Are you looking to expand your brand to new locations? Or tighten your operations to ensure your guests receive an exceptional experience?
They're often feared and disliked, but site visits -- also called “corporate audits” or “location reviews” -- are essential to building a great brand.
All of the leading brands in retail, hospitality, and food service design site visit programs to ensure operational excellence. Here’s how you can, too.
“Coach, not cop”
Site visits in the retail, hospitality, and restaurant industries are performed by many personnel including regional managers, franchise representatives, corporate leaders, and third party auditors. When done right, these multi-hour (or multi-day) inspections are a powerful way to protect and promote your brand.
Front-line teams need frequent coaching to ensure that guests get an exceptional experience at all your locations, every day of the week. With high employee turnover, site visits are important to make sure your staff is trained on your latest safety and quality standards. Don't look at site visits as a necessary evil, but instead as a tool to build your brand.
Most importantly, personnel who perform audits should adopt the mindset of “coach not cop.” For a site visit to be effective, the inspector or auditor has to understand the team’s daily realities, recognize their achievements, prioritize critical issues, and guide team members on ways to improve.
Let’s review the key elements of designing an effective site visit.
Site visits should always cover safety protocols in depth, because these are critical for protecting your customers, your team, and your brand.
Food safety is one of the fundamental protocols to check and any site visit should include your food prep and food service areas. Ensuring food safety is important for the well-being of your customers. Food that is left out too long, or heated and cooled at improper temperatures can cause illness and be a public relations nightmare. Cross-contamination due to improper sanitation or storage can be another major cause of foodborne illness. Making sure your team follows good employee hygiene and sanitary practices is another key element of food safety.
Don’t take food safety lightly -- it should be a core area of focus in any effective site visit. Consider the challenges facing a national brand like Chipotle, which is struggling financially after multiple outbreaks of foodborne illness.
Workplace safety is equally important. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, more than 12 workers die on the job daily -- nearly 5,000 a year. And every year, more than 4 million workers suffer a serious job-related injury or illness.
That’s why workplace safety is another key area to focus on during a site visit. Hazards generally fall into six groups:
- Physical – Slippery floors, objects in walkways, unsafe or misused machinery, excessive noise, fire hazards.
- Chemical – Gases, dusts, fumes, vapours and liquids.
- Ergonomic – poor design of equipment, workstation design, or workflow, manual handling, repetitive movement.
- Radiation – Microwaves, infrared, ultraviolet, lasers, X-rays and gamma rays.
- Psychological – Shift-work, workload, harassment, discrimination, threat of danger, stress.
- Biological – Infection by bacteria, virus, fungi or parasites through a cut, bite, or contact with contaminated object.
Effective site visits should cover workplace safety hazards in detail. Leave adequate time to explain concepts and train employees on oversights.
Proactive management through site visits can prevent workplace-related accidents and injuries -- which cost US employers over $200 billion annually.
Practice like perfect with checklists
By developing checklists for key safety and quality tasks, you can create a “safety culture” -- an environment where team members make safety a priority in their daily work. This protects your customers and your employees in the long run.
During a site visit, be sure to “lead by example.” To foster operational excellence, brand leaders have to know the standards well and be ready to teach employees about them.
But you can only do so much “leading by example” during a site visit. There are a lot of requirements to remember -- from signage, display, and cleanliness, to health and safety standards, and even how employee attitude can impact guest experience.
Creating checklists for your team to use on a daily and weekly basis will significantly extend the impact of a site visit.
While a site visit only lasts for a few hours each month or quarter, checklists are an effective way to ensure that important protocols get followed every day. For example, by creating daily or weekly checklists for Shift Opening, Shift Closing, Cleanliness, and Time/Temperature Logs, you can help your teams avoid expensive mistakes.
As Harvard-trained surgeon Dr. Atul Gawande has pointed out, it’s not easy to make a good checklist. But building effective checklists is essential for training your employees on key tasks. By following these checklists, your team will learn to reinforce the right concepts in their daily behavior.
When the site visit actually happens, your team will be prepared because they’ve been practicing like perfect every day.
There’s an app for that!
In addition to site visits, checklists are a great tool for your team to learn and reinforce best practices for all your safety and quality standards.
But is a clipboard or paper-based log really the best way to make sure these procedures get followed and learned?
Digital tools are the ideal way for your team to learn best practices -- before, during, and after a site visit.
For today’s generation of “digital natives” and “mobile first” workers, many team members don’t even know how to write cursive, let alone want to fill out a paper form! Smartphones and tablets are part of their everyday life. If you want your team to learn and respect the best practices, then give it to them in a format they use and understand.
CoInspect is a mobile app that makes it easy to perform site visits and checklists. The app works on any smart device and makes it easy for team members to access daily and weekly tasks lists, including reminders, reference images, and language translation. CoInspect includes a library of safety and quality forms to save time, and you can easily customize these templates to meet your brand’s needs.
With tools like CoInspect, you can perform site visits quickly and easily. And by giving the app to your team members, you can make your audit program more effective by empowering your employees to ensure operational excellence on a daily basis.
For more information on how CoInspect can help your brand ensure exceptional safety and quality, click here.
Try a free version of CoInspect and get started today: