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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!

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