Below is the audio version of our popular blog, 5 Tips to Writing Better Line Checks.
Subscribe to our podcast Order Up – The Restaurant Ops Show on iTunes, Stitcher, and Tunein.
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.
The title says it all in this blog post, this prediction, some could say a safe one, is based on nothing but my experience last week. I live in Denver and happened to be grabbing lunch on Evans Ave over by my alma mater the University of Denver. There on Evans Ave is a shrine to big burrito lovers everywhere the original Chipotle store.
One block away, one block closer to campus, is a local Colorado burrito chain, Illegal Pete’s. Illegal Pete’s is a Chipotle clone; they might disagree with that description, but they sell the same size and style burritos that Chipotle made a staple in American cuisine. Illegal Pete’s claim to fame is that they mix up the burrito ingredients before rolling it up.
I agree that this isn’t the greatest picture of the Illegal Pete’s store, but I wasn’t trying to capture the store front I was trying to capture the line out of the door.
Something that you can’t know from these photos, you would only know if you had eaten in these restaurants is that the original Chipotle is small. The distance from the door to the counter is maybe 15 feet. It seats maybe 30 people. As an example of how small this restaurant is, they have a storage room in their basement and a trap door in the floor that they raise to go down and get dry storage items.
In contrast, the Illegal Pete’s is much bigger the line area is two or three times bigger than that of the Chipotle, and it has a full bar.
I’ve lived in the University of Denver area for about nine years total in my life. I’ve eaten at both these restaurants countless times. In my experience before the Chipotle issues last year, I never saw the Illegal Pete’s that much busier than the Chipotle. As I said before this isn’t a scientific study of guest counts or sales, this is just my experience.
I love Chipotle; they are a Colorado restaurant company success story, so is Illegal Pete’s. I want Chipotle to get better and get back to where they were. I would be surprised if their sales have gone up all that much since last quarter. I like the rest of the industry are curious how long it will take them to get back to where they were.
If you are interested in running better restaurant operations and driving sales. I invite you to check out our restaurant checklist, inspection, and reporting app; the OpsAnalitica Inspector. Click here to watch a short two-minute overview video.
Please enjoy this blog from our great friends at Ameego, the restaurant scheduling and labor management platform.
Aside from temperature compliance and food comps, what are some of the biggest ongoing challenges for restaurant managers? If your mind envisioned next month’s blank schedule calendar, the binder of handwritten time-off requests or the stack of month-end reports that show you’re spending too much on staff, you’re not alone. Scheduling and labor management tend to fall near the bottom of managers’ favorite tasks, somewhere in line with changing kegs during Friday night happy hour.
What if instead of dreading making the schedule, you looked forward to it because you had tools, data and insight to build a schedule that would keep customers, staff and your bank account happy?
Focusing on labor management and creating a scheduling strategy can have enormous benefits for productivity, and your team and guests.
3 Benefits of Labor Management & a Scheduling Strategy
1. Reduce labor costs
Mention the phrase ‘minimum wage’ to a restaurant operator these days, and watch his face wince.
Across North America, restaurants are facing increases in minimum wage. Even the smallest increases spread out over years will be painful because that money can only come from one place: the bottom line. At the same time, in many places, food costs are on the rise. And yet, with the influence and sharability of reviews, it’s more important than ever to dish up amazing food and service.
How can you possibly meet all those expectations and turn a profit? Schedule smarter. Scheduling software aligns clocked hours with daily sales so you can staff the floor according to sales, to the hour. It’s true. What time does that June Friday night happy hour rush ebb so you can send home your split-shifters? Could they start later or be cut earlier? Now you know. That’s the instant value of a scheduling strategy.
2. Increase staff happiness
When you find that star bartender or the server who can take 10 tables with her eyes closed, wouldn’t it be great to keep them around for a long, long time?
We all know what’s it like to go a few weeks understaffed. Servers are stressed and overworked. Morale goes down. And it’s not much better when you’re overstaffed, sending people home early time and again, or keeping them with not enough to do and not enough tips to make.
Now that you have insights about what triggers the need for fewer or more bodies, and to ensure you have stars on the floor when you need them most, you can create a schedule that will keep your team happy.
According to this University of Warwick study about the link between employee satisfaction and productivity, “…happier workers use the time they have more effectively, increasing the pace at which they can work without sacrificing quality.”
And, when restaurant staff are happy, so is someone else….
3. Deliver a Better Guest Experience
What difference does it make if table five gets their drinks in two minutes or 12? What’s really at stake when a table doesn’t see their server for half an hour? Two words: complaints and comps. Neither of them do your restaurant any favors.
In 2014, Consumer Reports conducted a survey about Americans’ most common restaurant complaints. ‘Slow service’ was a complaint for 51 per cent of respondents. Other all-too-familiar service and timing follies ranked high:
• Impolite or condescending servers, 72 per cent
• Tables not ready more than 15 minutes past reservation time, 50 per cent
• Feeling rushed to leave by the server, 61 per cent
With data-driven labor forecasting and scheduling, however, you know you have just the right number of staff on the floor to maintain the kind of elevated guest experience that generates rave reviews and return visits. When staff can not just stop by their tables but also truly listen to diner feedback, they’ll be able to build the kind of loyalty that makes a big impact on profits.
Scheduling mindfully creates this cycle where staff want to do their best and guests get the best. Both lead to a better culture that leads to more of the same: smiling faces and nice profits.
With the ability to access valuable information and plan effectively—not just for next week but next year—focused labor management and a scheduling strategy is kind of like your expediter for growth and success.
Ameego online restaurant scheduling software helps managers create the perfect schedule in minutes and increase restaurant profits. As a mobile-friendly online scheduling program with tools such as labor forecasting, POS integration, time tracking and team communication, Ameego truly is your restaurant’s best friend.
This was my second year attending the national restaurant show, and as show attendee veteran. Here were my thoughts in no particular order.
I’ve enjoyed attending both of these years, and if you are in this industry, I recommend that you try to get there one time to see how big our industry is and how much cool stuff there is for operators. Wear comfortable shoes!
Every restaurant should be doing some form of line check for each meal period. The reason you do line checks is to ensure that your food is safe and ready to serve to your guests. Line checks allow you to catch your mistakes before your guests do, which reduces food comps. They also allow you to check for line readiness: FIFO is being observed and your not selling newer food and wasting older food, proper portion controls are in place, back-ups are thawed and that the line is stocked and ready for the rush, which improves execution and sales.
We have one client who saved 1.2% in food cost when they were doing line checks on the OpsAnalitica Platform vs. when they weren’t. That equated to a $2,200 per month savings from just better food management.
The hard part about writing good line checks is that you have competing priorities to deal with. You have safety and quality vs. time. If your priority is time, then you can sacrifice safety and quality to speed up your line check. If your priority is brand protection (safety & quality), then you can have an incredibly thorough line check, but it could take longer to complete.
Like all things in this world, compromise is going to be the key to writing an effective line check. You want to check everything but do deeper checks on high-risk items. Below is a photo of one of our client’s line check kits, it includes tasting spoons and a dirty spoon container, gloves, test strips, alcohol wipes, and thermometers.
Writing line checks is not sexy work, but a good line check is a foundation for running better operations and growing sales and profits. Once you write your line check the only way to ensure that it is getting done correctly is to Inspect what you Expect and to follow-up with your managers when you see inconsistencies. Without follow-up, your line check could be pencil whipped, and your investment in it will not show any returns.
If you would like to learn more about how OpsAnalitica can help you hold your managers accountable and effortlessly follow-up, click here to learn more.
Great blog post from eMarketer, to see the complete article click on the title – Restaurants Invest in Technology to Improve Overall Efficiency. “Most US restaurant IT decision-makers plan to invest in technology to improve operational efficiency.” 87% said that Operational Efficiency was important compared to 55% they were going to make investments in guest engagement/loyalty.
Other Interesting facts from the article:
One of the best ways to improve efficiency and run better operations is to start managing by checklist with follow up. If you would like to learn more about how to get your checklists into the cloud, check out our demo video.
Management 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.
There are two types of checklists that you should be employing in your restaurant and they have different benefits:
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.
What are the benefits of managing by checklist with follow-up:
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.
Too many restaurant operators mistake marketing problems for operations problems. They look at falling or stagnant sales, and they think I’ve got to increase marketing spend to get my sales back up. How do you know if your falling sales are a marketing problem or operations problem? Here are a couple of questions you can ask yourself to help you determine the cause.
If you have made major changes to your marketing program, that may be the cause of your sales stagnation. If you have recently stopped couponing or changed/stopped advertising then you may truly have a marketing problem. The easiest solution, if you made a change, is to go back to the old way of doing things if that was working for you.
If you can’t go back to what was working before than solving a marketing problem takes patience, and it takes a plan. Don’t just spend money to spend money that doesn’t work. You may need to make a change in your marketing channel, change in ad’s, or an increase in marketing spend. You should always be looking for an ROI in every dollar that you spend on marketing. In theory, marketing should pay for itself so increasing effective marketing spend should pay for itself with sales increases.
If you have determined that your issue isn’t marketing, then you may have an operations problem. Operations problems are good and bad. The good part of an operations problems is that running better operations are completely within your control. The bad part of operations problems is that fixing them can be hard and take patience and consistency.
The first thing you need to do is figure out who or what is the cause of your issues. In restaurant’s most of your operations problems come from a team member(s) who is either doing something wrong or who has a bad attitude. It’s not like there is a restaurant machine and it can go on the fritz, we are a people business, and almost everything that we do involves people.
If it’s a training issue, that is easy to fix with a little training. If it’s a people issue, those are harder to deal with quickly. I’m not an hr expert, but I can tell you this. You need to decisively, and legally, deal with any people issues quickly. One bad team member can wreck an entire operation, they are like little cancers and must be dealt with swiftly and decisively. Start a 3 step process of coaching them up, if they resist or don’t change, then they need to go before they do more damage to your business.
Every bad guest review on Yelp can cost your restaurant 30, potential customers. In my experience, I have coached several employees back from the brink but the 80/20 rule is in full effect and for every two employees that I coached up, eight employees ended up firing themselves. There is something about people when they make up their mind, and either consciously or unconsciously they fire themselves.
Ultimately when you identify that you have an operational problem, you need to get back to basics and fix it as quickly as possible. Once it is fixed, it can be a long slog to get back to growing sales. It goes back to being an experience by experience battle. Every good experience earns you back a little goodwill, and every bad one erodes it.
One of the best ways to drive operational consistency is to put in systems and hold your team accountable to following them every shift. Management by checklists with follow-up is one of the fastest, cheapest, and easiest systems to implement. Checklists drive consistency shift-to-shift and better operations.
To see a list of the checklists that every restaurant should be doing, I invite you to check out this other blog post.
If you are interested in seeing OpsAnalitica in action, click here to watch a recorded demo video.
It’s time to return to basics and focus on what works for long-term sustainable sales growth, which is better operations. Nobody wants to hear better operations because they are either delusional about the current state of their operations, or they don’t want to put in the hard work and discipline of focusing on running better operations.
Nothing that you will do, no new system (delivery or take out), no new technology like a better POS or better website, is going to do more for your business than having delicious food, in clean well-managed restaurants, with great customer service. NOTHING!!!! If you didn’t want to be an operator and focus on being excellent, then this isn’t the business for you.
I was the dining room floor manager of a busy restaurant in 2001 we added $80,000 a week to revenue over a ten month period. That is right 80K a week, not a month, and we didn’t spend an extra dollar in marketing nor did we add any new sales channel. You know how we did it:
You see we had latent demand that before we focused on operations we weren’t getting because our service was slow and quite frankly not that good. When we made the sections smaller, brought in more servers, invested in training those servers on the menu, customer service, upselling, etc. They had more time to do a better job servicing guests. When we focused each shift on making sure that the restaurant and the team were ready, it was easier to wow guests. I’m not telling you anything that you don’t already know; better operations, focusing on the little things, and providing an excellent experience is your best marketing initiative and the quickest way to grow sales.
Here is some information that provides more evidence to the better operations theory:
“We’re just running better restaurants today,” Lee said during the company’s earnings call Tuesday. “I don’t think we should discount the importance of ensuring we’re properly staffed, our teams are properly motivated, simplifying the operation, reducing the size of the menu, processes and procedures. NRN
“One of the things we’re focused on now is trying to keep things simple,” Lee said. “Simple is hard. Doing simple things every day is really hard. That’s what’s given us the biggest lift at Olive Garden. We’re not relying on promotional activity to drive business.” NRN
Look at your experience in restaurants. The restaurants that serve delicious food with great service that are clean and well managed on average are much busier than their competitors who fall down in any of those areas.
There are so many outside factors affecting your restaurants every day, from minimum wages, weather, street construction, commodity prices, competition, shifting dining trends, government regulations, cook shortages, and social media to name few. It can feel overwhelming. How do you manage all of those outside factors and run your restaurant? The answer is to control what you can control and react as best you can to outside forces.
If you know that you aren’t doing all that you could be doing in your business to run better operations, make a plan and start focusing 100% on your most critical issues and check them off the list one at a time.
The quickest and most effective way to run better operations is also one of the easiest systems to implement: checklists with follow-up. Checklists focus your managers on those most important items each shift that have to be done to operate at your best. They are self-documenting and easy to use. By executing checklists every day in the same order, they build a routine and drive consistency shift to shift. Checklists work, we asked 107 restaurant managers and owners recently if they thought that managing by checklist would help them run safer and better operating restaurants, and 107 of them said yes.
Most restaurants today have checklists in place, but they are conducted on paper, paper checklists make it impossible to hold your team accountable. We recently conducted a survey and 94% of restaurant owners, and managers believed that their teams weren’t completing their checklists accurately. 94% of paper checklists are being pencil whipped and therefore the restaurant isn’t getting any of the benefits of safer and better operations because people aren’t conducting the checklist.
The key to getting the benefits of your checklists is to use a system like OpsAnalitica that can hold your managers accountable and make pencil whipping a thing of the past. By simply moving your checklists to a tablet we can track start and end times, duration, and make the data available on any device from anywhere. You will always know if your team is doing what they are supposed to be doing.
Better operations can increase your sales anywhere from 5 to 9%. Checklists can play a major part in running better operations on a shift basis. It is consistent daily execution that will yield the highest returns and generate those positive reviews and word of mouth recommendations that will grow sales organically and in a sustainable manner.