or any other reason that a restaurant professional would know.

How would that look to the media or a lawyer who is trying to sue you for getting their client sick?  I think that it would be used against you.  Tasks work great for knowledge workers who are at their desks and computers for their entire shift and can quickly get tasks resolved and close them.  Restaurant managers are in constant motion during their shift and are wrong if they are in the office during service; their job is to be managing out in the restaurant.  Tasks for restaurant managers that are time sensitive could pose issues for a company from a liability perspective.

Another weakness of tasks in the restaurant industry has to do with a number of questions and locations.  Let’s say you want tasks to go to your district/area managers when restaurants have a critical temp issue.  If I’m an area manager with 50 locations, our area managers back at Quiznos had 50 or more locations.  You conduct 4 to 5 temp logs a day; you get one temp task per temp log, and you could be looking at 250 tasks a day that needs to be addressed and closed.  It isn’t uncommon to have a 1 item that is in the danger zone on a 20 or 30 question temp log or line check.

Once again you have to close these tasks if you are managing by tasks.  There is no halfway; you can’t not close tasks if that is how you are tracking compliance.  Managing the resolution and closing of all these tasks becomes untenable for larger organizations.

At OpsAnalitica, we replace alerting, forced comments, and tasks with summary reports. Summary reports allow our inspectors to conduct inspections quickly and then in the background we group like issues together and email them to area managers on a schedule.  These reports allow the area managers to look at the issues and the comments and use their judgment on how they are following up with their restaurants without overwhelming them with communication.

Ultimately the goal of using an automated checklist app is to collect great operations data and to run safer restaurants.  You don’t want to do anything that is going to take away from those goals or puts you or your organization into a situation where you were trying to do the right thing, but you increased your liability.

 

OpsAnalitica’s Managed Service Offering

There are two things that I know to be absolutely true:

  1. If you use the OpsAnalitica Inspector to automate your checklists – YOUR RESTAURANTS WILL BE SAFER!
  2. Restaurant managers don’t have time to take on additional projects no matter how important they are.

That is why we have created our Managed Service License, the first in the industry.

When the restaurant tech industry is going in the direction of do-it-yourself – we are going in the direction of restaurants by providing you with more personal service.

You will get all the benefits of having safer, better, and more profitable restaurants without having to find an internal resource to learn how to run and administrate the platform. For as low as $10/month/location you can offload this work to us.

With a Managed Service License, we’ll take care of everything related to the set-up, daily administration, and report building for your organization.

The only technical thing you will need to know how to do is tell us what you want.  It is that simple.

You and your organization will be able to focus on conducting inspections, checklists and reviewing reports.

There is no other easier way to run safer restaurants and get better visibility into daily operations than the OpsAnalitica Inspector Managed Service.

The craziest thing is that our managed service license is only $10 a month more than our Inspector + license.  That is nothing.  We are going to be the cheapest employee you have that doesn’t go on vacation or require any benefits.

Click here to watch a video message from Tommy Yionoulis, one of the founders of OpsAnalitica, to learn about our new managed service offering.

NO MORE EXCUSES, YOU CANNOT AFFORD TO WAIT ANOTHER DAY WHEN IT COMES TO ENSURING RESTAURANT SAFETY.

A restaurant safety issue could wreck everything that you are working so hard to build . Could your system survive a 30% drop in sales?  My guess is not many of us could.
We didn’t want to just talk about our amazing new  Managed Service offering,  Click here to get our white paper:  4 Daily Must Do Steps to Running Safer Restaurants.

If you have any questions give me a call or send me an email any time. Or if you are interested in seeing an OpsAnalitica demo, click here to schedule.