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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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The Importance of Line Checks

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I recently stumbled upon a great blog post written by George Barton entitled: “Line Checks: Why So Important?”.  To view the original post on Nightclub.com click here.  Here are the points he makes that I felt were top notch.

  • All scheduled managers during all shifts should participate in conducting line checks.
  • This is an on-going process, an everyday event that should never be dismissed.
  • You should be conducting line checks before each meal period and sometimes during a meal period to ensure that food items are being held at the proper temperature.
  • You can never downplay the importance of your team placing critical value on this initiative. An impactful and top of mind food safety culture will go a long way.
  • FYI:  If you were using the OpsAnalitica Inspector you would be able to have handheld sensitivity guides in the questions help text and could consult standards right in the app as you were conducting the inspection.

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Here is George’s original blog post:

Let’s frame it up.  Food-borne illness, cross contamination and other serious infractions from your kitchens should keep us all up at night and be under constant review. Very obvious!

Your team no doubt has tactics on keeping up with and insuring every customer receives only the best prepared food products as you align with key initiatives, including but not limited to the following:

–      Adherence to Health Department requirements, which is to insure your team eliminates “ALL” Critical and Major Violations.

–      HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points) a risk management prevention methodology to insure safe food processes are in place.

–      Adherence to your own brands documented approach insuring full compliance toward food safety.

Let’s examine howline checks in your restaurant supports each of these key initiatives. Initiatives that can pay huge dividends with your objective to serve food you feel confident has been rigorously prepared, stored and produced for your honored guests correctly – the first time, every time.

Who Does It:  We lined out the “why” and now, “who” should conduct line checks?  All scheduled managers during all shifts should participate in conducing line checks.  This is an on-going process, an everyday event that should never be dismissed.   Additional key personnel, store trainers and managers in training should also participate with guidance from leadership.

When to Conduct:  Operations teams with assistance from Training or Learning and Development departments can support and call out best times for these critical touch points.  From my experience with 30+ years in operations, I found the best times to conduct line checks to be:

1.   30-45 minutes prior to the opening shift for the day or as close to opening the doors as possible in order to have as few interruptions as possible.

2.   Mid-day or after the first few hours of operation to insure food integrity, temperatures and quality have not been compromised.

3.   30-45 minutes prior to PM shift or as close to when that shift beginnings as possible.  You will generally have new team members working that shift, therefore it’s critically important to insure the same level of weight is placed on this line check. You will also be teaching and holding new team members accountable for the best food practices you have in place.

4.   Mid PM shift, again to insure food integrity, temperatures and quality have not been compromised.  This is generally when food wells burn out, hot sauce deterioration and a lack of focus tends to take place.

5.   End of the Shift. Based upon how you break down your food stations, this is an excellent time to discard products that cannot make it to the next day.  Produce, cold sauces, soups, dairy and protein all can fall into this category.  Do what’s right, if it’s not ready for another day and does not follow your shelf life guide, TOSS IT.  When in doubt, TOSS IT.

Tools & Best Practice:  There is a plethora of materials, methods and tools to utilize which insures compliance of food safety standards are meet. How does your team stack-up?

•  Well maintained thermometers for temping hot and cold products.

•  Disposable latex gloves which eliminate all bare hands contact.

•  Disposable plastic spoons for soup and hot sauce tasting.

•  Keep all kitchen equipment well maintained and follow a PM (preventive maintenance) regimen.

•  Posted charts and guidelines that call out key points to follow and insure 100% food safety compliance.

•  Hand held sensitivity guides for quick reference are also popular and successful.

Mindshare and People:  You can never downplay the importance of your team placing critical value on this initiative. An impactful and top of mind food safety culture will go a long way.  Showtime line checks – where scheduled team members prepare foods prior to the commencement of the shift under supervision which acts as a training and development tool.  This food safety practice will be rewarding and meaningful for those team members invited to participate.  You should never under estimate their value to your business.

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For a Complimentary Assessment on your Operations, contact George Barton at georgebarton22@aol.com, call 321-662-0641or visit gBartonInnovations.com.

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The Customer Experience & Mobile Apps

I saw an article on the Missouri Restaurant Association website where SmartBrief talked to Maya Mikhailov, chief marketing officer of GPShopper. She brings up some great points around restaurants and retailers using data and apps to interact with customers. Data is being used all over the business to help influence decisions and drive sales. Here are some of the thoughts from Maya Mikhailov:

  • the key for retailers and restaurants is to engage with diners and shoppers based on data about their preferences, behavior and spending patterns. And focusing on the most loyal set of customers is most effective
  • Print is sort of a one-way conversation,” she said. “But now thanks to the data and thanks to the fact that apps are so interactive, they’re able to have these two-way conversations where customers are able to set preferences on their mobile devices and retailers…are able to respond to those preferences
  • mobile interactions provide restaurants and retailers with an opportunity to collect data about where shoppers are, what their preferences are and what type of interactions they’re likely to engage with
  • data is a great source of information for marketers to craft campaigns, messaging strategies, promotions and other initiatives
  • Tablets at the tables allow diners to pull up their loyalty information, informing them about whether they qualify for any rewards or spurring additional purchases by offering points for trying items they’ve never had before
  • it is also important to realize that in-store technology is not a replacement for human beings
  • People still want to have interactions and good customer service experiences

The last 2 bullets in my mind are super important to keep in mind, especially in the restaurant business.

I have copied the full article below:

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Mobile technology is becoming increasingly prevalent in the lives of consumers, who are looking for more ways to interact with people and brands using their mobile devices. More and more, retailers and restaurants are making use of technology in their physical locations that allows them to enhance the experiences customers are having when they dine or shop.

SmartBrief talked to Maya Mikhailov, chief marketing officer of GPShopper, an integrated mobile platform that helps businesses like food retailers and restaurants build mobile applications that enhance features like commerce and loyalty and creates a “remote control for the brand,” and Ramsey Masri, CEO of OtherLevels, a digital marketing platform that helps mobile marketers engage mobile audiences effectifely. Mikhailov talked about the advantages of technology that uses mobile to interact with customers while they’re in stores, which is where most transactions take place, and three trends in particular that have emerged through the use of such technology.

Shopper education

Mikhailov said that technology like push notification and geotargeting has made engaging loyal customers outside of the store easier for retailers and restaurants. For restaurant chains in particular, interactions like push notifications can help drive repeat visits among customers at different locations. Mikhailov cited Ruth’s Chris Steak House as an example, pointing to the chain’s digital loyalty program, which engages diners like business travelers when they are near a restaurant location they might not regularly dine at.

“It allows for more engagement inside the restaurant and it allows them to continue a conversation outside of it,” she said.

However, restaurants and retailers should not use technology for the sake of using technology when trying to engage their shoppers in stores, according to Mikhailov.

“Think about your customers’ journey and think about how you’re providing them value,” she said.

For Masri, the key for retailers and restaurants is to engage with diners and shoppers based on data about their preferences, behavior and spending patterns. And focusing on the most loyal set of customers is most effective.

“Focus the bulk of marketing assets on the opted-in, already-engaged customers, because they’re the most valuable to the franchise and a business’s success,” Masri said.

Enhancing that education through mobile

Mikhailov said that technology allows restaurants and retailers to have more meaningful conversations with their customers.

“Print is sort of a one-way conversation,” she said. “But now thanks to the data and thanks to the fact that apps are so interactive, they’re able to have these two-way conversations where customers are able to set preferences on their mobile devices and retailers…are able to respond to those preferences.”

For retailers, in-store mobile applications that use technology like beacons help engage customers while they’re in the store, Mikhailov said. For Lunds & Byerlys, an upscale Twin Cities supermarket chain, she said such technology has helped incite more participation from shoppers in the retailer’s mobile features like shopping lists and targeted circulars and in in-store events. The result is a better shopping experience for Lunds & Byerlys customers. And according to Mikhailov, the best results are achieved when retailers make use of multiple channels to send different types of messages that help create a better in-store shopping experience.

“Use multiple channels…because the consumers are touching multiple touch points,” she said.

Mobile technology gives retailers and restaurants a way to enhance consumers’ education, but it also gives brands a way to learn more about their customers, too, Masri said. Because today’s consumers almost always have their mobile devices in-hand, mobile interactions provide restaurants and retailers with an opportunity to collect data about where shoppers are, what their preferences are and what type of interactions they’re likely to engage with.

“That data is a great source of information for marketers to craft campaigns, messaging strategies, promotions and other initiatives,” Masri said. “The goal for marketers is to create seamless, satisfying experiences between offline, online and in-store marketing activations”

Today’s on-demand economy

Mikhailov called today’s economy an on-demand one in which shoppers want to do things how they want to do them and when they want to do them. Much like Uber, consumers expect that on-demand service when they go to restaurants and stores. For example, Mikhailov said restaurants are enhancing their apps with features that allow diners to get in live for a table before they even get to the restaurant.

Mikhailov used Chili’s as another example of how in-store technology can enhance customers’ experiences with brands. Tablets at the tables allow diners to pull up their loyalty information, informing them about whether they qualify for any rewards or spurring additional purchases by offering points for trying items they’ve never had before. Such an interaction allows for extra digital authority in the restaurant space, Mikhailov said.

It is important for restaurants and retailers to realize that consumers want these interactions when they are in the store, for the most part, Mikhailov said, especially in the food and beverage space as dietary preferences change and people want to know more about their food.

But it is also important to realize that in-store technology is not a replacement for human beings, she said.

“People still want to have interactions and good customer service experiences,” Mikhailov said.

“Don’t over-message mobile customers,” Masri said. “Find the balance that keeps them engaged and satisfied without interrupting their busy lives or being perceived as intrusive.”

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How do you use your operations data?

So you are collecting operations data every day, probably every shift, but what are you doing with it? 
If you are like most operators you are filing it in a drawer in the GM’s office never to be seen again. But what a waste of time and data. Why go through the exercise if nobody ever looks at the data again? I can tell you that’s how your managers feel. 
 
Just take a step back and look at the data you are collecting in your line checks and pre-shift inspections. Close your eyes and think about it for a minute.
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What could you do with that data? How do you think it could affect business decisions is you were able to view this data in usable format over time? 
  • Could you potentially discover an optimal walk-in temperature to reduce spoilage?
  • Could you spot a common trend in your bottom 20% performing locations, or the top 20% for that matter?
  • Could you determine that a hung over Saturday lunch staff is affecting sales tremendously?

There’s power in data, just ask Google and Facebook. If you are making decisions while ignoring important data that is available to you, you’re basically guessing. Sure experience and intuitiveness play a role, but data tells the real story. 

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Yelp responds to critics

On May 22, 2015 we wrapped up a blog series on Yelp. Click here to read the wrap up post. As a Yelp user I recently conducted a search for a restaurant in West Palm Beach and I saw this new message, starting with “Your trust….”, from Yelp right below Recommended Reviews.

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I clicked on the link and read the page where Yelp gives their side of the story on reviews and yelp advertisers getting preferential treatment.  Yelp went so far as to provide examples of how users can prove to themselves that Yelp doesn’t alter reviews. I ran the test search that they provided, ironically the top two businesses that were returned had closed.

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With their test search none of the top results were current advertisers. I did a secondary search of motels that were pet friendly in Odessa Texas trying to see if the Quality Inn that was returned on my google search would show up, they did but they weren’t currently advertising. The top search result was an ad for the La Quinta, see screenshot.

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When you look at the search results you will notice that the ad spot doesn’t show the star rating or the number of reviews like the other results. It is also apparent that the it is an ad with the yellow and white ad flag in the upper left corner.

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When I clicked into the ad, I got the normal Yelp page and saw that this particular property had a 1.5 Star rating with plenty of bad reviews.
In our last blog on Yelp we called on Yelp to provide more transparency about reviews. This is a good first step. Here’s a link to the Yelp FAQ, http://www.yelp.com/advertiser_faq.

Essentials of a SMART Pre-shift Inspection

Baselines are covered first. The SMART Pre-Shift Inspection Protocol captures data that is essential to operations and inspections (fridge temps, food temps, locations of sanitizing buckets…everything you need for CYA moments and health inspections).

But the SMART Pre-Shift Inspection Protocol also collects the seemingly extraneous data that could be far more telling than the fact that the cooler maintained a <41F temperature, as required, or that cleaning chemicals were safely separated from potential contact with food.

“Seemingly extraneous data.” What’s that?

Well, we all know that restaurants succeed and fail as much on human interactions / human discretion as on the wholesale price of a salmon steak or a plate of wings. Much depends on the intangibles, which are really not intangibles at all, if they are recorded and examined.

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Imagine if you have a protocol checklist for how well dressed the wait staff is. (Crisp shirt? Check. Spotless tie? Check. Clean apron? Check. Finger nails clean? Check. Tattoos covered? Check.)

Or if the protocol checklist checked that the side work has been done.

Or if you had a check-off system to ensure that your workers didn’t take all the parking spaces nearest the entrance, when that act alone could attract (or deter) enough customers to get a solid second turn at brunch.

Or that you were aware that the ice machine is undersized for the required volume of glasses, which delayed the refills, which caused half of your patrons to skip dessert, which triggered spoilage, which made your dumpsters full one day too soon, which turned away another 30 diners who thought the establishment just looked filthy when they circled around back to park.

Make no mistake, daily line checks and temp logs are important. But they are not the only thing that a restaurant manager should be looking at. In fact, a great deal of that data is collected on a CYA basis, and it doesn’t really affect the bottom line of the operation.

There’s a free webinar on Tuesday July 14th @ 3 PM CST where you can get some new ideas on how to write your own SMART Pre-shift. Click here to register.

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“Moneyball approach ” to managing multi-location restaurants

The question is: Which data? What things should our “Moneyball scouts ” be looking at?

That’s where SMART Pre-Shift Inspection Protocols come into play.

With the SMART Pre-Shift Inspection Protocol, you can leverage your workforce to collect data, which will let you draw correlations between operations, sales, and costs. That will help you determine your shortest path to optimized profits.

Old Pilots Don’t Crash. Old Restaurants Managers Do. Ever see an old pilot skip a pre-flight checklist? Nope. That ’s why so few planes crash. Ever see an old restaurant manager (over confident that he knows it all) crash a restaurant? Yup. Happens all the time. That’s why we have to bring the rigor of the pre-flight inspection to the management of restaurants.

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SMART Pre-Shift Inspection Protocol™ is a checklist system, not unlike the pre-flight checklists that pilots run through to ensure safe operations. Except that the restaurant data that’s captured is not viewed in isolation, nor just logged and stored and never looked at again. 

The SMART Pre-Shift Inspection Protocol is performed by your workers at any skill level, using a tablet or iPad to log in the restaurateur’s most valuable assets: “in-game data.” 

Since this approach is a protocol (a programmatic workflow, based on a pre-established critical path), the SMART Pre-Shift Inspection Protocol is not dependent on the skill levels of your workers. The intelligence is embedded in the protocol itself. Literally anyone can run the protocol. 

Learn how to write your own SMART Pre-Shift Inspections at our FREE Webinar on July 14th @ 3 PM CST. Click here to register today!

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Prices Are Starting To Rise

A couple of interesting stories came out today in the restaurant industry.

One, which is not such good news for Subway, being that Jarrod’s house got raided this morning in connection with an investigation into child pornography. That will certainly bring on some unexpected brand damage.

The other being that Starbucks is raising prices on coffee even though coffee prices, as a commodity, are going down. It’s not a huge increase. An article on nrn.com stated that some drinks will increase 5-20 cents. For example a large coffee will increase by 10 cents. But you add in the additional spread from the decrease in commodity cost then that can add significant profit.

The article sites that most consumers won’t notice the increase as most of their most popular drinks are not going to be affected by the price increase. Also food items will not incur an increase. The increases will vary by area of the country and the product.

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This is just the beginning of a trend that we’ll be seeing for the foreseeable future. With all the pressure from the Affordable Care Act and increases in minimum wage, restaurant operators are running out of options. You can only cut product and labor costs so much without affecting quality in a way that upsets your customers. Consumers will just have to live with the fact that going out to eat is going to cost more money.

We will also have to get used to less human interactions and more digital ordering either through an app or an onsite kiosk, and even a robot cooking their burger and fries. At the NRA Show this year we saw some neat things, including robots. Click here to check out a previous blog post on neat things from the NRA Show.

Restaurant operators will have to embrace more technology to help run more efficient operations and to cut down on labor intensive tasks. Also they will need to take a look at their operations and make sure they are running as efficiently as possible and are using data to drive decisions.

Learn how to write SMART Pre-shift Inspections at a free webinar next Tuesday at 3 PM CST. Click here to register. The webinar will focus on helping your managers run great shifts every day, creating a better customer experience and increased profits.

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What are SMART Pre-shift Inspections?

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At OpsAnalitica, we are big believers that conducting consistent daily inspections drives better operations, safer restaurants, and increases profitability.  We are such big believers we have developed our pre-shift inspection methodology, the SMART Pre-Shift Inspection.  We will be hosting a 30-minute webinar on SMART Pre-shift inspections on Tuesday July 14th at 3:00 pm central time.

Click here to register for this FREE webinar

Here is an excerpt from our SMART Pre-Shift Training manual.

SMART is an acronym for the different categories that you should be focusing on in your pre-shift inspections.

  • S = Sanitation
  • M = Management Responsibilities
  • A = Accountability
  • R = Readiness for Guests
  • T = Temperatures

A SMART Pre-shift inspection will contain questions that take managers on a tour of their location and have

them focus on safety and readiness to serve guests. It should contain both FOH and BOH items, as well as,

items that you know are unique to the success of your operations.

The goal of conducting a SMART Pre-shift Inspection is to focus your managers on the critical success factors

of your business. To know that your operations are safe and ready to serve guests for that service period. The

act of walking around your location with a critical eye and focusing on the most important parts of your

business focus your manager’s on what is required to be successful, this is especially important for hospitality

manager’s because we are always on and almost always in front of customers.

 

All OpsAnalitica Clients get a copy of our SMART Pre-shift Inspection pre-loaded into their portal and our training manual when they sign-up for our service.  We also offer consulting services around helping you write your own SMART Pre-shift that is custom tailored to your unique operations.

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