Cruffin – I’ve got to get me one of these!


This is a very light blog post today.  Light and buttery and delicious, or so I’m guessing.  Have you heard of the Cruffin? It is a genetically engineered breakfast treat.  A mad scientist, probably from Monsanto or Paris, mated a croissant and muffin together.  God bless technology.

Check out the original article here, too many mouth watering pictures to cut and paste, about the Cruffin and curse those who live by a Cruffin bakery. I can tell you that I will be hunting wild Cruffins until I bag one.  Enjoy

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The Next Big Competitive Advantage in the Restaurant Industry


It is human nature to look forward trying to figure out what is going to be the next big thing in your industry so you can beat your competitors to the punch. I believe the next big thing in the restaurant industry is going to be technology, look how perceptive I am.

Technology and apps are presented all the time as these magic bullets that can fix your business. In a lot of cases, they can add incredible value to your business if you can get them implemented.

Implementation is the key! Identifying, Testing, and Implementing new technology across a portfolio of restaurants and ensuring that you get your ROI out of the tool requires a unique skill set and disciplined approach.

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The technology implementation skill set is the muscle that each restaurant company has to develop. It is the companies that adopt technology quickly and get an ROI on the product that are going to have the competitive advantage in the future.

I own an app company, OpsAnalitica, we have a restaurant checklist and reporting platform. Our platform can be implemented in a few hours because it is very user-friendly, and it was designed to scale from basic to advanced effortlessly. More complicated platforms can take weeks or months to get implemented.

I spent the last five years before starting OpsAnalitica doing large enterprise security consulting for Fortune 500 companies. I’ve been a part of several multi-million dollar implementations, and I would like to tell you that they all went perfectly. They didn’t.

The blame for the mediocre results of these projects should be equally spread out to all parties that were involved. It is usually a combination of factors that take a plan with so much hope and expectation into the crapper.

Here are some of the lessons I learned doing these implementations:

1. The most important rule of implementations: START SIMPLE AND ADD FUNCTIONALITY FROM THERE!!!! I can’t stress this enough, you just purchased a Ferrari piece of software. Start with the most basic functionality and get it out there to the end users. Then take their feedback and continue to roll out additional functionality over time. Trying to do too much in phase 1 is the number one reason I saw projects fail.

2. Be wary of companies that won’t help let you kick the tires of their product before you purchase, demand a free trial. At the very minimum make them show you a live demo of the tool. If they can’t do a live demo or let you see the product in action at another company, they don’t have a product that works.

3. Find out what kind of support packages and training the company offers. Use that as a negotiating point when you can’t get additional concessions on price try to get them to offer expanded support.

4. If you hire consultants be wary if they never push back – consultants that don’t push back on requirements or don’t offer their expert opinion and try to steer you to the best option are not consultants. You pay consultants to consult, to tell you that you are wrong or that you are going to pay a penalty if you do it this way. If the people you just hired to implement just say yes and do whatever you want then you aren’t getting your monies worth.

5. Ask for references and know you will never get a reference that isn’t going to tell you the product is great. Use your network and try to reach out to people who work at companies that use the tool and see if they like the product.

Technology, when implemented and being used correctly can save time, money, and drive profits. Those profits and the increased cash flow can allow you to push your competitors around on the playing field. They can allow you to increase your marketing, get better locations, open more locations, etc..

Technology, when not implemented correctly: can suck away cash, steal focus, waste valuable time, stop other projects from being funded or started and leave a horrible taste in your mouth. Technology is only better than manual processes when it works.

I hope that this blog helps you on your next project and that you start trying to strengthen your internal implementation skill set.

Social Media Influence on Restaurant Patrons

Caught an interesting article on about social media in the restaurant industry and effective it is in attracting customers. You might be surprised by some of these findings. I was.

  • adults who use Instagram has doubled in two years from 13 percent in 2012 to 26 percent in 2014
  • 62% of Americans say social media has no effect on buying decisions
  • the average restaurant has a mere 3 percent engagement rate on social media
  • social media, online reviews tend to have a greater effect on smaller, higher end restaurants

The article goes on to bash Yelp, calling it the yellow pages with pictures and that most of the reviews lack substance with more focus on smaller, personal things vs. the food or the service. We’ve talked a lot about Yelp this year and most of the feedback about Yelp from restaurant operators tends to be negative.

While social media seems to be less effective in restaurants, what they found works best is old fashion schmoozing and coupons.

  • inviting people to try food
  • boast about your staff
  • make regulars feel special when they show up
  • stand behind your product
  • ask guests to come back and bring their friends
  • 90% of people said a coupon will influence their buying decision
  • 78% said word of mouth will influence their buying decision

The article concludes by saying that you need to know your audience. A lesson here can be taken from JC Penny when tried to go the Nordstrom route and not have any sales. It flopped big time. Their clients are accustomed to sales and deals so when that stopped so did the shopping. They quickly changed back. Know what your customers want and make sure you give it to them.

I have copied the full article below.

If you build it — a social media bridge to restaurantgoers — they will come, right?

Not so fast.

Social media is all the rage: The Pew Research Center reports adults who use Instagram has doubled in two years from 13 percent in 2012 to 26 percent in 2014.

But a majority of Americans — 62 percent — say social media has no effect on their purchasing decisions. In the restaurant industry, the Sprinklr Social Business Index reports the average restaurant has a mere 3 percent engagement rate on social media.

That means restaurants would be better off ratcheting down their social media expectations and connecting with consumers offline. Offline word-of-mouth, from face-to-face or phone conversations, has a significant advantage (50 percent vs. 43 percent) over online interactions with respect to purchase intent, a Keller Fay Group TalkTrack study found.

The good news is there are lots of ways to engage customers offline, including stellar food and service, loyalty programs, friendly hosts and servers, charity work and community involvement.

The perks and pitfalls of social media

Armand Iaia, regional manager for the Chicago-based restaurant consulting firm Cini-Little International Inc., says social media messages often are perceived as just another form of advertising.

“Many people are immune to this kind of advertising and do not pay attention to it. I don’t,” he said.

But Gary Worden, a restaurant operator and publisher of Restaurant Startup and Growth magazine, said social media can play an important role for smaller restaurants. Good reviews can boost business.

“Independent restaurants particularly seem to generate a good number of reviews that can have an effect on prospective guests and guest visits,” Worden said. “The higher the restaurant menu prices or if the guest has friends or a special occasion, the more influence the social media reviews can play a role.”

Examine the source

Still, “while social media will influence people and help or hurt the innocent, I say examine the source,” said Steve Nachwalter, CEO of the Nachwalter Consulting Group in Las Vegas. “In human decision-making, there are always internal representations made in regard to how each individual receives and processes information.”

Yelp, which publishes crowd-sourced reviews about businesses, by definition is subjective and therefore can harm businesses if reviews are negative — even if they are unfair.

“Logically, we can’t punish the chef for a mistake the waiter made and subsequently bash a restaurant that has amazing food,” Nachwalter said. “In the same vein, a less-than-great place receives five stars because the hostess is hot or because the greeter made them feel special.”

Nachwalter said he viewed Yelp as “an online Yellow Pages with photos.”

“I don’t pay too much attention to individual reviews because I’ve seen too many unprofessional and untrue reviews,” he said. “I’m not in a position to judge people one way or the other, but I am intelligent enough to know when someone is bashing a place over personal nonsense.”

What can be a more effective method of attracting and maintaining customers is schmoozing.

Restaurant owners “should invite people to try their food,” Nachwalter said. “People are visual, so show pictures. Talk about your staff, make them real and personal. Stand behind your product and make everyone aware of your presences in the space. Make regulars feel special. Make a big deal when they come in. Mention bringing their friends. Ask directly for referrals.”

Employees can help if they have been trained on how to connect with customers and how to give them the experience they want.

“It all starts at who represents your brand,” Nachwalter said.

Explore the workplace

Whereas digital advertising appears to do little to influence consumer dining decisions, customers have a harder time turning down rave reviews or good deals.

Almost 90 percent of people surveyed by WorkPlace Impact said a good old-fashioned coupon influences them, while 78 percent said word of mouth did.

Since Americans spend a large share of their lives at work, the workplace becomes a natural venue for people to share opinions, experiences and recommendations with co-workers — including about where to eat.

“A lot of the decisions (people) make about dining are made while at the office,” said Tara Peters, director of marketing at WorkPlace Impact.

Peters’ firm helps restaurants reach workers during the workday with the goal of attracting new customers.

“When we are running a marketing program for a restaurant client, we will send their materials to businesses close to their restaurants” and have employers hand out coupons to workers, Peters said. “Employers in our network love giving their employees these perks. ”

Know your audience

Despite the power of face-to-face interaction, restaurants aren’t about to abandon social media, which means it is important owners learn to view it accurately and use it wisely.

Making social media more effective comes down to knowing your audience, Nachwalter said.

“The top restaurants don’t offer coupons, just like heart surgeons don’t offer two-for-one,” he said. “Decide what your audience wants, and give it to them.”

Restaurateurs also have to take negative comments in stride and trust people will see through insincere reviews.

Nachwalter recalled one eatery with amazing reviews.

“There was still a lady who did not love it,” he said. “Her reason was because, even though she loved the food, the flower they make out of gelato did not look floral enough. So she gave them one star.”

Dinosaur operators need to adapt or go extinct

Are you a dinosaur operator? A dinosaur operator – is a person who:

  1. Clings to the ways of the past (this doesn’t mean they are old they just aren’t comfortable with change).
  2. Is afraid of new technology – prefers pen and paper to anything digital.
  3. Has lost their intellectual inquisitiveness or doesn’t have the drive to adopt new technologies and best practices.
  4. Hasn’t mastered a new professional skill in years, is doing what they have always done.

Being a dinosaur operator doesn’t mean that the person isn’t successful or good at what they do today. No, not at all. Over time, dinosaur operators will lose their edge as their competition from other businesses and for jobs get tougher, faster, and more experience with the new technologies and best practices of today.

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The new replacing the old is the natural order of things, we are constantly learning from our previous experience and working to make things better. The issue today isn’t change, that has always been constant, it is the rate of change.

Computers, tablets, smart phones, the internet economy are driving change at a rapid pace. The iPad was released 4/3/10 and the same year Square released a mobile payment platform that runs on iPads and in 2013; they released their POS software. Do you think the big POS companies saw Sqaure POS systems being adopted by large companies like Starbucks?  Half of the people I talk to for my company, OpsAnalitica, already have tablet computers in their kitchens. Technology is permeating industries that have remained virtually the same for 1000’s of years; the restaurant industry is one of them.

If you remove computer-driven technologies some of the biggest disruptive changes in the restaurant business in the last 200 years were: cash registers, refrigeration that wasn’t powered by ice, disinfectants, and cans/preservatives. All of those technologies were just improvements on what was already being done. Computers starting with POS Systems, desktops with costing software, through tablets and mobile apps have radically changed the job, and the skills required of the chef and restaurant manager.

I was talking to a professor at one of the top Hospitality programs this week, and I was asking him about Millennials and what they want from jobs and he said:  passionate about causes, they want to customize, they interact differently, and they reject the old ways of doing things.

You can see where technology has affected Millennials with all of those traits. A person born after 1990 has always had: access to the internet; they have always seen mobile phones (the first smartphones were being sold in the mid-1990’s). Technology for them and the rate of change of technology is the norm, and it is not weird or scary. Millennials are the people you see in your restaurant all sitting at a table looking at their phones and not talking.

If we as managers don’t adopt personally and drive our businesses to adopt new technologies, we are going to be at a competitive disadvantage. As our competitors embrace new technologies and start to gain ROI from them, they will be better positioned to grow their businesses and careers.

If you have read this blog and you are a self-identified dinosaur operator, here are a couple of strategies to get you moving out of that category:

  • Get on youtube and start searching out new technologies that you have heard about in the industry. You will be amazed at the amount of free video content on everything. You will be able to educate yourself very quickly on what is happening in the business.
  • Try reverse mentoring where you grab a technology savvy team member, and you have them research something then brief you on it as a side project. It gives them the great experience of running a project, and you get the help you need to learn.

Jump in and you will find that the water is warm and not that deep.

Good luck.


How to Drive Consistent Daily Execution

There are two ways that you can drive consistent daily execution in your operations:

  1. You can nag and set reminders for your staff to do things, basically micromanage every aspect of your operations.
  2. You can hire and train the right staff then integrate them into the operations, teach them why you do certain things and their importance to the success of the business.

Number 1 will work, but there are a plethora of problems associated to this management style. First off it’s annoying to have to be that manager. You don’t want to be a babysitter. The employees hate it because they don’t feel empowered.  This is the farthest from mutually beneficial as it gets and you will wind up with very high turnover.

Also before too long the nagging and reminders just become background noise that gets tuned out. The manager will get yes’d to death and employees will just start telling them what they want to hear, but in the end the bare minimum gets accomplished to keep their job.

Recently I was backing out of my garage and hit a car that was parked in my driveway. In my defense there’s very rarely a car parked in my driveway, but it still shouldn’t have happened because I have a backup camera and sensors that beep when I get close to things.

So why did this happen still with all these warnings/reminders telling me that something was in my way? I had trained my brain to tune out the sensors beeping when I pull out of my garage because they go off every single time I pull out of the garage.

When I go through the garage door jamb it goes off because I’m close enough. Then right outside the door on the driver’s side there’s a large shrub that sets off the sensors and then when I get towards the back of my driveway my neighbor’s bushes set them off. So it has just become noise to me that I tune out because they have “cried wolf” so many times. So now my brain ignores the sensors when I pull my car out of my garage. This will happen to any requests or tasks that have no perceived value to the person that’s supposed to act on these requests/reminders/tasks.

Now with number 2 you will develop a reliable, consistent team that executes every shift because it’s second nature to them and they feel that the required tasks are meaningful and contribute to the overall success of the business. As a manager rather than nagging or reminding them to perform pre-shift inspections or line checks, you instead train and explain to them the importance of performing the tasks. Then you follow up that they are getting done. In other words you inspect what you expect.

If they aren’t getting done then you have a training opportunity where you give feedback and again explain the importance of these checks. Show them that you are using the data drive business decisions that will make the operations better and more profitable which will show in their bonus. If you keep having this discussion you should probably find a new manager.

This is where an automated checklist/inspection platform is so valuable. You now have time/date/user stamped audit trail of when checks were started and completed and by whom. You can access the data from anywhere without having to ask someone to send it to you. You can now manage by exception and spend the bulk of your time with the locations/managers that need you the most. Over time you will be able to draw correlations between your best and poorest performing locations. Now you use that data to drive decisions to run better operations and increase profits.

Click here to learn more about how OpsAnalitica helps our clients across the country automate their checklists/inspections and run better operations.

Due Care, What Does it Mean in Restaurants

New FDA Rules mean more Manufacturer Self-Inspections


The new FDA rules that were released this month are going to mandate that manufacturers take more responsibility for their facilities.  Here are the points that I found most interesting:

  • Tainted foods — including recent examples such as spinach, cantaloupe and ice cream — sicken 1 in 6 Americans — or 48 million people — each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Approximately 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die from foodborne illnesses annually.
  • “The food safety problems we experience have one important thing in common: They are largely preventable,” Michael Taylor, FDA deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine
  • Under two new rules that take effect later this year, manufacturers of human and animal foods must submit food safety plans to the FDA showing how they keep their facilities clean and how they’ll react to possible safety issues.
  • Rather than only reacting to outbreaks, companies now will have to keep them from occurring. Manufacturers must take steps to prevent, or kill, harmful bacteria. In addition, companies should keep allergens — a major cause of food recalls — from getting from one food into another.
  • “These are not one-size-fits-all requirements,” Taylor said. “The rules are risked-based, targeted and flexible so that good outcomes are achieved in the most effective and practical way.”

Manufacturers and farmers are going to have to submit these plans to the FDA and then they are going to be required to conduct checklists and tests to ensure that they are meeting cleanliness standards.

I invite any businesses that are going to be affected by these new standards to check out OpsAnalitica.  Our platform is the most advanced inspection data collection and data analytics platform on the market today.

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Here is the full article:

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Sept. 10, 2015 (HealthDay News) — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced new steps Thursday to improve the cleanliness of food manufacturing plants in the wake of a string of lethal foodborne illness outbreaks.

Tainted foods — including recent examples such as spinach, cantaloupe and ice cream — sicken 1 in 6 Americans — or 48 million people — each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Approximately 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die from foodborne illnesses annually.

“The food safety problems we experience have one important thing in common: They are largely preventable,” Michael Taylor, FDA deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine, said during a morning media briefing.

Under two new rules that take effect later this year, manufacturers of human and animal foods must submit food safety plans to the FDA showing how they keep their facilities clean and how they’ll react to possible safety issues.

The new preventive measures can help ensure that foodborne illnesses and the disruptions they cause will be eliminated, Taylor said.

“American consumers have high expectations of the safety of the food supply,” he added. “For prevention to be effective, the proper steps need to be taken at each point in the food production processing to ensure hazards can never enter the system,” Taylor said. “That’s why Congress enacted [the new] rules.”

The rules come under the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act. President Obama signed the law in January 2011 but implementation has been delayed. The new procedures represent the first sweeping changes to U.S. food safety laws in 70 years, according to the agency.

Besides the two rules finalized Thursday, five additional food safety rules will become final in 2016.

The FDA says consumers and their pets will be protected in various ways.

Rather than only reacting to outbreaks, companies now will have to keep them from occurring. Manufacturers must take steps to prevent, or kill, harmful bacteria. In addition, companies should keep allergens — a major cause of food recalls — from getting from one food into another.

Health regulators want to expand prevention measures to farms, where contamination is harder to control than in factories. “Standards have been proposed for agricultural water, farm worker hygiene or cleanliness, compost and sanitation conditions affecting buildings, equipment and tools. These standards will apply to both domestic and imported produce,” the agency said in a news release.

Oversight of imported foods, which account for 15 percent of the U.S. food supply, will also improve. Importers will have more responsibility to ensure foods are safe and meet the same standards as domestic producers, the agency said.

“These are not one-size-fits-all requirements,” Taylor said. “The rules are risked-based, targeted and flexible so that good outcomes are achieved in the most effective and practical way.”

One expert welcomed the new safety protocols.

“These proposed updates are directly responsive to the evolving challenges of a global food supply, and illustrate the vital importance of the FDA to us all,” said Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center in New Haven, Conn.

Oversight of food safety is a core function of the FDA, and a job that only a government agency can perform effectively, Katz added.

Noting that Americans count on the safety of the nation’s food supply, he added, “We can do so with a bit more confidence courtesy of these new provisions.”

More information

For more on food safety, visit

SOURCES: David Katz, M.D., M.P.H., director, Yale University Prevention Research Center, New Haven, Conn.; Sept. 10, 2015, news conference with: Michael Taylor, J.D., deputy commissioner, Foods and Veterinary Medicine, U.S. Food and Drug Administration

Is Tipping Near Extinction?

I’ve noticed a ton of press recently about restaurants going moving to an all inclusive menu or no tipping policy. Back in February we posted a blog, Time to End Tips?, on the topic and it got heated to say the least in the comments and on our social media channels. Click here to read that blog.

It’s now 7 months later and a lot of the changes mentioned in the original blog are starting to happen. ie minimum wage increases are being implemented in cities all over the country. The Affordable Care Act isn’t going anywhere either.

It seems that most of the restaurants that are testing out the no tipping policies tend to be on the higher end as far as price. Haven’t seen anything on a low to mid tier full service restaurant trying it out yet. This is probably due to the fact that a price increase can be absorbed easier at the higher end establishments.

There are a couple of different scenarios I’ve read about:

  1. Just a blatant price increase and explaining that the gratuity is included in the price
  2. An added service charge of 18-20% added to the bill. This is essentially an auto gratuity that in the past was typically reserved for large parties
  3. In both those scenarios they are paying their servers anywhere from $15-$25/hr

Some of the feedback from the restaurant owners/managers seem to be similar:

  • Most would like to do away with tipping because of the government mandated paperwork that is required for reporting. Would certainly make their lives easier from a bookkeeping standpoint.
  • They feel they can more “fairly” distribute money between the BOH and FOH if a “service charge” were added to every check
  • I saw one scenario where they added an 18% service charge, but that wasn’t enough so they bumped it up to 20% and still had to dip into owners profits to cover the additional costs for labor
  • A few tried it, but the backlash from the customers forced them to change back. The perception was that they were too expensive even though when you include a tip at the end it would be the same. But when you go to your favorite restaurant and the filet was $35 last time and now it’s $42, in your mind that’s a big jump and I don’t think you automatically make the connection that you aren’t tipping.
  • In one scenario they had to keep the tip line on the check even though they explained that tip was included because some customers complained that they couldn’t leave a tip even if they wanted to, unless it was cash of course.

In the near term it’s going to hit the industry pretty hard, but over time the market will correct itself this new way will become the norm. A big issue with the no tipping policy is that server goals and the operator goals are not aligned.

When servers make basically all their money on tips it’s in their best interest to provide great service and serve as many guests as possible while doing so. This aligns perfectly with the operators goals. But when the server is paid a straight hourly wage regardless of how many guests they serve or how good/bad the service there’s no incentive to do otherwise.

Why try to get another table turn in before your shift ends? It’s a lot easier if your tables camp and all you have to do is stay on top of water and coffee refills. If a guest is complaining that the food is taking too long there’s no reason to go to the kitchen and hound the expo for their food. Why deal with it? This does not align well with the operators goals at all.

Now that is assuming that the industry shifts in this new direction while management keeps managing to the old way. There’s going to have to be fundamental changes to managing restaurants to align the staff with the overall goals of the owner/operator. But there’s going to be a learning curve and I think that’s going to be a tough time for the industry.

Would love to hear any comments, concerns, ideas, etc.

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