Below is the audio version of our popular blog, 5 Tips to Writing Better Line Checks.
Subscribe to our podcast Order Up – The Restaurant Ops Show on iTunes, Stitcher, and Tunein.
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:
- 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.
- 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:
- Sanitizer bucket with 1 wet towel for cleaning off thermometer probes
- 1 dry towel
- Sanitizer test strips
- Dishwasher test strips if different
- 1 bucket with clean spoons for tasting (figure out how many spoons you will need to taste every item and bring that many)
- 1 bucket for dirty spoons
- Fryer oil test kit if you use one
- Post-its and a pen – for leaving notes for crew
- Write SMART Questions: For any food item you should:
- Temp the item
- Taste the item when appropriate
- Ensure it is labeled correctly with expiration date
- Check that it is in the correct container size
- Has the correct portion control in place (spoodle, ladle, measuring cup, check weight of random item, etc..)
- 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
- Check for critical violations: You should take this opportunity to be looking for other critical violations in your restaurant:
- Sanitizer buckets: proper concentration, towels, temperature
- Dishwasher: water temperature, sanitizer concentrations, etc..
- Improper food storage: look in dry storage and refrigerator units for proper shelves, cool down procedures, covers, and labels
- Temperatures: record temps for all cold and hot hold units
- 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.
- 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:
- Calibrate your thermometer