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An Easy Way to Solve a Speed of Service Issue

Today we’re going to look at 2 drastically different ways to approach a speed of service issue:

  1. You can rely on hope, but we all know hope is not a strategy.
  2. You can use real-time data to identify and remediate issues before they affect speed of service.

Number 1 will work sometimes because, as they say, even a blind squirrel finds a nut every once in a while. But most of the time it won’t work out. So that means that most of the time prep amounts are wrong which means that someone will leave the line during the rush to prep. So that means most of the time there aren’t enough straws or lids at the drink station which means during the rush someone has to stop taking an order to grab a straw. You see where we’re going here.

This all has a negative impact on speed of service which has a compounding effect on sales. If the line is too long people may not even enter your restaurant or drive thru. Those sales are gone forever.

If they did get in line and it takes too long, they may leave, or they may stick around, but will be extremely frustrated and more than likely never return. Now you’ve spent a ton of money acquiring this customer, but they will never pay off because of a speed of service issue.

Now imagine a world everything is prepped, stocked, clean, held at the right temperature all prior to the rush. In this world customers move through process like a well oiled machine, the food tastes great, expectations are exceeded, they become repeat customers and tell their friends.

That’s number 2. When teams have all the data they need to know what needs to be done, when and how, have processes that guide them through their tasks and helps them catch and fix mistakes before they affect customers, they understand the importance of completing the tasks, then speed of service isn’t an issue.

It’s little things that normally get brushed to the side as no big deal that have real ramifications to important parts of your business such as speed of service. It all boils down to setting yourself up for success and then making it happen.

The best chains are habitually great at executing the basics. To be able to do this you need to start with this question: how are you identifying operational issues at your locations today?

We can help. Reach out.

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Area/District Managers Should Stop Visiting Restaurants During the COVID-19 Crisis

I’m writing this in early April of 2020 and I’m setting the stage of the current environment so readers of this blog in the future will understand the situation here in the US at this time. 2/3 + of the US is on mandatory social distancing, stay at home isolation through 4/30/20, restaurants are only allowed to sell take-out and delivery, and we are two to four weeks away from the dreaded peak of cases.

If you are a restaurant without a delivery or takeout business channel you are probably closed and you are worried about ever being able to re-open. The National Restaurant Association is predicting that 30,000 units have already closed permanently. This is the new reality and this isolation only went into effect 2 1/2 weeks ago.

Currently, I have clients that are still open and operating because of their robust delivery and take out models and their Area Managers are still visiting their restaurants in their local patches.

AREA/DISTRICT MANAGERS NEED TO STOP VISITING THEIR RESTAURANTS IMMEDIATELY!

An area manager that is infected with COVID-19 and who didn’t show symptoms for the average time period of 7 to 10 days could visit 5 to 10 restaurants, or more. Exposing those employees to the COVID-19 germs.

The following guidelines come directly from the state of Washington’s Dept of Health, most states are following similar guidelines here, I chose this one because it was very easy to understand:

Look at the 3rd bullet point: being within 6 feet of an infected person for about 10 minutes. That is all that it takes. The bottom paragraph states what you are supposed to do.

“You should monitor your health for fever, cough, and shortness of breath during the 14 days after the last day you were in close contact with the sick person with COVID-19. YOU SHOULD NOT GO TO WORK OR SCHOOL AND SHOULD AVOID PUBLIC PLACES FOR 14-DAYS.

The reason for this isolation is that you can be sick and contagious with COVID-19 for 7 to 10 days without having any symptoms. You could be infecting people for a week before you get your first fever or sniffle.

Because Area Managers are visiting restaurants, any customers that come into contact with employees who get sick have to do the same.

I’m not trying to be overly dramatic but having your Area Managers visiting their restaurants is exposing your brand, your employees, and your customers to an incredible risk.

The whole point of this blog is to avoid this:

A worse case scenario is that an Area Manager spreads the COVID-19 virus to multiple restaurants, resulting in their shutdown for a period of 14 days and the requirement of a major deep cleaning.

The part that is going to damage the brand immensely is going to be the public acknowledgement that customers who visited those restaurants are going to need to isolate, get tested, etc..

This could ruin confidence in your brand and will hurt the restaurant industry as whole as people will rethink eating from any restaurants during this time.

Some unlucky chain or restaurant is going to be the first. It is inevitable, and it is going to happen in the next couple of weeks or month. There are simply too many people that are infected right now that don’t have a clue that they are sick.

Do everything you can to not let it be you, I fear that very few brands could come back from that.

We recognize the need for Area Managers, they are a very important part of the multi-unit management infrastructure of our restaurants. We need to get them the tools they need so they can be affective from managing from home. We cannot risk them getting sick or exposing the units to unnecessary risk during this period.

We are hosting a webinar on how to make area managers more effective from home. You can click this link to sign-up: https://calendly.com/oa-sales/webinar-enabling-field-team-wfh

FYI: after the webinar is over, we’ll post a video in the blog of the webinar content.

OrderUp: Murk Maddock Interview

In this episode of the OrderUp Show Tommy sits down with Murk Maddock, an ops services guru,. They discuss Murk’s career and his thoughts on the state of the restaurant industry today. He’s a very interesting person take a listen below.

https://soundcloud.com/orderupshow/29-interview-with-murk-maddock-ops-services-guru

The Tight Labor Market is Causing Some Restaurant Managers to Make Poor Short-term Decisions

This is one of the most robust labor markets in the last 50 years. Typically low unemployment in the overall economy is bad for the restaurant industry because of our lower base pay and how demanding restaurant jobs are. Restaurant turnover is at 100%.

Look at these restaurant labor stats from the 7 Shifts Blog

I’ve been a manager who was constantly hiring and training, for months on end. We had very high FOH turnover and we were constantly interviewing, hiring, training, every week. It’ was exhausting. Plus it takes so much time that you aren’t able to get anything else done. All those little projects that you want to get done just get pushed aside when people don’t show up to work.

This labor market has been tight for the last couple of years and managers are starting to get worn down. They are so tired of being in this labor rat race that they are doing anything they can to keep employees happy even when their actions could be hurting the long-term viability of their restaurants.

We were recently working with a client of ours that has been on and off our checklist platform a couple of times over the last couple of years. He can’t get his people to use the platform and while we were talking with him he said. “These guys are so busy, I just don’t want to put any extra work on their plates.”

I want to break down that comment and thinking for you because it is super interesting.

  1. This was from an area director responsible for running 9 burger franchise restaurants from a national chain.
  2. By their franchise agreement they, the franchisees, are responsible for executing the chains national food safety and quality standards every day every shift. This isn’t extra Work!
  3. We load a restaurant’s paper checklists exactly as they are on paper into our platform, there is no difference other than using a mobile device vs. a pen.
  4. People view doing checklists on our platform as extra work but don’t view completing those same checklists on paper as extra work. That is because they know that their teams are pencil whipping and not doing their checklists on paper! Because of the limitations of paper they have plausible deniability, meaning they can’t be held responsible for not knowing that checklists didn’t get completed.
  5. The reason his people don’t get their stuff done is because he doesn’t hold them accountable to doing it, he views food safety checklists and ops checklists as extra work not as what they are, job aids that help managers execute safely and effectively.
  6. He doesn’t hold them accountable to using the platform because he realizes that the OpsAnalitica is very good at showing you if people are doing their checklists and that it is very good at ensuring things get done.
  7. Instead he lets them do whatever they want and pretends they are doing what they are supposed to be doing until they get caught by the chains 3rd party inspectors.

Why doesn’t he want his team to do what they are supposed to be doing to run their restaurants the way they were designed to be run. It’s because of turnover. When a manager leaves, this area manager has to replace them. It becomes more work for him and goes back to everything that I opened this blog with. It’s exhausting.

He thinks that if he is easier on these managers that they might stay longer, which there is no proof of, and he makes that trade off at the expense of his customers satisfaction, safety, and sales.

When was the last time you went to super well run and profitable restaurant and heard about them cutting corners on their procedures or not holding their teams accountable to being the best? You haven’t. Because great operators know that systems are what drives repeatable success and they hold their teams accountable to being great.

When you don’t hold people accountable to running your systems your restaurants don’t run as well. Things get missed that directly impact customer experiences and over time it is that degradation of the customer experience that drives customers away from coming to your business.

I understand that this labor market is super tough but we as an industry have to get creative about screening, recruiting, hiring, and retaining employees. What changes has your organizations made to address these issues? Are you offering more money, retention and performance bonuses, golden handcuffs like options or other perks?

I fear that restaurants are in this very expensive endless recruiting and hiring cycle that has the secondary effect of making restaurant operations less consistent. I don’t see the industry as a whole doing anything differently then they were in 1984 when I joined the industry.

Cutting your standards to keep employees is a recipe for going out of business.

Please add a comment about any really cool things your company is doing in regards to hiring or retention or that you have heard about so I can update our readers.

If you would like to learn more about how the OpsAnalitica Platform can help you drive consistently safe and excellent operations across your restaurants and how it can be used to push behavior change in real-time, please check us out at OpsAnalitica.com

It’s the little things

I’ve been very blessed in all aspects of my life, one of the biggest blessings I’ve received is that I’ve traveled and I’ve stayed at some of the best hotels, resorts, and sailed on the nicest cruise ships in the world.

This last weekend, my wife got us a room at the new Gaylord of the Rockies resort. It is brand new Gaylord Hotel and Convention Center located near the Denver International Airport.

I was sitting at the pool on Memorial Day before checking out and I noticed that the music wasn’t on. The pool just didn’t feel as bubbley, if that is the right way to describe it. Then I looked down and saw a straw under my chair.

It’s the little things.

I started thinking about all the things that you have to get right to go from good to great.

There are a million quotes about the little things. About how the last 5% is what really matters in everything.

Let me be clear here, The Gaylord did an amazing job. I’m not trying to knit pick them to death. The music being on or off didn’t take away from the room, or the service, or the amazing food. It just sparked this idea.

The music not being on just made the pool feel less complete. They had music on the whole day before and had pool parties, etc.. The pool area was alive and jumping and the music added to the happy and relaxing feeling.

When you have a complete experience, it feels better, it feels right, it is memorable, it is great.

Here is the thing, we are all capable of providing a complete experience in every guest interaction. Whether you are at a McDonalds or Harrod’s in London for Tea.

We all have a brand, we have set those brand expectations through our marketing, previous guest interactions, and through our continuous operations.

People always say that the greatest thing McDonald’s has done is that you can get the same Big Mac and Fries anywhere in the world. Same is true for Coca Cola and many other brands. They have perfected consistency. I’ve never opened a brand new Coke that was flat; have you?

What is frustrating about the little things in the hospitality industry, especially for brands, is that corporate has already thought about all the little things, that is their job. They have created exhaustive training and checklists to help the locations not miss the little things. Yet they get missed constantly.

Why?

Because know one uses the checklists as they were meant to be used. Atul Gawande, author of The Checklist Manifesto lays this out in his book.

Faulty memory and distraction are a particular danger in what engineers call all-or-none processes: whether running to the store to buy ingredients for a cake, preparing an airplane for takeoff, or evaluating a sick person in the hospital, if you miss just one key thing, you might as well not have made the effort at all. A” 
 Atul Gawande, The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right

I get it, checklists aren’t fun or exciting. They feel beneath us in a lot of ways. Senior managers think checklists are just for training and not meant to be used at the start of every shift in every location.

In a complex environment, experts are up against two main difficulties. The first is the fallibility of human memory and attention, especially when it comes to mundane, routine matters that are easily over-looked under the strain of more pressing events.Atul Gawande, The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right

This is where we as an industry have to grow up. Pilots, know matter how many hours of flight time they have still use checklists for everything. There are 3 checklists to turn the plane on.

The reason why? It’s exactly what Atul Gawande stated above. The fallibility of human memory and attention, especially when it comes to mundane routine matters. That is operations management in the hospitality industry. You are getting the restaurant ready for business, you’ve done it 1000’s of times, people are constantly distracting you with questions and pulling your attention away from the task at hand. Little fires keep popping up.

Then you forget to check things because you are too distracted. Some days it’s the music and other days it’s the holding or reheat temperature on some food. Some days it’s the open sign and other days your dish machine isn’t sterilizing the dishes and you are getting people sick.

The problem is when we don’t use checklists the way they are meant to be used, we don’t know which side of the spectrum we are going to land on. We just know or should accept that we are missing things.

You are kidding yourself if you think you aren’t getting people sick. You are. Any time a person goes into a restaurant and then within minutes they are not feeling well, your food had something to do with that. Even if it didn’t really, that the person got sick from their lunch and not your dinner, in their minds it was your dinner.

We have to change how we train and operate our locations. It is imperative that we move away from the reliance on memory and experience and work on systematizing every aspect of running our restaurants to counteract the other forces that are working against us. We have to use checklists diligently as they were meant to be used in every department, every shift, by every member of the team from the GM to the server.

The whole point of this blog is this. Had the pool manager followed a readiness checklist, I’m sure, that turn the music on is on that list. I’m sure having a member of the custodial team confirm that there was no trash under the pool chairs was on that list.

Senior managers and all team members should embrace checklists as the cheat sheets, the short cuts, the work smarter not harder tools that they are. We should reward people for high levels of checklist compliance. Completing checklists diligently and on-time and coach train people who pencil whip and have low compliance. Our research has shown that high checklist compliance restaurants are better restaurants from a customer satisfaction and profitability standpoint. They are better.

We have to control what we can control. Because when we do we provide our guests with a complete experience, they will rave about us and tell their friends and that should lead them to come back again sooner. We owe this to our guests, employees, and owners.

One of the main reasons that checklists don’t get done today is because they are paper based tools. In the world of multi-unit restaurant management paper checklists are pencil whipped because management cannot hold their teams accountable in real-time to getting them done.

To really run great restaurants, you need a digital checklist platform that will give you the tools to hold your managers and employees accountable to following your procedures every shift in every location.

To learn more about how OpsAnalitica is helping restaurant operators run better restaurants, visit OpsAnalitica.com

Remember, it’s the little things. Oh, and they turned the music on later in the morning.