Author : Tommy Yionoulis

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Diagnosing Falling or Stagnant Sales

Falling Sales Image

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.

  • Have I recently changed my marketing spend?
  • Have I recently changed how I’m marketing?
  • How are my online reviews? Are they getting better or worse?
  • Have I recently increased my prices?
  • Is there a new competitor in your area that is affecting your business?
    • Be careful in just blaming competition, it is very rare that a competitor can put you out of business overnight; people want to blame outside forces vs. taking responsibility for their issues.
    • Having said that if a newer better mall or dining area opens up and you are in the old one, that can be an issue, and you may need to consider moving, opening a second location, or asking for some rent relief.
    • If it is a competitor, then you have to focus on beating them in the marketplace with service and value.
  • Have you recently lost a key team member?
  • Are my comps going up?
  • Are my complaints going up?
  • Does your food taste as good as it did six months ago?
  • Am I experiencing higher than normal staff turnover?
  • What was your most recent health inspection score; was it higher or lower than your previous score?

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.

The Only Way to Sustainably Grow Your Restaurant’s Sales is through Better Operations

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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:

  • Moved the servers from 5 tables to 4 table stations- which all the servers hated at first.
  • We started using checklists to ensure that we were ready in the FOH for each shift, this included pre-shift meetings with the team.
  • We actively managed the dining room each shift focusing on service and turning tables.

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:

  • A 1-star increase on Yelp leads to 5 to 9% revenue increase.  Entrepreneur.com
  • One negative review on Yelp can cost you, 30 customers.  Entrepreneur.com
  • An A grade in your window, for those restaurants that have to contend with health inspection letter grades, can lead to a 5.7% bump in sales.  (Based on California Sales Tax Data for LA County)
  • Only 16% of Yelp reviews are fraudulent so don’t assume that every bad review you have is just a competitor out to get you – respond quickly and appropriately.  Entrepreneur.com
  • According to a recent study by AlixPartners, a global business consulting firm, “28 percent of diners surveyed say they would never eat at a chain affected by a food-safety outbreak, regardless of the geographic location of the outbreak.”  Tennessean
  • Olive Garden same-store sales are up 6.8%. This is what their CEO had to say:

“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.

I invite you to check out OpsAnalitica by clicking here.  To see a list of the checklists that every restaurant should be doing, I invite you to check out this other blog post.

Norovirus Prevention on the Disney Fantasy

In one of the best Seinfeld episodes ever, George is trying to get a bigger apartment in his building only to find out that a survivor of the Andrea Doria shipwreck got it because the coop board felt bad for the guy.  Read the script below:

Screenshot 2016-05-17 16.31.45

 

The buffet can be the real ordeal on cruise ships because its when the guests are all touching utensils, and if anyone of them is sick and didn’t wash their hands very well, you could pick up a bad case of Norovirus. I got this cruise ship norovirus outbreak data below from http://www.cruiseminus.com/cruise-ship-norovirus/.

 

2016 Cruise ship Norovirus outbreaks

What I think is interesting is that most of the outbreaks affect less that 10% of guests, the average is 7.3%.  The news makes it seem that the whole ship is hold up in their rooms in agony when in reality only 1132 people were sickened out of 20,027 passengers.  I don’t want to make light of ruined vacations, and I’ve heard that Norovirus illness is brutal. It is just more evidence that the news media is looking out for themselves and their ratings above all else.

Please enjoy this blog originally published on 3/22/16:

I recently completed a cruise on the Disney Fantasy, and I noticed quite a few norovirus prevention measures being employed by Disney on the cruise that I wanted to point out. I must state for the record that I didn’t go into the kitchens or interview any of the team members, these are just my observations on what I saw Disney doing as a passenger on the ship, I think you will find some of these measures interesting.

Returning to the boat from being on-shore there is always a sanitizer station and a crew member requesting that you sanitize your hands.  The crew member looked at me like I was crazy when I was taking this picture but then when I got done and started to walk onto the ship she asked me to sanitize my hands.  You are going to see that most of what Disney does, pertains to hand washing, but that is probably one of the most important anti-norovirus measures you can take besides supply chain safety.

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Here are two different hand washing direction signs posted for passengers.  One was in our cabin bathroom, and one was in a public restroom.  Norovirus is commonly spread when people have fecal matter or vomit on their hands and then touch ready made food or buffet utensils, or they get their germs on a fork or plate, and a crew member touches those items while bussing a table and then could spread it to themselves or other guests. I thought this was a very rational and different approach to battling norovirus.  In the industry, we are used to seeing hand washing signs for the crew but not in restrooms for customers.  Cruise ships are very densely packed, and isolated places and norovirus could just as easily be spread from a guest to a crew member as the other way around.

IMG_4444 IMG_4446

Here is an example of a sign that I have never seen before in a public restroom.  This sign says to use a paper towel to avoid touching doorknobs.  The OCD part of me loves this sign.

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It doesn’t matter which restaurant you are going to on the ship: a buffet, a sit-down, or a quick service outlet.  There are always anti-bacterial towels in dispensers, on the counter, or being passed out by a crew member.  There are two dinner seatings every night, and when there is a mass seating in a dining room, there are several crew members standing at the door handing out wipes to every passenger.

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Other things that I noticed:

  • All crew members that were handling food on the buffets were wearing gloves.
  • I watched crew members changing out utensils on the buffet mid shift replacing with fresh utensils.
  • They have an over abundant amount of crew members cleaning and sanitizing tables in between guests.
  • On the welcome aboard video, they point out where the ship’s doctor is located and ask you to please report there if you start to feel ill, they also discuss proper hand washing.
  • Any piece of equipment that a lot of passengers come in contact with is cleaned regularly.  For instance, you will see a crew member assigned to keeping the soda station on deck 11 clean and stocked all day long.
  • Across the ship, you will see crew members wiping railing and stuff down as a regular part of their daily cleaning routines.
  • The Cabana’s buffet probably serves a couple of thousand people for breakfast and lunch every day.  It is one of the cleanest buffets that I have ever seen, you just don’t see food spillage on it, there are people maintaining every station during service.

One last thing that I thought was cool was this portable electric faucet, see below.  This faucet was set up at an outdoor smoothie station in the middle of a sidewalk on shore.  There was no running water to this station as it is portable.  The station has two buckets, 1 for clean potable water, and the second for waste water.  Having personally worked a lot of outdoor events at country clubs and restaurants this was the first time I had ever seen one of these devices.

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Some things that Disney does on the cruise ship would be easy to duplicate in our restaurants, and some things would be harder because of the difference in labor spending and labor rates.  Obviously having hand sanitizer in your restaurant in the entrance way or passing our sanitizer wipes when guests are seated would be very easy to do.  Paying to have a person stand in the doorway of your restaurant to hand out sanitizer wipes would probably not be cost effective.  Bathroom signs when done well don’t bother me.

If you think about this from Disney’s perspective, they have two main things they have to worry about.  If they get passengers sick, then they have a bunch of angry customers and like the rest of us, they risk the long term brand damage that it causes.  They pride themselves on being a premium product.  They also have to keep their teams safe and healthy because once they are at sea, they can’t call in other people.  Imagine a scenario where a couple hundred of their crew and passengers get sick on a cruise; it would stress their entire system and with the close quarters on a cruise ship and limited resources, it could be a real mess for them and cost them a lot of money.  I think there were over 4,000 passengers and 1,500 crew members on our cruise.

I hope you found these precautions interesting and if you would like to learn more about how OpsAnalitica helps you run safer, better, and more profitable restaurant check out our demo video here.

Maybe You Shouldn’t Do Checklists

How could paper checklists be bad?  Paper checklists are bad because people pencil whip them or lie on them.  We recently conducted a survey of over 100 restaurant owners and managers.  94% of respondents believed that their teams weren’t completing their checklists accurately.

Which raises the question; why would a sane person have their team complete checklists that they know are being lied on?

A sane person wouldn’t, because they know that it is a waste of time and money.  It costs money to develop checklists.  It costs money to print checklists.  It costs money to complete checklists.  It costs money to file and store checklists and when it is time to get rid of them it costs money to shred and recycle checklists.

Yet as an industry we do spend money to have people complete checklists on paper even though we know they are being pencil whipped. Why do we do that?

The limitations of paper checklists aside, the fact that we still have people pencil whipping checklists in our businesses is because even a 30% accurate checklist is better than no checklist.

Let’s stick with the thought that even a partially completed checklist is better than no checklist.  A person who completes a line check 30% accurately is still checking 30% more items than a person who skips their line check.  They have a better chance of catching an error in preparation or finding an unsafe item and correcting it before it get’s someone sick.

Imagine a world where restaurants employees completed all of their checklists accurately and when they didn’t you were at least able to catch that they didn’t and coach them about the importance of doing them correctly.  How much better would your restaurant run?

If every shift your team checked everything that was important enough to make it on a checklist.  They checked every temp, tasted items, checked sanitation and portion controls.  The restaurant when opened was clean and ready for guests.

Do you think that running better operations would translate into more sales, safer restaurants, happier guests, and most importantly more profits?

Of course running better ops would accomplish all of that.  If running better operations couldn’t do that then we wouldn’t spend a penny on training or any operational initiative, we would only spend money on marketing because the only way to get sales would be to con people to come to your restaurant one time.

By the way, this is what the restaurant managers and owners told us on our survey.  100% of them agreed that checklists could help them run better and safer operations.  That is right 100%.

Because checklists when completed diligently and followed-up on work.

The problem with paper checklists is that you can’t tell when they were started, when they ended, who did them, and if they were pencil whipped.  Basically paper cannot help you hold people accountable.  Also, this is for multi-unit owners who cannot be in every location every day, you can’t magically see paper hanging on a wall in a restaurant from your office.

What our industry needs is a checklist solution that is as easy to complete as paper checklists but allows us to hold our managers accountable and get visibility into our daily operations.

This solution would need to do the following things to be effective:

  • Needs to hold managers accountable by tracking time, location, response cadence, and  actual geo location.
  • Needs to be able to identify unsafe operating conditions and communicate that to management.
  • Needs to as easy as paper to use, with minimal training time.
  • Needs to be as flexible as paper being able to capture different types of information, not just True and False questions.
  • Needs to be better than paper allow you to utilize mobile technology to take pictures and leave additional comments.
  • Most importantly you need to be able to get at the data you are collecting and start using it to make better operations decisions.

A solution that could replace paper checklists and hold people accountable at the store level up through the corporate level of a system could drive better, safer, and more profitable restaurants.

A restaurant company that could deploy a solution like this and start holding their unit managers more accountable and harness this new feed of operations data could optimize their operations and beat their competition by running more efficiently and making better decisions.

Think about the data that corporate restaurant management has access to today.  They have register, inventory/ordering, and customer service data and they use that data to make the best decisions that they can.  If you used a checklist solution to capture pertinent operations data at the store level, which would drive better operations.  You could also use the date with your other data feeds such as sales, inventory, and customer service to create a complete picture of how your restaurants were operating. Remember that operations affect sales, inventory, food costs, and customer service, its not he other away around.

It would be a major competitive advantage for any restaurant system that took advantage of operations data.  Look at how companies like Walmart, FedEx, Nordstrom, and Google use data to streamline operations and generate increased profits.  Restaurant chains could do the same thing if they had the data, which they have, but just need to get it into an accessible, usable format.

How do you do this in your chain?  You should implement the OpsAnalitica Inspector platform in your system for daily operations checklists and corporate inspections.  The OpsAnalitica Inspector will hold your managers and teams more accountable at the restaurant level and our custom reporting and data warehouse will provide you with the data that you need to optimize your business.

The future of the restaurant industry is possible today for those chains that are bold enough to take the first step forward.  If you are interested in learning more please click here and set up a call with our team.

The Restaurant Industry’s Dirty Little Secret

Busy Kitchen

The dirty little secret in the restaurant industry is that we know a lot of our restaurant safety-documentation is not completed accurately.

Every day in restaurants across the country, restaurant managers are supposed to complete temperature logs, line checks, and other safety checks to ensure that they are operating safely. A lot of those logs are pencil-whipped, or to state it more bluntly they are lied on.

The reasons for the lies are numerous:  ran out of time, who cares no one ever looks at them, I know we are safe, we’ve never gotten anyone sick, etc.. This behavior is so commonplace in the industry’s culture that it is almost a joke.

I was recently in a meeting with some restaurant executives, and we were discussing their line checks, their checks included food temps and sanitation items. The company’s policy was restaurant managers would complete two line checks a day, one before each meal period.  Area managers would review the line checks once a quarter when they performed their site inspections. I asked these executives, are these checks getting done twice a day? When your area manager is going through their site inspection are they seeing 180 of these a quarter?  Everyone in the room chuckled, “yes, they all get done accurately every shift”  was the ha ha response.

Daily checklists not being completed or being completed inaccurately seems to be a common issue no matter how large or small the restaurant system is.  We recently talked with a chef of a restaurant who was working there six days a week, and she didn’t feel like she knew if the checks were getting done accurately and she was only managing that location.  That speaks to how hard it is to manage in restaurants, you can’t be everywhere all the time.  We spoke with a multi-unit franchisee who stated that he has walked into his restaurants and looked at the temp logs on the wall and knew they had been pencil whipped.

We recently conducted a survey of over 100 restaurant managers and owners from around the world. Here are the results:

  • 100% of respondents believed that conducting checklists could help them run safer and more profitable restaurants
  • 42% of respondents conducted daily line checks
  • 45% of respondents conducted daily temp logs
  • 88% conducted checklists on paper

This final stat is the kicker:

  • 94% of respondents believed that their checklists were not being filled out accurately.

Here is the light at the end of the tunnel.  We just did a deep dive with one of our clients who has used the OpsAnalitica platform for 20 months. They were able to cut critical food safety violations by 55% when they did their daily checklists.  How; because they saw stuff that was wrong every shift and they fixed it. When you actually do your checklists, they do work and you run safer and better operations.

The reason pencil whipping is so rampant in the industry is because 99% of the time it doesn’t matter.  It is a hard truth to hear, but it is true.  If it mattered, then we as an industry would have corrected this issue by now.

To fully understand pencil whipping we have to break down the safety checklist into it’s two parts:  checking to ensure items are safe and documenting the items safety status.

When you pencil whip a checklist or log you are committing two sets of lies:

  1. You are stating that you checked the safety of the items on the checklist.
  2. You are falsifying a safety document.

The reason that you are being asked to check the safety of these items is because they have been identified as high-risk factors that could contribute to getting someone sick or even potentially killing them.  If you check the item and catch a problem, then you have an opportunity to fix that problem before it affects your guests.  That is why we do the checks.

When you don’t check the safety of high-risk items or of your sanitation procedures, you are rolling the dice with other people’s lives and it is no different than driving a car drunk or shooting a gun into a crowd.  It can have the same exact consequences.  I know that sounds dramatic but ask the families of those people who died from eating a Blue Bell ice cream last summer.

The second offense is just dumb; you should never put your name or complete any official document with knowingly false information on it.  This goes back to that early statement that 99% of the time this won’t come back to haunt you until the day it does, and then you will regret that decision.

If your restaurant get’s someone sick, look at Chipotle they just had their safety documentation from every unit subpoenaed, are you going to want to stand by all of the false documents.  The lawyers and investigators are going to use that documentation to show your wanton disregard for your safety procedures.  If you are a manager or an owner, take this one step further; do you think your employees would lie for you on the stand in that scenario?  My guess is that when asked they are going to tell the truth.

Here is something that most restaurant owners don’t know about, most restaurant liability and food borne illness insurance policies have writers in them that release the insurance company from responsibility if the restaurant is acting unsafely.  Here are some actual writers that we pulled from a policy:

  • 3.13  Any Food Borne Illness that occurs after the Insured has knowledge of a defect or deviation in the production, preparation or manufacture of the Insured Product(s), or circumstance(s) which have or are likely to result in such deviation or defect, and fails to take corrective action.
  • 3.19  Any dishonest, willful, wanton, fraudulent, criminal or malicious act, error of omission by the Insured(s).  This is your Pencil Whipping Clause!!!!
  • 3.21  Any Food Borne Illness that occurs where the Insured is or ought to be aware that the Insured is in violation of the corporate mandated food handling or food procurement procedures and has not taken action to rectify the violation.

We have all heard about insurance companies doing whatever it takes not to pay out claims are you willing to risk that consequence on pencil whippers.

What do you do?  

I hope that we all have come to the conclusion that completing checklists accurately makes sense because we are acting responsibly as operators and we are looking out for the best interests of our customers and brands.  If you are going to incur the costs of creating and mandating that checklists get completed, then you have to hold manager’s accountable for getting them completed on-time and accurately.  That means that every shift that safety and quality checklists are completed before we start serving guests and that the managers take the time to check each item and record the items safety status on the checklist.  That is the only way that you can generate an ROI from your checklists and ensure safe operations.

There are a ton of ways to do this.  If you are going to stick with paper checklists, then you can have the person time date stamp when they started and ended each checklist.  If you are a multi-unit operator, you can have your restaurant manager’s fax in their checklists to corporate each day or scan and email them.  The reason most people don’t do this is because it is a giant waste of time and it pushes the burden of managing all of this paper to different people in the business.

With today’s technology, the easiest way to manage your checklists is to use a checklist system app.  These are the features you should be looking for in a checklist app:

  • Works on different devices: phones and tablets
  • Works on different operating systems, technology moves to fast and you don’t want to be stuck on an obsolete platform
  • Doesn’t require wifi to complete a checklist – wifi isn’t always great in kitchens and can stop you from inspecting outside
  • Supports different question types – not just True False – you need to be able to capture different types of answers and report off of them
  • The system should be able to reference additional help and training documentation so inspectors can understand the why behind the question and the answer scale
  • Is quick – the quicker it is to complete a checklist the greater the chance it will be completed every shift accurately
  • Make sure you can build custom reports so you can get the data you are collecting in a format that works for your organization
  • The system should hold managers responsible and track what is happening when they complete an inspection
  • Should be easy to use and train on so that checklists are completed consistently across the organization even as you experience turnover
  • Should be easy to administrate or even better the provider should offer a full-service plan so that you can get up and running quickly and stay up and running over time – remember employee turnover

Pencil whipping has been happening in our industry for years, but it needs to come to a stop.  There is a benefit to completing these safety and operational checklists every shift.  Not only at the restaurant level to ensure that you are safe and ready for service but also at the corporate level where operations data can be collected and used to assist the restaurants.  Keeping people safe is a moral and brand imperative and the best way to do that is through solid operations that are driven by checklists.

If you aren’t using daily checklists to manage your operations, or you are using paper, there is a better way.  I invite you to click here to learn more about the OpsAnalitica Platform.  We can help you digitize your checklists and get you up and running doing your checklists a better way today.  We have a managed service offering that takes all of the burdens of setting up and managing your checklist program off of your shoulders and puts it on ours, we can have you up and running in as little as a day.  If you are a DIY type of person we have a plan that fits your needs.  The first step is jumping on a quick call and learning more about how we can help you.  Click on the learn more button at the top right of your screen.

 

What does the Ford Pinto have to do with restaurants?

Ford Pinto

Do you remember the Ford Pinto Case from the 70’s?  Ford Pintos had a flaw in their design, and if they were hit in a rear-end collision at a speed greater than 20 mph the fuel tank could rupture, and there could be a fire.  Unfortunately, several people were killed in accidents because of this issue. 

The reason this case is still talked about today is because Ford management knew about the problem and decided based on cost estimates that it was more expensive to fix the cars than to pay the families of people who were killed in accidents.  

What does the Ford Pinto case have to do with running a restaurant today?  

We recently conducted a survey of restaurant managers and owners.  Here are some of the results:

  • 100% of respondents agreed that using checklists would help them run more profitable and safer restaurants.
  • 88% of respondents used paper checklists in their operations today.
  • 94% of respondents believed that their teams were not completing checklists accurately.  

I know that none of us want to be a Ford executive from the 70’s in our restaurants.  How could you sleep at night knowing that you aren’t doing enough to keep people safe?

If you conduct checklists on paper, and you are like the 94% of respondents who believe your checklists aren’t getting done accurately you have two choices:  

1.  You should stop doing checklists altogether; why would you waste the money you are spending on labor having people do checklists inaccurately that you don’t use?  FYI: we think this is a bad idea.

2.  Or, you should start doing checklists correctly and holding your team accountable using the OpsAnalitica Inspector.  Our clients see:

  • A 1/2 to 1% decrease in food cost when they conduct daily line checks with follow-up.  
  • Area managers spending more time coaching restaurant mgrs and less time doing busy work.
  • Safer restaurants across the board and have the documentation to prove it.
  • Increased manager and employee engagement as restaurants start operating safer and more profitably.  

You will never get the benefits of doing checklists:  better, safer, and more profitable operations; if they aren’t being completed accurately.  The problem with paper checklists is that you can’t hold people accountable. 

With OpsAnalitica, we drive accountability by:  

  • Time/date stamping and geocoding each response.  
  • Calculating how long it took to be completed.
  • Showing answer cadence.
  • Tracking who completed the inspection and their answers.  
  • When checklists were started and submitted.

It is only through accountability and follow-up that you can truly get the ROI on your checklists.  

I invite you to download our FREE ebook: Restaurant Profits: It’s about Nickels, Dimes, and Quarters by clicking here.

In this eBook we discuss how using checklists can help you improve restaurant profitability.  Get you copy emailed to your inbox here.

Fighting Norovirus with OpsAnalitica

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There is no medical cure for Norovirus; if you contract it you simply have to ride it out. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t anything you can do as a multi-unit restaurant manager to protect your restaurants, brand, and profits.

With Norovirus, the best offense is going to be a good defense. Here are some steps we are suggesting that you take to protect your company.

  1. Train  your team about Norovirus:
    1. Train your current team and add Norovirus training to your new hire on-boarding.
    2. Get our Free Norovirus Training Guide by clicking here.
    3. Make sure you cover the following topics:  symptoms, transmission, recovery period, employees responsibility to alert management if they contract Norovirus or get sick.
  2. Use the OpsAnalitica Inspector to digitallycapture employee signatures after they receive Norovirus training.
    1. Create a simple checklist that you have employees fill out stating that they have received Norovirus training and they understand their responsibility to notify managment.
    2. This documentation will be time and date stamped and provided written proof of your pro-activity on this subject.
  3. You need to start asking employees every shift if they are well enough to work or experienced any Norovirus symptoms in the last 48 hours?
    1. You can do this in pre-shifts or even field time clock questions if your system supports that.
      1. One note, if you put this into the timeclock make sure there is a way for the time clock system to notify management that someone said yes immediately.  The worse thing you could do is identify on your time clock that someone was experiencing symptoms but not take appropriate action before the shift.
    2. You have to be prepared to send people home if they say “Yes”.
  4. Use the OpsAnalitica Inspector to create daily shift logs.
    1. The problem with paper or old school digital shift logs is that they are very difficult to report off of across an organization.
    2. If you convert your antiquated shift log to an OpsAnalitica shift log, you will be able to ask true-false questions with comments.  Ex:  Did you send anyone home today for being ill? (If True, please document in comments)
    3. This allows you to run very detailed reports across your system to help you identify risk and ensure that your unit managers are doing the right things.
  5. If you do send someone home for being ill, you should immediately conduct a deep cleaning of the areas that the person worked and document that cleaning with the OpsAnalitica Inspector.
    1. Use a flexible deep clean checklist to document that you took immediate action and what areas of the restaurant that you cleaned after the employee went home.
    2. You should also track in the inspector and on your waste sheets any food that your team through away because it came into contact with the sick person.

64% of Norovirus outbreaks come from restaurants.  The news media and patrons are becoming more educated about Norovirus and are holding restaurant management responsible.  The key to fighting Norovirus in your operations is to educate your team and document your procedures.  If you get someone sick, and there is an investigation,  you ability to prove through documentation that you did the right things from a management perspective: training, sending sick employees home, deep cleaning and throwing away food is what is going to help you move past the outbreak.

Where OpsAnalitica takes documentation to the next level is that we time-date stamp and geocode every submission.  Because the data goes to the cloud we can build very detailed reports that look at all units in your chain and then email relevant data to the right people on a schedule.  Now corporate management can be made aware of any issues that arise pro-actively and have all of the data they need at their fingertips.  Checklists with effortless follow-up drive compliance and better operations.  To learn more about the inspector, schedule a demo by clicking here.

Norovirus is a fact of life; it can be a death sentence for the very young, old, and infirmed.  It can be a restaurant killer for those operations that don’t take it seriously.  Buffalo Wild Wings stock went down over 6% in a couple of days from a small isolated outbreak in KS.  Chipotle’s stores have seen a double digit drop in sales year over year and Norovirus has played a huge part in the sales decline.  Could your restaurant handle a 30% decline in sales for six months plus?  I don’t know of many that could.

Get a free copy of our Norovirus Training Guide.

Feds Subpoena Chipotle’s Documentation

The Denver-based chain was served with another subpoena on Jan. 28 by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California requiring Chipotle to produce documents and information about the company’s practices at all restaurants system wide. click here to read full article 

I don’t think you have to be a legal genius to see what the government is trying to do here. My guess is that they are going to try and show that Chipotle wasn’t operating safely and that it was a system wide problem.   

By subpoenaing documentation across all restaurants it is pretty easy to build a case where the numbers look bigger than the percentage.  When you have 1,755 restaurants, NRN Top 100 Unit Count June 2015.  If each of those locations missed 1 temp log a week that is 91,260 missed temp logs in a year.  

Do you even know if your restaurants are doing their daily checklists? If you don’t have an automated system how could you?   

How many temp logs does your chain miss in a week?  Even if you did them all you are bound to have lost a few from soda spills and misfiling.   

What is even worse is if you get a bunch of those documents back from the restaurants and they are incomplete, or appear to be pencil whipped.  That would be direct proof that you aren’t doing your due diligence as a company.  If the government can prove that management knew that the restaurants weren’t all operating safely and wasn’t doing anything about it, there is your Ford Pinto case.   

Anyone that follows OpsAnalitica knows that we have been harping on this stuff forever and a day because it matters.  

Here is the crazy thing, if Chipotle was an OpsAnalitica client and they conducted all of their checklists and inspections on our platform, they could pull a report and send it off.  

Restaurant safety goes beyond training, culture, daily checklists.  A large part of it is documentation and record keeping.  You can say you are safe all day long but can you prove it.   

There is a reason that one of the 7 HACCP principles is record keeping and documentation.   

We are committed to helping you run safer restaurants.  From our white papers, to our platform, to our new managed service license.  We will help you run the safest restaurants you can and do it in the most efficient way possible.   

Click here to download our free guide, 7 Tips to Faster Better Line Checks.

Alerting, Forced Comments, and Task Management in Checklists

Thermometer

A lot of our prospective clients ask us if we can force comments, create alerts or tasks when there are safety violations on their checklists.  We don’t offer these features, not for technical reasons, but for liability and management reasons.  I’m going to use this blog to explain our thinking on this subject.

Alerts and tasks sound great on paper, the reality is that they open you up for additional unnecessary liability and work.  It has a lot to do with how and when restaurants conduct checklists and the nature of our business.  Let’s start from the beginning.

An alert is a way of drawing attention to an issue, but it doesn’t require that you take any action.  Because it doesn’t require you to take action, it is often ignored.  Also, and this is a theme throughout this topic, there is a limitation in computer logic that may create false alerts.

Let’s discuss false alerts quickly by using the example of 50-degree mayonnaise on your line.  If this mayonnaise had been in a cooler all night, and you took it’s temperature, and it was 50 degrees this is a critical violation and probably a sign that your cooler is broken and everything that goes along with a broken cooler.

There is also another example where 50-degree mayonnaise is not a critical violation.  Some mayonnaise is shelf stable and can sit at room temperature indefinitely until opened. At that point, it needs to be refrigerated, and you have 4 hours to get that mayonnaise down to a safe temperature.  If you were out of mayo and opened a new container and stocked up your line, then this would not be a critical violation until that Mayo had been in the danger zone for 4 hours or more.

How would a computer know this?  It can’t know that the Mayo was safe or not safe it can only look at the temperature and create an alert based on whether or not that temperature is in or out of range.  But in this case, the alert is a false alert, it is busy work that requires a person to look at something that isn’t an issue.  This is one question out of possibly 50 to 150 questions.  We have several clients with 150+ item line checks.  How many real vs. false alerts could be generated on a 100 question line check per shift?

Think of yourself in this situation, how many false alerts would you look at before you stopped looking?  Look at your cell phone and your app badges, those little numbers that tell you that there is something in the app that requires your attention.  How often to you see those and think, I need to do something about this?

In our opinion alerts are useless because: they don’t drive accountability at the user level.  Also, the lack of context that the systems have and the dynamic conditions that exist in a professional kitchen make it hard to reduce false alerts.

Forcing Comments when a temperature is out of range, or a safety violation is discovered is another thing that feels like a good idea but when it is done has some potentially negative consequences.  Forcing a comment is extra work for the person conducting the checklist.  It is extra work that is only incurred on questions when there is something wrong.

When I type in a 42-degree temperature, I have to do this extra work but when I type in a 39-degree temperature I don’t.  Have you ever heard of the Hawthorne Effect; it posits that people act differently when they know they are being observed.  Have you heard of the Lazy Ass effect; where people are lazy and if they don’t understand the importance of what they are doing might be tempted to alter answers to not have to do as much work, such as lower temps by a degree or two to not have to enter a comment.  Have you heard of the I Don’t Want to Get in Trouble Effect; where a person doesn’t want to be the person who answered the question that was obviously wrong so much so that the app forced me to explain what was happening?

All of these effects are real and happen.  Look at how many people pencil whip their paper checklists today because they know, no one can catch them.  Our concern is that by forcing comments, we are reinforcing a negative and incentivizing people to take the easy way out and not to give us accurate data.  Data accuracy is of paramount importance to completing checklists, especially when they have to do with safety.

In our platform, we allow people to enter whatever temperature they recorded with a thermometer without any prompting for a comment or the creation of an alert.  When they submit their checklist, the score of the checklist may be altered based on optional scoring rules but that is for each client to decide.  We encourage our client’s to train their teams to enter comments explaining why a temperature was out of range, but it is not mandated.  Training to enter a comment is a small but important difference between mandating and managing to this standard.

It is a lot like the reverse psychology I have to use to on my 3-year-old.  If I want her to stop doing whatever she is doing that is going to cause me to spend thousands of dollars at the urgent care. I can tell her to stop, she won’t listen to me and will continue doing it or modify her behavior just enough to have me move on.  This in my mind is like the mandating the comment because I’m forcing it to happen and it is a negative interaction, one that she would like to avoid.

If I go to her and say “hey, we aren’t going to watch Princess Sophia if you keep jumping on the bed.” She will stop jumping immediately because she made the decision herself and because she wanted something and she sees it as a positive interaction.  That is what we want from the person completing the checklist.  We want them to identify unsafe conditions an let us know what actions they took to fix those issues voluntarily and with praise from management.

There is also value to the organization in seeing which of your manager’s are following through on these types of issues.  It provides insight into your managers work performance and provides opportunities for training and coaching.

If you are going to use tasks to measure your compliance and to prove that you are addressing all safety issues, then you can’t do it halfway.  It’s an all or nothing proposition.  It becomes a standard at which you have to manage to, 100% or nothing.  Here is a scenario that could happen when using tasks.

Most line checks and temp logs are conducted right before service starts for a shift. We often see line checks being completed up to 10 minutes after a restaurant is open for business.  It is a common occurrence that a restaurant could get slammed right as it opens and that the manager who just conducted the line check might not have time to complete and close all tasks before they are called away to run their shift.

You now have a situation where you identified a potential food safety issue, notified a manager, but did not address it before the food was served to customers.  In reality, that manager may not have time to get back to their computer or tablet and close those tasks until the restaurant has slowed down several hours later.  You know, and I know that the restaurant may have fixed that issue before service or that the food wasn’t in the danger zone or any other reason that a restaurant professional would know.

How would that look to the media or a lawyer who is trying to sue you for getting their client sick?  I think that it would be used against you.  Tasks work great for knowledge workers who are at their desks and computers for their entire shift and can quickly get tasks resolved and close them.  Restaurant managers are in constant motion during their shift and are wrong if they are in the office during service; their job is to be managing out in the restaurant.  Tasks for restaurant managers that are time sensitive could pose issues for a company from a liability perspective.

Another weakness of tasks in the restaurant industry has to do with a number of questions and locations.  Let’s say you want tasks to go to your district/area managers when restaurants have a critical temp issue.  If I’m an area manager with 50 locations, our area managers back at Quiznos had 50 or more locations.  You conduct 4 to 5 temp logs a day; you get one temp task per temp log, and you could be looking at 250 tasks a day that needs to be addressed and closed.  It isn’t uncommon to have a 1 item that is in the danger zone on a 20 or 30 question temp log or line check.

Once again you have to close these tasks if you are managing by tasks.  There is no halfway; you can’t not close tasks if that is how you are tracking compliance.  Managing the resolution and closing of all these tasks becomes untenable for larger organizations.

At OpsAnalitica, we replace alerting, forced comments, and tasks with summary reports. Summary reports allow our inspectors to conduct inspections quickly and then in the background we group like issues together and email them to area managers on a schedule.  These reports allow the area managers to look at the issues and the comments and use their judgment on how they are following up with their restaurants without overwhelming them with communication.

Ultimately the goal of using an automated checklist app is to collect great operations data and to run safer restaurants.  You don’t want to do anything that is going to take away from those goals or puts you or your organization into a situation where you were trying to do the right thing, but you increased your liability.

 

OpsAnalitica’s Managed Service Offering

There are two things that I know to be absolutely true:

  1. If you use the OpsAnalitica Inspector to automate your checklists – YOUR RESTAURANTS WILL BE SAFER!
  2. Restaurant managers don’t have time to take on additional projects no matter how important they are.

That is why we have created our Managed Service License, the first in the industry.

When the restaurant tech industry is going in the direction of do-it-yourself – we are going in the direction of restaurants by providing you with more personal service.

You will get all the benefits of having safer, better, and more profitable restaurants without having to find an internal resource to learn how to run and administrate the platform. For as low as $10/month/location you can offload this work to us.

With a Managed Service License, we’ll take care of everything related to the set-up, daily administration, and report building for your organization.

The only technical thing you will need to know how to do is tell us what you want.  It is that simple.

You and your organization will be able to focus on conducting inspections, checklists and reviewing reports.

There is no other easier way to run safer restaurants and get better visibility into daily operations than the OpsAnalitica Inspector Managed Service.

The craziest thing is that our managed service license is only $10 a month more than our Inspector + license.  That is nothing.  We are going to be the cheapest employee you have that doesn’t go on vacation or require any benefits.

Click here to watch a video message from Tommy Yionoulis, one of the founders of OpsAnalitica, to learn about our new managed service offering.

NO MORE EXCUSES, YOU CANNOT AFFORD TO WAIT ANOTHER DAY WHEN IT COMES TO ENSURING RESTAURANT SAFETY.

A restaurant safety issue could wreck everything that you are working so hard to build . Could your system survive a 30% drop in sales?  My guess is not many of us could.
We didn’t want to just talk about our amazing new  Managed Service offering,  Click here to get our white paper:  4 Daily Must Do Steps to Running Safer Restaurants.

If you have any questions give me a call or send me an email any time. Or if you are interested in seeing an OpsAnalitica demo, click here to schedule.