Below is the audio version of our very popular blog, The Only Way to Sustainably Grow Restaurant Sales is Through Better Operations.
Subscribe to our podcast Order Up – The Restaurant Ops Show on SoundCloud, iTunes, Stitcher, and Tunein.
Below is the audio version of our very popular blog, The Only Way to Sustainably Grow Restaurant Sales is Through Better Operations.
Subscribe to our podcast Order Up – The Restaurant Ops Show on SoundCloud, iTunes, Stitcher, and Tunein.
Operations data are the data points that are generated every meal period in a restaurant that directly affect sales and profitability. Let’s break it down:
Remember we are restaurant operators and operations are our business. Operations data points are the measurement of our operations. Until this time in the restaurant industry it has been next to impossible to capture, organize, and analyze operations data for even a single restaurant location never mind a national chain.
There are two main reasons for this, the first is that we aren’t a completely automated business. We are predominantly a human business where people, not automated machines are the means of production. Number two the technology didn’t exist or it was too expensive to capture the data.
With the invention of tablets and smart phones we now have powerful handheld devices that can be used to capture operations data. A smartphone used every day to consistently capture operations data can feed a data analysis initiative that can drive down waste and increase profitability.
In the spirit of ops data and running better operations we are giving away our ebook, SMART Inspections, Drive Big Data. Click here to get it delivered to your inbox.
I will leave you with this thought. As technology becomes more prevalent in the industry, the companies that can identify, test, and implement new solutions more quickly will have a distinct competitive advantage in the marketplace.
How could paper checklists be bad? Paper checklists are bad because people pencil whip them or lie on them. We recently conducted a survey of over 100 restaurant owners and managers. 94% of respondents believed that their teams weren’t completing their checklists accurately.
Which raises the question; why would a sane person have their team complete checklists that they know are being lied on?
A sane person wouldn’t, because they know that it is a waste of time and money. It costs money to develop checklists. It costs money to print checklists. It costs money to complete checklists. It costs money to file and store checklists and when it is time to get rid of them it costs money to shred and recycle checklists.
Yet as an industry we do spend money to have people complete checklists on paper even though we know they are being pencil whipped. Why do we do that?
The limitations of paper checklists aside, the fact that we still have people pencil whipping checklists in our businesses is because even a 30% accurate checklist is better than no checklist.
Let’s stick with the thought that even a partially completed checklist is better than no checklist. A person who completes a line check 30% accurately is still checking 30% more items than a person who skips their line check. They have a better chance of catching an error in preparation or finding an unsafe item and correcting it before it get’s someone sick.
Imagine a world where restaurants employees completed all of their checklists accurately and when they didn’t you were at least able to catch that they didn’t and coach them about the importance of doing them correctly. How much better would your restaurant run?
If every shift your team checked everything that was important enough to make it on a checklist. They checked every temp, tasted items, checked sanitation and portion controls. The restaurant when opened was clean and ready for guests.
Do you think that running better operations would translate into more sales, safer restaurants, happier guests, and most importantly more profits?
Of course running better ops would accomplish all of that. If running better operations couldn’t do that then we wouldn’t spend a penny on training or any operational initiative, we would only spend money on marketing because the only way to get sales would be to con people to come to your restaurant one time.
By the way, this is what the restaurant managers and owners told us on our survey. 100% of them agreed that checklists could help them run better and safer operations. That is right 100%.
Because checklists when completed diligently and followed-up on work.
The problem with paper checklists is that you can’t tell when they were started, when they ended, who did them, and if they were pencil whipped. Basically paper cannot help you hold people accountable. Also, this is for multi-unit owners who cannot be in every location every day, you can’t magically see paper hanging on a wall in a restaurant from your office.
What our industry needs is a checklist solution that is as easy to complete as paper checklists but allows us to hold our managers accountable and get visibility into our daily operations.
This solution would need to do the following things to be effective:
A solution that could replace paper checklists and hold people accountable at the store level up through the corporate level of a system could drive better, safer, and more profitable restaurants.
A restaurant company that could deploy a solution like this and start holding their unit managers more accountable and harness this new feed of operations data could optimize their operations and beat their competition by running more efficiently and making better decisions.
Think about the data that corporate restaurant management has access to today. They have register, inventory/ordering, and customer service data and they use that data to make the best decisions that they can. If you used a checklist solution to capture pertinent operations data at the store level, which would drive better operations. You could also use the date with your other data feeds such as sales, inventory, and customer service to create a complete picture of how your restaurants were operating. Remember that operations affect sales, inventory, food costs, and customer service, its not he other away around.
It would be a major competitive advantage for any restaurant system that took advantage of operations data. Look at how companies like Walmart, FedEx, Nordstrom, and Google use data to streamline operations and generate increased profits. Restaurant chains could do the same thing if they had the data, which they have, but just need to get it into an accessible, usable format.
How do you do this in your chain? You should implement the OpsAnalitica Inspector platform in your system for daily operations checklists and corporate inspections. The OpsAnalitica Inspector will hold your managers and teams more accountable at the restaurant level and our custom reporting and data warehouse will provide you with the data that you need to optimize your business.
The future of the restaurant industry is possible today for those chains that are bold enough to take the first step forward. If you are interested in learning more please click here and set up a call with our team.
Do you remember the Ford Pinto Case from the 70’s? Ford Pintos had a flaw in their design, and if they were hit in a rear-end collision at a speed greater than 20 mph the fuel tank could rupture, and there could be a fire. Unfortunately, several people were killed in accidents because of this issue.
The reason this case is still talked about today is because Ford management knew about the problem and decided based on cost estimates that it was more expensive to fix the cars than to pay the families of people who were killed in accidents.
What does the Ford Pinto case have to do with running a restaurant today?
We recently conducted a survey of restaurant managers and owners. Here are some of the results:
I know that none of us want to be a Ford executive from the 70’s in our restaurants. How could you sleep at night knowing that you aren’t doing enough to keep people safe?
If you conduct checklists on paper, and you are like the 94% of respondents who believe your checklists aren’t getting done accurately you have two choices:
1. You should stop doing checklists altogether; why would you waste the money you are spending on labor having people do checklists inaccurately that you don’t use? FYI: we think this is a bad idea.
2. Or, you should start doing checklists correctly and holding your team accountable using the OpsAnalitica Inspector. Our clients see:
You will never get the benefits of doing checklists: better, safer, and more profitable operations; if they aren’t being completed accurately. The problem with paper checklists is that you can’t hold people accountable.
With OpsAnalitica, we drive accountability by:
It is only through accountability and follow-up that you can truly get the ROI on your checklists.
I invite you to download our FREE ebook: Restaurant Profits: It’s about Nickels, Dimes, and Quarters by clicking here.
In this eBook we discuss how using checklists can help you improve restaurant profitability. Get you copy emailed to your inbox here.
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.
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.
The Denver-based chain was served with another subpoena on Jan. 28 by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California requiring Chipotle to produce documents and information about the company’s practices at all restaurants system wide. click here to read full article
I don’t think you have to be a legal genius to see what the government is trying to do here. My guess is that they are going to try and show that Chipotle wasn’t operating safely and that it was a system wide problem.
By subpoenaing documentation across all restaurants it is pretty easy to build a case where the numbers look bigger than the percentage. When you have 1,755 restaurants, NRN Top 100 Unit Count June 2015. If each of those locations missed 1 temp log a week that is 91,260 missed temp logs in a year.
Do you even know if your restaurants are doing their daily checklists? If you don’t have an automated system how could you?
How many temp logs does your chain miss in a week? Even if you did them all you are bound to have lost a few from soda spills and misfiling.
What is even worse is if you get a bunch of those documents back from the restaurants and they are incomplete, or appear to be pencil whipped. That would be direct proof that you aren’t doing your due diligence as a company. If the government can prove that management knew that the restaurants weren’t all operating safely and wasn’t doing anything about it, there is your Ford Pinto case.
Anyone that follows OpsAnalitica knows that we have been harping on this stuff forever and a day because it matters.
Here is the crazy thing, if Chipotle was an OpsAnalitica client and they conducted all of their checklists and inspections on our platform, they could pull a report and send it off.
Restaurant safety goes beyond training, culture, daily checklists. A large part of it is documentation and record keeping. You can say you are safe all day long but can you prove it.
There is a reason that one of the 7 HACCP principles is record keeping and documentation.
We are committed to helping you run safer restaurants. From our white papers, to our platform, to our new managed service license. We will help you run the safest restaurants you can and do it in the most efficient way possible.
Click here to download our free guide, 7 Tips to Faster Better Line Checks.
Let’s talk about the art of Pencil Whipping. Here’s the “official” definition from Wiktionary:
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.
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!
A lot of our prospective clients ask us if we can force comments, create alerts or tasks when there are safety violations on their checklists. We don’t offer these features, not for technical reasons, but for liability and management reasons. I’m going to use this blog to explain our thinking on this subject.
Alerts and tasks sound great on paper, the reality is that they open you up for additional unnecessary liability and work. It has a lot to do with how and when restaurants conduct checklists and the nature of our business. Let’s start from the beginning.
An alert is a way of drawing attention to an issue, but it doesn’t require that you take any action. Because it doesn’t require you to take action, it is often ignored. Also, and this is a theme throughout this topic, there is a limitation in computer logic that may create false alerts.
Let’s discuss false alerts quickly by using the example of 50-degree mayonnaise on your line. If this mayonnaise had been in a cooler all night, and you took it’s temperature, and it was 50 degrees this is a critical violation and probably a sign that your cooler is broken and everything that goes along with a broken cooler.
There is also another example where 50-degree mayonnaise is not a critical violation. Some mayonnaise is shelf stable and can sit at room temperature indefinitely until opened. At that point, it needs to be refrigerated, and you have 4 hours to get that mayonnaise down to a safe temperature. If you were out of mayo and opened a new container and stocked up your line, then this would not be a critical violation until that Mayo had been in the danger zone for 4 hours or more.
How would a computer know this? It can’t know that the Mayo was safe or not safe it can only look at the temperature and create an alert based on whether or not that temperature is in or out of range. But in this case, the alert is a false alert, it is busy work that requires a person to look at something that isn’t an issue. This is one question out of possibly 50 to 150 questions. We have several clients with 150+ item line checks. How many real vs. false alerts could be generated on a 100 question line check per shift?
Think of yourself in this situation, how many false alerts would you look at before you stopped looking? Look at your cell phone and your app badges, those little numbers that tell you that there is something in the app that requires your attention. How often to you see those and think, I need to do something about this?
In our opinion alerts are useless because: they don’t drive accountability at the user level. Also, the lack of context that the systems have and the dynamic conditions that exist in a professional kitchen make it hard to reduce false alerts.
Forcing Comments when a temperature is out of range, or a safety violation is discovered is another thing that feels like a good idea but when it is done has some potentially negative consequences. Forcing a comment is extra work for the person conducting the checklist. It is extra work that is only incurred on questions when there is something wrong.
When I type in a 42-degree temperature, I have to do this extra work but when I type in a 39-degree temperature I don’t. Have you ever heard of the Hawthorne Effect; it posits that people act differently when they know they are being observed. Have you heard of the Lazy Ass effect; where people are lazy and if they don’t understand the importance of what they are doing might be tempted to alter answers to not have to do as much work, such as lower temps by a degree or two to not have to enter a comment. Have you heard of the I Don’t Want to Get in Trouble Effect; where a person doesn’t want to be the person who answered the question that was obviously wrong so much so that the app forced me to explain what was happening?
All of these effects are real and happen. Look at how many people pencil whip their paper checklists today because they know, no one can catch them. Our concern is that by forcing comments, we are reinforcing a negative and incentivizing people to take the easy way out and not to give us accurate data. Data accuracy is of paramount importance to completing checklists, especially when they have to do with safety.
In our platform, we allow people to enter whatever temperature they recorded with a thermometer without any prompting for a comment or the creation of an alert. When they submit their checklist, the score of the checklist may be altered based on optional scoring rules but that is for each client to decide. We encourage our client’s to train their teams to enter comments explaining why a temperature was out of range, but it is not mandated. Training to enter a comment is a small but important difference between mandating and managing to this standard.
It is a lot like the reverse psychology I have to use to on my 3-year-old. If I want her to stop doing whatever she is doing that is going to cause me to spend thousands of dollars at the urgent care. I can tell her to stop, she won’t listen to me and will continue doing it or modify her behavior just enough to have me move on. This in my mind is like the mandating the comment because I’m forcing it to happen and it is a negative interaction, one that she would like to avoid.
If I go to her and say “hey, we aren’t going to watch Princess Sophia if you keep jumping on the bed.” She will stop jumping immediately because she made the decision herself and because she wanted something and she sees it as a positive interaction. That is what we want from the person completing the checklist. We want them to identify unsafe conditions an let us know what actions they took to fix those issues voluntarily and with praise from management.
There is also value to the organization in seeing which of your manager’s are following through on these types of issues. It provides insight into your managers work performance and provides opportunities for training and coaching.
If you are going to use tasks to measure your compliance and to prove that you are addressing all safety issues, then you can’t do it halfway. It’s an all or nothing proposition. It becomes a standard at which you have to manage to, 100% or nothing. Here is a scenario that could happen when using tasks.
Most line checks and temp logs are conducted right before service starts for a shift. We often see line checks being completed up to 10 minutes after a restaurant is open for business. It is a common occurrence that a restaurant could get slammed right as it opens and that the manager who just conducted the line check might not have time to complete and close all tasks before they are called away to run their shift.
You now have a situation where you identified a potential food safety issue, notified a manager, but did not address it before the food was served to customers. In reality, that manager may not have time to get back to their computer or tablet and close those tasks until the restaurant has slowed down several hours later. You know, and I know that the restaurant may have fixed that issue before service or that the food wasn’t in the danger zone or any other reason that a restaurant professional would know.
How would that look to the media or a lawyer who is trying to sue you for getting their client sick? I think that it would be used against you. Tasks work great for knowledge workers who are at their desks and computers for their entire shift and can quickly get tasks resolved and close them. Restaurant managers are in constant motion during their shift and are wrong if they are in the office during service; their job is to be managing out in the restaurant. Tasks for restaurant managers that are time sensitive could pose issues for a company from a liability perspective.
Another weakness of tasks in the restaurant industry has to do with a number of questions and locations. Let’s say you want tasks to go to your district/area managers when restaurants have a critical temp issue. If I’m an area manager with 50 locations, our area managers back at Quiznos had 50 or more locations. You conduct 4 to 5 temp logs a day; you get one temp task per temp log, and you could be looking at 250 tasks a day that needs to be addressed and closed. It isn’t uncommon to have a 1 item that is in the danger zone on a 20 or 30 question temp log or line check.
Once again you have to close these tasks if you are managing by tasks. There is no halfway; you can’t not close tasks if that is how you are tracking compliance. Managing the resolution and closing of all these tasks becomes untenable for larger organizations.
At OpsAnalitica, we replace alerting, forced comments, and tasks with summary reports. Summary reports allow our inspectors to conduct inspections quickly and then in the background we group like issues together and email them to area managers on a schedule. These reports allow the area managers to look at the issues and the comments and use their judgment on how they are following up with their restaurants without overwhelming them with communication.
Ultimately the goal of using an automated checklist app is to collect great operations data and to run safer restaurants. You don’t want to do anything that is going to take away from those goals or puts you or your organization into a situation where you were trying to do the right thing, but you increased your liability.
There are two things that I know to be absolutely true:
That is why we have created our Managed Service License, the first in the industry.
When the restaurant tech industry is going in the direction of do-it-yourself – we are going in the direction of restaurants by providing you with more personal service.
With a Managed Service License, we’ll take care of everything related to the set-up, daily administration, and report building for your organization.
The only technical thing you will need to know how to do is tell us what you want. It is that simple.
You and your organization will be able to focus on conducting inspections, checklists and reviewing reports.
There is no other easier way to run safer restaurants and get better visibility into daily operations than the OpsAnalitica Inspector Managed Service.
The craziest thing is that our managed service license is only $10 a month more than our Inspector + license. That is nothing. We are going to be the cheapest employee you have that doesn’t go on vacation or require any benefits.
Click here to watch a video message from Tommy Yionoulis, one of the founders of OpsAnalitica, to learn about our new managed service offering.
NO MORE EXCUSES, YOU CANNOT AFFORD TO WAIT ANOTHER DAY WHEN IT COMES TO ENSURING RESTAURANT SAFETY.
If you have any questions give me a call or send me an email any time. Or if you are interested in seeing an OpsAnalitica demo, click here to schedule.
A prospective client was evaluating the OpsAnalitica Platform against a competitor’s inspection platform recently. Even though on the surface we are very similar in that we allow people to conduct restaurant inspections through an app, when you look deeper we are worlds apart. You see this other platform is a 3rd party inspection audit platform that is being used in many different industries.
OpsAnalitica is a restaurant checklist and reporting app, and we only focus on restaurants. As you continue to dig into both platforms, you can very clearly see the design choices that were made to accommodate each platform’s core clients.
One quick example: the competitors platform is for 3rd party auditors, so they chose to rely heavily on printing reports and leaving them on-site as the inspector is going to leave.
The OpsAnalitica Platform was designed to be used by the company to self-inspect so we focus on advanced reporting options through our portal because our clients are going to have access to the portal.
As we continued to look at the competitor’s website it became very apparent that restaurants weren’t their focus, they have pictures all over their site of factory workers and jets. They don’t even call out the restaurant industry as a focal point. Choosing a software vendor that isn’t hyper-focused on your industry is a big deal, and I will explain why in a second.
Having multi-industry appeal might not seem like a big deal, and you might say, “well why wouldn’t a software vendor sell their product to a wider audience?”. They should if their product is universal, like Microsoft Excel, and a lot of times it’s completely fine, but there are instances where it can be trouble for one of the industries.
The restaurant industry is one of these industries because it’s unique in certain aspects: multi-language support, limited time to conduct inspections and checklists, unique data needs, hostile operating environment, training requirements, etc..
The issue becomes design choices, customer enhancement requests, and new features.
I’ve been in the software business for a long time now and here’s how new software is designed and feature requests are evaluated and prioritized.
Every software company will poll their clients for feedback on what they’d like to see as far as new features/products, etc. Software developers can develop some incredible stuff that will blow your mind away, but if it doesn’t add any value to the core customer experience, it’s worthless.
It would be like a vegan restaurant advertising the highest quality, juiciest, most perfectly prepared filet mignon in the world. It might be the best thing ever, but does nothing for their clients.
Clients and product managers have an idea of what they would like to see in the platform based off of their real world experience and where competition is driving the market. Often what clients and product managers want for the product are conflicting.
This conflict makes it difficult to decide which enhancements to engineer into the product. The tendency will be to lean towards requests from the most valuable clients to the company.
If you aren’t in the same industry as a firm’s biggest clients, your needs will not be prioritized because your requests won’t be in-line and benefit the core client base. There’s a large chain that we are working with right now that expressed this exact concern with a solution they have currently. Since it isn’t a restaurant solution, they aren’t able to get their desired enhancements implemented promptly.
In the case of this competitor, if they are primarily focused on large industry and aircraft as their website suggests, then a restaurant features may not make sense for those other industries and probably won’t get implemented into the product.
Remember, every extra button click, or piece of functionality costs money to develop and maintain. There are real dollars and limited time at stake for software companies to add features and functionality to a platform, and they try their best to make sure the features have mass appeal and will generate maximum ROI.
In the OpsAnalitica case where we focus on the restaurant industry, there is a lot of consistency in what the clients are requesting, and that makes it very easy for us to evaluate and prioritize the development of their requests.
Our question flagging functionality that allows inspectors to flag a response for review before they submit a checklist was requested by a client and added to the platform within a month.
At OpsAnalitica, our background is multi-unit restaurant operations. Our restaurant checklist and reporting platform are developed specifically for the multi-unit restaurant operator.
If you are a multi-unit restaurant operator, and you are looking for a checklist and reporting app be wary of vendors servicing mainly manufacturers or airline/trucking fleets, hospitals, construction, etc., but also have a few restaurant clients. You want to make sure that your voice will be heard and that your challenges will drive the future of the solution.
Click here to watch a 14 minute recorded demo of the OpsAnalitica platform or if you would rather be able to ask questions and dive a little deeper into the platform click here to schedule a live demo.
Keep on Inspecting!