This is a great interview with Alex Curley, COO of Palacios Murphy. We talk about the pandemic, opening restaurants and hotels right now, and Alex has one of the best War Stories of the series, bar none.
One of the most transformative changes in the history of the retail/hospitality industry was the invention of the POS System. Replacing the siloed cash register and giving brands real-time access to sales data did more to drive multi-unit operation expansion than any other technology. Prior to wide adoption of POS systems most chains only operated in small areas, not nationally or multi-nationally. Restaurants had only changed by a fraction since the time Jesus ate in them.
The next big transformation in multi-unit operations is going to be operations management systems, like OpsAnalitica, and how the data they generate can be used to run better, more efficient operations.
Before I get into how Operations Management Systems can change your world, I have to tell you about the biggest opponents to these systems. They are dinosaur operators, people who came up before the iPhone, that don’t want to adopt new technologies, are afraid of change, like the old ways, etc..
These dinosaurs don’t understand that operations are sales, operations efficiency increases profits. You can always tell a dinosaur because they don’t view new technology as an enabler, they view it as a threat to the status quo.
Dinosaurs love systems that have huge holes and very low accountability. It allows them to rise through the corporate ladder based on years of perceived experience and not on a track record of results. I’m sure you have worked for or with a person like this, you can always tell because they get great jobs with good salaries but they also don’t stay anywhere for more than a couple of years.
A dinosaur operator views data not as a way to get better but instead as a spotlight on problems. Problems they are aware of, and that have persisted on, because with the current systems they are near impossible to fix. They view data and visibility as the thing that is going to get them fired.
Now dinosaurs aren’t stupid, they will never tell you that data or new technology is bad. They will argue that they are a good idea, but not right now. There are other more pressing issues to solve.
Another common excuse of dinosaur operators is that the team can’t handle any more change right now, they are too slammed with their current stuff.
Be aware of anyone who argues for less visibility, accountability and data. Those are huge red flags, and are tell tale signs of a dinosaur operator.
Back to the topic at hand.
Operations Management Systems, like OpsAnalitica, can be truly transformative for multi-unit operators. Because they, like POS Systems, provide you with real-time visibility, employee accountability, and the ability to change behavior.
In contrast, there has been a ton of buzz around other types of apps or management systems: mobile/web ordering, delivery, better inventory mgt, and LMS’ etc.. These systems generate efficiencies for their users and can reduce waste and time.
I don’t think anyone would say that scheduling software is truly transformative. That mobile ordering is transformative, it’s just another form of call in or web ordering. I’m not saying that those technologies don’t deliver value, they do, I’m saying that they aren’t transformative, changing how you operate your entire business and the financials associated.
If you implement an Operations Management platform in your business and you never go beyond replacing your paper checklists with digital processes then you will be happy, but in all honesty, you won’t see a transformation. The transformation comes from leveraging the technology across your organization, reassessing how you operate, challenging the status quo and norms of your business, then leveraging the technology to drive increased efficiency and change.
At their root, platforms like OpsAnalitica drive behavior and facilitate human data collection. Collecting data from human beings executing processes has always been near impossible, and because of that, businesses just gave up and tried to back into operations efficiency through other metrics: sales, costs, profits, customer satisfaction. Now we live in a world where you can just measure human activity directly and get real-time visibility into operations.
The other thing that was near impossible to do before Operations Management Systems was to control behavior across multiple locations or have the ability to change a process on the fly.
Before OpsAnalitica any change of process was a costly exercise in training an entire organization on the change, developing the materials, having a ton of expensive training meetings, it was so hard that entire management departments like Organizational Change were created. Now with OpsAnalitica, our customers simply go in, update the process, hit save, and it cascades to every location instantly.
We are able to do that because people are used to working processes in our app, our app acts as a constant. When you ask someone to start doing B instead of A. It doesn’t break their brains, they don’t throw a baby tantrum or freak out, they don’t need to go through a 10 hour class to learn about it. They simply do B now. If B is a major change then you are able to provide some context, job aids, links to videos right in the process to help guide the employee through the transition. In most cases that is unnecessary.
To truly transform the industry, companies need to move beyond just doing what they have always done, managing operations with paper checklists that no one ever bothers to check to see that their employees are completing or following them as designed.
Companies need to draw from their best managers, they need to script out every shift, day, week, month, and quarter; focusing on best practices. They need to guide their field employees through the processes of running the business, providing them with job aids and step by step instructions. When an employee discovers an issue, they need to guide that employee through the remediation of that issue in real-time, documenting the issue and solution as they go.
When corporate does it’s job of providing systems, best practices, and support to the field they can better ensure consistent operations and more important consistent guest experiences throughout their locations. Isn’t that what a brand is; a promise of consistency across all locations.
Even more important then great guest experiences is data. Data is sight, it is visibility, it is control. With Operations Management Systems, especially OpsAnalitica, you get data to see how well your managers are performing, but even more importantly, you get to see where you are having issues at the location level. Probably the most important job of any corporate office, who supports field operations, is to help remove recurring issues from daily operations.
When you have thousands of locations and 10’s of thousands of employees and they are telling you that they experience the same problems and those problems are affecting sales, profits, or guest satisfaction. Your job is clear, fix the problem. The real issue is that without an Operations Management Platfrom, corporate almost never hears about these problems internally because there is no easy way to bubble them up to the right people. If these issues are recorded at all, that data is sitting on 1000 clip boards or more accurately in the trash.
We have a client that has 750 locations, and they were getting feedback through their customer service channel that their restaurants were dirty. They didn’t know what to do. They were considering adding 4 more labor hours a day to staff an additional team member to stand around and clean during their busiest periods. Which actually seems like a reasonable solution if that is all the data you have to go off of. That cost would have been around 5 to 7 million dollars a year of additional labor and everything that goes with having those extra hours and employees.
Luckily for that company, they used OpsAnalitica to capture additional data, they crowd sourced solutions from their line employees, they were able to change procedures and A/B test their results, plus they reviewed operations in real-time across the country. The solution presented itself, a bigger trash can. Which, by the way, only cost $20 a piece and solved the problem.
That solution also seems like a no brainer, and it was, when they had more data. That is the value add of an Operations Management Platform. Data. Not just data, but a way to communicate with the field, change procedures, capture even more data, and then bring it together to solve a problem.
They solved this problem, not by guessing or doing the first thing that came to mind, adding millions of dollars of unnecessary cost. They solved it by going through a simple but effective process of elimination and asking the people who knew best, the people in the locations. They solved this problem in 2 and ½ weeks, not 10 months.
Isn’t that what we are all trying to do. Clear out the recurring issues that are affecting our profits and making it harder for our teams to wow our customers. Isn’t that the entire purpose of being in business?
This is where the transformation takes place. When you create a company that can perform problem identification, data collection, crowd sourcing solutions, and can implement changes quickly. When you build that organization muscle, you start to quickly outperform your competitors.
Your competitor that don’t have data and visibility, that would choose option A because there was no other way for them to determine that an option B was a possibility. Companies that add millions of dollars of cost and take months to implement solution. What have they done? They have dissapointed that many more customers and they squandered profits, which you need to grow, to dominate.
When you are efficient and you are exercising Operations Management Platform muscles, you start to win incrementally. All those little wins allow you to start running the tables on your competitors. It starts with more advertising and sales resources, better locations, better access to credit, better access to employees, better access to suppliers, and slowly but surely you start to pull ahead. You are getting end caps and running ads on better shows. Your website is that much better at selling and converting.
I made a bold claim at the beginning of this blog post, that an Operations Management System could be as truly transformative as POS systems to multi-unit locations businesses.
I believe that capturing data from human executed processes in real-time and being able to identify issues, and change processes across an entire organization from corporate is the most significant managerial advancement since the POS and sliced bread.
I know that a lot of you reading this blog have never experienced this kind of visibility or control. Please believe me when I tell you that it will change your world. One of our most active clients in the platform, a multi unit operator with their own locations and franchisees told me recently. Their original plan was to have 3 or 4 food safety and readiness processes in the platform. That is it, a simple replacement for their Red Books.
Now this client has over 80 active processes, the platform is used by more than 5 different departments to help manage their locations: IT, Training, QA, Operations, Accounting, HR all use the platform to direct the locations and keep them compliant. The platform has become the database of the locations and their individual attributes.
This client’s QA department is actively managing their locations and dealing with food safety issues remotely. The OpsAnalitica Operations Management Platform has transformed their business and made them more effective and more profitable.
If this blog has sparked an interest in learning more, sign up for a demo at OpsAnalitica.com. We’ll show you how we can help you transform your business.
At OpsAnalitica we have been preaching the notion of contactless auditing for years now, but we didn’t used that exact phrase as the whole “contactless” phenomenon is somewhat of a new concept that has been exasperated by the pandemic. In the past we talked about them more in terms of self inspections where location managers conduct a self audit with an area manager collaborating with them, virtually, in real-time.
The business case for contactless auditing has shifted from being; more cost effective, the ability to be more frequent, taking less time, having more data points to report on and greener. To the safest way to keep tabs on a locations daily operations without being able to travel and be there in person. Mind you, all the benefits mentioned above are still real, but it seems like it took a pandemic for the industry to take notice.
In this blog we’re going to outline the perfect contactless auditing process, soup to nuts, including; how to set up your audit, how it should be scheduled and conducted, the close out and verification process, follow up and action plans, as well as the data analytics and insights you gain.
First and foremost in order for this process to add value, technology is a must. So if you traditionally been technology adverse, now is the the time to move into the new era of multi-location management or you will be left behind. More specifically you need a software solution that allows multiple users to collaborate on the same process/audit in real-time from their own devices wherever they happen to be in the world.
Digital Audit Setup
Now that you have your software in place it’s time to configure the digital version of your audit. Your audit needs to be setup in a way that it dynamically changes based on the location you are “visiting”. This means only displaying questions/tasks that are relevant to that location and shift. You shouldn’t have to manage different versions of your audit to accommodate every brand, nuance, or build that you might have in your chain. You should have one audit that is location aware and dynamic based on location attributes.
Location attributes may include, but not limited to, different builds, configurations, menus, equipment, hours, etc. Here at OpsAnalitica we have a great process for collecting this data if you don’t already have it handy (most don’t). An added benefit is having a reportable database to reference these attributes in the future.
The benefits of a dynamic audit are ease of use, more efficient, higher adoption, and richer data for reporting because auditors don’t have to waste time on questions/tasks that aren’t relevant to that location and auditor.
There are two different schedules tied to an audit typically. One is the broader schedule that tracks that the audit gets done on whatever time interval you choose ie. monthly, quarterly, etc. You need to be able to report on this data and be able to track which locations have completed their audits according to the schedule and which haven’t at any given time.
The other is the exact date/time that your area manager or center of excellence team member will work, with the store manager, to conduct the audit. This schedule you’ll want to keep as “spontaneous” as possible as to not announce too far in advance that an audit will be happening. You want to make sure that you are getting an actual view into the operations on a random day/shift vs an artificial view because the staff knew they were getting audited. Scheduling this day of or the day before at most, is ideal.
Conducting The Audit
There are some options here as to how the two team members, location manager and area manager/coach, center of excellence, etc., can communicate and collaborate during the audit. Using some sort of video conferencing platform (Skype, Facetime, Teams, Google Meet, Zoom, yadda, yadda) can be used if of course both parties are able to speak the same language (obviously not an issue if you aren’t an international brand). At a minimum the parties need to be able to collaborate on the audit together, ala Google Docs, in real-time.
As the location manager is walking around the location answering questions, adding photos, etc. The area manager can ask, in real-time, for additional information to be added to responses for clarification. This could be additional comments or photos or both. Of course the audit can be configured to require more information or walk the manager down a real-time corrective action based on the responses, but with real-time collaboration additional, spontaneous information can be requested by the area manager. Questions can be flagged for review and will stop the audit from being submitted until those flags have been removed. Collaboration can be used for positive reinforcement and kudos as well.
Completing & Verifying
You’ll want to make sure that you are able to configure your audit such that there’s a verification step(s) that need to take place by the area manager and that it can’t be submitted until that is complete. In OpsAnalitica, for example, it can be set where only an area manager can answer specific questions and/or submit the final audit. This ensures that there was an area manager present for the audit and it wasn’t completed without their input.
Follow Up / Action Plans
Not only does the audit need to be collaborative in real-time, but also after it has been completed for any follow up or action plan items. These items need to be more than just a report to reference. There needs to be tasks assigned out to individuals with due dates that are tracked and followed up on. Notifications need to go out when tasks are updated, completed or not completed to ensure there’s an audit and accountability trail.
Dashboards & Insights
Data is the reason for an audit in the first place. Access to the data needs to be easy to digest and must bubble up problem areas so that the daily operations processes can be reviewed and altered to avoid future issues of the same nature. If you are an international organization the data needs to be available in multiple languages in order to be useful.
You’ve made it this far so here a few of highlights as to why OpsAnalitica is the best solution available for you to manage your contactless audits:
OpsAnalitica is the only solution available that allows you to create one single audit that will dynamically conform to all of your different location builds, menus, schedules, equipment and other nuances that you may have in your operations. This is a huge benefit that increases user adoption, decreases training time, decreases administrative resources needed all of which lowers your total cost of ownership.
OpsAnalitica is the only solution available that allows for real-time collaboration where multiple users can work on the same audit at the same time from separate devices not matter where they are in the world. This is really important as you can’t efficiently or effectively conduct a contactless audit without this functionality. There needs to be a way for the area manager to follow along in real-time, ask questions, ask for more clarification or photos, provide feedback and praise as the location manager is conducting the audit.
OpsAnalitica will offer you the richest data set that will bubble up problem areas in your locations, areas or company wide so that the process can be addressed to avoid these all together in the future. OpsAnalitica helps multi-unit restaurant operators identify and remediate issues before they negatively affect speed of service, QSC Scores, or customer satisfaction.
Thank you for reading and we hope you found the information valuable. If you are interested in learning more about how OpsAnalitica might be able to help you implement contactless audits in your organization please reach out. Our contact info is below or you can initiate a live chat with one of our representatives.
Today we’re going to look at 2 drastically different ways to approach a speed of service issue:
You can rely on hope, but we all know hope is not a strategy.
You can use real-time data to identify and remediate issues before they affect speed of service.
Number 1 will work sometimes because, as they say, even a blind squirrel finds a nut every once in a while. But most of the time it won’t work out. So that means that most of the time prep amounts are wrong which means that someone will leave the line during the rush to prep. So that means most of the time there aren’t enough straws or lids at the drink station which means during the rush someone has to stop taking an order to grab a straw. You see where we’re going here.
This all has a negative impact on speed of service which has a compounding effect on sales. If the line is too long people may not even enter your restaurant or drive thru. Those sales are gone forever.
If they did get in line and it takes too long, they may leave, or they may stick around, but will be extremely frustrated and more than likely never return. Now you’ve spent a ton of money acquiring this customer, but they will never pay off because of a speed of service issue.
Now imagine a world everything is prepped, stocked, clean, held at the right temperature all prior to the rush. In this world customers move through process like a well oiled machine, the food tastes great, expectations are exceeded, they become repeat customers and tell their friends.
That’s number 2. When teams have all the data they need to know what needs to be done, when and how, have processes that guide them through their tasks and helps them catch and fix mistakes before they affect customers, they understand the importance of completing the tasks, then speed of service isn’t an issue.
It’s little things that normally get brushed to the side as no big deal that have real ramifications to important parts of your business such as speed of service. It all boils down to setting yourself up for success and then making it happen.
The best chains are habitually great at executing the basics. To be able to do this you need to start with this question: how are you identifying operational issues at your locations today?
Operations data are the data points that are generated every meal period in a restaurant that directly affect sales and profitability. Let’s break it down:
Marketing activities remind your customers that you still exist.
People come in to eat at your restaurant.
You serve them food (operations)
They pay and leave either happy or sad, eager to share their experience with their friends or trash you on Yelp.
Your restaurant’s operations: the food, speed of service, customer service, perceived value, cleanliness, and safety standards all determine how your guests will feel when they walk out of your establishment. Remember we are restaurant operators and operations are our business.
Operations data points are the measurement of our operations. Most operators today are operating on lagging indicator data only. ie. sales, customer feedback, anecdotal information from managers. By the time you get bad customer feedback about a speed of service issue it’s too late, the damage has already been done. Plus think about how many other customers who were affected, but didn’t take the time to give feedback.
Identifying the root of speed of service issues using lagging indicator data only isn’t productive. It’s a trial and error exercise which isn’t a luxury most operators can afford. The cost to acquire a customer is simply to high to gamble on a “fix” that may not work.
Until this time in the restaurant industry it has been next to impossible to capture, organize, and analyze operations data for even a single restaurant location never mind a national chain. There are two main reasons for this, the first is that we aren’t a completely automated business. We are predominantly a human business where people, not automated machines are the means of production. Number two the technology didn’t exist or it was too expensive. With the invention of tablets and smart phones we now have powerful handheld devices that can be used to capture and process insane amounts of data very quickly.
The ability to provide teams with all the data they need, to be able to, perform all the tasks required to ensure they are shift ready, right in the palm of their hand exists today. You can guide teams through real-time corrective actions to ensure issues get corrected before they affect speed of service. Above store leaders can have access to all the data they need to effectively lead and coach their teams.
I will leave you with this thought. As technology becomes more prevalent in the industry, the companies that can identify, test, and implement new solutions more quickly will have a distinct competitive advantage in the marketplace.