Tag : cleanliness

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Stream Live Sanitation Activity Counts to Your Website

Customers Will Not Eat at Restaurants that Aren’t Actively Sanitizing and Cleaning

Don’t take our word for it, check out these charts from Datassential and Nation’s Restaurant News.

provided by Datassential

Updating your FOH Sanitation and Operations standards is a must as we start to re-open dining rooms. It’s not going to be enough to just tell people that you are cleaning better for them and expect them to trust you.

Customers are going to need to see proof.

That is easy when they come to the restaurant, they should hopefully see a member of your team cleaning and sanitizing during their stay. They should also witness new operations standards that are meant to protect them and keep them safe. We call this Sanitation Theater.

When someone is at your restaurant they already made their purchasing decision. We need to catch the customer when they are making up their mind’s on where to eat. When they are researching your hours, occupancy, menu, etc.

We need to reach the customer when they visit your website.

At first it will be enough to market your new sanitation standards, changes you have made to our operations, etc.. Everyone should/will have a COVID-19 response page.

Remember back in early march when your inbox was flooded with emails from every company you did business with or whom had your email address. Telling you about their COVID-19 response.

We all felt like, I’m glad that Comcast cares about my safety but they provide me with internet and I have not interacted with a Comcast employee in seven years.

My point is, that having a COVID-19 response page is a must have but is very quickly going to become noise and everyone is going to have one.

We need something more, think McDonald’s.

McDonald's Closes Dining Rooms in Response to Coronavirus - WSJ

We need a real-time data feed to document and market your sanitation activities that is constantly updating with what your teams have completed.

Sort of like a billions and billions served message streaming across you website or app, updating in real-time.

We need to let your customers know that you are cleaning and sanitizing all day long, creating a safe environment for them because we care about their health and the health of our team’s We need that data on your website and your app.

Which data should I put on my website? it depends on the size of your business.

For larger chains with more locations, it is better to track the sheer number of sanitation and food safety activities. You can do that on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.

If you are a smaller business and having completed 20 tasks in a day is not going to wow anyone but is probably going to scare customers away, we need to focus on our cleaning/sanitizing compliance.

We want to wow them with the fact that you are following your procedures and you are completing them in every location on-time.

All of this data is available from the OpsAnalitica Platform. Whether you want to display our reports in your restaurant. Or, for more sophisticated operators you can pull this data right from our API on a schedule and display it anywhere you want to your customers, this is the preferred method.

If you would like to learn more about using OpsAnalitica data to prove to your guests that your restaurant is a clean, safe, and fun environment. Please initiate a chat in the bottom right hand corner of this screen.

Creating and Executing a World Class Restaurant Audit Program

Restaurant Audits, OER’s, Quality Inspections are just some of the names that restaurant/hotel chains use to describe their location audit process. The names are different, but the intent is the same, get a fresh set of eyes on the location and measure how they are doing vs. the brand standards.

Remember the reason you conduct restaurant audits is that you need to protect your brand from yourself. Poor operations or unsafe restaurants can erode brand equity and lower sales for the entire chain. Food Safety is of paramount importance, and with our current social media-driven culture a foodborne illness outbreak can spread like bacteria over the web and can reduce sales by about 1/3 nationally and keep them there indefinitely.

For some chains, especially franchise systems, the conducting of the restaurant audit may be one of the few times a year a representative from the corporate office will visit the location so it can’t be overstated that you don’t want to waste that visit with an ineffective audit program.

When designing or updating your audit program, there are a couple of questions that you want to answer first.

  1. What technology are you going to use to conduct these audits?
  2. What are you looking to get out of your audits?
  3. How often are you going to be visiting the locations?
  4. Who is going to be conducting the audit?
  5. How comprehensive, how much stuff are we going to cover, in the audit?
  6. How long do you expect this audit and any subsequent coaching to take?
  7. How are you going to handle action plan items?
  8. Have you thought about Site Visits?

1. What technology are you going to use to conduct these audits?
You do not want to do your audits on paper, Google Docs or a combination of paper/Excel for scoring. Your audit is one of the most important interactions you have with the location, and you need to make sure you are capturing as much data as possible at the question level including photos and auditor comments and paper and excel are not made for this.

We have heard from some of our clients that have switched from paper to the OpsAnalitica Platform that we have cut their audit times by 75%, in most cases this results in several hours of busy work per audit. This reduction in needless paper pushing provides your auditor more time to interact with the restaurant teams coaching and training or if that isn’t their role it allows them to conduct more audits per day.

These are some features that you should be looking for when choosing auditing software.

  • Tablet/Phone/Laptop based software – you will use mobile devices to conduct the audit, but most people will want to use their computers to plan and manage themselves.
  • Geolocation – the ability to know that the auditor was on-site when conducting the audit.
  • Able to inspect offline – you won’t always have wifi at the location
  • Ability to take pictures
  • Ability to leave additional comments at the question level
  • Auditor Help Functionality – where an auditor can get more information about the standard at which a question is being judged or easily share the corporate standard with the location management team.
  • Flexible scoring
  • Tagging – question, and response tagging aids in deep dive analysis of the audit results.
  • Audit Report – this needs to be auto-generated by the system, printable is fine, but an online version is better as audit reports with photos and comments can be very long, and you want to make sure that people can enlarge the photos.
  • Action Plan Tasks that can be tracked and verified.
  • Auditor Functionality that allows them to plan their audits effectively
  • Reports that allow you to compare auditors to chain for auditor calibration
  • Gap and Question level reporting where you can look at the audit results across the organization to identify Operations issues that need to be addressed.
  • API – to pull app data out of the system and use in other BI tools.

To wrap of the technology portion of this blog, you want the technology you choose to be robust but also easy to use and bulletproof. When people are in the locations, they need to be able inspect and not be screwing around with their tech. Your field teams need a platform that will assist them in the planning, conducting, and follow-up stages of their audits. That provides them and the management teams their auditing with a seamless experience. From a corporate perspective, you want the software you choose to be flexible, easy to update, and you should be looking for a software partner that can work with you to refine your process over time.

2. What are you looking to get out of your audits?
We have found that a lot of people don’t have an answer to this question.

  • Are audits just an excuse for sending the field teams to the restaurants?
  • Are you looking to capture operations data so you can refine your internal procedures and run better restaurant operations chain-wide?
  • Are you just concerned with food safety or adherence to brand standards?
  • Are you auditing because that is what we do, but you don’t use the data unless an individual restaurant needs to be shut down for violations?

It’s ok, based off of your business model to subscribe to any of the above or something else. I would suggest that you get clear with your team about your stated audit goals. I am a firm believer that you should be auditing to collect data on your restaurants and to use that data to identify locations that put the brand at risk and to drive system-wide operational changes.

You should know what kind of results you want from the audits you are conducting because the answer should influence every other question.

3. How often are you going to be visiting the locations?
Audit frequency is a determining factor in a lot of different parts of your audit program. The fewer times a year you plan on visiting a location, the more comprehensive your audit should be. If you are going to be visiting more often, then you can have a shorter inspection, or you can vary certain sections of your audit so that you look at core critical issues every time and less important sections alternate between different visits.

Most restaurant chains that we have worked with audit between 1 and 4 times a year. Chipotle for instance is auditing 12 times a year, though we haven’t heard many restaurant companies conducting that many audits per year.

We have worked up a use case that can save a company a lot of money if they use daily checklists to augment their auditing program, they can conduct fewer audits per year on the top 20% of their restaurants without sacrificing brand protection or overwhelm their field teams. If you want to learn more about that, you can learn more here.

Two other factors to keep in mind when determining how often you are going to be visiting.
1. How complicated are your operations? If you are a quick service chain with a minimal amount of on-site prep, examples would be a sandwich or ice cream chain; then you may determine that fewer audits are fine for your business because you have less risk based on the simplicity of your food prep and model.

Whereas if you are a full-service restaurant that is prepping most of your food on-site, you incur more food safety and quality risks, and therefore it may warrant more audits.

2. What is your geographic footprint? Are your restaurants in one city or are they spread out around the country? Are your auditors going to be traveling to audit the restaurants, incurring travel expenses for each restaurant they visit or do they live in their territory and can just drive to their locations to conduct the audit?

Travel expenses should be factored into determining auditing frequency. In some cases, it may make more sense to use 3rd party auditors when travel expenses dictate. This can also be affected by who is conducting the audit and what their role in the company is.

4. Who is going to be conducting the audit?

We have found that there are people in 3 different roles conducting audits in restaurants, they all have their pros and cons:

  • Field team member: usually an area manager or director.
  • Dedicated QA person: this person works for the brand, and their whole job is to conduct audits.
  • 3rd Party Auditor: like Steritech of EcoSure

Field team members are usually directly responsible for the restaurants they are auditing.  This is a very cost-effective model because the person is already on the team, they have intimate knowledge of the restaurants, and they are well versed in the operating standards of the chain, which allows them to audit and coach as they go.

The cons of using your field team to audit are that they aren’t impartial and there are inherent conflicts of interest in their scoring. For instance, a field team members performance is often tied to their patch of restaurants.  So by being completely honest and scoring restaurants appropriately, especially if the restaurant is underperforming, that score can reflect poorly on the field team members ability to manage their territory. In some cases, this could affect their take-home pay or bonus.

We know of many chains, Focus Brands and Quiznos for instance, where auditing is a small part of the field team members job.  A lot of their job is more sales related, selling franchisees on upgrades to systems, technology, remodels, etc..  Or just selling the franchisee on following the brand standards.  If your job is to sell and to audit, there is another conflict of interest where doing both parts of your job are at odds with each other, and most people will choose the path of least resistance.

Whenever you have conflicts of interest with your auditors, you can expect to get inaccurate audit scores, with the scores skewing up.  The problem with this is that you will have a false sense of security when it comes to the operational readiness and food safety aspects of your chain. You could believe everything is fine and then be blindsided by an issue.  Remember with data; garbage in is garbage out.

Dedicated QA people are a great way to combat the inherent conflicts of interest with using your field team people to conduct audits as QA people aren’t tied to the operating metrics of the restaurants they inspect.

The biggest cons to using QA people is that they often aren’t able to coach or train as well because they aren’t operators they are QA people.  There is also the inherent cost of having QA people on your payroll, having dedicated people who just inspect increases your audit costs in a lot of cases because you will still be sending your field teams to visit the restaurants.

3rd party inspectors are probably slightly less independent than QA people and more expensive per audit.  3rd party inspection services, like Steritech, field highly trained auditing teams that go around the country inspecting many different kinds of restaurants.  Because they have sophisticated equipment and training, they are very good at auditing.  Plus Steritech calibrates their auditors to brand standards and keeps them honest.

They can be very expensive, several hundred dollars per audit. You have to take cost into account when deciding to use a 3rd party vs. your own resources.  We have heard that Yum uses 3rd party auditors and pays for the initial quarterly inspection but if a unit fails the inspection, then the franchisee has to pay for a reinspection.

I’ve always been suspicious that 3rd party auditors could skew scores to ensure that their company keeps the contract. I don’t have any evidence of this and I’m sure the 3rd party auditing firms control this but there is an incentive to tell corporate what the want to hear so that they keep using the 3rd party firm.

5. How comprehensive, how much stuff are we going to cover, in the audit?

This goes back to everything we have discussed so far.  What are you going to do with the data, how often are you going to audit, and who is going to be conducting the audit?

You have to decide for yourself and your goals about how comprehensive your audit is going to be.  Here are some things that definitely should be in a comprehensive audit.

  • Food Safety – a must have for audits
    • This should include checking for all critical health violations.
      • Dishwashing – Dishmachine rinse and chemicals or 3 compartment sinks
      • Sanitizer Buckers
      • Handsinks
      • Proper food storage both dry and in the coolers
      • Labels on all food
      • Dumpster areas and rodent control
      • TEMPERATURES!!!!!!!
  • Restaurant Cleanliness and Maintenance – speaks to brand standards
    • General restaurant cleanliness
    • Wear and tear on building
      • Obvious signs of damage
      • Lack of upkeep
    • Bathrooms and dining areas
    • Kitchen cleanliness and organization
  • Food Taste
    • Pick random items, especially if they are prepared on-site and taste test.
    • Tasting food reduces comps when you catch your own mistakes.
  • Brand standards
    • Menu boards and POP
    • Guest service – observe transactions and rate the service provided
  • Administration
    • Proper employment records for all employees
    • Checklists and food safety documentation
      • Food safety documentation is one that often gets overlooked and not having this should cause a massive hit to audit score.
      • We have a pencil whipping problem in the US when it comes to food safety documentation, and it is unacceptable.
      • If you ever get someone sick at a restaurant, it is your documented adherence to food safety procedures that will give you the best chance of limiting your liability.  The FDA subpoenaed all of Chipotle’s logs a couple of years ago.  When you can’t supply that documentation, you are basically admitting to not following established best practices for food safety and therefore are more guilty.
      • You can effortlessly track and keep all your food safety records, track checklist compliance, and more if you use the OpsAnalitica Platform for daily checklists.
    • Required Employment Signage
    • Food Safety Certification Training

6. How long do you expect this audit and any subsequent coaching to take?

Audit time needs to be understood for planning reasons.  How many audits can you do a day? How many audits are you expected to do a month or a quarter?

We ran some numbers for a time savings business case a couple of years ago, and it is staggering how quickly audit time can add up.  As an example, if you can save 2 hours per audit and you do ten audits per month, that ends up being six weeks of time saved at the end of the year.

Understand for yourself how long these are expected to take so you can properly plan your audit program and make sure that your team can conduct their audits and do their other job functions if applicable.

7. How are you going to handle action plan items?

This is probably the most important part of auditing, and subsequently, one of the hardest things for auditors to do is to manage all of the action plan items that are created on audits. Action Plan items speak directly to the legal concepts of Due Diligence and Due Care.

In very lay terms, due diligence is doing your audit, self-policing your locations to make sure they are operating up to your brand and food safety standards.  Due care means having a plan in place to handle deficiencies and document that those issues are rectified.  The problem becomes when you audit your restaurants, identify issues, and then don’t take care of them.

We have all seen the news reports, the company knew this was an issue but didn’t do anything to fix it.  Knowing but not fixing greatly increases your liability but more importantly plays horribly in the media if it ever comes to that.

The basics for handling action plan items are:

  1. You have to identify action plan items.
  2. You should create one action plan task per item to ensure that all are handled.
  3. Assign the responsibility of rectifying the item to a person(s).
  4. Assign a due date for when the issue needs to be fixed.
  5. Verify, usually through pictures or re-inspection, that the item has been fixed.
  6. Document all of this in case the issue you identified caused someone harm.

Following up on action plan items is best accomplished by a task management program.  You can use email if you don’t have a task management program but email is very lax on enforcement, and you are more prone to miss action plan items.

We hear from our clients and prospective clients that completing action plan items is one of the hardest things they have to deal with because often time the auditor has moved on to their next audit and aren’t at the restaurant to supervise. Obviously, if you do several audits a week and you identify multiple issues per audit, it starts to add up very quickly.

I don’t know how other software platforms handle this but we have an explicit action plan task that can be created off an inspection report and links back to the item. You can track all of your action plan tasks in your inbox and you are notified as they are completed or if they are late.

It is great to have people fix their audit issues on the spot when possible.  Just like using tasks, you need a way to document the fix for reporting purposes. In our system, if you don’t want to create a task you can add additional photos and comments on the inspection report for documentation purposes.

Put together a system that allows you to easily assign and track that each deficiency that you identify is fixed in an appropriate time frame.  You open yourself up to a lot of liability if you can’t ensure that items are being fixed.

8. Have you thought about Site Visits?

There are three levels of operations inspections that chains should be doing to drive better operations.

  1. Audits: used to identify operating trends and restaurant performance
  2. Site Visits: quick critical only focused checklists that non-location employees complete every time they visit a restaurant.
  3. Daily Checklists: used to drive behavior and to document food safety procedures on a daily basis.

Site visits are seldom used and recorded by most major chains, I believe that their audit software doesn’t do a great job of facilitating multiple inspections, and this is a huge mistake.  Site visits are 10 to 15 question checklists that focus on the most critical operating standards from a FOH/BOH perspective.  They should be completed everytime a person from the restaurant chain, that doesn’t work at the location, visits the restaurant.

Site visits provide the following benefits:

  1. You collect more operations data:
    1. These are quick and take place at different times of the day so you can get interesting data about how well the restaurant is operating during the rush or right after.
  2. More flexible than audits:
    1. You don’t want to be changing your audits to constantly reflect current operational priorities because this dilutes their historic relevance. Instead, you can use site visits to gauge how well the restaurants are doing on current operational initiatives.

Using site visits in conjunction with your Audit program will help you understand how the restaurant is performing in between audits and provides very interesting operations data. It also allows you to identify and quickly address critical issues.

In conclusion, auditing is about protecting your brand from yourself. It is about ensuring that your restaurants are operating at or above standard. Audits are about teaching and coaching your team members, providing feedback, and holding people accountable.

Restaurant Audits are an integral part of managing multi-unit restaurant and hotel chains.  They provide us with a report card on how we are doing.  I highly encourage you to review your audit process using some of the standards I highlighted in this post. If you are looking for consulting assistance to review your audit program or restaurant audit software to conduct your audits on, please feel free to schedule a call with us at OpsAnalitica by clicking here.

We welcome the opportunity to discuss what you are currently doing, show you how our software could help you optimize your process, and to give you a quote.

Don’t Neglect the FOH

I’m sure you have experienced this a million times….

I’m going to share a story from my days at bartending in a very busy mountain town.

Spring break was one of the busiest times of the year. Two-hour waits for dinner and up to an hour wait for lunch. No real break between the shifts because we got the apres ski crowd after a busy day on the mountain.

During March, there would be a lot of cash just burning a hole in our pockets, like most ski town residents we would need to unwind at the end of the night. It could sometimes turn into a 4 or 5-hour process and would inevitably make the next lunch shift pretty rough.

It was always a bad idea when all of us would go out together because now instead of 1 or 2 of the staff operating at 75%, we would have 90% of the staff operating at 50%.

Never failed, every time that happened we’d get an early lunch rush. Side work was half-assed, tables weren’t set, outside heaters weren’t on, umbrellas were down, snow on the front patio. You get the picture.

We’d ingest as much coffee as we could stand and GO TO WAR!

The service was horrible because you are trying to complete side work while serving guests. Drinks took forever because there weren’t enough glasses at the soft drink stations, not enough lemons cut, it was a disaster. It hurt our tips and certainly hurt lunch sales.

Anyone who has ever managed a restaurant has worked a shift like this. You walk in the door and your staff looks like the slept in their uniforms and don’t get me started about the smell, like a damp cellar.

Instead of proactively managing your shift, you start your day putting out FIRES.

Instead of walking your dining room and checking it for readiness you are herding CATS.

In the spirit of this story, we’d like to share our FOH Readiness Checklist. Click here to download it for free!

Even if you have a FOH Checklist, you should take a minute and check out ours.

We hope you find it helpful.

If you are interested in learning more about how OpsAnalitica is helping restaurant operators run safer, more profitable restaurants, click here, to watch a quick 14 minute demo video.

Fighting Norovirus with OpsAnalitica

Screenshot 2016-02-09 19.27.40

There is no medical cure for Norovirus; if you contract it you simply have to ride it out. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t anything you can do as a multi-unit restaurant manager to protect your restaurants, brand, and profits.

With Norovirus, the best offense is going to be a good defense. Here are some steps we are suggesting that you take to protect your company.

  1. Train  your team about Norovirus:
    1. Train your current team and add Norovirus training to your new hire on-boarding.
    2. Get our Free Norovirus Training Guide by clicking here.
    3. Make sure you cover the following topics:  symptoms, transmission, recovery period, employees responsibility to alert management if they contract Norovirus or get sick.
  2. Use the OpsAnalitica Inspector to digitallycapture employee signatures after they receive Norovirus training.
    1. Create a simple checklist that you have employees fill out stating that they have received Norovirus training and they understand their responsibility to notify managment.
    2. This documentation will be time and date stamped and provided written proof of your pro-activity on this subject.
  3. You need to start asking employees every shift if they are well enough to work or experienced any Norovirus symptoms in the last 48 hours?
    1. You can do this in pre-shifts or even field time clock questions if your system supports that.
      1. One note, if you put this into the timeclock make sure there is a way for the time clock system to notify management that someone said yes immediately.  The worse thing you could do is identify on your time clock that someone was experiencing symptoms but not take appropriate action before the shift.
    2. You have to be prepared to send people home if they say “Yes”.
  4. Use the OpsAnalitica Inspector to create daily shift logs.
    1. The problem with paper or old school digital shift logs is that they are very difficult to report off of across an organization.
    2. If you convert your antiquated shift log to an OpsAnalitica shift log, you will be able to ask true-false questions with comments.  Ex:  Did you send anyone home today for being ill? (If True, please document in comments)
    3. This allows you to run very detailed reports across your system to help you identify risk and ensure that your unit managers are doing the right things.
  5. If you do send someone home for being ill, you should immediately conduct a deep cleaning of the areas that the person worked and document that cleaning with the OpsAnalitica Inspector.
    1. Use a flexible deep clean checklist to document that you took immediate action and what areas of the restaurant that you cleaned after the employee went home.
    2. You should also track in the inspector and on your waste sheets any food that your team through away because it came into contact with the sick person.

64% of Norovirus outbreaks come from restaurants.  The news media and patrons are becoming more educated about Norovirus and are holding restaurant management responsible.  The key to fighting Norovirus in your operations is to educate your team and document your procedures.  If you get someone sick, and there is an investigation,  you ability to prove through documentation that you did the right things from a management perspective: training, sending sick employees home, deep cleaning and throwing away food is what is going to help you move past the outbreak.

Where OpsAnalitica takes documentation to the next level is that we time-date stamp and geocode every submission.  Because the data goes to the cloud we can build very detailed reports that look at all units in your chain and then email relevant data to the right people on a schedule.  Now corporate management can be made aware of any issues that arise pro-actively and have all of the data they need at their fingertips.  Checklists with effortless follow-up drive compliance and better operations.  To learn more about the inspector, schedule a demo by clicking here.

Norovirus is a fact of life; it can be a death sentence for the very young, old, and infirmed.  It can be a restaurant killer for those operations that don’t take it seriously.  Buffalo Wild Wings stock went down over 6% in a couple of days from a small isolated outbreak in KS.  Chipotle’s stores have seen a double digit drop in sales year over year and Norovirus has played a huge part in the sales decline.  Could your restaurant handle a 30% decline in sales for six months plus?  I don’t know of many that could.

Get a free copy of our Norovirus Training Guide.

Pencil Whipping Happens

Let’s talk about the art of Pencil Whipping. Here’s the “official” definition from Wiktionary:

Verb
pencil whip ‎(third-person singular simple present pencil whips, present participle pencil whipping, simple past and past participle pencil whipped)

(idiomatic) To approve a document without actually knowing or reviewing what it is that is being approved.
(idiomatic) To complete a form, record, or document without having performed the implied work or without supporting data or evidence.Knowing the auditors were coming in just a week, we chose to pencil whip the quarterly inventory forms for the last year.

Synonyms
rubber stamp

I suspect that most of you know this is happening in your restaurants whether it be line checks, temp logs, pre-shifts, restaurant audits, safety inspections, or any of the other checklists that you may be performing on a regular basis. There are several excuses for pencil whipping any of these, some more plausible than others, but when it comes to food safety none of them are acceptable.

Running late for example. Tommy was recently talking to a buddy of his and he admitted that when he was a chef he would wind up in a situation where he was running behind and would just quickly initial everything on his line check because it was required to be filled out. Note that I didn’t say that he completed his line check, he simply did the minimum required to be compliant with the rules. This is a classic Pencil Whip. All well and good until someone in your restaurant gets sick because you served food that wasn’t the right temp.

Another very common Pencil Whip stems from the mindset of “Nobody looks at these anyway so why should I invest any time in it I’ve got better things to do. I know everything is fine.” This is very dangerous, but it also makes sense. If every day you fill out a checklist and then file it in a drawer in the office, knowing that nobody ever looks at it. Then twice a year the paper shredding truck arrives to make room for more. You might feel the same way. Make sure you are following up on your checklists.

Then there’s the “I forgot so I’ll just fill it out later” pencil whip. This is going to happen from time to time, but if you are tracking them you will know that it wasn’t completed on time. This can now be a coaching moment on how important line checks are to the overall success of the operations.

If you are doing line checks, inspections, checklists, etc. without follow up I will guarantee you that some of them are being pencil whipped. This is putting your business at risk.

It’s very easy to put off food safety improvement until tomorrow, until tomorrow is the day you get someone sick. Look at Chipotle, I just read today that they have been subpoenaed to produce documentation about practices, chain-wide, for the last 3 years. We already know how much their sales have suffered recently, but there are huge costs associated to these types of things as well. It’s a big deal.

Make sure that you are doing everything that you can to minimize food-borne illness. Start by ensuring that your line checks are being completed diligently and not pencil whipped. Click here to download our free guide, 7 Tips to Faster Better Line Checks

Keep on Inspecting!

7 Tips for Faster Better Line Checks

Chef Tasting Food

Pre-shift line checks are a requirement for running a successful restaurant.  Line checks provide management the ability to inspect their restaurant before the meal period to:

  • Ensure that they are stocked properly, Pars
  • The right food is on the line, FIFO
  • That everything is safe to serve, Temperature Control
  • The correct serving ladles and spoons are being used, Portion Control
  • That all food is fresh and tastes correct, Food Comp Reduction
  • Basic food safety and cleanliness practices are being met, Sanitation

If you are not conducting line checks every meal period, from my experience, you don’t even know what you don’t know about what is going on in your kitchen.  My guess is that if you started doing line checks  you would be very surprised at what you find.

Here are some tips to make your line checks faster and more effective:

  1. Thorough is Better:  Look at every item that you are going to be serving that shift.  Don’t assume that because it was checked on the last shift that it is still good to serve.
  2. Make a line check kit:  It doesn’t have to be fancy but you should grab a full pan and load it up with the things you are going to need to conduct your line check and then bring the kit with you to each station in the restaurant.  A good kit should contain:
    1. Sanitizer bucket with 1 wet towel for cleaning off thermometer probes
    2. 1 dry towel
    3. Sanitizer test strips
    4. Dishwasher test strips if different
    5. 1 bucket with clean spoons for tasting (figure out how many spoons you will need to taste every item and bring that many)
    6. 1 bucket for dirty spoons
    7. Thermometer(s)
    8. Fryer oil test kit if you use one
    9. Post-its and a pen – for leaving notes for crew
  3. Write SMART Questions:  For any food item you should:
    1. Temp the item
    2. Taste the item when appropriate
    3. Ensure it is labeled correctly with expiration date
    4. Check that it is in the correct container size
    5. Has the correct portion control in place (spoodle, ladle, measuring cup, check weight of random item, etc..)
  4. Use Multiple Thermometers:  The average probe thermometer takes 1 to 5 seconds to register a temp.  If you are going to be temping your entire line you are adding unnecessary time to your line check if you only use 1 thermometer.  Use at least two or four at a time.  By the time you place the 4th thermometer the 1st one has probably registered the temp.  This will speed up your line checks
  5. Check for critical violations:  You should take this opportunity to be looking for other critical violations in your restaurant:
    1. Sanitizer buckets: proper concentration, towels, temperature
    2. Dishwasher: water temperature, sanitizer concentrations, etc..
    3. Improper food storage:  look in dry storage and refrigerator units for proper shelves, cool down procedures, covers, and labels
    4. Temperatures:  record temps for all cold and hot hold units
  6. Correct any critical violations immediately:  As you are walking around conducting your line check if you stumble upon a critical violation you need to fix it immediately.  Fixing might consist of you stopping what you are doing and fixing it yourself or delegating it to a member of the crew.  You need to flag that item and re-check that it was fixed before service starts.
  7. Implement quality management processes & job aides:  OpsAnalitica drives line check compliance by providing a customized end user exerience that provides team members all the data they need in order identify and remediate issues in real-time before they affect customers.  Above store leaders are able to effectively manage and coach employees to maximize performance.  Our clients see a 1/2 to 1% decrease in food costs due to reduced comps and better inventory management.  Our clients are reporting increased temperature compliance and safety.

Here is an additional guide that you might find useful:

  1. Calibrate your thermometer

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.
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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.

Food-borne Illness Just Got Very Serious

It’s of course always a serious issue, but there hasn’t been a sentence such as the one laid down last week for the former owner of Peanut Corp of America. A 28 year prison sentence for the salmonella outbreak at his manufacturing facility in 2008/2009 that killed 9 people and got another 714 people really sick.

Now granted there was gross misconduct/neglect by the owner and upper management in this case which, I’m sure, played a large role in the sentencing, but either way the bar has been set very high. The message has been sent that the courts will not take these cases lightly.

Food manufacturers and service businesses need to do everything they can to prevent these kinds of outbreaks or ownership/management can face prison time. Add that on top of all the bad publicity especially in this day and age of social media and the internet where news spreads like wild fire in minutes. Facilities and food need to be checked and inspected regularly to make sure that there is a minimal chance of an outbreak.

Documentation is also a key factor. In this case the documentation worked against Peanut Corp of America in that they had emails going back and forth outlining lies etc. (Here’s an article from MSNews Now). Of course if it wasn’t the case that the company knowingly shipped contaminated food the sentence would have been less, but how less? Who knows? If they were able to show documentation that proved that they inspected their operations and food daily that would have helped as well.

The reality is that being in the food business you are dealing with human lives and it’s not a responsibility to be taken lightly. Just as airline pilots to a pre-flight inspection every single flight the food industry including manufacturers, restaurants, etc. need to perform similar checks every shift to insure that the food is safe. They also need to prove that these checks are being done consistently and diligently when they are supposed to be done.

Check out our blog from last week for some thawing and holding tips that you can start using immediately. Click here for an article with more details on the sentencing etc.

Click here to download our Better Practices Guide to Self Inspecting.

Thawing and Holding Tips

Thanks to the Missouri Restaurant Association weekly newsletter we’re able to share these tips for thawing and holding food.

Thawing
-Refrigeration: Thaw TCS food at 41 ̊Fahrenheit (5 ̊Celsius) or lower to limit pathogen growth. Plan ahead when thawing large items, such as turkeys. They can take several days to defrost.

-Microwave: You can safely thaw food in a microwave, but only if the food is going to be cooked immediately. Be warned: large items, such as roasts or turkeys, migh not thaw well with this method.

-Cooking: Thaw food as part of the cooking process.

-Running water: Submerge food under running, drinkable water at 70°Fahrenheit (21°Celsius) or lower.  Never let the temperature of the food go above 41°Fahrenheit (5°Celsius) for longer than four hours.

Holding
-Hold foods at their correct temperatures. TCS foods should be held at the correct internal temperatures. Cold food should be held at 41°Fahrenheit (5°Celsius) or lower, and hot food should be 135°Fahrenheit (57°Celsius) or higher.

-Check temperatures regularly. Timing is essential. Make sure you check food temperatures at least every four hours. Toss  food that’s not 41°Fahrenheit (5°Celsius) or lower, or 135°Fahrenheit (57°Celsius) or higher.

-Use food covers and sneeze guards. Keep food covered to help maintain temperatures.  Covers and sneeze guards also help protect the food from contaminants.

-Use hot-holding equipment properly. Don’t reheat food in them unless they are built to do so.

It’s important to have these processes in place and ensure that your staff understands that they are important to your operations. HACCP #7 requires documentation. A great way to accomplish this is to collect and record all this data digitally using an app.

Check out the quick video below for more info on the OpsAnalitica platform:

[embed]https://youtu.be/mMI5w9GWb_Y[/embed]

How do you use your operations data?

So you are collecting operations data every day, probably every shift, but what are you doing with it? 
If you are like most operators you are filing it in a drawer in the GM’s office never to be seen again. But what a waste of time and data. Why go through the exercise if nobody ever looks at the data again? I can tell you that’s how your managers feel. 
 
Just take a step back and look at the data you are collecting in your line checks and pre-shift inspections. Close your eyes and think about it for a minute.
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What could you do with that data? How do you think it could affect business decisions is you were able to view this data in usable format over time? 
  • Could you potentially discover an optimal walk-in temperature to reduce spoilage?
  • Could you spot a common trend in your bottom 20% performing locations, or the top 20% for that matter?
  • Could you determine that a hung over Saturday lunch staff is affecting sales tremendously?

There’s power in data, just ask Google and Facebook. If you are making decisions while ignoring important data that is available to you, you’re basically guessing. Sure experience and intuitiveness play a role, but data tells the real story. 

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