Category : Food Safety

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Another Avoidable Food Safety Incident

Red Robin is in the news for a completely avoidable food safety situation. To date there have been 3 confirmed cases of E. Coli at one of their Colorado locations. One adult and two children have been infected. Two of the three have been hospitalized.

A link to the full NRN article is below, but here are some quick takeaways:

  • Inspectors found critical violations including improper employee handwashing, improper cleaning and sanitizing of food preparation surfaces, and cross-contamination between raw meats and other prepared foods
    • Totally avoidable by Implementing a Food Safety Management System (FSMS) with daily Active Managerial Control (AMC)
  • Red Robin closed the restaurant voluntarily the next day conduct a thorough cleaning and provide food safety training for the employees
    • The problem here is that half the people they trained were gone the next week. Training adds absolutely zero value without processes and job aides in place to enforce behavior change ongoing.
  • Red Robin stated ” We maintain rigorous food safety standards and procedures nationwide, which comply with the most recent FDA Food Code.”
    • This tells us one of two things: Either the Food Code is a joke or, the more likely scenario, Red Robin has procedures in place, but there’s no accountability system in place to ensure the procedures are being followed every shift, every day at every location.

This is a dangerous situation for Red Robin. With the way bad news travels these days this won’t only affect this one Colorado location. This will affect performance at every location. Not sure that Red Robin has the brand power to withstand these types issues. They’re a Colorado company, but they’re not Chipotle (I do realize they aren’t Colorado any more).

This incident is just another reason why digital food safety records need to be mandated. It’s too easy to fake your way through the procedures when it’s filled out on paper.

As promised click here to read the full NRN article.

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.

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.

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.

 

5 Tips to Writing Better Restaurant Line Checks

Chef-Tasting-Food-300x294

Every restaurant should be doing some form of line check for each meal period.  The reason you do line checks is to ensure that your food is safe and ready to serve to your guests.  Line checks allow you to catch your mistakes before your guests do, which reduces food comps.  They also allow you to check for line readiness:  FIFO is being observed and your not selling newer food and wasting older food, proper portion controls are in place, back-ups are thawed and that the line is stocked and ready for the rush, which improves execution and sales.

We have one client who saved 1.2% in food cost when they were doing line checks on the OpsAnalitica Platform vs. when they weren’t.  That equated to a $2,200 per month savings from just better food management.

The hard part about writing good line checks is that you have competing priorities to deal with.  You have safety and quality vs. time.  If your priority is time, then you can sacrifice safety and quality to speed up your line check.  If your priority is brand protection (safety & quality), then you can have an incredibly thorough line check, but it could take longer to complete.

Like all things in this world, compromise is going to be the key to writing an effective line check.  You want to check everything but do deeper checks on high-risk items. Below is a photo of one of our client’s line check kits, it includes tasting spoons and a dirty spoon container, gloves, test strips, alcohol wipes, and thermometers.

Line Check Kit

  • Line check question Attributes:  the perfect line check question should include the following parts.
    • Item Name:  Alfredo Sauce
    • Pan Size:  1/4, 1/2 pan
    • Safety Control:  temp range or time
    • Portion Control:  weight or portion size
    • Par: how much you have to have on hand to make it through the shift
    • Every Item Checks:
      • You should make sure that each item is properly labeled with the make and expiration dates because that is what the health inspector is going to do.
        • Note in the comments if item wasn’t properly labeled.
      • Taste every prepared item: dressings, sauces, sides; that is safe to sample for taste and quality.
        • You can make notes in comments if items taste bad.
        • The key here is to fix bad tasting items so your guests don’t have to taste them.
    • This is where the competing priorities come into play as you could temp each item, confirm the above attributes and taste the item and describe it’s quality but to do all of that becomes three questions that need to be answered. That line check could become very long very fast.
    • Staying with the example of Alfredo sauce I would write the question like this:  Ex:  Alfredo Sauce – 1/4 pan – 145 to 160 – 3oz ladle – 1 up 1 warmer.
      • SPEED TIP:  Don’t have the people conducting your line checks make comments on things that are good only have them comment on exceptions.
    • I would also have them record the temp of this item because it has a proper holding temperature range.  Not all items do, but when there is a top range that could affect quality, then it is a good practice to get those temperatures because it would give you data to analyze if food costs are high.
  • Temperatures Questions:
    • Temp everything but you don’t need to record every temp.
      • In my opinion, it is ok to temp items on the line, verify they are safe and note that you checked the item without writing down every temperature.
      • This practice will ensure safety and speed up your total line check.
    • Always record temps for:
      • High danger items: chicken, shellfish, pork, sauces like hollandaise, etc..
      • Delicate items where a too high or too low temperature could drastically affect quality.
      • High food cost items where you could take a big comp hit if this item goes bad before you have a chance to sell it.
    • Think like a health inspector.
  • Time as a control:
    • It is perfectly valid to use time as a control on items that need to be stored at room temperature.
    • The key to this kind of question is recording the time that the item went out on the line so you can prove that you are timing it and making sure you are discarding the items after 4 hours.
    • It is also good to have some kitchen timers or something that you can set to show that you are paying attention.
  • Critical Item Questions:  These are items that a health inspector is going to check and could get you a Critical item violation.
    • Make sure you have all the critical items covered every shift on your line checks:
      • Food being stored properly in walk-in
        • Cross contamination, labels, covering, soups and sauces being cooled correctly.
      • Sanitizer Buckets with test strips
        • You may even want to record the ppm on your line check.
      • Hand sink is clean, stocked with soap and paper towels, and that the water is hot.
      • Nothing on the floor
      • Chemicals stored in the correct place away from food.
  • Shorter is better than Longer:
    • You don’t get any awards for writing longer line checks.  It comes down to balance between brand protection and speed to complete.
    • Focus on the most critical items for your restaurant and leave out any fluff.
    • I see too many super long line checks that take 50 to 90 minutes to complete.
    • When you complete your line check go and test it in the real world for a couple of shifts and see how long it takes to complete and try to pair it down if it is too long.
    • Make sure that every question can be answered by every location or give the option for N/A.

Writing line checks is not sexy work, but a good line check is a foundation for running better operations and growing sales and profits.  Once you write your line check the only way to ensure that it is getting done correctly is to Inspect what you Expect and to follow-up with your managers when you see inconsistencies.  Without follow-up, your line check could be pencil whipped, and your investment in it will not show any returns.

If you would like to learn more about how OpsAnalitica can help you hold your managers accountable and effortlessly follow-up, click here to learn more.

Norovirus Prevention on the Disney Fantasy

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

Screenshot 2016-05-17 16.31.45

 

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

 

2016 Cruise ship Norovirus outbreaks

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

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

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

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

IMG_4448

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

IMG_4444 IMG_4446

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

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

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Other things that I noticed:

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe You Shouldn’t Do Checklists

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Restaurant Industry’s Dirty Little Secret

Busy Kitchen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This final stat is the kicker:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you do?  

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

What does the Ford Pinto have to do with restaurants?

Ford Pinto

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With OpsAnalitica, we drive accountability by:  

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

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

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

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

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