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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.

Choose Restaurant Specific Software Vendors

Busy Kitchen

A prospective client was evaluating the OpsAnalitica Platform against a competitor’s inspection platform recently.  Even though on the surface we are very similar in that we allow people to conduct restaurant inspections through an app, when you look deeper we are worlds apart.  You see this other platform is a 3rd party inspection audit platform that is being used in many different industries.

OpsAnalitica is a restaurant checklist and reporting app, and we only focus on restaurants.  As you continue to dig into both platforms, you can very clearly see the design choices that were made to accommodate each platform’s core clients.

One quick example:  the competitors platform is for 3rd party auditors, so they chose to rely heavily on printing reports and leaving them on-site as the inspector is going to leave.

The OpsAnalitica Platform was designed to be used by the company to self-inspect so we focus on advanced reporting options through our portal because our clients are going to have access to the portal.

As we continued to look at the competitor’s website it became very apparent that restaurants weren’t their focus, they have pictures all over their site of factory workers and jets.  They don’t even call out the restaurant industry as a focal point.  Choosing a software vendor that isn’t hyper-focused on your industry is a big deal, and I will explain why in a second.

Having multi-industry appeal might not seem like a big deal, and you might say, “well why wouldn’t a software vendor sell their product to a wider audience?”. They should if their product is universal, like Microsoft Excel, and a lot of times it’s completely fine, but there are instances where it can be trouble for one of the industries.

The restaurant industry is one of these industries because it’s unique in certain aspects:  multi-language support, limited time to conduct inspections and checklists, unique data needs, hostile operating environment, training requirements, etc..

The issue becomes design choices, customer enhancement requests, and new features.

I’ve been in the software business for a long time now and here’s how new software is designed and feature requests are evaluated and prioritized.

Every software company will poll their clients for feedback on what they’d like to see as far as new features/products, etc. Software developers can develop some incredible stuff that will blow your mind away, but if it doesn’t add any value to the core customer experience, it’s worthless.

It would be like a vegan restaurant advertising the highest quality, juiciest, most perfectly prepared filet mignon in the world. It might be the best thing ever, but does nothing for their clients.

Clients and product managers have an idea of what they would like to see in the platform based off of their real world experience and where competition is driving the market.  Often what clients and product managers want for the product are conflicting.

This conflict makes it difficult to decide which enhancements to engineer into the product. The tendency will be to lean towards requests from the most valuable clients to the company.

If you aren’t in the same industry as a firm’s biggest clients, your needs will not be prioritized because your requests won’t be in-line and benefit the core client base. There’s a large chain that we are working with right now that expressed this exact concern with a solution they have currently. Since it isn’t a restaurant solution, they aren’t able to get their desired enhancements implemented promptly.

In the case of this competitor, if they are primarily focused on large industry and aircraft as their website suggests, then a restaurant features may not make sense for those other industries and probably won’t get implemented into the product.

Remember, every extra button click, or piece of functionality costs money to develop and maintain.  There are real dollars and limited time at stake for software companies to add features and functionality to a platform, and they try their best to make sure the features have mass appeal and will generate maximum ROI.

In the OpsAnalitica case where we focus on the restaurant industry, there is a lot of consistency in what the clients are requesting, and that makes it very easy for us to evaluate and prioritize the development of their requests.

Our question flagging functionality that allows inspectors to flag a response for review before they submit a checklist was requested by a client and added to the platform within a month.

At OpsAnalitica, our background is multi-unit restaurant operations. Our restaurant checklist and reporting platform are developed specifically for the multi-unit restaurant operator.

If you are a multi-unit restaurant operator, and you are looking for a checklist and reporting app be wary of vendors servicing mainly manufacturers or airline/trucking fleets, hospitals, construction, etc., but also have a few restaurant clients. You want to make sure that your voice will be heard and that your challenges will drive the future of the solution.

Click here to watch a 14 minute recorded demo of the OpsAnalitica platform or if you would rather be able to ask questions and dive a little deeper into the platform click here to schedule a live demo.

Keep on Inspecting!

How Checklist Tags Help Reduce Food Cost

Question and response tagging. 

Sounds great doesn’t it? 

Well… What is it?  

Ok let’s take a look at what question and response tagging is and what it means to your checklists and operations data. It is hugely beneficial and saves you one of your most precious resources. Time. And we all know what time is.  

Let’s say you wanted to see a report with all of your not safe refrigeration temperatures across your chain. Question and response tags make this so unbelievably easy. 

With OpsAnalitica you can get this report generated and emailed to you on a schedule as often as you need. For this particular example we hope that the report is empty. No news is good news. 

Tagging facilitates management by exception. By tagging your questions with a common attribute(s) it allows you to quickly look at those questions across your chain regardless of which checklists/inspections they are associated to or the location.  

To narrow this report down some you might want to only look at temps that are not safe or safe, but not optimal. See, analyzing your temp data over time and comparing it to food cost you might find that there is an optimal temperature range for your operations where you see less spoilage. 

So even though some of your locations might recording safe temps on a daily basis, they may not be in the optimal range. With OpsAnalitica’s dynamic scoring and response tagging you can tag and score temp responses appropriately based on the temp recorded in the line check.  

For example you might give 0 points and the not safe and not optimal tags for temps above 40 degrees Fahrenheit, 5 points and the safe tag for temps that are between 33-34 and 38-40, and finally 10 points and the safe and optimal tags for temps between 35-37.  

Now you can focus your time on getting all your locations to the optimal range, thus reducing food spoilage and increasing profits 

This is just one example. There are tons more. Staff readiness, FOH cleanliness, any metric that you feel is important, etc.  

The goal is to maximize your time and expertise on the areas and locations that need you the most. Provide you with the actionable data that you need without all the distractions.  

2016 is right around the corner, and we all want to start it off right. Watch our 14 minute recorded demo by clicking here to see how OpsAnalitica uses question and response tagging to help restaurant operators across the world run better operations.   

Commit to running better, safer, and more profitable restaurants with OpsAnalitica in 2016.  There is still time, we can have most organizations up and running within 1 business day.   

If you would rather see a live demo and get all your questions answered, click here to schedule 

If you have any questions give me a call or send me an email any time.

Inspection, Managerial and Custom Reports

We have spent all of 2015 to get to this point; our data warehouse is up and running, and we are releasing our first set of managerial reports.

Let me explain how reports work in the OpsAnalitica platform. We have three types of reports: Inspection, Managerial and Custom:

Inspection Reports: consist of summary views of all the checklists that have been submitted and the question and answer views of the individual checklists.
These are very powerful reports because you can see the frequency, duration, and scores that your individual restaurants are getting. Plus you see the actual checklists and individual answers that your team is capturing.

Managerial Reports: these reports span your entire organization and can look across all locations and checklists to bring you summary data. The power in these reports is that they have advanced filtering so you can drill in and get the information you need to make better decisions.

Custom Reports: we can now build you custom reports out of the data warehouse to give you the exact information you need to run your business. We will get on a web meeting and will build you the report just like you build a custom pizza.

I would like to invite you to check out some short videos on our new reports by clicking here. You’ll be able to see:

  • Pencil Whippers Report
  • Refrigeration Question Tag Report
  • Trend Line Report
  • Demo of the Inspector in Action

2016 is right around the corner, and we all want to start it off right. Watch our report videos today.

Commit to running better, safer, and more profitable restaurants with OpsAnalitica in 2016. There is still time, we can have most organizations up and running within 1 business day.

Don’t have time for videos but want to see a live demo, click here to schedule.

5 Reasons Why You Should Automate Checklists

We have recently received more proof from our clients that automating checklists and conducting manager follow-up are increasing restaurant profits.  Our customers see a 1/2 to 1% reduction in food cost when their restaurants conduct daily line checks and  follow-up with the OpsAnalitica platform.

Automation and apps add value that’s why they’re everywhere. They make things easier, more efficient and provide a ton of usable data like exception reports that can show your managers where they need to focus their attention on a daily basis.

Here are five reasons why you should digitally conduct your daily line checks, restaurant audit checklists and inspections:

  1. Paperless – less time spent doing the busy work of printing, looking for paper, replacing toner, troubleshooting printer malfunctions, hole punching, and filing of inspections.
  2. Rich Data – tablet based inspection platforms can allow you to capture photos, temperatures, and comments in addition to answering questions.
  3. Reporting – Data is available immediately in the cloud and can be used to drive better decisions.
  4. Accountability – digital checklists provide an auditable data stream that you can use to hold managers accountable.
  5. Better Operations – when checklists are completed, and managers are held accountable, the result is better operations.

Check out the video below to learn how our clients are saving food cost with daily line checks and follow-up.

Screenshot 2015-11-18 05.29.49

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.