How Checklist Tags Help Reduce Food Cost

Question and response tagging. 

Sounds great doesn’t it? 

Well… What is it?  

Ok let’s take a look at what question and response tagging is and what it means to your checklists and operations data. It is hugely beneficial and saves you one of your most precious resources. Time. And we all know what time is.  

Let’s say you wanted to see a report with all of your not safe refrigeration temperatures across your chain. Question and response tags make this so unbelievably easy. 

With OpsAnalitica you can get this report generated and emailed to you on a schedule as often as you need. For this particular example we hope that the report is empty. No news is good news. 

Tagging facilitates management by exception. By tagging your questions with a common attribute(s) it allows you to quickly look at those questions across your chain regardless of which checklists/inspections they are associated to or the location.  

To narrow this report down some you might want to only look at temps that are not safe or safe, but not optimal. See, analyzing your temp data over time and comparing it to food cost you might find that there is an optimal temperature range for your operations where you see less spoilage. 

So even though some of your locations might recording safe temps on a daily basis, they may not be in the optimal range. With OpsAnalitica’s dynamic scoring and response tagging you can tag and score temp responses appropriately based on the temp recorded in the line check.  

For example you might give 0 points and the not safe and not optimal tags for temps above 40 degrees Fahrenheit, 5 points and the safe tag for temps that are between 33-34 and 38-40, and finally 10 points and the safe and optimal tags for temps between 35-37.  

Now you can focus your time on getting all your locations to the optimal range, thus reducing food spoilage and increasing profits 

This is just one example. There are tons more. Staff readiness, FOH cleanliness, any metric that you feel is important, etc.  

The goal is to maximize your time and expertise on the areas and locations that need you the most. Provide you with the actionable data that you need without all the distractions.  

2016 is right around the corner, and we all want to start it off right. Watch our 14 minute recorded demo by clicking here to see how OpsAnalitica uses question and response tagging to help restaurant operators across the world run better operations.   

Commit to running better, safer, and more profitable restaurants with OpsAnalitica in 2016.  There is still time, we can have most organizations up and running within 1 business day.   

If you would rather see a live demo and get all your questions answered, click here to schedule 

If you have any questions give me a call or send me an email any time.

Chipotle’s Woes Could Happen to Any of Us

A couple of years ago I met with a Chipotle Director to show him the Inspector app of that time.  My hope going into the meeting was that he would have been so blown away that he would have walked us into the VP of Ops office.  

He didn’t, full disclaimer, he wasn’t officially speaking on behalf of Chipotle when he decided not to bring it to his bosses, we were just two guys having dinner. 

The reason I’m even recounting this to you was his reasoning for not wanting to bring it to his bosses.  In his opinion, the culture at Chipotle was not about checklists. Chipotle’s culture is based on the belief that if you hire the right people, train and empower them than you don’t need checklists.   

I agree with their philosophy on hiring great people and would argue that checklists are vital to all industries but especially to the restaurant industry. 

Checklists provide focus, and when checklists are completed thoughtfully and followed-up on, they drive safety and consistency in operations.   

Chipotle’s CEO officially apologized this week and said that the controls they are putting place are going to make them the safest place to eat in the country.  Here is a link to a Slate Article Chipotle is So, So Sorry for Sickening all Those Students. 

The last paragraph of the article states that Chipotle is planning on more audits, which is a good thing.   

The only way to ensure that you are running safe operations is through consistent daily checklists and inspections of your locations by your employees.   

I would like to give you, for free, our 4 Daily Must-Do Steps to Safer Restaurants white paper.  It details a model of for the kind of self-inspection program you should consider implementing in your restaurants.   

Get your copy of the 4 Daily Must-Do Steps to Safer Restaurants by clicking on the link.   

If you are interested in starting a daily self-inspection program in your restaurants in 2016, you should know that there is still time.  We can get OpsAnalitica implemented in most chains within 1 business day.   

Click on the schedule a demo link to see the platform in action or if you have any questions give me a call or send me an email any time.

Inspection, Managerial and Custom Reports

We have spent all of 2015 to get to this point; our data warehouse is up and running, and we are releasing our first set of managerial reports.

Let me explain how reports work in the OpsAnalitica platform. We have three types of reports: Inspection, Managerial and Custom:

Inspection Reports: consist of summary views of all the checklists that have been submitted and the question and answer views of the individual checklists.
These are very powerful reports because you can see the frequency, duration, and scores that your individual restaurants are getting. Plus you see the actual checklists and individual answers that your team is capturing.

Managerial Reports: these reports span your entire organization and can look across all locations and checklists to bring you summary data. The power in these reports is that they have advanced filtering so you can drill in and get the information you need to make better decisions.

Custom Reports: we can now build you custom reports out of the data warehouse to give you the exact information you need to run your business. We will get on a web meeting and will build you the report just like you build a custom pizza.

I would like to invite you to check out some short videos on our new reports by clicking here. You’ll be able to see:

  • Pencil Whippers Report
  • Refrigeration Question Tag Report
  • Trend Line Report
  • Demo of the Inspector in Action

2016 is right around the corner, and we all want to start it off right. Watch our report videos today.

Commit to running better, safer, and more profitable restaurants with OpsAnalitica in 2016. There is still time, we can have most organizations up and running within 1 business day.

Don’t have time for videos but want to see a live demo, click here to schedule.

Why Getting Rid of Tipping in Full Service Restaurants is Stupid

Chef Instructing Trainee In Restaurant Kitchen

Full-service restaurants are unique in American business in that the incentive systems for service employees are perfectly aligned with the goals of the business.

It is an amazing sight to see employees working to benefit themselves and simultaneously benefitting the owners and managers of the establishment. Allow me to explain.

Servers in restaurants make a small minimum wage, mostly for taxes, and tips. Those tips are a percentage of their sales and that percentage in my experience can range from 10 to 30%. I was a really good server, and when I was on, I could easily make 30% per table, though 20% is the norm and occasionally you would get less than that.

Screenshot 2015-08-09 08.41.41

When a server is compensated by tips, they are driven by their personal benefit to provide great service to their guests in the hopes of making a higher tip percentage. Maximizing the servers personal revenue per shift and the ROI for their time.

The servers are also incentivized to make recommendations and to upsell their guests to enhance the guests experience and to get the maximum check value on each table. In my experience if you sell the table too much food or super expensive items that they weren’t expecting it can hurt your tip percentage as the guest feels that they have been taken advantage of or scammed.

Servers also get paid on volume. Meaning that a server on a busy shift wants to turn each table as many times as they can without rushing their guests out of the restaurant. Once again there is a fine line between pushing someone out the door, which if the guest feels rushed could affect the server’s tip percentage vs. being very efficient at delivering the check and processing payment so the guest leaves and the server can get another party at that table.

To sum up servers are incentivized to deliver great service, to maximize check value without going overboard, and to move customers in and out of the restaurant as quickly as the guest allows. When servers work toward these incentives, they maximize their earnings for that shift.

The restaurant owners benefit from servers that take great care of guests, increase sales by upselling, and move guests efficiently through the restaurant maximizing throughput and sales each meal period.

Both groups incentives are properly aligned with each other, and they both win and lose together.

Another point that needs to be made is that both teams lose together as well.

If servers provide horrible service and guests stop coming both the servers and owners of the restaurant will suffer. The owners will suffer more as the servers will eventually leave and the owners will be stuck with a business that has become known for bad service.

If the owners don’t do a good job of delivering a great product the servers and the owners will suffer because people won’t come to the restaurant, sales will be down, and the servers won’t make as much money.

In this relationship the servers and owners once again are linked at the hip.

There are other employees in the restaurant that are directly compensated off of the servers earnings. Bussers, bartenders, food runners, and sometimes hosts are all affected by server tips. When I was a waiter at P.F. Chang’s this is how we distributed our tips:

Total tips for night $200:

  • Busser: 15 to 20% or $40 – a busser usually served 2 to 3 servers, and I always tipped 20% because a busser can bury a server, or make it hard for the server to turn tables. It was important to me to make sure that I took care of my busser.
  • Food Runner: 10% or $20
  • Bartender: 1% Sales or $10
  • Bartenders and food runners, if there are more than one working, pool their tips from the servers and distribute amongst the team that was working that shift and are paid a higher minimum wage.

A lot of these cities are proposing a $15 minimum wage and getting rid of tips. When I was working as a server on a good Friday night, I planned on making $120 to $140 net in 5 to 6 hours. At $15 an hour and a 6-hour shift you are making $40 less a shift than you would have been if you were working for tips.

I’ve read an article that we blogged about in the spring that was pro no tips where the servers said they liked the paycheck but that they were making less money. I don’t know of a great server that would trade working for tips for an hourly wage because they know that they will make less money.

Another argument that is being put forth by people who don’t like tips is in regards to BOH staff: cooks, dishwashers, prep cooks, etc..

These are completely different jobs and have different risk levels and different rewards. A cook is guaranteed a higher base wage each hour of each shift. A cook gets paid their full wages for the hours they work if the restaurant is slow or busy. Therefore, a cook or BOH employee assumes no risk or variance in their wages shifts to shift.

An FOH staff member: server, busser, a bartender is completely dependent upon the level of business and their service for tips. The FOH staff assumes a large amount of personal risk and opportunity cost each day that they go to work.

I can’t tell you how many times I was sent home early because the restaurant wasn’t busy. Each shift the restaurant staffs themselves anticipating being very busy and if the business isn’t there the manager’s cut staff and send people home early.

What is amazing about sending people home early is that it isn’t looked at as a bad thing by most restaurant employees. I would say that schedule flexibility is one of the main reasons people chose to work in the hospitality industry.

Managers ask the staff who would like to go home early, and there are usually volunteers who have something else they want to do and they leave and the people who need money stay.

In my experience if you get cut and sent home early too often you will probably go and look for another job at a different restaurant.

The argument that BOH employees aren’t treated fairly because of tipping is wrong. Salary is based on upon risk and reward and in my experience working in both the BOH and FOH it isn’t an issue for the employees working those jobs.

Also, we live in a free country, and we are all employed at will, nobody is forced to work anywhere or in any position people choose their jobs and employees and can quit at any time.

What happens if we get rid of tipping across the board?

When you work for an hourly wage, your incentives change and, therefore, your behavior will change as well.

In the examples above we discussed how servers are incentivized to take great care of their guests because that level of service will influence their tip percentage. That incentive no longer exists because the level of personal service you give doesn’t directly affect your wages.

You can make the case that a bad server who gives bad service will eventually be fired.

We discussed how servers were incentivized to upsell and make recommendations to increase the check to a level that will enhance the customers experience without going overboard. That incentive is now gone because the one thing that we didn’t mention earlier is that upselling and making recommendations requires more work of the server.  The server has to think, react, ask questions, put themselves out there if the recommendation isn’t liked, deliver more food, and do more work.  It is much easier to be an order taker and not do any of that stuff.

On an hourly wage system, you are not incentivized to do more work. Hourly workers that don’t get compensated by output are incentivized to do the least amount of work per hour.  An example: why would you go through the hassle of selling a bottle of wine, presenting it, opening it, letting the guest taste it, and then serving it if it doesn’t directly enhance your bottom line.  If a server is in the rush and they have to do a wine service it can take a couple of minutes and can throw them deeper into the weeds.  Why tipped servers sell bottles of wine today is because a $30 bottle can enhance your tips by 5 to $6 dollars for that table.

Enjoy these excerpt from Office Space the Movie

Peter Gibbons: The thing is, Bob, it’s not that I’m lazy, it’s that I just don’t care.
Bob Porter: Don’t… don’t care?
Peter Gibbons: It’s a problem of motivation, all right? Now if I work my ass off and Initech ships a few extra units, I don’t see another dime, so where’s the motivation?

Finally, we discussed that servers working for tips are incentivized to turn tables quickly to maximize their tips per shift. This incentive is removed as turning tables is once again more work for a server with no reward. The server that is paid an hourly wage only incentive is to stay on the clock as long as possible per shift to maximize their personal revenue.

If you think that I’m making this stuff up, or I’m overly dramatic, eat at a restaurant in France or any other country where the service staff is paid hourly and not by tips. There is a reason that French waiters are stereotyped for horrible service it is because they majority of them deliver horrible service. The service in other countries doesn’t compare to the level of service that we get every day in the America.  Check out this blog from a Frenchman about service.

These are my predictions for the industry if we move to no tipping policies:

  1. Restaurant owners that move to a no tipping policy will make less money than they did when they had employees that were compensated with tips.
  2. Servers who work for an hourly wage will make less money than they did when they worked for tips.
  3. Full-service restaurants that are less expensive will have a harder time with no tips than more expensive fine dining restaurants because they are more dependent on volume than price premium.
  4. Americans will enjoy worse service in restaurants that don’t have tips then they will in restaurants where tipping is still the norm.

At the end of the day, the American full-service restaurant is a highly successful social experiment that demonstrates that when you have alignment of incentives and goals employees and ownership can win together.

One last thought:  why do you get better service at Nordstroms then Macy’s when the job is exactly the same?  My guess is that the Nordstrom employee gets a % of their sales.

Checklists May Become An Integral Part Of The Food Code

More responsibility and awareness might be coming for restaurant managers based on information coming out of the 10th Annual Nation’s Restaurant News Food Safety Symposium.

At the symposium future additions to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Model Food Code were speculated in detail by food safety experts including Miriam Eisenberg of EcoSure.

The Food Code is updated every four years, but may include yearly supplements in between updates if needed. The latest update was released in 2013.

Eisenberg believes that we’ll see a requirement that a certain number of managers be certified by an American National Standards Institute accredited program in food safety knowledge. She envisions restaurant managers being the front line when a regulatory agency walks in the door asking questions. Managers will be required to provide more information about the understanding of monitoring for foodborne illness in their operations.

More and more the food safety initiatives that were mostly focused on manufacturing are creeping their way into the retail restaurant industry to help battle foodborne illness outbreaks.

Here’s an excerpt from an NRN.com article on the 2015 supplement:

The 2015 Food Code supplement talked about managers needing to be able to verify and monitor cooking temperatures, holding temperatures, hot and cold, and cooling temperatures, she said, but is not particularly clear about how they are to do that. Eisenberg said her group is a strong believer in checklists, but such changes will require more checklists and training people to do more checklists and then monitoring the checklists.

This goes right along with what we are preaching every day at OpsAnalitica. You need to be doing daily checklists and following up on them consistently to ensure they are being done diligently, either through exception reporting and/or coaching sessions. This is the only way to know that you are running safe operations and that the most important things in your operations are being checked frequently.

Click here to watch a recording of our webinar, Setting Up An In-House Inspection Program.

Due Diligence and Due Care for Restaurant Managers

 

I believe that the hospitality industry should adopt Due Diligence and Due Care as management concepts that we fully embrace and implement into our business processes.  Due Diligence and Due Care are words associated with investing, and contracts. In my last position working in cyber security, those terms were defined as:

  • Due Diligence: Identifying threats and risks.
  • Due Care: Acting upon identified threats to mitigate risks.
In the context of restaurant management, I look at Due Diligence as doing what it takes to serve safe food in a safe environment.  I didn’t say delicious food I said safe food.  Meaning that we use HACCP principles to ensure that the food products that we are serving have been manufactured, delivered, stored, and prepared safely.
Most restaurants today are, or should be, conducting daily inspections of their facilities paying attention for critical food safety violations.  Making sure food is stored safely, chemicals are stored away from food, temperature discipline is maintained both in cooling and heating.  We aren’t introducing foreign contaminants into the food preparation areas and that all of our employees are healthy and trained in proper hygene are just some of the areas that we should be inspecting every shift.  At OpsAnalitica we are learning that daily restaurant audit checklists are a key to keeping consumers safe.
250X250 LI
As we have seen recently with the Chipotle e-coli outbreak they don’t even know which item(s) caused the outbreak at several of their restaurants earlier this month.  This is speculation on my part, but since the e-coli outbreak happened at several locations it would make sense that it wasn’t one person that got everyone sick but that a food item that was shipped to multiple restaurants was responsible.  It will be interesting to learn what caused this outbreak.
Using a restaurant checklist app to conduct daily checklists and managers following up on all violations is the best and cheapest way to perform our Due Diligence in providing safe food for our customers.  Due Diligence is only half of the battle, Due Care is the other half.
Due Care procedures are the processes that you have in place for when you identify an issue.  The key to Due Care is consistent and documented remediation of issues.
You may be familiar with the phrase “It’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up” that gets you into trouble.  That is especially true when you are doing your Due Diligence, conducting a pre-shift inspection, and you identify an issue but then you don’t correct the issue safely.
An example:  a restaurant supervisor completes a temperature log for a walk-in refrigerator, and records a 65-degree temperature.  The person completing the temperature log isn’t aware that this temperature is in the danger zone, doesn’t do anything to fix the issue, they just serve the food and they get a lot of people sick.
We as a nation are very intolerant of companies that had enough forethought to identify a critical area on an checklist but then not have a plan to fix the issue when the dangerous conditions are identified.  We find that unacceptable, and for good reason, you wouldn’t want to fly in a plane where the pilot knew a wing was missing but decided to take-off.
In the above example, we would hold the company responsible for not having the systems in place to notify management that their was an issue and not training their supervisor well enough to know that a 65-degree walk-in is dangerous.  Using a restaurant checklist app that could automatically email an exception report of temperature violations to the appropriate managers would be a great first step in providing due care.  Correcting the issue and documenting what actions were taken would close the loop on this issue and fulfill HACCP Rule #7 for documentation.
Look at your real-world experience, we understand when people make mistakes or accidents happen.  We get furious and litigious when mistakes are made and the people responsible are clueless when they should have known better.  We get even with businesses that profit while their customers get hurt.
As hospitality professionals, we have to make sure that our organizations, size doesn’t matter, have well documented Due Diligence and Due care processes in place.  More importantly we have to train, consistently follow, and document those processes in their application.  It is when we consistently apply our processes that we have a chance of protecting our brand and our businesses when we make a mistake.
If you would like to learn more about how conducting daily checklists can help you run more profitable restaurants, I invite you to download our free white paper here.

5 Reasons Why You Should Automate Checklists

We have recently received more proof from our clients that automating checklists and conducting manager follow-up are increasing restaurant profits.  Our customers see a 1/2 to 1% reduction in food cost when their restaurants conduct daily line checks and  follow-up with the OpsAnalitica platform.

Automation and apps add value that’s why they’re everywhere. They make things easier, more efficient and provide a ton of usable data like exception reports that can show your managers where they need to focus their attention on a daily basis.

Here are five reasons why you should digitally conduct your daily line checks, restaurant audit checklists and inspections:

  1. Paperless – less time spent doing the busy work of printing, looking for paper, replacing toner, troubleshooting printer malfunctions, hole punching, and filing of inspections.
  2. Rich Data – tablet based inspection platforms can allow you to capture photos, temperatures, and comments in addition to answering questions.
  3. Reporting – Data is available immediately in the cloud and can be used to drive better decisions.
  4. Accountability – digital checklists provide an auditable data stream that you can use to hold managers accountable.
  5. Better Operations – when checklists are completed, and managers are held accountable, the result is better operations.

Check out the video below to learn how our clients are saving food cost with daily line checks and follow-up.

Screenshot 2015-11-18 05.29.49

In-N-Out Rightfully Protecting Their Brand

By now most of you have heard that In-N-Out Burger has filed a lawsuit against DoorDash for delivering their delicious burgers without their permission.

On a side note I’ve been craving In-N-Out ever since this story broke. Double double animal style is near impossible to beat. Unfortunately, there isn’t a location within a reasonable distance to St. Louis.

Anyway back to business. I completely understand their stance on the issue. In-N-Out has built an amazing brand with a very loyal fan base. It’s built on simplicity, scarcity (outside of the west coast), delicious burgers, and “hidden” menu items. They don’t want another company representing their brand without any rules.

There’s a lot of control that is lost by handing your food off to a third party for delivery:

  • Food safety – holding and handling properly.
  • Food quality – nobody goes to In-N-Out for cold limp fries, thin milkshakes, and a cold burger on a soggy bun.
  • Customer service – I’m not saying that In-N-Out is the Nordstom of the restaurant industry when it comes to customer service, but I’m sure they have standards that they train their staff to follow.
  • They may not want delivery to be part of their model. Maybe part of their brand is the experience of going to a location and ordering a burger the old fashioned way.

All of this goes out the window when a third party is delivering your food, especially when the relationship wasn’t entered into mutually. It’s tough enough to outsource a portion of your business when you want or need to because of the control issue. But when you hire a third party you can put in agreements that will hold them accountable if they are in default.

In the In-N-Out situation they are putting a lot at risk with basically zero reward. If someone gets sick or gets cold food they aren’t going to blame DoorDash. They are going to look at the bag and see In-N-Out Burger, that’s who gets blamed.

In addition to potential brand damage with bad press there’s huge liability potential. If someone gets sick now In-N-Out is involved in a lawsuit for something that may have not been their fault.

The more you can control the better off you are in the long run. In-N-Out doesn’t need delivery to boost sales. They are doing the right thing by nipping this in the bud and stopping it before it becomes a problem.

Food safety is a concern for all of us, I would like to invite you to watch our Free Webinar on Writing SMART Pre-shift Inspections by clicking here.

6 Types of Food Comps and How You Can Reduce Food Costs

Busy Kitchen

I was recently talking to one of our clients about the OpsAnalitica Inspector, and he was telling me how it helps their company reduce Food Costs.

See if this sounds familiar, their managers have always been required to do pre-shift line checks. Even before they had implemented OpsAnalitica they did their line checks like most people do, on a clipboard with pen and paper.

With OpsAnalitica, each manager knows that their Area Manager can look at a report and see when and if they completed their line check each shift. Our client said that he first looks for restaurants that aren’t completing their line checks and then he looks for the inevitable increase in food cost that follows. No line check = increased comps. That is one of the ways he determines which restaurants he will be concentrating on.

When you don’t do line checks, you are letting your customer find your mistakes instead of catching them yourself.

In the spirit of this story, I have identified six different types of food comps and what you can do to stop or reduce them.

1. Crazy or dishonest customer
I mention this one first because I believe that the perception in the industry is that crazy customers are the number one reason for food comps but if you tracked your comps by reason my guess is that crazy customers would account for a small amount of total comps.

There are people who don’t read menu descriptions or don’t ask questions. They order food that they hated in the past but want to give another try or they can’t eat because of allergies.  These customers don’t want to pay for it if they aren’t going to eat it.

Let’s take it one step further, there are crooks out there, they are a small percentage of people who eat at your restaurant, but they do exist.  They order food with every intention of eating some of it and then lying about it to get the dish removed from their bill.

I went through some advanced customer service training when I worked for The Grove in Los Angeles; the training was based on the Ritz-Carlton method. The Groves owner’s standpoint was this, that yes there are people who are going to lie and think they pulled a fast one on you. Those liars are such a small percentage of your customers that it isn’t worth confronting them or allowing your staff to provide less service to them because they believe that the person is lying.  The cost to your business or your reputation, if you are wrong, is so much higher than one comped dish.  If you allow you or your team to make those judgment calls, and you get it wrong with a genuine person, they may never come back. You just have to suck it up as a cost of doing business.

As a manager, I always had a hard time with this because I didn’t like the feeling I had in my stomach when I could tell that one of these liars thought they were so cool and got away with something. It bothered me, but I grinned and beared it because our owner was right, and when I was able to fix a situation for a customer of ours that we genuinely made a mistake on, I was thankful for the power that I had to rectify the situation and deliver on our service promise.

Now with Yelp and Social media I think this is even more important today to treat every customer like gold because these reviews can live online forever.

You can’t do anything about this type of food comp other than training your servers well around the menu and paying attention to items that are getting returned more than others.  If you identify certain items that are returned more often, get them off your menu or ensure that servers are fully explaining the items to guests as they order. Ex “Just so you know this isn’t your traditional calamari that is deep fried and breaded, this is a stewed calamari that is in a bowl of sauce.”  Try to head the comp off a the pass with over communication.

2. Server Screw-up
Servers make mistakes. There are any number of reasons for these mistakes: didn’t hear the customer correctly, didn’t ask clarifying questions, didn’t understand the menu item or how the dish is prepared, was overwhelmed at the moment, was hung over or tired.

I was pretty consistently hungover or overly tired in my twenties. When I came into work hungover, I made mistakes, and the restaurant comped some food.

Server orders the food incorrectly and the guest returns it.  You solve this by tracking comps by server. You coach and train servers that have more comps and if you can’t fix them then they may not be the right fit for your restaurant. You do pre-shift meetings and evaluate your team before the shift and make adjustments when you have to. Send servers home that are hung over or look like they slept in their uniforms, make an example of people and hold everyone to the level of professionalism that you expect. Spend more time training servers before they hit the floor in their sections, it’s more than just menu knowledge its table management.

3. Kitchen makes order incorrectly
This type of comp is very similar to number 2 Server Screw-up, it’s just on the other side of the house. The kitchen makes an order incorrectly, and the guest returns the item. Kitchen mistakes happen more often when there are modifications to the dish, and they don’t make it correctly. The solution is the same, train your staff to ask more questions. A cook should never complete a dish unless they fully understand what they are doing. Servers should be trained when there are a lot of modifications to an order to go back to the kitchen and explain the mods to the cooks or check with the cooks if they are doable before ordering.  If you have cooks that don’t know how to make the menu items, then you have to train and coach them and if they don’t improve this probably isn’t the right restaurant for them.

4. Kitchen makes recipe mistake
This type of comp is different from making an order wrong this is where they made an ingredient, a sauce for example, incorrectly and it tastes horrible. Kitchen prepares food with horrible tasting ingredient and guest send food back.

Kitchen recipe mistakes are one of the easiest issues to catch if you do line checks. A manager should taste every sauce, every soup, all side dishes each meal to ensure that they taste the way they are supposed to. Then you can catch your mistakes before your customer catches them for you. Recipe mistakes are 100% avoidable when doing line checks. In our experience, a restaurant that makes more of their food from scratch on a daily basis will see a greater reduction in food cost from performing line checks.

5. Kitchen takes too long to make food
Food taking too long to get to the table is a double a whammy because it is probably affecting more than one table and can generate a lot of comps when nothing was wrong with the food. There are several reasons this can happen:

  • The kitchen is just slammed because everyone sat at once.
  • The kitchen is slammed because they weren’t stocked to par and not all of their food is thawed and ready – slowing down cook times. This once again should be caught and addressed during the line check.
  • The kitchen or the service staff are making mistakes and there a lot of refires that are jumping in line and overwhelming the kitchen staff.

If this is a consistent issue, then you have to take the proper management actions and get the right people on your team.

6. Food runners make mistakes

Food runners sometimes drop off food at the wrong table. I think the rule is that if they leave the food on the table and walk away or the guest touches the food then they can’t give it to the correct guest, and now we have a comp. This is a training and communication issue. They should be trained not to leave a table where there is any question that the food isn’t correct. If they keep the dish on their tray or off the table, they can figure out what is happening and avoid the comp.

Take Aways

After looking at these different types of food comps, you can boil them down to a couple of core issues.

  • Managers that have not confirmed they are ready for service – line checks and pre-shifts.
  • Bad communication – training and hiring decisions.

1. Using line checks and pre-shifts to confirm that you are safe and ready for service are a no-brainer is the low-hanging fruit in these scenarios because you are 100% in complete control of doing this. Whether you are the manager of 1 location or 100’s of locations you can benefit from implementing a pre-shift/line check protocol in your restaurants. The key to making your line check protocol a success is following-up with your managers on a daily basis to make sure they are doing these pre-shifts correctly. If you implement pre-shifts with follow-up you could see your comps and food waste go down; we’ve seen as much as 1/2 to 2% with some of our clients.

2. Bad communication stems from hiring and training issues and are much harder to address because each person is different and each shift that they work is unique. When you are training your team, make sure they understand the why behind what you are asking them to do. Make sure you train them on using clarifying questions and always to get more information before ringing up an item or making an item.

3. Show the team what comps cost the restaurant. I think that it’s beneficial to do training around food cost and how it affects the business. I’ve seen this attitude where employees compare what they would buy a steak for in the grocery store and how much the restaurant sells it for. They believe that the restaurant is swimming in profits, anyone who has ever managed a restaurant knows the truth.

Hold a training session where you show your BOH and FOH teams the cost of each part of a menu item. Factor in labor and everything else that goes into serving this plate to a guest, go crazy here and really dig deep into your costs. A good way to do that is to divide the average meals served in a month into all of your fixed costs (insurance, rent, loans, etc.) and do the same with your non-food variable costs (profit % of rent, power, etc.).  Calculate the true all inclusive plate cost and watch your teams reactions when they understand that there is really only a small percentage of profit on every dish. Explain to them that when we make a mistake or have to comp a dish how that adds up. By explaining the numbers to your team and how comps affect those numbers, you will hopefully see some change in behavior.

If you don’t do this already, I recommend that you track the causes of your food comps in your register system or on paper. It could be as simple as:

  • Server Error
  • Kitchen Error
  • Food Runner Error
  • Customer Didn’t Like.

Review those numbers after a period and look for patterns.  This exercise should tell you where you can focus some attention to your business.

Comps are a fact of life because we are in a people business. I’m a big believer in Control what you can Control and manage to the rest. So many of the comps that we highlighted were because of a lack of communication between the customer and the server, the server and the kitchen team, the kitchen team and the server, or the kitchen team and the food runners. Those people comps we have to manage to as best we can and make the hard decisions when we have to.

Doing line checks and pre-shifts is part of the control what you can control philosophy.  Restaurant managers should be doing line checks every shift and following up with their teams to ensure they are getting done accurately. If you do this, you will be able to reduce comps and food waste.

If you would like to learn more about how OpsAnalitica can help you with line check compliance and reducing your food comps, click here  to watch our OpsAnalitica demo video.

Tough Year for Chipotle

It’s been a tough year for Chipotle. From pork supplier issues to a salmonella outbreak in Minnesota, a norovirus issue in California, and now the latest e coli outbreak in the pacific northwest closing some 43 locations.

Now you can’t blame all of these issues on Chipotle. The pork supplier was a case of Chipotle sticking to their guns on responsibly sourced ingredients, but it still cost them a good amount sales. But it will pay off in the long run with their ravenous fans.

The food-borne illness outbreaks, however, are completely opposite issues. This is bad press for the king of the hill. You have to wonder if there is something broken in their processes or supplier selection. Just in passing I’ve heard from a few different people, not in the restaurant industry, that quality has gone down recently. All this points to something that isn’t working as it should.

It’s interesting because we talked to Chipotle a while back about our solution. The response we got was that the culture at Chipotle doesn’t allow for checklists and follow up. Their philosophy is that if you hire the right people and treat them well they will do the right thing. This is absolutely true. To an extent.

The issue is that everyone is different and has had different life experiences. This brings about a different view of the world for everyone. So thing that you as the business owner know are important may not seem as important to your managers. If left to their own discretion they will not focus as much on the things that you want them to as they will naturally gravitate to ares they think are most important and where they feel they can add the most value. How much you pay them will have zero influence. They might just do what they think is most important better.

This can leave your operations somewhat vulnerable. If you are paying a couple extra bucks more than the competition you will attract better talent for sure, but you still need to have defined processes and inspect what you expect.

The reality is there are real consequences in our industry for getting someone sick. Just take a look at the ex Peanut Corporation of America owner and CEO. He was recently sentenced to 28 years in prison. Granted he was blatantly negligent and knowingly shipped tainted product. But the bar has been set. Food safety has to be taken very seriously.

Having a repeatable, documented process is the only way to minimize these outbreaks. A strategy around consistent daily execution will help you run safer restaurants all around.

Click here to check out a recording of our webinar, Setting Up An In-House Self Inspection Program.

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