Author : Tommy Yionoulis

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Moneyball for Restaurants. It ’s Here. On Your Tablets and iPads. Part III

Here’s part three, the final installment, of the Moneyball article. Part one was posted on Monday, click here to read. Part two was posted on Wednesday, click here to read.

Make no mistake, daily line checks and temp logs are important. But they are not the only thing that a restaurant manager should be looking at. In fact, a great deal of that data is collected on a CYA basis, and it doesn’t really affect the bottom line of the operation.

However, every day, every restaurant generates data points that can be recorded and measured. So, our SMART Pre-Shift Inspection Protocol covers all of the basics of an operations review and captures key data points that can provide deep insight into operations…all in an expedited fashion that provides ample opportunities to look for operations issues before they become issues.

Here’s a sample of just one of the protocols from our SMART Pre-Shift Inspection Protocol, but you have to imagine this running as an app on a tablet or iPad. The app itself walks the worker through the paces of a “pre-flight ” inspection.

Sanitation

  • Sanitizer buckets
    • Number of
    • Location
    • Rags present
      • How many
  • Signs of cross contamination
  • Chef and prep staff drinks put away
  • Hand sinks free and clear
    • Soap present
    • Paper towels present
  • Chemicals stored safely away from food prep areas
  • Dishwasher
    • Sanitizer ppm
    • Rinse water >= 180 degrees
  • Sign of pests
    • Yes/no

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Just that list will prepare you to pass more than half of the most common health inspection issues, where a “fail” – which is a matter of the public record – can doom your sales for weeks, or maybe tank the restaurant entirely.

Want another example? Here ’s another pre-flight protocol, for management:

Management

  • Pre-shift staff meeting
    • 86 ’d Items/Substitutions
    • Wait Staff ready to go
  • Drawers

Accountability

  • FIFO
    • Day Dots – Ensure that food online is stocked to par
    • Ensure that food items that have a longer remaining shelf life are not being used first.

Now imagine this level of thoroughness – checked multiple times a day; as often as you desire – were also applied to your kitchen readiness, readiness for guests, building, server stations, kitchen, dining room, host stand, and temperatures. The list of sub protocols is only limited by your imagination, because custom protocols for SMART Pre-Shift Inspection Protocol are easy to create and “app-ify” on your staff’s tablets or iPads.

As data is collected, it is time-date-location stamped. And that ’s where the real force and power of big data can be brought to bear. The data can be reviewed in correlation to such data points as labor cost, food cost, Yelp reviews, TripAdvisor comments, or even the weather and road work or the frequencies of area traffic jams. By gaining perspective, using data that can be sliced and diced and compared, restaurants can optimize their operations…and their profits.

Why not bring the same rigors to a pre-shift inspection that airlines bring to flight safety? The same type of approach that surgeons bring to pre-op review, that NASA and SpaceX run with their flight crews? Given the complexity of restaurant operations (which just might be so complicated as to baffle the best NASA engineers!) we are really well situated to make data, big and small, work for making our locations cleaner, smarter, and more profitable.

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Moneyball for Restaurants. It ’s Here. On Your Tablets and iPads. Part II

Here’s part two of the Moneyball blog. Part one was posted on Monday, click here to read part one if you haven’t already.

SMART Pre-Shift Inspection Protocol™ is a checklist system, not unlike the pre-flight checklists that pilots run through to ensure safe operations. Except that the restaurant data that’s captured is not viewed in isolation, nor just logged and stored and never looked at again.

With the SMART Pre-Shift Inspection Protocol, you can leverage your workforce to collect data, which will let you draw correlations between operations, sales, and costs. That will help you determine your shortest path to optimized profits.

The SMART Pre-Shift Inspection Protocol is performed by your workers at any skill level, using a tablet or iPad to log in the restaurateur’s most valuable assets: “in-game data.”

Since this approach is a protocol (a programmatic workflow, based on a pre-established critical path), the SMART Pre-Shift Inspection Protocol is not dependent on the skill levels of your workers. The intelligence is embedded in the protocol itself. Literally anyone can run the protocol.

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Baselines are covered first. The SMART Pre-Shift Inspection Protocol captures data that is essential to operations and inspections (fridge temps, food temps, locations of sanitizing buckets… everything you need for CYA moments and health inspections).

But the SMART Pre-Shift Inspection Protocol also collects the seemingly extraneous data that could be far more telling than the fact that the cooler maintained a <41F temperature, as required, or that cleaning chemicals were safely separated from potential contact with food.

“Seemingly extraneous data.” What’ s that?

Well, we all know that restaurants succeed and fail as much on human interactions / human discretion as on the wholesale price of a salmon steak or a plate of wings. Much depends on the intangibles, which are really not intangibles at all, if they are recorded and examined.

Imagine if you have a protocol checklist for how well dressed the wait staff is. (Crisp shirt? Check. Spotless tie? Check. Clean apron? Check. Finger nails clean? Check. Tattoos covered? Check.)

Or if the protocol checklist checked that the side work has been done.
Or if you had a check-off system to ensure that your workers didn ’t take all the parking spaces nearest the entrance, when that act alone could attract (or deter) enough customers to get a solid second turn at brunch.

Or that you were aware that the ice machine is undersized for the required volume of glasses, which delayed the refills, which caused half of your patrons to skip dessert, which triggered spoilage, which made your dumpsters full one day too soon, which turned away another 30 diners who thought the establishment just looked filthy when they circled around back to park.

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Click here for part III.

Dozens sickened at banquet

So probably not the best banquet to have a foodborne illness outbreak at considering the attendees. With 100 of the 250 attendees being lawyers and law students this is not going to go away anytime soon.

This article from Philly.com will be forever and will pop up decades from now if you Google search “foodborne illness Philly” (I just searched and a version of this article shows up as number 5). There are social media and Yelp! reviews that are out there as well, but there are ways to get those “expunged” if you will, but news articles don’t go away.

Although it appears from the article (copied below) that the restaurant providing the food has a track record of violations with the health department. The health department legally can’t publically talk much about the restaurant other than posting the publicly available information, but the lawyers and law students aren’t holding any punches.

It doesn’t appear that this restaurant is practicing a due care approach to their health and sanitation standards and it could wind up costing them their business this time. More and more data and apps are available to consumers to check on restaurant scores etc. Now more than ever, restaurateurs need to make sure that they are running safe operations. There is so much competition that most can’t afford to bear the cost of the brand damage that results from this type of press.

There are tools available that are simple to implement that can help drive accountability and prove to health inspectors that you are taking a due care approach to health and sanitation. It’s worth investing some time investigating what’s available. It could wind up saving your brand.

I have copied the full article below:

In one of the largest outbreaks of suspected foodborne illness in Philadelphia, nearly 100 lawyers and law students were sickened last month after attending a banquet celebrating the Lunar New Year in Chinatown.

But even though the restaurant has a history of food-safety problems stretching back several years, the city Health Department says it cannot publicly discuss details of its investigation, citing a 1955 state law.

That law hasn’t silenced the outbreak’s victims.

About 250 people attended the feast Feb. 27 at Joy Tsin Lau, the venerable dim sum restaurant at 10th and Race Streets. Dozens of the diners reported that they felt the first symptoms two mornings later.

Chi Mabel Chan, who has owned Joy Tsin Lau for more than 30 years, denied that the diners had suffered food poisoning from the banquet.

“It was not a problem with my restaurant,” she said, theorizing that chilly weather or festivities at a karaoke bar after the dinner might be to blame.

“Maybe they got cold or drank too much,” she said of the victims.

The eight-course dinner – well-documented on social media – was a fund-raiser for a group of Temple University law students, the Asian Pacific American Law Student Association.

“This was the worst case of food poisoning I’ve ever witnessed,” Antima Chakraborty, a Philadelphia assistant district attorney, wrote on Yelp, a restaurant review site. “Many individuals had to go to the ER.”

City inspection reports show that Joy Tsin Lau has long had a problem maintaining food-safety standards.

Just 17 days before the banquet, a Health Department sanitarian was at Joy Tsin Lau to check back on an earlier problem. In a report dated Feb. 10, Kyria Weng wrote “that current management practices have allowed unacceptable public health or food-safety conditions.”

An Inquirer analysis of city inspection reports found that the average eat-in restaurant in Philadelphia last year had 2.3 risk factors for foodborne illness, the more serious of the two main categories defined by the Food and Drug Administration.

Weng cited Joy Tsin Lau for five such risk factors. Several of those – dumplings held at a bacteria-friendly 57 degrees, and a lack of soap and paper towels in the employee restroom – were noted as repeat violations. Weng also found nine lesser violations, called “lack of good retail practices.”

But that was an improvement over Weng’s Dec. 22 visit, when she cited the restaurant for seven risk factors for foodborne illness (including a chicken held at unsafe temperatures) and 13 lesser violations.

Back in 2010, the city Health Department filed suit against Joy Tsin Lau after deeming it a “public nuisance” and issued a cease-and-desist order for “failure to ensure that public-health standards for a safe and sanitary operation . . . are being maintained.”

City legal officials did not respond to questions asking if the city ever acted on the order or if the restaurant ever was forced to close.

David S. Haase, a Center City lawyer, said he began to feel nauseated about 30 hours after the banquet. Contrary to Chan’s theory, he said he was warmly dressed and did not go to the karaoke bar.

A combination of nonstop puking and explosive diarrhea kept him bedridden for four days.

“It was freaking terrible,” Haase said. “I’d crawl back into bed and curl up into a ball, moaning like a child with the cramps.”

Organizers, in a post-banquet e-mail to attendees, said multiple guests had sought medical attention.

Thursday, nearly four weeks after the banquet, Health Department spokesman Jeff Moran would say only that a “food source” had been identified for the outbreak.

“We are not permitted, by law, to publicly release the findings of outbreak investigations,” Moran said.

He cited the Pennsylvania Disease Prevention and Control Law of 1955, which prohibits health authorities from disclosing reports or records of diseases. Though the law primarily addresses patients with venereal diseases and tuberculosis, its confidentiality clause keeps secret the details of all health investigations.

Most states have similar laws, according to Scott Burris, the codirector at Temple University’s Center for Health Law, Policy, and Practice.

“It’s pretty typical,” Burris said. “Pennsylvania is not an outlier.”

Investigators need some secrecy to collect sensitive information, he said, but the laws may go too far when it comes to alerting the public of potential threats.

“That’s a price we pay,” Burris said of secrecy laws. “It’s probably worth working on our privacy laws to see if we can find an approach that lowers that price.”

But there is no law silencing the sickened.

“If you enjoy being on your back for the 48 hours post-dinner writhing in pain, burning up, and exploding out of all orifices, then this is the restaurant for you,” wrote Jack Jiang, a University of Pennsylvania researcher who attended the banquet with his girlfriend.

In an e-mail to a reporter, Jiang said he had been bedridden for three days and suffered lingering effects through the end of the week.

Haase, who missed his daughter’s championship track meet due to the illness, said he had contacted a Health Department coordinator, who told him the outbreak was likely brought on by norovirus.

Norovirus, the most common cause of foodborne illness, sickens about 20 million people a year in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The pathogen is often spread by contact with an infected person or by ingesting food or water contaminated by fecal matter. Acute gastroenteritis strikes usually between 24 and 48 hours after exposure to norovirus.

Caroline Johnson, director of the city’s division of disease control, said she couldn’t talk specifics, but in general said the goal of investigations “is to find out what happened, correct that problem, and move on.”

As for the secrecy, she said, “We don’t want to drive underground the facts we want to uncover.”

Her agency told Haase about the norovirus because “we feel that by telling them, they won’t need to have the wrong antibiotic prescribed to them or have unnecessary testing. It’s the right medical thing to do. I wouldn’t withhold information from them because it might have medical significance to their situation.”

Foodborne illness outbreaks in Philadelphia are relatively uncommon – about 10 a year – and when they do occur, they usually strike fewer than 20 people, Johnson said.

“They’re not always as impressive as this one,” she said.

“These foodborne outbreaks can happen to the finest of restaurants and it doesn’t necessarily mean that the restaurant did anything wrong,” Johnson said.

None of the lawyers or the Temple group said they were planning to sue Joy Tsin Lau. They have two years before the statute of limitations runs out.

Haase, whose law firm sponsors a table at the banquet each year, said he would continue attending under one condition.

“It will have to be at a different place,” he said.

In the meantime, Haase said he won’t collect the two raffle prizes he won at this year’s banquet: two dim sum dinners at Joy Tsin Lau.

Banquet Menu

Full menu for Temple APALSA’s 8th Annual Lunar Banquet, Feb. 27, at Joy Tsin Lau:

Chicken sweet corn soup

Walnut shrimp

Stir-fry beef celery

Peking duck

Spare ribs

Deep-fried fish Hunan

Veg fried rice

Veg spring rolls

Sautéed string beans

Black bean eggplant

Braised bean curd

5-spice bean curd bean sprouts

Kung pao vegetables

Lo mein

Chinese vegetable with hearts of greens in light gravy

Fresh oranges

Fortune cookies

Tea

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Moneyball for Restaurants. It ’s Here. On Your Tablets and iPads. – Part I

Ever wish there were a Moneyball approach  to managing multi-location restaurants?

It would be a business model where we would field dozens of scouts ” who could fan out across multiple locations, logging in data, observing and recording in-game activity, ” and making note of even the smallest thing … like the fact that the day the dumpster was overflowing, the location sold 23 fewer desserts.

Or that when the men s room was dirty, the bar take was down 29%.

Or that at Saturday lunch (when the young wait staff looked as though theyd come directly from an afterhours party) you got only two table turns and not three.

Just like in Moneyball, an overlord ” manager would sit at a computer and view a dashboard of data, some of it raw, and some of it synthesized, based on algorithms. Hed make decisions based not on guesses. Not on theories. But on facts, gathered in real time in the field.  It would be a Big Data solution for multi-location restaurants.

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 Impossible to put in place, right?  Too expensive!

Heck, you ’d need to field a team of scouts out there walking the floors of your locations.

(Wait, don ’t we have that now? Aren t our managers walking the floors and building grounds already?)

And they ’d all have to be carrying tablets or iPads.

(Wait, everyone ’s got tablets or iPads now. If not, the costs are minimal.)

And the data would have to feed a system that analyzed it.

(That exists today as well, and plus, these days, customizing analysis of data streams is not cost prohibitive, especially given the amazing ROI thats achievable.)

So, with the workforce in place 

And the technology in place 

The only thing missing is a protocol, a process, a workflow that would prompt the workforce to start collecting data.

The question is: Which data? What things should our Moneyball scouts  be looking at?

That ’s where SMART Pre-Shift Inspection Protocols come into play.

With the SMART Pre-Shift Inspection Protocol, you can leverage your workforce to collect data, which will let you draw correlations between operations, sales, and costs. That will help you determine your shortest path to optimized profits.

Old Pilots Don’t Crash. Old Restaurants Managers Do. Ever see an old pilot skip a pre-flight checklist? Nope. That ’s why so few planes crash. Ever see an old restaurant manager (over confident that he knows it all) crash a restaurant? Yup. Happens all the time. That’s why we have to bring the rigor of the preflight inspection to the management of restaurants.

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How are you mitigating rising beef costs?

I read this article from NRN, Restaurants find ways to mitigate beef costs (see article below), and here the bullets that I thought were most interesting:

  • Overall foodservice sales of beef in the U.S. in terms of volume fell slightly in 2014, to 7.9 billion pounds, compared with 8.7 billion pounds in 2013 – (800 million lbs is a slight decrease?)
  • Americans ordered 3 percent more hamburgers in restaurants in 2014 than in 2013, according to The NPD Group
  • Cheaper Cuts:
    • The chuck eye roast — a less expensive substitute for prime rib — is the fastest growing cut, rising by 6 million pounds in 2014 compared with 2013
    • Followed by Delmonico steak, or chuck eye steak, a less expensive substitute for a rib eye, whose sales rose by 5 million pounds in 2014
  • To help mitigate those costs, Dove suggests changing portion sizes and offering different types of protein.  “Instead of an 8-ounce sirloin, run a 6-ounce sirloin combined with a shrimp or lobster deal.
  • Kevin Good, senior analyst at CattleFax, said ranchers are working to rebuild herds that were reduced in the aftermath of multiple years of drought that drove up feed prices. Although more cattle should mean lower beef prices, it takes up to three years from gestation for cattle to reach market weight. That means prices of many cuts aren’t likely to fall significantly until 2016 or 2017.

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Fri, 2015-03-06 10:38

Beef is expensive and expected to remain so for the next year, but Americans still love it. They’re eating more hamburgers than ever and buying more premium steak. At the same time, restaurants and purchasing cooperatives are using an array of strategies to mitigate costs and get the most out of their beef.

The Centennial, Colo.-based National Cattlemen’s Beef Association reported in January that overall foodservice sales of beef in the U.S. in terms of volume fell slightly in 2014, to 7.9 billion pounds, compared with 8.7 billion pounds in 2013.

Hamburger sales remained robust: Americans ordered 3 percent more hamburgers in restaurants in 2014 than in 2013, according to The NPD Group.

Kevin Good, senior analyst at CattleFax, said ranchers are working to rebuild herds that were reduced in the aftermath of multiple years of drought that drove up feed prices. Although more cattle should mean lower beef prices, it takes up to three years from gestation for cattle to reach market weight. That means prices of many cuts aren’t likely to fall significantly until 2016 or 2017.

“You can potentially expect a little bit of relief in the second half [of 2015], but it won’t be much,” Good said.

Retail operations might see customers trading to less expensive proteins, such as pork or chicken, or from premium cuts of beef to less expensive ones, which Good said might help lower premium steak prices a little bit. However, he said he expected demand of high-end cuts in foodservice to remain robust. “That’s tied more to the stock market and corporate expense accounts,” he said.

At the high end, steakhouses are committing to even higher-end cuts of beef, as well as local steaks.

Steakhouses such as RPM Steak in Chicago and Charlie Palmer Steak’s New York City and Las Vegas locations are offering A5-grade Wagyu beef from Japan — the highest grade available.

“It’s surprising how much it actually gets ordered,” said Matt Zappoli, executive chef of Charlie Palmer Steak New York, where an 8-ounce strip costs $162.

Zappoli and other steakhouse chefs are also sourcing local steak. Houston steakhouse 60 Degrees Mastercrafted focuses on steaks from a Texas herd of Akaushi cattle, while Zappoli is sourcing naturally raised 30-day, dry-aged rib eye from a supplier that procures it mostly from New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

“It’s part of what they call a local harvest program,” Zappoli said.

He also offers two different varieties of American Wagyu and a USDA Prime rib eye and New York strip.

Outside of premium, expense-account-driven venues, less expensive cuts are experiencing robust growth. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, citing its 2015 Technomic Usage and Volumetric Assessment of Beef in Foodservice, reports that America’s beef roast, also called the chuck eye roast — a less expensive substitute for prime rib — is the fastest growing cut, rising by 6 million pounds in 2014 compared with 2013. That was followed by Delmonico steak, or chuck eye steak, a less expensive substitute for a rib eye, whose sales rose by 5 million pounds in 2014. Although premium porterhouse is the third fastest-growing cut, rising by around 4 million pounds, it is followed by two other less premium cuts — flank or skirt steak and the ranch cut, which is a lean cut from the shoulder clod.

The popularity of such cuts might not just be due to rising prices, but to demographic shifts, said Andy D’Amico, partner and founding chef of the three-unit 5 Napkin Burger chain, based in New York City, and of 5 Napkin Grill in Miami. The latter has an expanded entrée section, including more steaks, and the skirt steak is a big seller.

“In Miami, where there’s more of a Cuban clientele, they really love skirt steak, and we sell a lot of it. “

By contrast, “New York understands hanger steak,” another flavorful, less expensive cut, and D’Amico just added it to the 5 Napkin Burger locations in New York, in a pepper sauce.

Mitigate costs during purchasing process

(Continued from page 1)

Dave Woolley, chef of restaurant consulting firm Food & Drink Resources, said he sees large and small chains continuing to push steak items.

“I think a lot of them are going into different parts of the sirloin,” he said, noting that the subprimal sirloin cut is a large piece of meat that can weigh a couple hundred pounds.

“You can call different things ‘sirloin’ on the menu that aren’t traditional sirloin,” he said, such as the tri-tip, a cut at the very bottom of the subprimal that’s popular in the western U.S. and growing in popularity elsewhere, Woolley said, “especially in the last year and change, it’s as mainstream as possible.

“Americans’ hankering for beef, the drive for it, is not going away,” he added, so restaurants are figuring out how to provide it and still turn a profit.

DeWayne Dove, vice president of risk management for the purchasing cooperative SpenDifference, said he sees both restaurants and retailers trading down to less expensive cuts, which is driving up prices of those less premium parts of the cattle.

“We have seen retailers moving from rib eyes or strips to top sirloin,” he said, which means top sirloin is now trading at record levels. He indicated top sirloin rose by 15 percent this year compared with record highs of 2014.

To help mitigate those costs, Dove suggests changing portion sizes and offering different types of protein.

“Instead of an 8-ounce sirloin, run a 6-ounce sirloin combined with a shrimp or lobster deal. … Those strategies are going to have to be in place not just this year, but pretty much through all of 2016,” he said.

Dove is figuring out ways to bring prices down at every part of the purchasing process.

“We’ll line up every component [raw materials, yield, labor, overhead, packaging and freight]. We’ll put five, six, seven suppliers side by side and figure out why one’s higher than the other,” he said.

“It’s important to understand how to dive into those opportunities, because the raw material market is working against you,” he said. “You’ve got to pull every penny out of every part of it that you can.”

Although some independent restaurants buy entire carcasses and process them in-house in an attempt to cut costs, Dove says that the journeymen meat cutters at a supplier are likely to be more skilled and get higher yields than cooks in a restaurant. However, he said, restaurants might consider purchasing whole primals and subprimals and having the supplier cut them for them.

“We work a lot on utilizing the entire subprimal,” he said, using the best parts for steak and the trim for kebabs or hamburgers.

He said suppliers are open to those solutions.

“To clean up that whole carcass and find other homes for it is very labor-intensive, so it’s definitely a door that’s always wide open” as far as suppliers are concerned, Dove said.

He also suggested buying flash-frozen meat when prices are at their lowest and having your supplier thaw them in advance of the high-cost season at the end of the year.

He pointed out that the faster meat is thawed, the more volume is lost, but good meat suppliers will have the meat undergo a thawing process that lasts between three weeks and four weeks.

Contact Bret Thorn at bret.thorn@penton.com.
Follow him on Twitter: @foodwriterdiary

Where have all the restaurant floor managers gone?

This blog isn’t based on a scientific study it is just an observation but where have all the restaurant floor managers gone? I very rarely see restaurant managers in the dining room managing the meal period anymore.

I try to look for managers every time I go out to eat from a curiosity perspective. I, as all restaurant people do, judge every restaurant that I eat in and will for the rest of my life. I see managers, but they are almost always in the window expediting.

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When I was a manager at a high volume full-service restaurant, we would staff at least 2 FOH managers for every weekday meal period and three on weekends. One of us would work in the window expediting meals, and the others would manage the FOH.

Expediting is very important job, ensuring that the food going to the table is cooked correctly, and the right meals are getting to the guests in a timely manner, matters. Let’s also be honest with ourselves, expediting is easier than managing the floor and is more fun because you’re not having to be on and in front of guests. You can shoot the shit and make jokes with the kitchen guys while you’re putting orders together.

In my opinion there needs to be at least one restaurant manager on the floor managing guest service. Even in a lower volume restaurant there are things that the manager can be doing to positively affect the guests experience, help servers/buss staff, and speed up table turns.

Am I wrong? Please comment and tell me the deal. I would hate to think that in my early 40’s that I’m completely over the hill on this matter.

Feds roll out new way to analyze food outbreak data

Interesting article from the University of Minnesota Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy about the US Government improving methods for sifting through data to estimate which foods are contributing to outbreaks. They focused the report on the four main outbreaks: Salmonella, Escherichia coli O157, Listeria monocytogenes, and Campylobacter.

It’s great that the government is focusing on these issues and trying to use data to draw correlations to try to minimize these outbreaks, but what I found most intriguing were the breakdowns of the various food groups by outbreak. Here’s what they found:

  • Salmonella: seeded vegetables (18%), eggs (12%), fruits (12%), chicken (10%), sprouts (8%), beef (9%), and pork (8%)
  • E coli O157: beef, 46%; vegetable row crops, 36%
  • Campylobacter: dairy foods, 66%; chicken, 8%
  • Listeria: fruits, 50%; dairy, 31%

Salmonella spans quite a variety of food groups and dramatically more than the others. The full article is below:

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US government agencies today reported on what they billed as an improved method for sifting foodborne disease outbreak data to estimate the contributions of different foods to outbreaks sparked by four common types of foodborne bacteria.

The report, focusing on outbreaks involvingSalmonella, Escherichia coli O157, Listeria monocytogenes, and Campylobacter, estimates the percentages of such outbreaks that were related to various foods from 1998 to 2012.

It was developed by the Interagency Food Safety Analytics Collaboration (IFSAC), a partnership of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration, and the Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, according to a CDC statement today.

In general, the analysis found that Salmonella outbreaks were caused by a wide range of food categories, with no particular one predominant, whereas just two food categories were dominant contributors to outbreaks of each of the other three pathogens.

“The new estimates, combined with other data, may shape agency priorities and support the development of regulations and performance standards and measures, among other activities,” the CDC statement said. “The recently developed method employs new food categories that align with categories used to regulate food products and emphasizes more recent outbreak data.”

Four leading pathogens

The CDC estimates that the four pathogens cause 1.9 million cases of foodborne illness each year.

The 12-page report says the four pathogens were blamed for 2,655 foodborne outbreaks between 1998 and 2012, but the study focused only on 952 outbreaks for which the implicated food or foods could be assigned to a single food category. Of the 952 outbreaks, 597 were caused by Salmonella, 170 by E coli O157, 161 by Campylobacter, and 24 by Listeria.

The report describes various statistical methods used to refine the estimates, including steps to smooth variations in outbreak size and reduce the influence of outliers. In the interest of timeliness, the model gives greater weight to data from 2008 through 2012 than data from the earlier years. The agencies divided foods into 17 categories.

Among principal findings, the authors found that seven food categories accounted for 77% ofSalmonella cases: seeded vegetables (18%), eggs (12%), fruits (12%), chicken (10%), sprouts (8%), beef (9%), and pork (8%).

In contrast, for each of the other three pathogens, just two food categories accounted for the majority of cases, as follows:

  • E coli O157: beef, 46%; vegetable row crops, 36%
  • Campylobacter: dairy foods, 66%; chicken, 8%
  • Listeria: fruits, 50%; dairy, 31%

The CDC cautions, however, that the Listeria data were sparse, leading to considerable statistical uncertainty (wide confidence intervals), and the 50% estimate for fruit reflects the impact of a large cantaloupe-related outbreak in 2011.

Toward greater consistency

The report acknowledges a number of limitations, including that it covers only foodborne disease outbreak cases, not sporadic cases.

It states, however, “Our novel approach produces better estimated attribution percentages than those based solely on the observed numbers of outbreaks and outbreak illnesses, and can be used to produce new estimates when outbreak data are updated.” In addition, it says that having consensus on one analytic approach may make for greater consistency in interpretation of estimates across different federal agencies.

The CDC said IFSAC was scheduled to describe its methods at a public meeting in Washington, DC, today, as part of federal efforts to improve foodborne illness source attribution.

 

How much money do we lose every year?

 

Having manager’s perform SMART Pre-Shift Inspections every meal period refocuses them on what is important to running a successful operation. The benefit of focus is something that I had to rediscover recently, but it makes so much sense.

We don’t do enough as an industry to focus and ground our manager’s every single shift on what is important to running a profitable business, and it is a gigantic missed opportunity. Managers are expected to be multi-tasking omnipotent robots that can instantly shift between their different responsibilities, and that is just not always the case.

I was a floor manager at one of the busier Changs in the early 2000’s when it was not uncommon for us to be on a 1:45-minute wait on a Monday night. I remember it as a very chaotic job that could go from 0 to 60 to 30 to 90 to 120 back to 0 in a single shift.

I remember scrambling to work on projects and deal with putting out fires in that two-hour window between lunch and dinner. Then getting back into the driver seat again for the dinner rush.

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I have also managed at slower restaurants, and I found myself fighting boredom and apathy. Trying to stay motivated and keep my team motivated to give great service.

Manager’s make restaurants successful. We have all seen a manager who got a location rocking and rolling: high sales, good profits, great service. They leave, and the next guy comes in and this location goes from hero to zero in 3 months. There were no major changes in the area driving the decline, it was just that the new manager couldn’t keep the staff on point, service up, and customers reacted.

It is the nature of this industry that we have customers in our building for large portions of our day. There is a ton of moving pieces that need to be dealt with every single shift. It is easy to get caught up in fire fighting and then stumble into your next shift without having the opportunity to focus yourself and your team on what is important.

Two tools that I have seen implemented with a lot of success are SMART pre-shift Inspections that manager’s conduct before each meal period and pre-shift meetings with each department.

SMART Pre-shift inspections get your managers walking around your restaurant looking at your critical safety and operational readiness items ensuring that you are ready to handle the rush. Performing this inspection reminds managers what is important and helps them catch things that they might have missed if they hadn’t done the inspection.

Pre-shift meetings with service and kitchen teams give us an opportunity to communicate shift info to the team and get them focused on serving guests.

Both tools have the same effect on your restaurant, they focus your staff on what is important, and that focus cascades through your operations.

We have recently created a free ebook on SMART Pre-shifts you can get a copy by clicking here.

If you like this blog, please consider following OpsAnalitica on LinkedIn.

Due Diligence and Due Care in the Restaurant Business

Due Diligence and Due Care are words  generally associated with investing, contracts, and lately network security.  In my last position working in custom application development and  cyber security those terms were defined as:

Due Diligence: Identifying threats and risks.
Due Care: Acting upon identified threats to mitigate risks.
I believe that the hospitality industry better adopt Due Diligence and Due Care as management concepts that we fully embrace and implement into our business processes.
In the context of restaurant management, I look at Due Diligence as doing what it takes to serve safe food in a safe environment.  I didn’t say delicious food I said safe food.  Meaning that we use HACCP principles to ensure that the food products that we are serving have been delivered, stored, and prepared safely.
Most restaurants today are, or should be, conducting daily inspections of their facilities paying attention for critical food safety violations.  Making sure food is stored safely, chemicals are stored away from food, temperature discipline is maintained both in cooling and heating.  We aren’t introducing foreign contaminants into the food preparation areas.
By following best practices and inspecting daily, we are performing our Due Diligence in providing safe food for our customers.  Due Diligence is only half of the battle, Due Care is the other half.
Due Care procedures are the processes that you have in place for when you identify an issue.  The key to Due Care is consistent and documented application of the process.
You may be familiar with the phrase “It’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up” that gets you into trouble.  That is especially true when you are doing your Due Diligence, conducting a pre-shift inspection, and you identify an issue but then you don’t correct the issue safely.
An example might be that you fill out a temperature log for a walk-in refrigerator, and you record a 65-degree temperature.  The person completing the temperature log doesn’t do anything to fix the issue, they just serve the food and they get a lot of people sick.
We as a nation are very intolerant of companies that had enough forethought to identify a critical area on an inspection but then not have a plan to fix the issue when they identified it.  We find that unacceptable, and for good reason, you wouldn’t want to fly in a plane where the pilot knew it was missing a wing but decided to take-off.
In the above example, we would hold the company responsible for, not training their inspector well enough to know that a 65-degree walk-in is very bad.  We would also hold them responsible for, not having a well-documented procedure to deal with the issue.
Look at your real-world experience, we for the most part understand when people make mistakes or accidents happen.  We get furious and litigious when mistakes are made and the people responsible are clueless when they should have known better.  We get even with businesses that profit while their customers get hurt.
As hospitality professionals, we have to make sure that our organizations, size doesn’t matter, have well documented Due Diligence and Due care processes in place.  More importantly we have to train, consistently follow, and document those processes in their application.  It is when we consistently apply our processes that we have a chance of protecting our brand and our businesses when we make a mistake.
My name is Tommy Yionoulis, and I’m a restaurant guy and a software guy.  I’m one of the founders of OpsAnalitica; you can learn more about our company at www.opsanalitica.com.

First Watch Restaurant Shut Down for Live Insects

Here is another example of one bad actor running unsafe operations bringing unwanted media attention to the whole chain.

Click here to watch the news report

This is a trend, local news stations are trying to own food safety. In Denver, it is Fox 31; this story is by an ABC affiliate in Tampa. The reporter states to friend her on Facebook and send her tips on dirty restaurants. We can expect to see more of these stories.

Report Card:

First watch corporate based on our information gets a C.

Things they did well:

  1. They got Steritech in there to deal with the roach problem quickly.
  2. They released a statement from corporate.
  3. I’m inferring this from the report, they use Steritech or some other company, to inspect several times a year.

Things they could have done better:

  1. The completely glossed over the troubling things: roaches are gross, but they aren’t as dangerous as 56-degree pancake batter.
  2. Chemicals cross contamination is terrifying; ask the poor woman in Utah, who drank the bad sweat tea.
  3. The biggest ding against First Watch corporate; they don’t have the proper systems in place to identify issues and to ensure that their restaurants are performing safely at all times.

3rd party inspections a couple of times a year aren’t enough. You need systems in place to identify issues on a daily basis and to hold restaurant managers/owners accountable. I’m not advocating Orwellian type oversight. I’m not saying you need more area manager’s or a restaurant cop in every restaurant every day making sure that nothing bad ever happens.

I’m advocating:

  • Building a culture of responsibility and using those cultural standards to weed out people who don’t fit in your organization.
  • Setting up incentive based systems where you reward your teams for doing things right.
  • Designing your systems so that everyone is getting training on the critical things frequently.
  • Using technology to gather information.
  • Most importantly having the due care processes in place, so that when you identify an issue there is a clear set of guidelines that your team follows to correct it.

My name is Tommy Yionoulis and I’m a restaurant and software guy.  If you like what you read, please follow OpsAnalitica on LinkedIn and follow our blog.

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