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Making the Most of Your 30-Day Free Trial – Part 1

As more and more cloud apps are being designed for business consumers, the 30-Day Free Trial is becoming more and more common in the corporate setting. OpsAnalitica, my company, offers a 30-Day Free Trial for our Inspector App.

The Free Trial is not a new concept; it is one of the best sales models for the manufacturer and the customer. The Free Trial thrives in the app economy because there are minimal costs to the app maker for adding one additional customer to their app for 30-days.

The benefit to the customer is you can cut through the marketing hype and use the tool in the real world. It is one thing to see a demo video and in our case it is another to walk around your restaurant with our app on your tablet inspecting your restaurant and recording temperatures.

Quick Tip: Demo Videos, most app companies have a demo video of their software on their site. When watching a demo video be leery of highly produced videos with lots of editing and cuts. A great screen capture video that shows the app working in the real world is better because you see the real user experience.

The first concept I want to cover in Free Trials is: Nothing is ever Free. A 30-Day Free trial isn’t free because your time and attention cost money. When you commit to doing a trial and you put your credit card down the clock is ticking. So you should go in with a plan and an idea of how you would use this tool in your world.

Quick Tip: Set a calendar reminder for 28 days on the day you purchase the free trial. At OpsAnalitica, we email you twice in the week when your card is going to be charged for the first time to alert you to the upcoming charge. Notifying the customer about an impending charge isn’t a law or requirement. Just remember 30 days at work goes by so fast, and we see a ton of our free trials wait until the reminder emails before they even start using the tool.

Quick Tip: Don’t sign-up for more licenses than you need to conduct your free trial. We have people sign-up for ten licenses and then on Day 30 they get billed for ten licenses when they only needed one.

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Free Trial Phases:
You should break your free trial into two phases. Initial Evaluation and Real World Test(RWT). You don’t move into the RWT if the platform doesn’t pass your Initial Evaluation.

Initial Evaluation:

  • The goal is to use all of the functionality of the app with the minimal time investment
  • Don’t be concerned with data quality, look and feel, in this phase.
  • You should try to get through your Initial Evaluation in two to four hours if possible.

I see people making a huge mistake all the time, which is they won’t start testing an app unless they have it configured perfectly with real world data. Configuring takes time.

What I’m saying here is against my self-interest as an app maker. The more time a customer invests in the tool during a free trial correlates to their purchase behavior. A customer puts a psychological value on their time and is less likely to cancel the trial, even if they aren’t happy with the tool because it will look and feel like they made a mistake.

So much of selling is playing on the pride and laziness of the customer.  That is why they will let you mail back the Bowflex for a refund because they know no one is going to pack that bitch back up, and it get it shipped. So as soon as you unpack the Bowflex, it is never going back. The only way you are getting it out of your house is when you sell it for 1/3rd of what you paid for it on Craigslist.

Investing too much time configuring in the Initial Evaluation, is unpacking the Bowflex, and it plays into the hands of the seller.

Using our app as an example, I have test inspections I can load into the Inspector for you. They are full of questions that may apply to your business but more than likely they won’t cover everything you might want to inspect. That is OK. You need to use your imagination, use my preloaded test questions, walk around your restaurant inspecting it and determine if the app and reports could work for you.  There will be plenty of time to conduct real world tests with real data if you proceed to RWT.

The same is true for any other app you are testing, ask the company if they have preloaded data for you to use. Your time is money so don’t waste it data entering when you aren’t sure that you are going to be using this thing tomorrow.

Other Apps:

  • Task Management apps – add two fake tasks to the app and work them to completion before you invest 5 hours moving every task from your current app into that platform.
  • CRM App – Put in your personal contact info and then work yourself through the system on a fake deal before you invest the time to move your entire contact list into the tool.
  • Restaurant Scheduling – Make a fake schedule with a couple of employees and see how it works.

As you are testing make a bullet point list of questions and concerns. If you like the App, then you can contact your sales rep or support and get the questions answered before moving to RWT.

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Quick Tip: In programming going from one to two is harder than two to 1,000. What that means is, if you are testing something always use at least two items in your test. If it works for two test items than it should work similarly for 100 items.

Quick Tip: There is no app that is going to 100% conform to how you do stuff today. The point of bringing in apps is to speed things up and make data more available. Just know that you are going to have to change how you do things a little to work with an app.

When you have gone as far as you can or need to go in your Initial Evaluation, look at the list of questions you have generated and categorize them as Must-haves and Nice-to-Haves. Must-have’s are deal breakers, Nice-to-have’s are “it would be cool if your app did it like this.”

Let’s break the Must-haves concept down a little bit more, because this is probably the biggest barrier I see companies stumbling over. When evaluating functionality you have to clear your mind and focus on the end goal.

As an example: The business requirement is that a customer gets a notification email when a certain action is taken, if there is no way to make that happen within the app. That is a Must-have that is not being met.

If the email notification is sent, but not the way you would ideally like it to happen. For instance: you have to click a button, or it doesn’t go out immediately; then that is a Nice-to-have issue. The business requirement is met just not the way you would have preferred it.

Initial Evaluation Decision Time: You have your list of questions and concerns; you have rated it by Must-haves and Nice-to-haves. You have gotten clarification from the app maker that your list is accurate. Now you have to decide if it’s worth investing more time into testing or should you look for another solution.

There is no formula for the percentage of Must-haves to Nice-to-haves when deciding. It comes down to how many Must-haves are on your list and is the pain of your current system enough that you can live without that functionality.

Quick Tip: Don’t get caught up in the personalities of your company and what you think people will do or won’t do. If there is a strong business case around implementing technology and you can prove ROI, people will adapt.

Over the years, I’ve see so many people not move forward with an app that has proven positive ROI because some guy on their team, Doug, is never going to do that. Just because Doug is an ass head and has managed to stop all progress at the company because he is afraid of technology, the rest of the company shouldn’t have to suffer.

Quick Tip: If you aren’t going to move forward, you should cancel the app immediately before you forget. I cannot stress this enough, make your decision and move on.

I had an employee once that did a 30-day free trial, didn’t like the app, told us all in a meeting that we weren’t going to use it. Then forgot to cancel, didn’t realize that he had forgotten, and we were billed for a month. He had to put that on his expense report to me and tell me how he had made a mistake, and then accounting wanted to know what the charge was for and ultimately we all looked dumb.  Cancel when you decide.

In part two of this blog, we will pick-up on Real World Testing(RWT).  Click here to go to Part II.

Also, in Part II we will have a printable 1 page pdf of best practices.

Click here to subscribe to the blog so you don’t miss our upcoming posts on Piloting your new App and Questions to ask your Cloud App Provider.




Bad Manager vs. Good Manager Part II

Restaurant Managers Without Line Check Technology Are Just Putting Out Fires With Gasoline!

Lexi Without A Line-Check App vs. Lexi With a Line Check App, With OpsAnalitica to the Rescue.

Don’t be embarrassed if the person we describe sounds exactly like you.  Actually, it may be you, but not for long.  You won’t have to read far to see how transformative technology can be to your workday…and your career.

Here’s part two of the Bad Manager vs. Good Manager blog. Part one was posted yesterday, click here to read part one.

The Good Manager

8:03 AM: Lexi the restaurant manager shows up to get ready for putting out 125 meals, the lunch rush just four hours away. She’d already checked in from home with the OpsAnalitica app suite on her iPad to see 100% compliance with the line checks from last night and this morning. All temps checked out. She noticed on last night’s closing walk-through that they were low on Guac.  She sent a digital purchase order to Sysco, and the dispatcher says delivery will be there in 25 minutes.

Lexi is so glad that she didn’t become a nun, as her mom had asked. Shes running the top restaurant in town and had 17 right-swipes since 5pm yesterday.

8:17 AM: Lexi arrives at the location to check the kitchen.  The line cook pours her a fresh latte’. “That’s my thanks for the sharp knives” he says with a wink and a smile.  The previous evening, Lexi had read a comment on her OpsAnalitica line check app that it was time to sharpen the knives.  She’d assigned it to the owner’s nephew Randy, who she just hired. He’s a cute kid with a lot of promise, and always eager to learn a new skill.

Lexi catches a scene from Court TV on the screen above the bar, and she wonders how these criminals get into such trouble, when life is so carefree and fun.

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8:22 AM: Lexi checks her OpsAnalitica app suite on her iPad over a second delicious latte (this one from the wait staff, who didn’t have to fill any of the smalls). OpsAnalitica app suite tells her that all her requests from the previous night had been fulfilled. She hasn’t had any problems with the breakers after the alarm was set, since adding that question to the closing checklist. There was, however, one non-compliant worker, and she texted and email him a message that they needed to talk when he had time.

Lexi simply cant believe how great that latte isthe temp just right. Astounding.

8:44 AM: Lexi gets a text. It’s the board of health and they are pulling a surprise inspection. Inspector wants to meet her in the lobby.  To prepare, Lexi grabs her tablet and pulls her line check report for the past two months.  They show compliance with all health standards.  She even prints out a few Yelp and Tripadvisor comments to show the inspector what customers think of the food.

Lexi had scored 2300 on her SATs and she’d been recruited by Duke and Stanford to study with a leading hedge fund, but shes glad she went into restaurant management. Unfathomable wealth is nothing compared to being in complete control of a top restaurant location.

10:00 AM: Board of health inspector gives her location an A+. He even tells her what a great job her team is doing.

Lexis iPad gets an alert, and she wonders what could be going wrong.  Did OpsAnalitica app suite let her down?  But its yet another compliance report email. Mid-day line checks have been properly performed again. Bathroom inspection reports back spotless, and the server stations are stocked and ready for the rush for 63rd day in a row.

11:00 AM: That cute Sysco truck driver texts to thank Lexi for the Google traffic alert, which she’d sent last night. He’ll be early today.

11:15 AM: First customers arrive.  Location doesn’t open for 15 more minutes, but Lexi and he crew have already done pre-shifts, and everyone is running ahead of schedule. She welcomes the guests.  Turns out they are scouting for a wedding reception, and they love how they are treated special.

12:00 AM: Regional manager calls Lexi all excited, says he’s bringing the chain owner over for lunch. He asks how lunch is going. Lexi says, “Can’t wait. But we are full! Do you mind eating at the bar?”

Lexi leaves a sticky note on the walk-in door: Silk on silk: Thats how smooth this place runs! Thanks everyone! Thanks OpsAnalitica app suite!

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Bad Manager vs Good Manager Part I

Restaurant Managers Without Line Check Technology Are Just Putting Out Fires With Gasoline!

Lexi Without A Line-Check App vs. Lexi With a Line Check App, With OpsAnalitica to the Rescue.

Don’t be embarrassed if the person we describe sounds exactly like you.  Actually, it may be you, but not for long.  You won’t have to read far to see how transformative technology can be to your workday…and your career.

The Bad Manager

8:03 AM: Lexi the restaurant manager shows up to get ready for putting out 125 meals, the lunch rush just four hours away. But as she walked through the door, she thought she’d walked into a frog dissection class at the high school.  She was met with a putrid smell at the door of the walk-in.

Rotten food.

No temp check was run at closing last night, and the breaker on the walk-in had tripped when the closer had set the burglar alarm. All the food has spoiled. Even the hard boiled eggs.

Eyeing the staffing chart from last night, Lexi tries to recall the distinction between murder and manslaughter and which brings a shorter prison sentence.

8:17 AM: “I’m being poisoned!” is all that Lexi can hear the line cook repeatedly screaming. She dashes back to see him rinsing out his mouth. Someone had mistaken his water bottle for the bottle that holds the sanitary solution and filled it up to the brim with fresh bleach. The line cook is staring at the owner’s smarmy nephew, Randy, who no one wanted to hire anyway. The cook eyes the knives but realizes they are too dull to hurt anyone.

Not for the first time, Lexi wonders why she didn’t become a nun, like her mom wanted.

8:22 AM: On the phone to Sysco for an expedited delivery of food for lunch, Lexi has to separate two waitresses who are arguing over who will fill the salt and catsups.  Every single table needs complete restocking. No one ran post-dinner side-work check last night to make sure all the smalls were topped off.

Lexi almost hangs up with Sysco to call the Army recruiter, hoping for a lower stress position in Afghanistan. In active combat.

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8:44 AM: Lexi gets a text from the hostess. It’s the board of health and they are pulling a surprise inspection.  Inspector wants to meet her in the lobby. Now. She sees him holding his nose and writing something on his clipboard.

Lexi thinks back to when her parents urged her to take the SATs seriously in high school. Shed be a wealthy lawyer now in Cabo had she only listened.

10:00 AM: Board of health inspector asks for extra paper for his writeup.  Lexi is frantically signaling behind the inspector’s back for the wait staff to crank down the temps on the salad bar. The wait staff signals back, but they need just one finger to convey their true feelings.  Board of health inspector finds the guac tray on the salad bar is at 71 degrees. Should be 37 degree.

Lexi wonders how far one must fall to actually die when jumping off a building.  All nearby buildings are just two-story.  She wishes she’d taken a job in city center. 

11:00 AM: Sysco truck driver calls, furious because no one warned him that road construction would force him down an unfamiliar road. They are letting air out of his tires so he can fit under a low bridge. The refrigerator unit was smashed.  “Do you know someone with a pickup truck who can pick up all this fish before it rots?”

Lexi looks longingly at the line cooks water bottle. She wonders how much grenadine will knock back the taste of bleach long enough to get a few mouthfuls down.

11:15 AM: Cook texts Lexi to say there is no propane.  No one checked the tanks, and the crew is dead in the water until another delivery is made.

Lexi logs into Monster.com, and searches: Anything, anywhere but here. Compensation unimportant.

12:00 PM: Regional manager calls Lexi all excited, says he’s bringing the chain owner over for lunch. He asks how lunch is going. Lexi says that things are going “really well” and that there is sushi for lunch, because the raw fish is “fresh off the truck.”

“I thought we were a Mexican restaurant,” regional manager says.  Lexi says that she’s been changing the menu every so often “to stay with today’s truck-to-table model.”  Regional manager says, “Wow, news to me, but whatever works. Be there in five.”

Lexi leaves a sticky note on the walk-in door: “I eloped with Sysco truck driver. Good luck sorting out the wreckage of this doomed madhouse. PS: Randy — good luck in prison.”

Click here to read part two, the Good Manager.



“Fair work week” efforts a problem for retail, soon a problem for restaurants

Although sales numbers appear to remain positive for the restaurant industry, other challenges continue to mount. On top of the rising minimum wage restaurants are now faced with potential scheduling regulations as well.

NRN.com contributor, Joe Kefauver, posted an article summarizing the regulations that are currently being proposed in some fashion in 10 states and quickly spreading. They seem to be targeting larger organizations, 500 or more employees in California, but it will be a state by state case. Some of the most common areas covered include:

  • Advanced scheduling notice
  • Minimum pay when “cut”
  • Elimination of “on-call” scheduling

These regulations certainly make scheduling tougher for management, but I don’t see it being avoided. It’ll be a change for the employees who enjoy the flexibility of the full service restaurant industry, trading shifts, picking up doubles etc. I see the consumers suffering the most from these regulations as most restaurants will be very conservative with their scheduling so when there’s a no call, no show there won’t be anyone available to cover the slack. As consumers this is something we’ll just have to get used to on the service front. There will be more technology and less human interaction in the future.

I have copied the full article below:

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Just last year I wrote a cautionary column about the emerging issue of sustainable scheduling in the retail sector, and warned readers of a coming wave of “fair work week” legislation and its potential spillover into the restaurant industry.

Fast forward to 2015, and it appears I might have a future in fortune telling.

Pending legislation is running the gamut from mandating the number of days or weeks in advance that schedules must be posted, to the number of hours off between shifts, and to punitive time-and-a-half mandates for transgressions. The efforts are advancing through the actions of retail-focused unions and their worker center partners. Today, up to 10 states have introduced bills surrounding scheduling of employees, including California, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Minnesota, New York and Oregon.

The California bill, in particular, applies to food and retail employers with 500 or more employees and is designed to target the growing number of companies using “just-in-time” and “on-call” scheduling practices to minimize labor costs. It mirrors the fair scheduling bill that passed in San Francisco last year, which will take effect in July.

In addition, proponents of these bills have leveraged their connections within the attorney general community to engage and enforce “reporting-time pay” laws where they are on the books, which includes eight states and the District of Columbia. While these rules are all somewhat different, they basically require non-exempt employees to be paid a minimum amount whenever they report to work as required or requested by the employer — even if no work is performed.

Last month, New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman informed 13 major retailers that they are being investigated for “questionable scheduling practices.” You can be certain that other attorney generals will follow suit. Like the legislative efforts, if anyone thinks these types of investigations will stay limited to the retail sector, then they have not been paying attention.

The Fair Work Week provisions are a particularly tough issue for the restaurant industry. For one thing, there are business owners who have some questionable business practices.

“On-call” scheduling — the practice of having employees call in prior to a shift to see if they are needed — basically freezes that employee from scheduling social or family-related activities, or even other employment opportunities. Even more, if they are not needed, they are not paid. While rampant in the department store world, we have seen it used in the restaurant industry as well. Realistically, the practice is a tough one to defend publicly.

Other instances have surfaced where owners have intentionally overscheduled staff in anticipation of no-shows. If everyone happens to show up for their shift, some employees are sent home without pay. Again, this is almost impossible to defend in the public domain.

The supporters of change to this kind of workforce management and the proponents of legislation to enforce new rules can easily identify and publicly highlight workers who have experienced overscheduling or on-call practices. And of course, the media predictably eats it up.

Perhaps the biggest challenge we face is the fact that this issue polls better for the unions than any other we are currently facing. It polls better than minimum wage, better than paid sick leave and better than wage theft.

The bottom line is that we need to be better at publicly highlighting the reasons why job flexibility is a major component of what makes restaurant jobs attractive for millions of workers. We need to do an even better job internally to make sure we are not using practices in our workplaces that make us easy targets for attack. The industry is doing a good job quickly coordinating a defense against these work week proposals, but it is a huge mountain to climb.

Candidly, we knew this was coming for a long time. We have a propensity in this industry to be somewhat myopic when it comes to how we assess potential threats. For too many years, we dismissed the assault on Walmart’s reputation, business model and the subsequent labor protests as “Walmart’s problem.” Now look where we are. When that labor effort came to our industry, we spent far too long pretending it was “McDonald’s problem.” Now look where we are. For too long, we didn’t admit that threats to the 7-Eleven franchise model were actually threats to the entire restaurant business model. Now look where we are. And for the last two years, we, for whatever reason, decided that the scheduling issue was a retail problem. So here we are.

What scheduling practices have you found most effective at your restaurant? Join the conversation in the comments below.

While we consider ourselves restaurateurs, we are actually food retailers. That means an assault on any retailer’s business model or reputation is an assault on or own. We tend to work within industries and not across industries when it comes to dealing with these threats. Interestingly, the other guys who are cleaning our clocks on this stuff look at retail and restaurants collectively, working across both industries to advance their activist agendas.

Which playbook seems to be working better?


Panera 2.0

An article in the St. Louis Post Dispatch, “From iPad to plate, technology speeding up food at Bread Co.”, highlights some of the early findings of some of the technology improvements being made, known as Panera 2.0. Here in St. Louis Panera is still called St. Louis Bread Company or Bread Co for short.

They are starting with rolling out ordering kiosks where patrons can order and pay for their food without talking to an employee. They have rolled out kiosks to 123 of their 1900 locations so far. Here are some stats:

  • Panera 2.0 cafes are reporting that 20% of their retail sales are digital meaning either online or a kiosk
  • Gross retail sales have increased nearly 6% since the rollout at 2.0 cafes

They have added a new position in the kitchen to help manage all the incoming digital orders to make sure everything is process correctly. Panera is saying that they are investing in more labor than what the kiosks are currently offsetting, but I’m sure that’s temporary. Once the staff and customers are comfortable with the new process they will be shedding labor as fast as possible. That statement in the article is a PR move. You don’t invest in technology to increase costs. Sure they are also making the customer experience a better one which is important and what their customers desired, but let’s be honest there’s a huge financial upside as well down the line through automating labor intensive processes.

Another huge benefit cited in the article are the upselling opportunities through the kiosk. Kiosks don’t fear upselling. You program to do and they just do it. Whereas with employees for most it’s outside of their comfort zone to upsell. That’s just human nature. Now with the automated system every single guest that uses the system will get asked if they want to add stuff to their order. That will pay off in no time.

Early survey results show that both frequency and satisfaction have increased among customers that use the kiosk. So take that for what it’s worth.

I have copied the full article below:

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As customers entered a busy St. Louis Bread Co. in Kirkwood, some made a beeline to a row of iPads set up just inside the restaurant’s doors. The tablet computers allow them to place orders and pay, avoiding the inconvenience of waiting in line during the lunchtime rush.

Soon their orders of chicken salad sandwiches, salads and fruit smoothies were ready, all without having to speak to a restaurant employee.

The new ordering kiosks are part of the “Panera 2.0” initiative by Panera Bread Co., the Sunset Hills-based chain that operates locally as St. Louis Bread Co.

So far, 123 restaurants have added the technology, including about a half dozen in the St. Louis region, since the initiative was announced a little more than a year ago.

The chain, which has 1,901 restaurants in 45 states and Ontario, Canada, is expanding kiosks at several hundred more restaurants this year.

While boosting digital ordering through kiosks, Panera also is testing delivery, although not yet in the St. Louis area. It views the digital expansion as an important part of growing its catering and delivery business.

Blaine Hurst, Panera’s executive vice president of transformation and growth, said the chain began developing Panera 2.0 in 2010 as a way to cut friction customers encountered while waiting to place their orders.

Panera surveyed customers and found out they loved the food and environment at cafes but didn’t like what CEO Ron Shaich has called the “mosh pit” ordering process at Panera registers.

“Panera 2.0 was really born out of a pursuit of how do we make it easier for our guests to get in and out, with the accuracy they desire,” Hurst said.

Panera first tested the use of a kiosk at a restaurant near Fenway Park in Boston in 2012, and added kiosks in Charlotte, N.C., the following year. In 2012 and 2013, Panera also added online ordering and debuted a mobile app that allowed customers to place orders on their smartphones.

The kiosks build on another element of Panera 2.0’s digital effort that launched last year, Rapid Pick-Up. The service allows customers to place orders through a smartphone or iPad app and pick up the food from a marked shelf at the restaurant.

Following the introduction of Panera 2.0 last year, digital sales are accounting for more than 20 percent of retail sales at Panera 2.0 cafes.

“We have seen tremendous growth in our digital properties,” Hurst said. “We went from virtually no online transactions to nearing 9 percent of our total sales.”

When it last released a breakdown of operating metrics for the converted 2.0 restaurants, for the period that ended Dec. 31, gross retail sales at those stores increased nearly 6 percent a few quarters following the addition of the technology.

While digital sales are increasing, Panera also has invested in new production equipment and systems and added staff to handle a large number of orders coming in at once from the registers, counter registers, kiosks and online. A new position has been added in the kitchen to ensure the accuracy of each order.

“We’re taking the labor that kiosks save and putting it back into the kitchen,” Hurst said. “We are increasing labor more than the kiosk offsets.”

The kiosks can make it quicker for a customer to place an order, but many customers are spending more time ordering by customizing the kinds of cheese and condiments they want on their food.

“We see a much higher propensity to modify orders,” Hurst said.

When customers customize their orders, there’s the option to tack on items that come with added fees. When ordering an $8.59 roasted turkey and avocado BLT, for example, customers can add Gouda cheese for an additional 75 cents or Thai style peanut sauce for 50 cents.

For those who prefer to have their order taken by a person and have the option of paying with cash, there are still several cashiers staffing cash registers at Panera 2.0 cafes.

As the chain seeks to introduce the technology, employees have been designated as “kiosk ambassadors” at restaurants to greet customers as they enter, point out the kiosks and walk them through how to use them.

Laura Fuller, 58, was one of several customers during the noon hour who placed her lunch order through two of the five kiosks at Panera’s Kirkwood restaurant on Manchester Road last Friday.

“It’s much faster,” Fuller said of the kiosk, as she bypassed a line several people deep at a cash register.

Panera isn’t alone in using kiosks for ordering food. St. Louis-based Hardee’s recently added self-order kiosks as a pilot in a handful of restaurants, and McDonald’s is testing them in a some restaurants.

Investors are wary of some of the upfront costs, however. On Feb. 12, the day Panera reported its fourth-quarter earnings that showed higher costs tied to the technology, its stock dropped 10 percent to $157 a share. The stock has since rebounded, closing Thursday at $183.

In its most recent quarter, CEO Ron Shaich said in a conference call with analysts April 29 that new initiatives hurt first-quarter results, but he said the tech upgrades would improve earnings in the long term.

While the upfront costs for technology and training are significant, Morningstar analyst R.J. Hottovy said the investment was paying off for Panera.

“With the increase in the number of transactions they’re seeing, the costs are warranted,” Hottovy said.

Through its MyPanera loyalty program that has 19 million members — accounting for nearly half of the chain’s transaction — Panera’s surveys on the new technology have received positive feedback, Hurst said.

“We’ve found that guests who use kiosks, the frequency of their visits goes up and guest satisfaction goes up.”

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What is the deal with Yelp?

Yelp Reviews

We posted a blog two days ago, The Ugly Truth about Dirty Restaurants and Yelp, and it has generated some very passionate comments about Yelp and the people who were apparently sickened by the restaurant.  The original article that the blog is based off is from the Food Poison Journal.

I don’t own a restaurant or manage one at this time, so I am disconnected from Yelp reviews as a business owner.  I do travel a lot and use Yelp to find restaurants.  I pay attention to the star rating, and I read the top 10 or so reviews and make my decision based off of that, so that is my connection to Yelp.

We’ve heard rumors; I can’t prove any of this, about Yelp strong-arming restaurants to advertise with them and even promising to remove bad reviews if you become a paid customer.  I’ve also heard that people will place phony reviews to hurt their direct competitors.

We need to hear from you about Yelp – but to be heard you need to follow the rules for commenting:

  1. Keep you comments to experiences that you have had directly with Yelp and Yelp reviews.
  2. If you were able to fix the situation – post what you did to fix it so that it can help others.
  3. Keep the cursing and the direct naming of names of people or other businesses out of your comments.

If you follow those rules, we will post your responses.

Here is the question:  What is the deal with Yelp?


Front of the House Conference

Today’s blog is a short one.  I was doing some research today and I stumbled upon this small conference that I had never heard about, the Welcome Conference.  This article below from Grubstreet.com, summarizes the author’s Top 10 take away’s from last year’s conference.  I was bummed to find out that this year’s conference in June has already sold out.

The question is this; why am I sharing a blog about a conference that is a year old?  Because on the Welcome Conference’s website they have a video library of the 2014 conference and as the WSJ coined in a different article, this conference is a little bit like a TED talk on Front of the House service.  If you get a second you should check out some of the videos on their site.

Here is Sierra Tishgart’s article from last year’s Welcome Conference.  Enjoy

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10 Big Lessons From New York’s First Hospitality Conference

These people know how to pamper. Photo: mattduckor/Twitter

Yesterday, some of the country’s most hospitable people got together in New York. The reason: Eleven Madison Park co-owner, Will Guidara, and Anthony Rudolf, who has worked for Thomas Keller and Jean-Georges Vongerichten, hosted the first-ever Welcome Conference. This day-long celebration of front-of-house service is the first of its kind, and like the MAD Symposium and Cherry Bombe‘s Jubilee, this congress brought out heavy hitters: cherished manager Charles Masson, Nick Kokonas of Alinea, Gabriel Stulman (who owns like half the restaurants in the West Village), and even Shake Shack’s Randy Garutti. These are people who know how to make strangers feel at ease instantly. The conference’s topics included the humility of service, creating heart and soul inside a neighborhood restaurant, and using technology without losing sight of human interaction. It was restaurant-focused, as you’d expect, but many of the speakers’ points clearly apply to other situations. After all, on its most basic level, hospitality is just about making other people feel good. Here, then, are the day’s most interesting takeaways.

1. Learn How to Say No the Right Way.
Hearth‘s Paul Grieco seeks to create a feeling of “tension and confrontation” in his restaurants. While the Danny Meyer model is to always say yes, Grieco actually encourages his team to often say no. It sounds counterintuitive, but saying no with a smile creates impactful and playful dialogue with guests, as long as it’s well-intentioned. “You should not be a goddamn cork-puller — anyone can do that,” Grieco said. “You should be a storyteller.” The point is there’s a right way to speak up for yourself, even in an atmosphere where the customer is trained to think he or she is always right.

2. Find the One Little Detail That Will Make an Entire Experience Better.
La Caravelle‘s Rita Jammet recalled an excellent meal that started with pre-buttered bread. That’s the kind of tiny detail that other restaurants overlook, but diners notice instantly — a shockingly simple way to set a tone for the rest of the night. Gabriel Stulman said that he even hugged a customer who freaked out over a 45-minute wait time. (In fact, his servers compete to see who can get the most unsolicited hugs.) Hugging might be a bit much, but the point is there’s always something just a little bit more that you can do make someone feel taken care of — the best managers are always trying to figure out what that is.

3. Just Assume You Always Have to Go the Extra Mile.
Brian and Mark Canlis, of Seattle’s famed restaurant, declared, “Bad service is like prostitution.” In other words, it becomes clear to customers when they’re only getting what they want because they’re paying. But that model isn’t sustainable in the long term, and the best service happens when a staff actually cares about diners’ experiences. The feelings exchanged during a great meal — or any business interaction — last a lot longer than a single check.

4. Don’t Let Technology Take Over Your Life.
Nick Kokonas discussed how the online ticketing system for Alinea, Next, and the Aviary has revolutionized the way he does business, but the Fat Duck‘s Simon King reminded the crowd that hospitality is nevertheless built on a foundation of human interaction. For example, taking orders on iPads might expedite service, but what’s lost in the process? In fact, as digital tools only become more prevalent, small personal exchanges — like having someone available to answer the phone — will just start to feel more like special touches.

5. Own Your Mistakes.
“I don’t care how perfectly you think everything is going, something is bound to happen because you’re human,” said the legendary Charles Masson. “It’s how you handle it.” Masson says he’s received notes from customers actually praising how he’s handled mistakes. More wise words: “Service is not being beneath someone, but you have to be under someone to push them up.”

6. Take Work Just Seriously Enough.
Gabriel Stulman lets servers wear their own clothes (but if it’s a sleeveless shirt, they have to shave their armpits), play their own music, and drink on the job (to a certain extent). “If the staff is having fun, that will permeate to guests,” he advises. Try to enjoy yourself at work today.

7. Don’t Be Afraid to Show Emotion.
Will Guidara, who told a moving story about caring for his mother, stressed the importance of being “fully, emotionally present” at all times. “In the absence of an emotional exchange, it’s impossible to have any sort of real, meaningful connection,” he said.

8. Take the Lead.
“You’re a boss; act like it,” Del Posto‘s Jeff Katz says. “Be in charge.” Even though he considers his colleagues his family, he knows when it’s time to be firm. Another total boss: Shake Shack’s Randy Garutti, whose organization is run so smoothly that he was able to open an entirely new location just hours before he arrived at the conference.

9. Feel Free to Google-Stalk, in a Healthy Way.
Eleven Madison Park is famous for Googling its customers, but it’s hardly the only restaurant that uses digital info to create better service. Kokonas uses the database of his online ticketing system to store information from Facebook and Twitter, allowing him to anticipate the needs of each guest. “We’re not stalking people,” Kokonas says. “We’re trying to create a more magical experience.” A little research will go a long way.

10. Don’t Overapologize.
Frank Bruni told a funny story that never made it into a review: On his last visit to Nobu 57, he pressed the soap dispenser too hard and it exploded on his shirt. Not only did the restaurant try to comp his drinks as an “apology” for the “malfunction” (for an accident that Bruni admitted was completely his own fault), the manager offered to pay for his dry-cleaning bill, or even purchase Bruni a new shirt. Remember: It pays off if you take it easy, even when you’re trying to impress someone. People want to feel comfortable, but they don’t need to be babied.

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The Ugly Truth about Dirty Restaurants and Yelp


Would you eat in a restaurant if you knew that the week before they got several people sick? You would be a fool if you did.

Yelp is going from a review site to the first line of defense in foodborne illness outbreaks. We’ve been very supportive of Yelp posting health inspection scores on their restaurant pages, and we would like to see more cities using the Yelp platform as a way to post those scores.


Yelp is going beyond just partnering with local governments to gather and distribute health inspection score data. They are working on an open source datatype that will standardize how health inspections could be uploaded and distributed. Standardizing the scoring data allows for better analysis and quick apple to apple comparisons.

As you read the article below from Food Poison Journal, you will see that people who were affected by the Salmonella outbreak were very vocal themselves about what happened to them.

OpsAnalitica will continue to support more transparency of health inspection scores whether it be on yelp or letter grades, etc.; because we believe that it is good for the restaurant industry as a whole.

With transparency comes additional responsibility for health departments and Yelp. Health departments must make provisions, even if there is a cost associated with expedited service, to reinspect quickly.  A restaurant that get’s a C on their health score that quickly remediates their issues should be able to get a reinspection quickly even if they have to pay.

Yelp needs to be aware that fraudulent reviews can destroy a business and need to put in place ways for restaurants to prove when they are being wronged and to quickly remove fake reviews.

Please enjoy this article from the Food Poison Journal.

Yelp to the Rescue in Los Angeles Salmonella Outbreak at Don Antonio’s

Over the last week, Marler Clark was been retained by two friends who both ate together at Don Antonio’s in mid-March and developed Salmonella.

According to Yelp, a lot more people did as well.


My co-workers and I have been fans of Don Antonio’s lunch specials for years, until now.

We had lunch there Thursday, March 19. One of my coworkers got so sick that she spent three days in the hospital. My other coworker and I got hit with the illness a few days later and not as badly, but we’re still miserable. I am shocked to read the other reviews of people getting sick and am so upset that this was preventable. I will avoid Don Antonio’s at all costs now. It’s not worth the risk of a trip to the hospital.


Don’t go there . On Friday March 20 2015 5 of my co-workers and my self we went to have lunch together and now we all have gone to emergency room! Because of diarrhea vomiting head ache fever and much more! But the worst part is that we went so see the doctor and we are still the same! Now I don’t know what to do because I have tried everything and nothing work.


Is management aware that several customers, including myself got very ill? I went here on March 20 for lunch. Shortly after I got very sick. I went to my doctor and then to the hospital. It is salmonella. I am so angry.. I read the other reviews here so I’m wondering if management is aware? !


BEWARE! I see others have already posted but my daughter and I ate here on 3/19 and she got salmonella. As of 4/3 she is still ill. I’m horribly upset to see others wound up sick too; I am posting in hopes no one goes there.

Golden T.:


As with the other Yelp reviewers that recently went to Don Antonio’s for lunch, my two friends and I also got sick. We ate there on Friday, March 20th. I ended up in the ER for several hours, went through two bags of IV for hydration, took pain medication, anti-nausea medication and antibiotics. I just recently started to feel a little better but still not 100%.

My friend took food home for her family. Her 3 y/o and 14 y/o also got extremely ill. She and her 14 y/o went to Urgent Care and she took her youngest to a pediatrician.

Our other friend, who has a new baby, was also very ill and is struggling to recover.

This is worthy of a Department of Health investigation. For my sick compatriots, I hope that all of us can fully recover from this.

Cassandra S.:

My boyfriend recently got food poisoning or so we thought it was just food poisoning after he ate lunch at the restaurant last Friday. He’s been bed ridden since Friday and it’s now Wednesday. We’ve been to the hospital twice and to the doctor’s twice. Finally, we received a call from the Dr. that he got salmonella. Not freaking cool Don Antonois. Really disgusting.

Veronica L:

My Husband and 3 of his co-workers all ended up with Food Poisoning after having lunch at this place. We spent the weekend at Urgent Care, my husband had diarrhea, vomiting , and temperature of 103.4. Him and his co-workers all have missed work due to the same. I would not recommend this place at all! We all think they recycle their salsa.

Andrea M.:

Salmonella! My friend are here on March 20, 2015 and became very sick. The sickness lasted for one week. Had to go to the hospital multiple times. Test came back as salmonella. Beware – don’t want this happening to anyone else.

Todd H.:

Salmonella! To everybody who has been sick from eating at Don Antonio’s, go to the hospital immediately because it is Salmonella. It was the worst week of my life. Hopefully, nobody else has to go through what I went through.

Leonel Z.:

Warning do not go to this restaurant…

My friends and I came to this restaurant last week on Friday March 20 2015 and we all ended up at the emergency room with a really bad bacteria and didn’t know what it was… They gave me the results today and they said i have salmonella. Eat at your own risk.

And, one from Trip Advisor:

Ms. L:


We have eaten here over 15 years and I was horrified to find out my friend and I got Salmonella poisoning there on March 20, 2015. It’s unacceptable that a Los Angeles restaurant with an “A” rating can be delivering salmonella to its customers for several days. I’ve just discovered others online reviews (see Yelp) confirming the same thing. It’s a disgusting illness, worse than standard food poisoning and serious. Whatever they did, too many people got sick so they should be investigated to find out what’s going on there. It’s an extremely popular restaurant, very successful and there is no excuse for such an incident. Shame on you Don Antonio’s, what happened to all of us who ate there that week could have been life threatening, words cannot describe my disappointment.

Salmonella: Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of Salmonella outbreaks. The Salmonella lawyers of Marler Clark have represented thousands of victims of Salmonella and other foodborne illness outbreaks and have recovered over $600 million for clients. Marler Clark is the only law firm in the nation with a practice focused exclusively on foodborne illness litigation. Our Salmonella lawyers have litigated Salmonella cases stemming from outbreaks traced to a variety of foods, such as cantaloupe, tomatoes, ground turkey, salami, sprouts, cereal, peanut butter, and food served in restaurants. The law firm has brought Salmonella lawsuits against such companies as Cargill, ConAgra, Peanut Corporation of America, Sheetz, Taco Bell, Subway and Wal-Mart.

If you or a family member became ill with a Salmonella infection, including Reactive Arthritis or Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), after consuming food and you’re interested in pursuing a legal claim, contact the Marler Clark Salmonella attorneys for a free case evaluation.

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McDonald’s tests delivery in New York

As part of their turnaround strategy McDonald’s has launched a delivery service test in the NYC market. The market consists of 88 stores and the ordering and delivery will be managed through Postmates which is a mobile app technology that allows customers to place orders through their mobile device. The delivery is then performed by independent contractors in their own vehicles. Think Uber for food delivery. Postmates also offers the same service for Starbucks and Chipotle.

An article on nrn.com cites that the service cost will include a standard service charge and a fee based on distance. The full menu sans ice cream cones will be available for delivery during normal business hours with some stores offering 24/7 delivery.

Seems like a good test market for McD’s especially since David Chang has launched a new concept based around delivery in the financial district of Manhattan. Population density will keep the service somewhat affordable whereas, more spread out areas would increase the delivery fee. Next best option would be college towns, especially for 24/7 service. In the long run I feel like they will need to develop their own technology and delivery system to launch this worldwide. I’m sure that option is on the table should this test turn out successful. Rather than develop the technology the quicker option would be to acquire it instead. We’ll see what the results turn out to be, we’ll be sure to follow and keep you informed.

I have copied the nrn.com article in it’s entirety below:

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McDonald’s Corp. is testing delivery at 88 restaurants in New York City through the app-based delivery service Postmates, the company said Monday, in its latest effort to modernize its domestic business.

McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook revealed the delivery test during a 23-minute video describing the quick-service operator’s turnaround plan.

In a following announcement, the company described the delivery plan with Postmates as a “test,” starting Monday, enabling customers to have food delivered from select restaurants in Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn.

“This is a city where delivery is a way of life,” Mwaffak Kanjee, vice president and general manager of McDonald’s New York Metro region, said in a statement. “We are excited to launch this test so our customers can get hot, freshly prepared food right from McDonald’s kitchens, when and where they want it.”

McDonald’s full menu — except for ice cream cones — will be available for delivery during normal operating hours at participating restaurants. Certain restaurants, the company said, will offer delivery 24 hours a day.

A delivery fee for the service will be calculated based on the distance traveled by the courier, plus a standard service charge.

“Our customers continue to tell us they want their favorites from McDonald’s delivered right to their doorsteps,” Julia Vander Ploeg, vice president of McDonald’s USA Digital, said in a statement. “We’ve listened to their feedback and are excited to launch this initiative. We look forward to learning from this test and continuing to innovate as we offer our customers everyday conveniences and new ways to experience our brand.”

The move marks the latest deal between a large restaurant chain and Postmates, which also has delivery deals with Starbucks and Chipotle. Postmates lets customers order delivery online or from a smartphone app, and uses an Uber-style model of independent contractors who deliver food with their own vehicles.

In addition to the operators using Postmates, a growing number of quick-service and fast-casual chains are testing or implementing delivery as a way to expand their reach and improve convenience. Taco Bell plans to test delivery, and Burger King offers delivery in certain markets.

How delivery benefits the restaurants remains to be seen. Executives of Restaurant Brands International Inc., Burger King’s parent company, said last week that delivery has had no impact so far on the chain’s same-store sales.

For McDonald’s, the test further indicates that the company is looking at just about everything as it seeks to lift domestic same-store sales, which fell 2.6 percent in the first quarter and have been falling for more than 18 months.

The company is testing all-day breakfast service, talking about trimming its menu and working on customization, both through a major service model change known as Create Your Taste and another toned-down effort called TasteCrafted.

McDonald’s is also giving different regions more autonomy to run their own advertising and offer their own localized menu items.


MIT Is Developing Sensors To Detect When Food Is Going Bad

An article on fastcoexist.com talks about an MIT lab working on a sensor that will tell you when food is going bad vs relying on labels placed on the items. The stat in the article cites that in the US we waste 40% of the food that we harvest. They claim that sell by and use by dates are partially to blame.

I can see that since we live is in such a litigious society food produces are probably very conservative when they calculate the sell by and use by dates. I would guess that most dates are anywhere from a week to a month too soon in order to err on the side of caution. This gives the food producers some liability protection in a sense. With these new sensors they will shift the liability to them instead.

Will this have any effect on the restaurant industry? If you are a busy location you don’t have issues using your food before it expires. This will probably have more of an impact on home cooking and grocery than it will the restaurant industry, but it’s still a pretty neat technology. It’ll be interesting to see how it will be rolled out on a wide scale. It’s in the food producers best interest to sell more and grocery stores and consumers are interested in wasting less. Not really on the same page in that area.

It’s just cool to see all the new technology that’s being developed. I have copied the full article below:

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One reason the U.S. wastes 40% of all the food it harvests is that we don’t have a good handle on the status of that food. As consumers, we rely largely on best before and use by dates that are notoriously conservative, and often flat-out wrong. Actual food decays at variable rates that aren’t reflected in that information.

That’s why new types of food quality sensors could be so useful. If we can assess the actual state of each food item, that should allow us to make more informed choices and thus manage our fridges better. All things being equal, better information ought to lead to better decision-making.

One promising technology: the sensors being developed by Timothy Swager’s lab at MIT. Swager is testing an electrically-conductive material that changes resistance in the presence of gases called amines, which are released when food starts going bad. By reading that resistance from outside a package, you can figure out how edible the food is inside.

“You can put in tags about the size of business cards with an antennae, and then power them and read them with a smartphone,” Swager says. “You can have the sensor buried in the packaging where it’s not even obvious, and you can read it with a near-field communication device.”

The device could be several inches away, like with a contactless payment or ticketing system. The sensor inside the packet contains high-tech nanotube material that reacts to the amines. It’s really nothing more than two contact points with a conductive strip running between.

Swager has set up a company to commercialize the technology and he expects to do the first demonstrations to interested clients this summer. The first applications are likely to be for food workers working with meat and fish, but there’s no reason why consumers shouldn’t get their own devices in due time.

There are efforts to create visual clues for food status. But Swager says his method is better because it doesn’t rely on perception: it produces hard data that can be logged and tracked. And it also has potential to be very cheap.

“The resistance method is a game-changer because it’s two to three orders of magnitude cheaper than other technology. It’s hard to imagine doing this cheaper,” he says.