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Audio Blog – Grow Restaurant Sales Through Better Operations

Below is the audio version of our very popular blog, The Only Way to Sustainably Grow Restaurant Sales is Through Better Operations.

Subscribe to our podcast Order Up – The Restaurant Ops Show on SoundCloud, iTunes, Stitcher, and Tunein.

Audio Blog – Interview with Ryan Gromfin The Restaurant Boss

The first Order Up – The Restaurant Ops Show interview is with The Restaurant Boss, Ryan Gromfin.

Ryan has vast experience in the industry and helps thousands of restaurant operators on a daily basis run better restaurants. He’s a great interview. Check it out below.

Subscribe to our podcast on the popular services: SoundCloud, iTunes, Stitcher, Tunein.

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.

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.

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.

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!