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Face the Facts: It’s a Drag and Drop World – Part III

Here’s part III of the series, the final installment. To catch up on part I click here, part II click here.

How to Craft a Workflow Strategy

  • Seek out a check-list driven workflow app provider that has restaurant specific knowledge.
  • Examine the pedigree of the management of the app provider.  The restaurant business is perhaps the most idiosyncratic business in the world.  Do they really know what goes on in the kitchen and on the floor?
  • Don’t be a guinea pig for a company that’s trying to break into the restaurant sector with new app development.
  • See how quickly the workflow app provider can implement you with their “off the shelf” apps, and how quickly they can customized a new workflow app for you.  Sometimes, as with OpsAnalitica, it’s as simple as upoading a spreadsheet.
  • Make sure your provider offers dashboard views of procedure compliance.
  • Make sure your provider offers analytics of your operations, because they are the “window into the soul” of your business. 

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Maximizing Your ROI

  • Technology at any cost is worthless unless it quickly pays back your investment.
  • Accountability management workflow apps, like those from OpsAnalitica, are famously quick to earn back initial investments… in part because they are relatively inexpensive to put in place to begin with.
  • When searching providers, be sure to look for an ROI calculator, or case studies that show how quick the earn-back was.

Finally, ask your accountability management workflow app provider for their input on which apps will do the most to optimize your restaurant locations.

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Visibility: What Does It Mean For Multi-Unit Operators

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:

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The Next Big Competitive Advantage in the Restaurant Industry

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It is human nature to look forward trying to figure out what is going to be the next big thing in your industry so you can beat your competitors to the punch. I believe the next big thing in the restaurant industry is going to be technology, look how perceptive I am.

Technology and apps are presented all the time as these magic bullets that can fix your business. In a lot of cases, they can add incredible value to your business if you can get them implemented.

Implementation is the key! Identifying, Testing, and Implementing new technology across a portfolio of restaurants and ensuring that you get your ROI out of the tool requires a unique skill set and disciplined approach.

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The technology implementation skill set is the muscle that each restaurant company has to develop. It is the companies that adopt technology quickly and get an ROI on the product that are going to have the competitive advantage in the future.

I own an app company, OpsAnalitica, we have a restaurant checklist and reporting platform. Our platform can be implemented in a few hours because it is very user-friendly, and it was designed to scale from basic to advanced effortlessly. More complicated platforms can take weeks or months to get implemented.

I spent the last five years before starting OpsAnalitica doing large enterprise security consulting for Fortune 500 companies. I’ve been a part of several multi-million dollar implementations, and I would like to tell you that they all went perfectly. They didn’t.

The blame for the mediocre results of these projects should be equally spread out to all parties that were involved. It is usually a combination of factors that take a plan with so much hope and expectation into the crapper.

Here are some of the lessons I learned doing these implementations:

1. The most important rule of implementations: START SIMPLE AND ADD FUNCTIONALITY FROM THERE!!!! I can’t stress this enough, you just purchased a Ferrari piece of software. Start with the most basic functionality and get it out there to the end users. Then take their feedback and continue to roll out additional functionality over time. Trying to do too much in phase 1 is the number one reason I saw projects fail.

2. Be wary of companies that won’t help let you kick the tires of their product before you purchase, demand a free trial. At the very minimum make them show you a live demo of the tool. If they can’t do a live demo or let you see the product in action at another company, they don’t have a product that works.

3. Find out what kind of support packages and training the company offers. Use that as a negotiating point when you can’t get additional concessions on price try to get them to offer expanded support.

4. If you hire consultants be wary if they never push back – consultants that don’t push back on requirements or don’t offer their expert opinion and try to steer you to the best option are not consultants. You pay consultants to consult, to tell you that you are wrong or that you are going to pay a penalty if you do it this way. If the people you just hired to implement just say yes and do whatever you want then you aren’t getting your monies worth.

5. Ask for references and know you will never get a reference that isn’t going to tell you the product is great. Use your network and try to reach out to people who work at companies that use the tool and see if they like the product.

Technology, when implemented and being used correctly can save time, money, and drive profits. Those profits and the increased cash flow can allow you to push your competitors around on the playing field. They can allow you to increase your marketing, get better locations, open more locations, etc..

Technology, when not implemented correctly: can suck away cash, steal focus, waste valuable time, stop other projects from being funded or started and leave a horrible taste in your mouth. Technology is only better than manual processes when it works.

I hope that this blog helps you on your next project and that you start trying to strengthen your internal implementation skill set.

Running Restaurants is Getting Harder – Part 3

To read part two click here

Labor cost is another issue that is going to affect restaurant operations. We can’t just look at labor as bodies and do we have enough. We are going to have to redesign our entire operations strategy to minimize labor and operating complexity so we can operate with fewer people in the future. We were all trained to freak out when we saw a server at $2.85 standing around on the clock imagine how that is going to be when your waiter costs you $15 an hour.

Labor cost is going to affect our make vs. buy decisions on menu items, the complexity of our menu items, and how we serve guests.

Daily restaurant operations from cooler temperatures to dining room cleanliness and everything in between has been an area devoid of data for decision making.  This is crazy because it is our operations that drive sales not the other way around. The reason for this is because there hasn’t been a way to easily collect, store, and aggregate/report on this data, until now.

The invention of the smartphone and tablet have given us the hardware that we need to collect data easily from around our locations. Platforms like OpsAnalitica with our ability to capture, aggregate, and report; allow restaurant managers to look at how operations are running across all of their locations.

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With our advanced reporting engine, you can merge your operations data with your cost and sales data and for the first time you can see how operations affect costs and sales. This increased visibility is a game changer for the industry.

There are things in your operations that you think you know today that with data we could show you you’re wrong. They look to be causal because you don’t look at them every shift, every day, consistently. When you capture data points consistently across your locations, and you can compare those data points to costs or sales you will see that there isn’t a correlation.

We are seeing that people are leaving money on the table or not realizing their full sales potential because of small operations issues that aren’t being paid attention to on a daily basis. Once again because these issues happen in real time and because they aren’t being tracked in a format that allows them to be analyzed they get missed in the fog of running a restaurant. People have operational issues that they don’t even know exist, and often times the solution doesn’t cost any additional money.  The solution is a slight change in how they do something and they can get out of their own way.

In a lot of ways, it’s like flying a plane with no instruments.  You can see what’s in front of you, but you don’t know where you are going.

Don’t fool yourself either, every penny and dollar of cost that you can wrench out of your operations cost is worth it. Walmart has been able to be consistently the low-cost leader and one of the largest companies in the world because of their focus on efficiency and cost control. If Walmart used the same back office and fulfillment infrastructure today as it did even ten years ago, it’s prices would be much higher. Do you know how they do it; operations data!

They know everything about every part of their business, and they track it. Like our industry they use technology like registers to capture some parts of the data but they have also had to go out and invest in other systems to capture other forms of operations data. They use their data and analysis advantage to win on the playing field.

The same is true for restaurants who are operating on the edge of efficiency. They get every penny of waste out of their operations, and they can use those profits to press their advantage in the marketplace.

What is crazy is that you see that profit advantage every day; here are some examples:
* Getting the endcap location in a strip center vs. being stuck in the middle. That takes cash flow
* Redesigning a website or implementing mobile ordering or curbside pickup
* Expanding number of locations
* Advertising
* Being able to keep prices lower than competitors which create a marketing advantage

It takes money to grow and when you are running efficient operations it is easier to generate the capital needed to push your competition around in the marketplace.

In conclusion, the restaurant business is getting harder because there are more outside factors that are determining success at the unit level. At the same time the tools available to operators at the unit level are getting more advanced and cheaper, giving restaurant manager’s huge advantages over their predecessors.

We have always been an operations business, I think for a lot of people, that was limited to executing on service and food. Our business will always be about taking care of the guests, but it has expanded into creating management systems that will allow you to capture data and make data-driven decisions vs. gut decisions.

Gone are the Mel’s Diner days where Mel yelled at the waitresses and cooked eggs. Mel today would be sitting at a table with a tablet trying to figure out how the avian flu was affecting egg prices and redoing his website and menu.

 

Check out this short video to learn more about OpsAnalitica

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Running Restaurants is Getting Harder – Part 2

To read part one click here

Food trucks are another segment of the industry that have prospered from wireless technology. Until recently it was incredibly expensive to take mobile credit card payments. Now it’s comparable to hardwired credit card payments. Mobile technology has made it easier for food trucks to service customers.

It used to be the only place you saw food trucks were construction sites and fairs where cash was the only form of payment taken. Now they are parked in high rent districts right next to brick and mortar restaurants for the cost of parking.

Not to mention food trucks who tweet their specials and locations throughout the day, can come to customers and can create rushes outside of normal dining periods maximizing sales time and their mobile advantage.

Technology is changing the industry. Depending on what side of some of these issues you’re on will determine if you think it is good or bad. For every manager that embraces new technology and can implement and run their businesses more efficiently, there is a Dinosaur Manager, who is finding it tougher to compete and make money.

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The one thing that is for certain is that restaurant industry isn’t an industry anymore where you go to work because you want to avoid technology. Restaurant managers need to be tech savvy, or they are going to have a hard time finding the really good positions.

With all of these things happening simultaneously it can feel overwhelming to say the least. How do you move forward, stay competitive, do everything you need to do while you have customers in your location every day.

Not doing anything and hiding from reality is not the answer. It is by far the easiest way to proceed up until the day you shut down your location and lay off all of your employees.

Making decisions off of incomplete data isn’t an option either. We live in the world where data is available to us, and we have to use it to make smart decisions and not react in a knee-jerk manner.

For instance raising prices significantly above competitors in the market just because protein prices are increasing could be a quick fix for food cost but hurt sales and anger customers. Remember, social media, Yelp reviews, will expose knee jerk reactions for all to see.

The most successful restaurants are developing restaurant operations systems that are repeatable and flexible, which allow you to make data-driven decisions. For you technophobes, this is going to require you to start using technology to help.

Let’s look at a couple of examples:

Food cost and rising commodity prices. We recently saw a demo of a tool, ChefMetric, that is a quick and easy food cost calculator. You add your order guide and recipes to the system, and you can easily calculate your food cost and what you should be charging at different food cost percentages.

Knowing your plate cost in an environment where there is a lot of commodity fluctuation will allow you to make adjustments to portion sizes and core ingredients quickly and easily. Take that one step further and maybe leave cuts and sizes off of menu descriptions, let your waiters give those answers, so you can make adjustments without having to reprint menus when you do.

Example:

  • Today’s Description: A delicious 10oz NY Strip sliced to….
  • New Description: A delicious USDA Prime Steak sliced to….

To read part 3 click here

Check out this short video to learn more about OpsAnalitica

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The Hidden Benefit Of A Consumer App

I heard an ad on the radio today for Subway’s new app. It’s another app aimed at making the dining/user experience better at Subway. There are a ton of apps being developed in the industry right now in this space. Interacting with the customers in a digital way to make things quicker and easier thus being able to cut down on labor costs.

At this point I think most people, in the US, know Subway. They are everywhere; the radio, TV, billboards, internet, unfortunately the news, and basically every single strip mall. I can’t imagine that they are still acquiring new customers at this point. It’s at the point now where people either go to Subway or they don’t. Fortunately for them a lot of people go.

Some people may go only in specific circumstances and others it’s a staple. For me it’s a convenience circumstance. There’s one right around the corner so if we’re in a rush we’ll just go to Subway. But if I have some time and really want a sandwich I’m probably going to go somewhere else for “a better” sandwich in my opinion. Not saying that it’s bad, just that I like other places better. I’m more of a deli kind of guy.

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With as much market penetration as Subway has it would make sense for them to develop an app that works on getting their current customers through the line faster vs an app that is trying to capture new customers. Their pitch is that you order online and then walk in and go right to the register and pay vs. waiting in the line to go through the sandwich making process. I’m going to download the app. It makes sense for any restaurant really for take out to have an app because the last thing you want is for someone to walk through the door and leave because the line was too long. We all know how much it costs to acquire a customer and you want to capitalize once you do.

There’s also another huge benefit to the app that they aren’t necessarily advertising and that is the data aspect. These days data is everything. When you order online they know exactly who you are and what you have ordered every single time. They will start to see what you like, what your average spend is, and start ranking you as a customer in terms of how profitable you are to them. This is where they can start getting creative with targeted ads directly to you for things that they know you like vs. traditional shotgun approach marketing where you throw something out there to everyone and try to appeal to the most people. By using the data they can now market directly to me deals on turkey sandwiches. But they may not waste much money on me because I rarely get the “meal deal” so they aren’t bringing in much profit on me.

Data is at the root of most business decisions and actions. If you are interested in restaurant data, specifically operations data, check out the video below.

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Operations Data Use Cases Finale

In yesterday’s post, Operations Data Use Cases. We discussed two Ops Data use cases and how Ops Data could be used to make better decisions, drive better operations, and run more profitable restaurants.  In Today’s blog post, we are going to discuss one more use case and draw some conclusions.

Line Pars

Do you check that your different kitchen stations are stocked and that there is enough thawed product to meet your pars every shift?  More importantly do you track that metric so you refer can back to it when looking at sales.  Have you ever considered how much longer it takes to cook a frozen burger patty than a thawed patty?  I’ve heard that it can take up 50% longer to cook a frozen patty vs. thawed patty.  That is the difference between 4 minutes and 6 minutes per patty.  If you were to cook a case of burgers one after the other, the frozen patties would take 80 minutes longer to cook than the thawed patties.

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Ensuring that your line is stocked every shift with thawed product is massively important.  A 50% increase in cook times on a key item like burgers can be the difference between getting a third turn at lunch and having a second turn just sort of fade out.

When you are looking at lunch sales for weeks or months at a time, and you can’t understand why on certain days your sales dip; what else do you look at today?  If you track operations data, you can merge your sales data with other data to try and uncover what may be the cause.

We had a client that determined that on Wednesday’s they always had a dip in sales, they served a ton of burgers at this bar, and they got their food deliveries on Tuesdays.  A lot of the time they coasted into Wednesday lunch with 1/2 their burger par for the shift still frozen which killed their ticket times and their 3rd turn.  It wasn’t until they merged their checklists with their sales and looked at them by days of the week that this reality showed up.

The amazing thing was how easy it was to fix.  They worked with their suppliers to increase the number of thawed burger cases they received and instructed their cooks to ensure that they had enough frozen patties thawing to cover Wednesday dinner and Thursday.  They got their sales on Wednesdays to match or exceed their Tuesday sales, and it didn’t cost them anything but a few minutes of looking at their Ops Data.

Conclusions

Using digital checklists to track your operations data can provide context for your sales numbers.  Remeber, Operations Drive Sales – Sales don’t drive Operations.  Plus well-written checklists guide your managers to look at the most important items of your operations every day.  Digital checklists aren’t going to solve the world’s problems but they are going to help you run better operations.  If you would like to learn more about our SMART Inspection philosophy and what kinds of questions you should be asking you should sign up for our weekly webinar here.

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Operations Data Use Cases

In yesterday’s post, What is Operations Data. We discussed the importance of Operations Data (Ops Data) and how it could be used to make better decisions, drive better operations, and run more profitable restaurants.  In Today’s blog post, we are going to discuss more Ops Data use cases.

Is your manager any good?

The GM of a restaurant has more to do with the restaurant’s success or failure than any other person you employ; the buck stops with the boss, and it is ultimately their responsibility to run profitable operations.  How do you know if your GM is doing a good job?  Do you base that on sales or cost percentages?  Do you base that on complaints and compliments?  Do you base that on how well the staff likes them?  If you are not at the location every day; then how do you know?

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I’m going to tell you a real story from my past. At one point in my career, I was a member of a team of managers that turned in our GM to corporate because he was cooking the books around labor cost.  He was going into the register and rolling back employees times to 40 hours per week on Monday mornings before he submitted the weekly numbers to corporate.  We found out about this because one of our best employees quit when he got his paycheck and all of the hours that he had worked weren’t on there. We found out the GM was doing this for all employees, a lot of employees knew this was happening to them, but they were not speaking up because they were being intimidated.  By stealing from the employees, he was able to keep his labor cost in-line and inflate profits and subsequently his bonuses.

To the outside world, he was running an incredibly profitable restaurant.  Corporate proved that he was stealing, after we tipped them off, by using POS metadata.  Metadata is the data of data.  An example of metadata in a POS might be the server’s name and the time they closed the ticket.  You have the order, but you also have the other data around the order that helps tell the story.  The POS system we used had advanced keystroke logging; it could record what buttons were pushed by what people.  So the forensic team at corporate was able to verify that what we told them was true, and they fired this person immediately.

That POS metadata is operations data; it was used to tell the story that the sales and cost data couldn’t tell.  Another example of metadata, in the OpsAnalitica system, we record metadata on every inspection, we know who logged in and when then answered each question and how long their inspection took to complete, we know if you pencil whipped or if you took time to answer the questions correctly.

Appearance of the Restaurant

Do you track how ready your restaurant is for each shift?  Do you think that a clean and tidy restaurant is better for guests than a dirty restaurant?  Of course, you do. How would you know if the cleanliness of your restaurant was affecting sales?  Think about the last five times you started your dinner shift and your restaurant wasn’t 100% ready for the shift.  Could you write down those dates on a piece of paper right now?  I would be impressed if you could.  Have you ever gone back and looked at the sales from those nights and compared them to averages sales on those days of the week and the year before?

If you tracked this question on a digital checklist daily and you merged that data with your sales data you could determine how much a dirty restaurant may be costing you per night.  It could be thousands of dollars, or it could be $15.  If you can’t look at sales with other operation factors to provide context, then you don’t know the why behind performance and profits.

One last point to make about tracking data using digital logs vs. digital checklists.  I think digital logs are great for communicating data between managers and between shifts, that is what they are designed to do.  From a query writing and reporting perspective, it is much easier to compare a question or a series of individual data points that are defined than it is to compare the free text that is written in a log.  If you want to use operations data to make better decisions, track specific data points in a checklist and don’t try to compare sales to log notes because it won’t be helpful.

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What is Operations Data?

Since we started OpsAnalitica we have been talking about Operations Data(Ops Data) and how powerful it is and it dawned on me last week that we haven’t taken the time to define Operations Data for our readers.  This is an oversight on our part but one that I hope to correct in this week’s blogs.

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Here are some examples of Ops Data:

  • Ticket Times
  • Temperatures
  • Taste of Soup of the Day
  • Cleanliness of Bathroom
  • Staff Readiness
  • Pre-shift meeting completed
  • Line Pars
  • Staffing % (were you staffed to your schedule or were you short staffed)
  • Food Cost
  • Labor Cost
  • Waste
  • Appearance of Restaurant
  • Sales
  • Day Dots being followed (FIFO)

This list is far from being complete; these items are just a small sampling of the items that good restaurant managers are checking.  Each one of those Ops Data items can affect your operations and ultimately your profitability.  Some of them are easier to track, sales because your cash register does that for you.  Some are harder to track, day dots being followed, because you physically have to go into your walk-in, coolers, and pantry to inspect what you expect.  All of those operations data items help tell the story of your restaurant.

It is in the story of your restaurant where you find out who is a good employee and a bad employee, you start to understand the patterns that you have intuitively known but have never been able to quantify because you couldn’t back them up with numbers. More importantly when you have data, you can disprove assumptions as data sheds light on what is happening.  You may have thought your issue was slow sales because of a holiday weekend, and the real answer might have been that the kitchen was short staffed, you had the sales but couldn’t execute on ticket times.  The operations data when it is consistently recorded in an application like OpsAnalitica can be one of the most powerful tools in your restaurant.

For the next couple of days, I’m going to document Ops Data use cases that will show you how tracking and analyzing data points can help you run better operations.

Day Dots:

We all know that we should be using Day Dots in our operations to ensure that we are following the FIFO inventory methodology, serving safe food, and reducing waste.  If you don’t check your walk-in every day and record that the day dots were in use and that FIFO was being followed; will you remember that you may have had a bad week because of some training issues at the end of the quarter?  Maybe maybe not.  When you are looking at those cost numbers you may attribute the higher waste to some other issue and spend a lot of time trying to solve a problem that has already been solved or wasn’t the cause of your waste issue.  If you had that operations data and you were able to compare it to your cost data easily you would be able to see that you had some new cooks who weren’t following FIFO and you had increased waste until you were able to train them.  After the training, they were fine but during that week before you were able to train them a lot of extra food went bad and was thrown away.

This is a simple example, but it illustrates how important it is to have the complete picture of what is going on in your restaurant each and every shift in a digital format that you can use to compare to other data to make good data-driven decisions.

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