Chipotle Still Doesn’t Have a Food Safety Culture

There were two interesting articles about Chipotle last week:

  1. MMA announcer Jimmy Smith says he found ‘full-sized staples’ in Chipotle burrito
  2. Chipotle’s stock is having its best quarter ever—here’s how to play it

Chipotle’s stock is getting back up to where it was before their food safety issues in 2015 and 2016. It has been a hard slogging road for them to get back. They ousted their founder and CEO, the brought in the Taco Bell CEO, this is funny and I’ll explain more later. They have continued to have food safety issues.

A quick history of our interactions with Chipotle.

In 2014 I met with a buddy of mine who was the first outside director in Chipotle’s history. He and I had worked to together before and he had just come from Taco Bell to Chipotle. We had just launched version 1 of our platform, it wasn’t even called OpsAnalitica yet, and I was telling him how he should bring this to Chipotle and let them see what it could do for their business.

He point blank told me he couldn’t. That Chipotle wasn’t a traditional restaurant company and they didn’t believe in checklists. Chipotle believed that if we hire the right people, train them to do the right things, that we don’t need checklists. He went on to say that if he brought our software to his bosses that he would get run out of there for trying to turn Chipotle in to Taco Bell. Now Brian Niccol is very slowly turning Chipotle into Taco Bell, that is what I thought was funny.

Obviously in 2015, 2016, 2018 Chipotle had major food borne illness issues. I interviewed a former Chipotle manager on our podcast, A Passion for Restaurant Operations, and he confirmed what he saw happen at the company. Basically what my buddy told me was correct that Chipotle was really focused on their culture, employee training, and promoting from within and this was working until they got over 500 restaurants and they kept growing at rocket pace. They were opening stores too quickly and couldn’t promote and train from within fast enough to keep their culture pure.

To staff these new stores they had to bring in people from the outside who didn’t come up in Chipotle and hadn’t been imbued with their culture, that is really when they started to have their issues. Now you have a company that doesn’t really have a food safety mentality, a ton of tools or systems in place to manage food safety and people who are used to having those types of tools who are running wild.

In 2017 we were asked to submit an RFP to be Chipotle’s internal audit software. I don’t know if this project was ever approved because the RFP was happening during the Brian Niccol switch over and Chipotle went dark during that period. I do know that one of our competitors, Zenput, is being used by Chipotle in some fashion to help their food safety operations, see staple article above.

I would be lying to say that if Chipotle had chosen us that we would have said no. I can say that we had a ton of internal conversations about do we really want to be in business with Chipotle for a number of reasons, most importantly that we didn’t feel like they were actually doing the things that they needed to do to fix their biggest operations problem which was and I believe still is, Food Safety.

I was in a Chipotle a couple of weeks ago, I think I have only eaten at Chipotle 1 time since 2015 and we were a Chipotle family before that. We ate there all the time. I went to the University of Denver Hotel and Restaurant School back in 92 – 95 and the first Chipotle opened 2 blocks from our building, I have a long history with the brand.

I do know from my last visit that they have a software solution but also still use a red book. I know this because I ask the managers what they do from a food safety perspective all the time. Anyone who uses paper to manage their food safety isn’t serious about food safety. Anyone who has ever worked in a restaurant knows that people don’t do their paper checklists. 94% of managers we surveyed said their teams don’t do their paper checklists correctly.

Paper isn’t a system, it’s just paper.

A system is a that you check, identify, record, upper management confirms and remediates issues that are discovered in a timely manner and that you document all of this as you go. Of course, you could do this on paper, but because it is very hard to confirm in real-time using paper, the whole system breaks down and doesn’t get done.

If you are looking to graduate from paper to a real food safety and management accountability system that is cheaper per month than the Red Book, please check us out at OpsAnalitica.com. We have the best restaurant checklist platform on the market and as the low-cost leader, we are able to deliver incredible value for less than it would cost to manage this on paper.

I hope that in Brian Niccol’s Taco Bell-ization of Chipotle, that he brings their systems and food safety culture with him, not just for me because I love Chipotle’s food but for their shareholders. If they continue to get people sick I don’t know how their stock will retain its value.

I’ve said this before and I will reiterate it again. Had Chipotle not had so much brand equity with it’s stakeholders, the last couple of years would have destroyed their chain. It is a testament to Chipotle’s founders that they built such an impressive brand that it withstood their mismanagement.

We wish Chipotle all the luck in the world and hope they can create a food safety culture that also honors their promote-from-within and hire the right people culture that served them so well for so long.

Digital Checklists are More Important Than Ever To Minimize the Effects of High Employee Turnover

I’m going to do my best to keep this blog short and sweet. Here is the deal:

  1. Employee Turnover is at an all-time high but employee tenure is the more important measure to understand. Tenure is how long our employees are staying in their jobs.
  2. Because the average employee is staying such a short amount of time we have to re-design how we onboard, train, and operate our restaurants to minimize the effects of this turnover and their associated costs.
  3. Checklists are a key component in reducing employee training costs and running more consistent daily restaurant operations. The only checklists that actually work are ones that are managed through a Checklist App where you have visibility and accountability.

7 Shifts, the Scheduling Company, compiled 7 Restaurant Scheduling Stats of 2017. Click on the image below to see the whole infographic. The facts were crazy but these on how long employees on average stay in a job really stood out to me as scary.

High restaurant turnover is an all-encompassing thing, I know this because I’ve lived it. When you have high turnover you don’t have time to think about anything else, you’re constantly engaged in hiring, training, and backfilling positions. All other pro-active things that you want to do for your restaurant get neglected. How can you work on that new menu or special when you have 3 open positions for tonight’s dinner rush. It’s brutal.

The reality is, you have 57 days with a server, 54 days with a cook, and 124 days with your most expensive employee, your manager. These numbers really paint a picture of what restaurant operators are facing. Add to that the lowest unemployment in decades in the US and things are bleak for restaurant hiring.

Now that you see what the average tenure of an employee is; do you still think it is prudent to spend 4 or 5 days on-boarding/training a person that is only going to be around 54 days? That training time for a server/cook could equate to 10% of their entire employment period at a higher than normal hourly wage.

Here is what we have to do in the industry to minimize these effects.

Shift your Training to Focus on Employee Productivity as Fast as Possible

You have an employee that is going to stay 55 days. The difference between 3 to 5 days of initial training is significant. 3 Days of training is 5.4% of their tenure vs. 9% at 5 days. Think about the ROI jump on that employee when you get them productive quicker.

The easiest place to cut training cost is to reduce the initial onboarding and training period. You do it by:

  1. Cutting all superfluous training out of the curriculum and focus 100% on must-have job role knowledge. Ex: Cooks need to know recipes, servers need to know how to use the POS and steps of service. Get new hires into their stations contributing to sales ASAP.
  2. Systematize Everything: Anything that is repeatable has to be in a checklist or in-station Job Aid. You can’t spend a second training people how to remember to do a repeatable task. Instead, you need to teach them that there are systems available to guide them through these tasks as they are doing them and how to use these systems.
  3. Shift to More Daily Training: You have to shift training from a front-loaded multi-day activity and move the non-job role must-have items to a daily format. Pre-shift meetings for all members of the restaurant are a way to still deliver this culture and non-job specific training in a short couple of minute sessions. Repeating this training over time is very effective.
  4. Simplify as much as you can. For instance, and a lot of people have done this, put allergen, gluten, health information right on your menu. That makes it easy for customers to find out what items they can eat and reduces the amount of training you have to provide FOH employees on the menu. For the BOH, reduce as many steps as possible for prep and in your recipes. Anywhere you can find efficiency without compromising quality, you should make the change. A great example is a lot of quick-service restaurants have assembly cards in the different cooking stations, this helps with consistency but can also reduce upfront training time because there is a job aid right in their station. You have to do that because your employees aren’t around long enough to learn super complex processes.
  5. Use your employee’s phones to your advantage: Nothing infuriates me more than wanting something from an employee at a restaurant, waiting for them to see me, and they are looking at their phone. I get it. Phones can distract people from doing their jobs and there should be consequences when that happens. On the flip side, tablets are expensive. Cheap Android tablets with cases cost around $125 to $200. iPads can cost $400 to $1000’s of dollars. 99% of your employees have smartphones that can be used on your Wifi for free to engage in training and to complete checklists. You can’t mandate that they use their own phones, you have to provide an alternative, but you can allow them to use their devices to make your business better and their jobs easier and more convenient. Treat their devices as a force multiplier.

Short Checklists for All Repeatable Tasks and Job Aids for Singular Tasks

Most Pilot checklists are 5 or so questions. Turing the engines on isn’t one 50 question checklist that takes an hour, it might be 3 5-question short checklists with high-level items on them. We have a chain client that has a 30 to 40 total, 5 to 6 question checklists for every station. They take a minute to complete but they cover the most important items from a shift readiness perspective for each station. Their readiness went through the roof when they implemented this system.

Short checklists get done at higher percentages of compliance than longer checklists. You are always going to have a need to have some very thorough checklists and they tend be longer, line checks, food safety checks spring to mind and that is fine. Focus on making a lot of your checklists, short and easy to complete. Also, if you have long checklists, make sure you choose an app that supports real-time collaboration where multiple people can work simultaneously on the same checklist, that will help speed it up and drive higher compliance.

You should use checklists for tasks/processes that require multiple steps or multiple items. Job Aids should be used for single steps. You would use a checklist for setting up the beverage station because it involves multiple steps and multiple items. You would use a job aid to show how to make the Iced Tea.

The concept of multi=checklist and single=job aid can be applied to all departments. Also, use common sense when it comes to creating job aids. You don’t need a job aid on how to clean the front door with windex. You may want one on how to cut lemons because lemon slice size affects food cost and customer satisfaction.

Digital checklists and the OpsAnalitica Platform

Your restaurant’s team is constantly turning over. In a lot of restaurants, the most senior person could have 4 months of tenure or less. Everyone is new all the time and you are constantly training and on-boarding new employees.

You need to create systems that they have to follow so you can ensure food safety, shift readiness, and consistent customer experiences. You need systems that can be easily updated and centrally managed so that changes to operations can be quickly implemented at a minimum cost.

You also need a way to hold the team accountable for using the checklists and systems you have created. Because institutional knowledge of your operations in this environment can be very low, you need a way to bubble up issues to upper management in real-time and an ability to view what is happening at any location from any device.

Don’t forget about deep clean and preventative maintenance. You need to bring those activities into your checklist system so you track them. To make sure you are doing those activities so you don’t incur unnecessary repair costs, downtime, and losses. Also, because of the short tenure of employees, the current employees won’t have a clue if the last maintenance activities happened before they worked for you.

The entire restaurant industry has managed itself with paper checklists for years. The problem is, paper checklists don’t get done and there is no way for an above store leader to manage operations with them easily and effectively. We all know that our paper checklists are getting pencil whipped, 94% of managers surveyed said they knew their employees weren’t following them.

The OpsAnalitica Platform is the perfect platform to replace your paper checklists with. As the low-cost leader in the restaurant digital checklist space, we can provide your team with the platform that will replace your paper checklists for a cost that is less than the Red Book per month per location.

Our platform will provide you with real-time visibility, enhanced accountability, and critical notifications, in a fully customizable app that works on any Android or iOS device.

As the overall economy continues to grow, as the labor pool continues to shrink, restaurant employee turnover is going to stay a concern for the near future. As restaurant operators, we need to look for ways to streamline our hiring, on-boarding, training, and daily operation processes so that we can minimize the effect of this high turnover on our teams and on our customer satisfaction. One of the easiest and quickest ways to do this is to move your paper checklists, that aren’t getting done, to an app where you can hold your teams accountable to following your ops procedures.

OpsAnalitica Beats Paper Checklists and the Red Book

At OpsAnalitica, we were the first to preach daily checklists and their benefits for running better and safer daily operations, improving visibility and managerial accountability using an app. While our competitors were preaching auditing your way to restaurant health, we knew that audits were incapable of driving behavior change at the restaurant level.

As we have done analysis on how our prospects/clients conducted their operations in the real world before using our app, what we realized is this, their process wasn’t broken, it was their tool that was broken. I’m speaking about paper based restaurant checklists and food safety systems.

Whether you print your checklists every week or your purchase the Red Book. It doesn’t matter, your checklist compliance, shift readiness, management accountability, safety processes, and record keeping are all suffering not because they aren’t well thought out or that you didn’t do a good job of training your teams, they’re suffering from the inherent weakness of paper.

Paper based systems have the following issues:

  1. Paper can’t proactively bubble up issues to management.
  2. Data on paper is essentially useless because it can’t be viewed by people who aren’t at the location and it is expensive and time consuming to get it into a database where it can be queried and used to make better decisions.
  3. You can’t hold your team accountable to following your paper based procedures – this is paper’s biggest weakness.
  4. Pencil Whipping, your managers aren’t using your systems as they were intended and your profits are suffering.

Now there is a better way to run your restaurants, a way to ensure that your teams are following your procedures every shift. A way to have issues bubbled up to management immediately so they can react quickly to squash them. A way to have real-time visibility into all of your restaurants from your phone, and to stop pencil whipping which directly affects customer satisfaction, sales and profits.

Ditch Paper and Go Digital. The OpsAnalitica Platform is cheap, less than the cost of the Red Book per month, and an easy replacement for your paper checklists. The benefits of using the system, as described above, we fix all the accountability and visibility issues that you have with paper. We do it by simply taking your current process and changing its medium from paper to a phone or tablet, that’s it.

Imagine a world where you go into your restaurants and your teams followed every procedure during their set-up. You conduct a spot check on your line and all you food had been temped and tasted and everything is exactly as it should be. You have a restaurant that welcomes a health inspection or 3rd party audit, because things are to spec. A restaurant where guests are excited to dine because they always have a good experience. That restaurant is completely possible and there is no secret on how to operate it.

It’s shift readiness and consistent execution. It’s blocking and tackling, it’s following your checklists every shift in every location. The thing is, you already have your procedures, you have already done the hard work of figuring out all the stuff your teams need to run your restaurants with perfection. The problem is they aren’t doing it and you can’t hold them accountable to doing it while you are using paper checklists as your system.

Paper based lack of accountability affects all restaurants; regardless of size, type, and revenue. Chains and single unit operators alike face the same issues when it comes to holding their managers accountable to following procedures.

I was talking to the members of the c-suite of a brewery restaurant chain. They were telling me how thorough and important their line checks were to their operations. How they audited the restaurants once a quarter and that they checked line check compliance on the audits. So I asked the question, are you auditors seeing 180 line checks when they audit? Everyone in the room just laughed. Oh yeah, they all get done, Ha Ha Ha.

What is that old quote, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. That is the restaurant industry when it comes to operations procedures and checklists. The restaurant industry spends tons of money and time figuring out the best way to run the restaurants to maximize customer satisfaction and efficiency. We are masters at figuring out how to run these restaurants, to simplify processes so they can be executed at the most base level. We are truly brilliant at that part of running restaurants.

The crazy part is, we don’t do a good job of holding anyone accountable to following any of our procedures. Because with paper it is too hard to do that effectively so we just don’t do it. We laugh about our teams not following our procedures and yet we spend a ton of money developing those procedures. Why spend the money developing them if no one is doing them?

That pencil whipping mentality is so ingrained in our operating culture because, once again, up until the invention of platforms like OpsAnalitica you couldn’t get the visibility or accountability you would need to stop it.

It’s time for a change, it’s time for restaurant operators to hold their teams accountable to following their procedures because that is their jobs and because when they don’t do it customer satisfaction, safety, sales, and profits all suffer.

If you would like to learn more about how the OpsAnalitica platform can change your business, click here.

The System Your Ops Team Knows It Needs but Doesn’t Want

There is a better way to run multi-unit restaurants, managing an entire chain using daily checklist software in real-time, which provides your Ops Teams with store level visibility and managerial accountability. Plus when restaurants are held accountable to following your procedures, they run better, safer and more profitable locations.

Restaurant companies spend millions of dollars and untold hours developing, training and implementing procedures so that the restaurant store teams know exactly what they need to do at every part of the day so they can make sure the restaurants are ready for guests. The food is prepared correctly and it is safe and delicious. The problem has always been, that no one at the restaurants uses the checklists or follow the systems as they are designed. See our blog on the Industry’s Dirty Little Secret.

These benefits of increased visibility and accountability are what has been missing from multi-unit operations mainly because the technology to make this easy to do just wasn’t available. Today for the first time in the restaurant industry’s history, not only is the technology affordable but it is widely available. Your operations team knows that by implementing a daily checklist system that it would be better for your customers, your stakeholders, and your bottom line, but they don’t want you to implement it.

No restaurant professional is going to argue that running better daily restaurant operations at each location would be bad for business. The time spent making sure that the food you are serving is safe and tasty is wasted, or, that having a clean well-organized restaurant would be unappealing for guests.

We all know as restauranteurs or as diners, restaurants that serve good and safe food in a clean environment, with a decent staff generate more sales and profits than their competitors. Duh!

We are currently talking to a national chain about implementing our daily checklist software at their restaurants. We are speaking with their QA team, who recognizes that they could do better as a chain at ensuring that the restaurants are clean and that the food they are serving is held at proper temps and safe for consumption. Our contact told us to tread lightly with Ops because they were a little scared of our software.

Not scared of the software itself but scared of the accountability and visibility it would bring to their department.

I was speaking with a friend who manages several hundred restaurants last year and I was telling him how our software could provide his area managers with visibility into what was happening in each of his franchise stores. Alerting them to critical food safety violations in real-time. His response was, who is going to manage all these alerts?

I was talking with one of the top pizza chains in the US and I was told that their lawyers weighed in and they didn’t want to know if their franchise stores were safe or not safe. If they knew then they could assume co-liability.

That is such a lawyer mentality. 1. People can sue you for anything. 2. If you got sick at one of their restaurants, would you only sue the mom and pop who own the store. Yeah right, you would sue the multinational corporation 1st, or more than likely, Mahler Clarke would sue both parties for you.

The mentality that it’s better not to know where we have issues at the restaurants rather than discovering where we have operational gaps and fixing those ourselves to protect our brand and customers is such a short-sighted mentality and quite frankly it’s mind-boggling to me.

The question is; why are restaurant operations teams hesitant to implement Ops Management systems, like OpsAnalitica, that could help them run better daily restaurant operations?

I think it comes down to being held truly accountable, visibilyt/perceived liability, and self-preservation at the leadership level.

Now, I want to acknowledge that running 1 or 4000 restaurants is hard. From my experience, they are both equally challenging with different problems but it takes everything you have to keep the doors open at these locations.

I also want to acknowledge that the technology that one would use to get real-time visibility and oversight at the restaurant level is fairly new, we launched in 2015. There were a few players when we started but not many. This technology really became prevalent with the invention of the tablet and smart phone.

Today, most restaurant companies have very little oversight into daily operations. Because of this, they look at the following data points to determine how well a restaurant is operating:

  1. Audits: restaurant inspections that are conducted on a quarterly basis by the field teams or by 3rd party auditing companies. These inspections are thorough but happen so infrequently that they can’t be used to change behavior or ensure that daily operations are being executed to standard.
  2. Costs: looking at controllable costs: food, labor, paper, liquor, etc. to determine manager efficacy.
  3. Customer Feedback: looking at number of complaints and compliments. This number is skewed because so few people care enough to actually leave a comment. These people are the most passionate from a good/bad perspective, that they are willing to take the time to tell you what they are experiencing, you have to look at these numbers with some skepticism. You could also lump social reputation, Yelp Scores, into this category and I would suggest that social media is easier to use than traditional customer experience programs.
  4. Health Inspections: most restuarant companies don’t do much with this data because it is hard to get. Also, health inspections are notoriously skewed up according to Google, see our last blog, and they only happen a couple of times a year.
  5. Sales: Another measure that looks at manager efficacy but really need to be looked at in comparison to other restaurants in the immediate area, including competitors. A restaurant could have incredibly high sales but still not be running all that well, look at airport restaurants, who have high volumes because of location and a trapped clientele.

Traditionally, Ops Teams have evaluated all of these measures and backed into restaurant operations scores but these measures don’t tell the full story. As a side note, when you take these traditional data points and overlay them onto the data you can get from an OpsAnalitica or any other Ops Management system, that is the holy grail. You can directly correlate how operations affect sales, costs, and customer satisfaction.

Accountability

Because of the way most restaurant companies structure their organizations and how we currently measure restaurant operations, see above, there is very little direct accountability anywhere in a traditional restaurant ops team from the restaurant level to the VP level.

Restaurant managers/franchise owners are in charge of their restaurants, and in a perfect world, they would execute to all company standards.

The restaurant’s direct supervisors, Area Directors, traditionally manage multiple units and are very rarely in each of their restaurants on a daily basis. Depending on the size of the organization they may only get to a restaurant 1 time a month or a quarter.

The Area Director level of management is corporates representation within the organization but it is a very hard job to be effective at. It goes up from there with upper levels of management getting to restaurants on even a more infrequent basis.

Today chains rely on audits for direct contact with the restaurant. Audits are only so effective, because they happen too infrequently to matter. For instance most audits ask a question about how well the restaurant is doing on completing their daily food safety and operations checklists. A lot of operators will point to these questions as an example of them doing their due dilligence on food safety and ops procedures.

There are two things wrong with these “are people following procedures” questions: 1. they aren’t worth enough points to truly affect the audit score, therefore they don’t penalize people enough for not following the daily procedures. You have procedures but have no mechanism for holding people accountable to following those procedures.

2. Audits generally happen quarterly, so they don’t meet the timely standard for providing effective feedback. If you are auditing in December, it’s impossible to hold people accountable for not following procedures in October.

Restaurant organizations lack direct managerial accountability and since they’ve never had it, they don’t perceive that they absolutely need it today. I think it goes a little deeper than that. I think they know, I knew when I was in corporate ops at Quiznos, how things are at the restaurant level and they are worried about being completely overwhelmed with new issues if they started to hold people accountable.

They see holding people accountable to following procedures at least in the short-term, could be creating a ton of new work for themselves that they don’t have today because they don’t know what they don’t know.

Staffing is also a problem because current org structures are not staffed to handle real-time management of all their restaurants. This is a fair and real concern but not an impossible one to be overcome. With our technology, one or two people could effectively manage a large organization of restaurants from corporate using our alerts and reports. Staffing shouldn’t be used as an excuse for not implementing a system that would increase sales and customer satisfaction across the organization, it is an opportunity to reorganize your current teams to be more effective.

Visibility and Perceived Liability

If you start to get real-time visibility and issues are being bubbled up to management, you have a brand and legal responsibility, due care and due diligence, to address these issues immediately and get them rectified.

I would agree that this a real legal liability to know something is wrong and not take action. As an Ops Leader, you should absolutely put into place procedures to deal with issues in real-time and work to make sure that your operations are safe. That goes back to staffing and being able to address things in a timely manner.

When in the history of the world was it a better long-term policy to ignore bad things happening within your business instead of addressing and fixing them? Never!!!!!

I think that a lot of restaurant company executives would be surprised or at least overwhelmed by the amount of daily critical infractions they would find if they had the OpsAnalitica system implemented across their restaurants. I’ve seen the data coming in and it is pretty scary.

Pretending that you don’t have issues is not the same as not having issues. Not having issues because you are proactively managing them out of your business is better.

Self-Preservation

I’m not going to harp on self-preservation for 20 paragraphs. Nobody wants to be perceived as not doing a good job. It takes strong leadership to lead substantive change into an organization and to build new skills and change procedures. It’s not easy or fun.

Conclusion

Let’s pose this question to ourselves. Would you fly on an airplane if airplanes were franchised and operated similiarly to how restaurant companies operate their restaurants? Hell No!

The comparisons between airplanes and restaurants is very relevant. A busy restaurant will serve as many people as a plane would transport on a trip. Both airlines and restaurants have massive responsibilities in ensuring the health and safety of their guests. If a restaurant or an airline doesn’t do everything they are supposed to do, the results can be catostrophic. The worse case scenario doesn’t happen all that often but does happen and it destroys lives.

If you are a restaurant executive that wouldn’t fly on a franchised plane that was operated by one of your franchisees. Then you have to ask yourself why a person should eat at one of your restaurants.

I’ve made the case that restaurant Ops Teams have been resistant to implement Ops Management systems like OpsAnalitica, because they are concerned about being held accountable for their restaurants, the potential for an increased amount of work that would cause them in the short-term, the liability that could be incurred by knowing what is happening in their restaurants if they are unable to get those issues rectified, and their own self-preservation. All of these reasons are BS.

We now have a technology that can help us run better restaurants, keep our guests safer, and increase customer satisfaction which will lead to increased sales and profits. Restaurant leaders have a fiduciary responsibility to their stakeholders to implement systems that are going to protect and grow their investments. We have a human responsibility to run better restaurants for our customers.

If you want to learn more about OpsAnalitica, click here.

Google FINDER and the Power of Data to make Restaurants Safer

Are you aware of Google’s FINDER algorithm? My guess is not yet but you will hear more about it in the future.  Check out this article from The Daily Mail UK .

Google has created a machine learning algorithm named FINDER, Foodborne Illness Detector in Real Time, that is capable of pairing search terms like “diarrhea” and “stomach cramps” with a person’s geolocation history to determine which restaurants they have visited recently and proactively detect which restaurants might be operating unsafely in real-time.

Here are some of the interesting facts from the Daily Mail Article:

  • Google ran a test across Chicago and Las Vegas in 2016 & 17.
  • FINDER detected that the percentage of unsafe restaurants across those cities were 52.3% vs. the health department inspection data which said that 22.7% were unsafe.
  • FINDER was more accurate than customer complaints. which are only accurate about 38% of the time. “Researchers believe this is because most people assume the cause of their food poisoning was the last place they ate at, causing them to file a complaint at the wrong restaurant. They point to medical studies that have shown foodborne illnesses can take 48 hours or even longer to become symptomatic after someone has been exposed. “
  • “[We] demonstrated that FINDER improves the accuracy of health inspections; restaurants identified by FINDER are 3.1 times as likely to be deemed unsafe during the inspection as restaurants identified by existing methods,’ according to the study.”

First off, I’m so impressed by the FINDER project, because they used readily available disparate data and combined it together to identify causality and to notify the proper authorities to investigate.

Here are my conclusions from the article:

  1. The idea that a health inspection or an internal audit conducted periodically is enough to identify unsafe restaurants is an antiquated and inaccurate way of managing food safety.
  2. This further confirms the FDA’s recent study, read our blog to learn more, that the best way to reduce the risk of foodborne illness is an FSMS (Food Safety Management System) that fosters daily active managerial control.
  3. In the future, we will see an increase in systems that are constantly monitoring and reporting on exceptions.  We do that today in our platform and we are continuing to look for ways to expand that exception reporting. To learn more about the OpsAnalitica Platform, click here.
  4. Restaurant operators that have been highly critical of reviews where a person said they got sick at their restaurant, there is some validity in that criticism.
  5. Iwaspoisoned.com, which we have lauded as a really cool platform for identifying foodborne illness outbreaks may have a very short lifespan because the accuracy of complaints is only 38% and this platform is more accurate.

The restaurant industry, like all industries, has a responsibility to operate at the highest standard and to police itself for the continued prosperity of all restaurants.  Restaurants get people sick on a daily basis, causing their patron’s great physical discomfort and costing society billions of dollars annually.

The FINDER study showed that over half the restaurants in the cities studied were unsafe. People get sick at restaurants all the time but because most restaurants only get inspected 1 or 2 times per year and it generally requires a doctor’s diagnosis to make an official foodborne illness complaint, it continues to get underreported and these unsafe restaurants are continuing to operate without any regulatory consequences.

The FDA needs to mandate through the Food Code a minimum standard of daily active managerial control procedures and digital record keeping for all restaurants. We recommend that they take a Criticals First approach to this standard.

Restaurants need to implement their own FSMS that promote daily active managerial control and then work those systems to run safer operations for their own well being. I’ll leave you with this thought. 80% of restaurants fail within the first 5 years, we in the industry have always equated that to bad operations, locations, and management. Would you ever go back to a restaurant that got you sick? I wouldn’t, I haven’t. I wonder how much of the restaurant failure rate could be potentially contributed to patrons not going back to restaurants that made them sick?

 

 

 

 

 

The Number 1 Factor For Reducing Critical Food Safety Violations is…

The number one factor for reducing critical food safety violations is…

Implementing a Food Safety Management System (FSMS) with daily Active Managerial Control (AMC)

The following is from the FDA REPORT ON THE OCCURRENCE OF FOODBORNE ILLNESS RISK FACTORS IN FAST FOOD AND FULL-SERVICE RESTAURANTS, 2013-2014 Prepared by the FDA National Retail Food Team 2018

Here are my conclusions from the study so you don’t have to read the whole thing

  1. The number 1 factor that predicts less food safety violations, in both Fast Food and Full Service restaurants,  is a well developed, documented and executed daily Food Safety Management System (FSMS) that drives Daily Active Managerial Control (AMC). 
    1. FSMS were the strongest predictor of data items being out-of-compliance in both fast food and full-service restaurants: those with well-developed food safety management systems had significantly fewer food safety behaviors/practices out of compliance than did those with less developed food safety management systems.- Page 39
  2. That the presence of Certified Food Protection Manager (CFPM) on staff positively correlates to having a better FSMS but doesn’t replace an FSMS.
    1. However, upon multi-factor regression, the correlations between certified food protection manager and out-of-compliance become non-significant, indicating that food safety management systems and not the presence of a certified food protection manager predict compliance with food safety behaviors/practices. – Page 40
    2. In fast food restaurants with a CFPM who was the person in charge at the time of data collection, the average FSMS score was 2.645, while the average score for fast food restaurants with no CFPM employed was 1.822. In full-service restaurants, scores were 1.842 and 1.348, respectively. This suggests that having a CFPM present at all hours of operation enhances food safety management systems and reduces the number of out-of-compliance food safety behaviors/practices. – Page 40
  3. If you don’t have a CFPM working every shift, then you might as well not have one at all.
    1. In fact, having a CFPM who was not present was almost no different than having no CFPM at all for the out-of-compliance food safety behaviors/practices evaluated in this study. – page 40
  4. The types of Jurisdiction the restaurant resides in and whether the health inspections that you receive are: Scored/Not Scored, Publicly Available/Not Publicly Available, or that Employee Food Safety Training is Required/Not Required didn’t affect the scores of the Fast Food or Full-Service Restaurants. This makes sense as health inspections only happen a couple of times a year. The quote below is for full-service restaurants but they stated similar conclusions for fast food restaurants
    1. Full-service restaurants located in jurisdictions that graded establishments did not have significantly different results (p = 0.0819) compared to full-service restaurants located in jurisdictions that did not grade. Establishments located in jurisdictions where there was a requirement to make inspection results public did not have significantly different compliance (p = 0.6820) than establishments in jurisdictions that did not require reporting. Establishments in jurisdictions that required food handler training did not have significantly different compliance (p = 0.0626) than establishments in jurisdictions that did not require food handler training. – Page 30
  5. Of the foodborne illness risk factors investigated in this study, restaurants had the best control over inadequate cooking. There remains a need to gain better control over improper holding/time and temperature and poor personal hygiene. Page 39
  6. Multi-unit operators had significantly lower instances of out-of-compliance items compared to single unit operators. Page 26 This was true for both Fast Food and Full-Service Restaurants.

In layman’s terms, you have to have food safety procedures for your restaurants daily operations, you have to train your team on how to follow those procedures, most importantly your managers have to complete daily monitoring activities (via checklists, logs, and/or IoT) to ensure that you are identifying and fixing any issues that you find in real-time.

Here is my shameless self-promotion:

  • The OpsAnalitica Platform is the backbone of any good Food Safety Management System. It provides your teams with access to Procedures, Training, and Monitoring functionality in real-time customized to every location and is the foundation of a well developed and documented FSMS. Please click here if you would like to learn more about our platform and how we can help you set up your FSMS. 
  • Time and temperature control was the number one food safety issue identified for both full-service and fast food restaurants. The OpsAnalitica platform integrates with temperature sensors and with our proactive notifications we can alert management to critical food safety violations in real-time so that any problems can be fixed immediately before they affect customers.
  • I have been shouting these conclusions for the last 3 years to everyone in the industry via this blog and our marketing and sales efforts. It feels good to be backed up by this study but the fact that in 68% of Fast Food and 86% of Full-Service Restaurants that there was an observance of improper temperature control means that the status quo system of having paper-based food safety procedures that are largely pencil whipped with no accountability or above store visibility is failing. We as an industry need to take this stuff more seriously.

As food service professionals, we owe it to ourselves, our customers, and our brands to take the conclusions from this report seriously and implement FSMS and daily AMC into our restaurants.

As I mentioned in a blog a couple of weeks ago, we heard from one of the head lobbyists for the NRA that they expect the FDA conversations around mandatory digit record keeping in restaurants to begin in 2019 and would expect to see updates to the food code in 2021. I believe that the conclusions of this report play right into those initiatives for well documented FSMS programs.

Excerpts from the Study

The rest of this blog is going to be summarizing the report and displaying the most interesting charts and graphs from it.  I will try to do my best to make my opinions clear and differentiated from the findings. The above link is my blanket footnote for the information below as you can reference the original text at any point.

Purpose of the Study:

The purpose of each restaurant data collection during the current 10-year study period is to investigate the relationship between food safety management systems (FSMS), certified food protection managers (CFPMs), and the occurrence of risk factors and food safety behaviors/practices commonly associated with foodborne illness in restaurants.

Let’s define FSMS (Food Safety Management System)

FSMS refers to a specific set of actions (e.g., procedures, training, and monitoring) to help achieve active managerial control. While FSMS procedures vary across the retail and food service industry, purposeful implementation of those procedures, training, and monitoring are consistent components of FSMS.

AMC (Active Managerial Control)

To help prevent foodborne illness, the FDA Food Code emphasizes the need for risk- based preventive controls and daily active managerial control (AMC) of the risk factors contributing to foodborne illness in retail and food service facilities. AMC is “the purposeful incorporation of specific actions or procedures by industry management into the operation of their business to attain control over foodborne illness risk factors” (FDA, 2013). A food establishment’s achieving AMC involves the continuous identification and proactive prevention of food safety hazards.

Why are FSMS’s important?

Inadequate FSMS are thought to contribute to the worldwide burden of foodborne disease (Luning et al., 2008). For example, HACCP has been shown to have positive effects on food safety, but the poor implementation of HACCP has been described as a precursor to foodborne outbreaks (Cormier, 2007; Luning et al., 2009; Ropkins and Beck, 2000).

What is a CFPM (Certified Food Protection Manager)

A CFPM is an individual who has shown proficiency in food safety information by passing a test that is part of an accredited program (FDA, 2013a). Research has shown that the presence of a CFPM is associated with improved inspection scores (Hedberg et al., 2007; Cates et al., 2008, Brown et al., 2014). Hedberg et al. (2006) found that the major difference between outbreak and non-outbreak restaurants was the presence of a CFPM.

Table 3 describes how the team rated the risk of different food service establishments, they didn’t study any risk category 1 businesses.

Table 4 talks about what they were looking for in the study.

This next image describes the different scoring criteria for FSMS’s. 

The Results

Study Conclusions

 

Thank you for reading this blog. If you want to learn more about OpsAnalitica, go to OpsAnalitica.com.

 

Real-time Collaboration is the Key to Getting Your Checklists Done Every Shift

Real-time Collaboration is a feature of the OpsAnalitica Platform, it allows multiple team members to work on a checklist at the same time as well as allowing you to start a checklist on one device and finish it on another. It is probably the most important feature for driving checklist compliance that we have released since we began the company and we are the only checklist platform that has this functionality.

Why is real-time collaboration so important for getting checklists done on time and why does anyone care? It splits up the work and reduces checklist completion time. Instead of a manager or chef being solely responsible to complete a very extensive and time-consuming checklist by themselves, the same checklist can be completed by a couple of team members simultaneously in 1/3 to half the time.

Checklist completion time is one of the biggest factors driving pencil whipping and non-completion of checklists. Who has an hour of uninterrupted time when running a restaurant? No one! If you are pressed for time, dealing the with the daily fires that all restaurant managers face, with the next shift rapidly approaching, it is easy to convince yourself that you don’t have time to do your checklists correctly. So most managers don’t.

94% of restaurant operators we surveyed stated that they didn’t think their teams were doing their checklists accurately.

Guest satisfaction, sales, and profits suffer when restaurants aren’t ready for the meal period. Checklists were developed to help managers ensure that they were ready for their guests every shift. When your checklists don’t get done the whole system breaks down and you run a worse restaurant.

Lack of follow-up is the other factor that drives checklists not being completed. Peter Drucker’s famous quote applies here, “What gets measured gets improved.”

If management at the store and area levels aren’t holding their employees accountable for doing their checklists, then they aren’t going to get done.  That is what we see in the industry today. Most companies have no system in place to manage daily operations at the above store level, area managers and directors don’t get notified when people aren’t doing what they are supposed to. Therefore they can’t intervene and drive the desired behavior at the store level.

Most companies have added questions on their audits about checklists compliance, but often times it is not worth enough points to significantly affect the audit score to cause a real consequence for not following procedure. This is one of the largest fundamental flaws in how restaurant companies have organized themselves.  Restaurant companies spend millions of dollars creating procedures, training materials, and on training employees but have no follow-up mechanism that ensures that the restaurants are complying and doing what they are supposed to.

Real-time visibility into restaurant operations, critical violation notifications, and checklist compliance are all things you get with the OpsAnalitica Platform, these features allow managers in all levels of the organization to see what is happening and hold their teams accountable. It is a game changer for running more consistent operations. In addition, if you use the platform to track your food safety process, the OpsAnalitica platform will be your digital recordkeeping platform helping you comply with the expected digital record-keeping mandates.

Using the OpsAnalitica platform with its real-time collaboration features will help you drive checklist compliance and run better, safer and more profitable restaurants. Our visibility and notification features will help your teams hold your managers accountable for following your procedures. This one-two punch is what is needed to run better restaurants and helps you control what you can control. If you are interested in learning more, check out Opsanalitica.com.

 

 

An Open Letter to the FDA & the National Restaurant Association in regards to Digital Record Keeping

Digital Record Keeping In Restaurants is Coming

It has been pretty widely known in the restaurant industry over the last couple of years that digital record keeping is going to be mandated for restaurants in the near future, it just makes sense.  The biggest bellwether of this impending change was FSMA, the Food Safety Modernization Act, which requires extensive digital record keeping for food service manufacturing facilities. I was speaking with a consultant and friend of mine, Scott Turner, who is a FSMA consultant and he was telling me that they originally wanted to combine the Food Code and FSMA into one standard for all food service manufacturing and restaurants, which would be the efficient and smart thing to do by the government, but hasn’t been implemented yet.

In September I attended at the Colorado Restaurant Show that is hosted by the Colorado Restaurant Association. At that show, they had a speaker from the National Restaurant Association who was the VP of State and Local Affairs. Basically, he is the chief lobbyist for the NRA in DC on State and Local issues that could affect the restaurant industry.  I spoke to him after his presentation and asked specifically about the digital record keeping mandate. He said that they were expecting the official conversations to begin in 2019, which is the midpoint of the 4-year food code cycle, and that we probably would see something in 2021 which is the next release year.

The question is; what is digital record keeping in restaurants going to look like and how should it be done?

We at OpsAnalitica are on the cutting edge of this issue and have a ton of experience with digital record keeping and food service operations for both the BOH/FOH and we have formulated our own approach to how this should be implemented across the industry. We call it Criticals First.

Let’s start with a quick review of where we stand today from a digital recordkeeping perspective.

The FDA publishes the Food Code, which is basically the Federal Governments guidance on best practices around food safety in restaurants and food service establishments every four years. The last release was 2017 and the next one will be 2021. Every 2 years in the cycle they make updates and start conversations around where the Food Code is going.  The Food Code is not mandated for every food service establishment in the country, it is the best practice. States and ultimately counties have the final say of what is the food safety standard for their jurisdictions. Basically, the states and counties review the food code and use what they want in their areas.

Let me preface this next statement, 99% of the time I’m not for more federal government regulation. Food Safety regulation is an area where a lot of money could be saved by foodservice operators and the government if there was 1 federal standard for food safety across the entire country.  We have national chains that are operating in almost every county in the country and in some cases have different regulatory standards county by county in the same state. You could run two restaurants in two different counties that are literally a couple of minutes from each other and have completely different record-keeping standards. Food safety is too important and there should be one standard across the entire country that all establishments are required to adhere.

The food code doesn’t currently mandate any food handling safety procedure or digital record keeping. They suggest that restaurants create and follow a HACCP program. In the Food Code, they state that one of the reasons that there isn’t a mandated HACCP standard for all restaurants in the country is that it would be a burden on the independent operators who might not have the sophistication and resources to create and manage a full HACCP implementation.

I tend to agree that not every restaurant needs a full HACCP plan and that varies by the type of food they are serving. Where I break from the food code is that there should be a national standard of mandated food safety checks and ops checks every meal period in every location no matter if you are a national chain or an independent restaurant. Those checks, which we’ll get into more detail on below, should be recorded digitally and reviewed by health inspectors during health inspections. There should be huge fines for not completing those checks regularly and being able to provide that information. I would go as far as saying that you should fail your health inspection for not completing food safety checks and documenting your results.

The public is relying on the government’s annual health inspections to ensure that food service establishments are operating safely. The reality is that restaurants get people sick all the time, check out Iwaspoisoned.com. There are systematic roadblocks for reporting foodborne illness, like the requirement of a doctors diagnosis that keep these issues underreported.

Also, health inspections happen so infrequently that restaurants often go months at a time without seeing an inspector, in  San Francisco, it was reported a few years ago that due to a lack of inspectors restaurants were going 18 months between inspections. My point is this, the public thinks the government is regulating this better than they are able to and the responsibility for food safety is squarely on the shoulders of the operators.

The only way inspectors can ensure that restaurants are running safe operations between their inspections is to have the operators conduct their own checks on a daily basis and record their results. The system breaks down if the health inspectors are unable to verify that those checks are being completed on a daily basis accurately. Food service establishments operating safely and checking their own operations daily is the first line of defense against foodborne illness (this doesn’t address ready to eat foods that are contaminated in the manufacturing process).

Let me wrap up what is currently happening with this last thought. As a customer, I don’t care if you are a mom and pop or a national chain, I want my food to be safe and I expect that you are checking your food safety operations every shift. You don’t get on a small plane and think it’s ok if they didn’t check the engine and the wings because it’s not being operated by a major airline, hell no, you expect small and large operators to follow the same safety standards.

OpsAnalitica’s Criticals First Approach

Every health inspection in the country has critical and non-critical items that the inspector is looking for, they generally contain but are not limited to:

  • Temperature control: Hot/Cold Hold, refrigeration, time controls, cooling procedures
  • Sanitation: Dish machine rinse temperature/chemical ppm, sanitizer buckets, no cross contamination, sanitary conditions
  • Storage: making sure products are being stored correctly
  • Rodents/Pests: no infestations
  • Foreign Contamination: no chance of foreign objects getting into food like dust or paint chips

The Criticals First approach we are recommending is to create checklists and logs for every location that are executed every meal period that focuses on the critical items in that operation. Checking temps of your refrigeration and your line items. Making sure sanitizer buckets and your dishwashing facilities are operating efficiently, doing a quick walk around to ensure that there is no cross contamination and that all of your products are being handled safely. These are the basic things that every foodservice operator is already expected to be doing every shift anyway.  This isn’t new and this isn’t rocket science.  The only thing we are adding is that operators should have to record these checks every shift and store them digitally to meet the future mandate for digital record keeping.

Restaurant operators should look at their current health inspection standard, identify the critical violations, create their checklists and start recording that data today. Health inspectors should take a crawl, walk, run approach with operators, especially independents and work with them to get their checklists and logs finalized to meet the counties standard. Once finalized, health inspectors should hold operators accountable for completing these checks every meal period because this is how we are going to ensure that restaurants are taking their food safety responsibility seriously.

As you can see this is a pragmatic approach to mandating a national food safety standard that takes into account the different types of operations. Now let’s talk about some standards of a good digital recordkeeping platform.

  1. Every record should be time/date stamped and that time date stamp should not be able to be tampered with.
  2. There should be a checklist duration captured, this will help identify if people are pencil whipping and not being forthright with their inspections.
  3. You should not be able to edit answers to questions after they have been submitted.
  4. It should be able to require comments and photos – to get more information.
  5. There should be adequate reports so that an inspector can see how an operation has performed over time both in the completing of their checklists but also to be able to identify individual issues over time.
  6. The system should be able to grant regulators access to reports and data without an account.

Taking a Critical First approach to mandating food safety procedures and requiring digital record keeping will not be an extraordinary burden on the food service industry. If implemented as we have described in this blog, it would be formalizing what food service operations are already expected to do.  Recording these activities digitally so they can easily be reviewed by inspectors is just adding that level of accountability that is currently missing from the system.

This is a pragmatic approach to increasing food safety across our country and providing restaurant patrons with an added layer of confidence and protection from foodborne illness.

P.S. two random thoughts

If you are a food service operator, you should make the move to digital record keeping today, because it is the right thing to do. Also, you should get locked into affordable pricing now, as soon as this is mandated you will see the prices increase dramatically because the providers, we included, will be able to charge more and you will have to pay it.

I predict that digital record keeping will happen nationally before 2021. When conversations begin in 2019, that will clue one of the big liberal states like California or New York, who enjoy setting the regulatory standards across the country to mandate digital record keeping in their states. Once that happens, the top 200 chains will have to adopt a strategy around digital record keeping immediately and they will implement it across their entire system vs. managing two processes.  Once the top 200 go, there will be no one with lobbying money fighting against this and therefore the country will move to this standard very quickly.

Thanks for reading and let me know what I missed and where I’m way off.

High Turnover = Lower Ops Consistency

The number one issue facing restaurant operators over the last couple of year, as told to us by restauranteurs at all levels in the business, is staffing and turnover. It is so hard to find good people to work in your restaurant and to keep them for any length of time.

I’m sure you are familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, thank you grad school.

 

Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs basically lays out a pyramid of human needs. Stating that you must fulfill the needs at the bottom of the pyramid first, food and water before you can move your way up to the top which is Self Actualization. To put it another way, you can’t become Self Actualized and achieve your dreams if you are huddled, starving, and cold, living in a damp dark cave not knowing when or if you will ever eat again and worried about being killed by an animal. Neanderthals weren’t self-actualized, they most likely spent 99% of their lives in pursuit of basic Physiological Needs. That is why there were no great works of art or literature that came from the caveman.

If there was a Maslow’s Restaurant Hierarchy of needs, then staffing would replace Physiological needs. You can’t run a restaurant without a team of people. We need good people to show up, work and take their jobs seriously. I remember when I was a restaurant manager at a large high volume P.F. Chang’s in the early 00’s. I was the floor manager and the worse part of my job was dealing with night shift call outs that took place every day. I would find myself on the phone after the lunch shift between 2 and 4 calling people to come in and cover shifts that people had called out of. Now a lot has changed with scheduling programs and that is great. It was hell.

What exacerbates the staffing problem in the restaurant industry is that we are always open. If you are a typical restaurant you are open at least 2 shifts a day 363 days a year. When you lose a person, and you don’t have anyone to back them up, customers don’t care. They want food and they want to eat it now. When you can’t find people or the people you have aren’t operating at full capacity because they are new and just out of training, it is the equivalent of your restaurant being deprived of oxygen and water. You can’t do anything else. You have to fill those shifts because the customers are coming.

One of the biggest consequences of not having a fully staffed and trained restaurant team is Restaurant Ops Consistency.

Let’s define Ops Consistency, it is the ability of the restaurant team to execute the daily operations of the restaurant to service guests.  It is running the restaurant. It is sidework, it is prep, it is making food and drinks and delivering them to guests, it is menu knowledge, providing tasty and safe food in a clean and inviting environment.

Think about going to a restaurant on the day that it opens, huge mistake. The team is new, they don’t know how to do everything yet, new employees tend to make more mistakes and they work slower,  they are green. The guest experience these teams are creating is the product of being brand new at their jobs.

Take this one step further, you could manage a restaurant that has been opened for years but if you have high turnover then you are constantly staffed with a mix of new employees and seasoned employees, in some restaurants the seasoned employees have only been there for a couple of months. The guest experience you are able to provide is going to be inconsistent and less than what an experienced team could provide. Your Ops Consistency, your guest experience, and ultimately your sales and profits will all go down.

OPERATIONS ARE WHAT THE GUEST IS PAYING US TO DO, IT IS THE CORE OF RUNNING A RESTAURANT, IT IS BASIC BLOCKING AND TACKLING. IF YOU DON’T OPERATE WELL YOU WILL GO OUT OF BUSINESS!!!

Operations consistency is probably the biggest challenge that is facing operators behind staffing and turnover and because filling shifts is the immediate fire that must be put out on a daily basis, it doesn’t get as much attention as it deserves, to the detriment to the business and the industry.

How do you make your operations more consistent in this staffing market?

Understand what your Employees are Costing You and create employee retention incentives:

How often do you give your restaurant employees raises or other incentives to stay with you? Executives in big companies get golden handcuffs, usually in the form of stock options or bonuses, to prevent them from leaving. As an industry, we have to figure out ways to create affordable golden handcuffs for our restaurant employees. If we know the average cost of hiring and training a new restaurant employee is $5,864 based on a report from the Center of Hospitality Research at Cornell University. Then we know that if we can spend less than that number and retain an employee for longer then we are winning. We have already agreed that a more veteran staff is capable of providing better customer experiences than a greener staff and that when you lower turnover it gives management more opportunity to proactively grow their business vs. focusing only on how are they going to get enough bodies to work the next shift.

Restaurant Managers need to understand the ROI for every new employee and job role:

  1. Calculate how much sales and profits an individual employee in a job role is responsible for creating per hour based off of past sales. The easiest way to do this would be to look at what a fully staffed restaurant looks like from a total hours perspective and divide that number into an average sales figure over a time period. The number you are ultimately trying to get to is how much profit per hour is an employee generating for your business, it is that number that you have to divide into your costs to determine the payback period and ROI for an employee.
  2. Then calculate your current new hire training costs, employee costs, etc. for each job role. Average out any slight pay differences.
  3. Look at what the payback period is for each employee, or how long do they have to work for you before they start to generate an actual return on your investment.

Once you have the number of hours an employee has to work before you make a dime on them, you will be able to make smarter decisions. Create incentives for them to stay longer, get rid of bad employees faster.  Every restaurant manager tracks labor cost % but very few know how many hours a new employee has to work for them to break even on that investment.

Remember that incentives don’t always have to be monetary but monetary ones will be more effective. Thanking people and buying them a drink or a meal can go a long way. If they make 100 bucks a shift with you and could make 200 a shift across the street, you probably won’t keep them.

One way to approach incentives is to create certifications or levels within their job role, tie skills acquired to pay raises, recognize longevity with raises and privileges. I will start you at $10 an hour and every 90 days that you stay with us, I will give you a $.25 raise. More senior employees get the best shifts, etc..

Be creative and know the actual cost of an employee leaving. Also, carry out exit interviews with no judgment, either over the phone or on an online survey tool. Try to understand why people are leaving so you can correct those problems. Also, if a person reports a reason for leaving that is an improper conduct issue, make sure to report it to HR to protect the company.

Invest in systems more than training:

I’ve said before, in other blogs, and I will say it again. I’m not advocating not training people. We have to train our teams to do their job functions but everything that is a repeatable daily task we should systematize.

Be Aware: The LMS companies will tell you that training is the answer to everything because they want you to buy an LMS system. In reality, training is important but paying people to remember things that are repeatable in nature is waste of time and money.

The culture systems people will tell you that high performing cultures are the most important thing and that you should buy a system that focuses on your culture. Culture has to be experienced by the team at the restaurant and provided by management not preached about.

There is that famous saying ” The beatings will continue until morale improves.” I always think about that when people talk to me about culture. I’ve worked at restaurants where we went through tons of culture training and then the management team wasn’t very good and didn’t live the culture they were preaching.

The reason historically the restaurant industry has put all of our eggs in the training basket when it came to operations consistency wasn’t because it was the most effective way to drive operations consistency it was the only thing you could really control in a multi-unit restaurant operation.

The technology didn’t exist to see what was happening in your operations or to hold your team accountable for following your procedures until the last few years. So everybody just pretended that the reason people weren’t following a procedure was that they didn’t know how to do that task. In reality, it was because they didn’t want to or didn’t remember or didn’t care about following the procedure as there was no consequence for not.

Things don’t get done in restaurants because management isn’t holding people accountable for following procedures. I’ve seen it myself, some set-up item isn’t done at the restaurant, if you walk up to the employee responsible and ask if they know how to do it, they can do it. They don’t need to be trained, they need to be reminded to do the task and held accountable for getting it done.

We as an industry have to break away from how we used to run restaurants and look at this situation critically. If you know that an average employee is only going to stay 6 months would you train them as if they are going to be with you for 10 years? Of course not. The reality is this; your employees will leave if they can make more money across the street. Stop training them on stuff that they don’t need to do their immediate job to lower your risk and cost.

Instead, invest in systems that can help employees become more productive quicker and that also increase your Ops Consistency. OpsAnalitica is Shift Readiness and Ops Consistency platform that allows you to script out the perfect shift in every location. It allows you to define what needs to be done every day from the manager to each job position so that those employees don’t have to think or remember what needs to be done.

OpsAnalitica can provide on the spot training and detailed instructions which will get employees productive quicker and ensure that all crucial tasks can be completed in a timely manner. OpsAnlitica provides you with real-time visibility into your operations so your location and above store management can see what is happening in the restaurant and take immediate action to ensure that Ops Standards are being executed and that guests are being taken care of. Most importantly it provides leadership with a feed of restaurant operations information so they can make data-driven decisions about their businesses.

This is one of the toughest restaurant labor markets in history. A combination of generational demographic changes, a strong economy, and overstepping government interference has made it harder and harder to find, train, compensate and retain good employees.  In addition to the stress of having to constantly find, hire and train new employees to keep the restaurant staffed. The second biggest consequence of this tight labor market is Operations Consistency.

Restaurants that suffer from high turnover always have a large complement of new employees who don’t have as much experience and aren’t as capable of delivering the same level of service as more experienced employees. The restaurants aren’t able to get ahead because all efforts are spent just keeping the restaurant fully staffed, leaving management little room to make the strategic decisions needed to grow their businesses.

Restaurant managers have to invest the time to create an ongoing and increasing incentive program to keep employees for longer to maximize their ROI on each employee. Restaurant companies need to invest more into systems, OpsAnalitica, that can take the guesswork out of running the restaurants for each position every shift and to focus on holding their teams accountable to following their procedures. By providing a system that can dictate what needs to be done and when, managers can get employees more productive quicker and reduce onboarding and training time, reducing those costs will increase employee ROI.

Your restaurant’s sales and profits and your strategic goals are going to suffer if you aren’t able to find, train, incentivize employees, and provide them with the systems that are going to make them better faster while ensuring that your operations consistency in every location is maintained. Ops consistency systems and retention incentives have to be your top priority for the long-term success of your restaurant.

 

 

 

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