Over the past year, I’ve met with nearly 50 chain restaurant companies that vary in size from 10 to 10,000 units. I’ve had conversations with Safety, Operations, Supply Chain, and Facility executives in and out of C-suites. While different companies face different challenges, one thing is clear across the board: restaurant inspections – and the antiquated, paper-based inspection processes – suck. In 85% of the visits, executives said their restaurant managers pencil whip daily, weekly, and monthly inspections. The old-fashioned clipboard and pencil system is inefficient. For one thing, it’s incredibly time consuming. Compounding the problem, it’s hard to manage (and access) information easily, as restaurants often have huge filing cabinets full of paperwork. Very few chains aggregate their daily operations data, but even those that do don’t trust what is reported because it’s being pulled together from pieces of paper, rather than a technologically integrated system.
Here’s why inspections suck:
- Only one person does them. This wouldn’t be so bad except that….
- They are so long. We’ve seen restaurant companies ask managers to do two hours of checks per day. Everybody from the CEO down knows this is unrealistic, so the industry accepts pencil whipping as an outcome. If employees are “cheating” – and aren’t actually conducting the inspections each day – the food safety risks obviously increase as a result.
- The work is paper-based or tethered to a laptop running excel. Either way, the data sits in paper or desktop files, not aggregated and accessible in the cloud. With these antiquated systems, there’s no way to manage or analyze the data to get valuable insights.
As a tech entrepreneur, I knew there had to be a better way to conduct food safety inspections and manage that data. New companies are born to fix problems, and companies like Happy Inspector, SafetyCulture, GoCanvas, and several others are trying to digitize processes across multiple industries. CoInspect focuses on food safety, and making the line checks more efficient, accurate and even (gasp!) enjoyable. We know that food safety inspections are critical, and we believe that employees will be more willing to do them regularly and correctly if the process sucks less.
Technology can elevate the food safety inspection processes by solving for each problem.
- Democratize the work. In surgical suites, checklists are reviewed collectively by the entire Operating Room team, including nurses and anesthesiologists. Teams do a better, faster job at inspections than any single individual could do on their own. By offering digital solutions, teams can work together to get the work done efficiently and accurately.
- Use technologies to shorten the workflow. Randomize questions so employees aren’t checking the same things in the same way every time. Use pictures and videos in lieu of text, and store the information (including the photos and videos) securely in the Cloud. Easily organize and access information. No more digging through cardboard boxes full of old paper files.
- Dump the clipboards and laptops for mobile devices so that the data is stored in real-time. These devices timestamp all employee interactions, giving restaurant leadership a method for trusting and verifying.
It’s been shown that when companies perform daily protocols, they outperform companies that don’t. Better inspections lead to better operating margins. And digital solutions are elevating the way restaurants are performing these tasks.
Restaurants can use technology to elevate all sorts of processes now. They can (and should!) utilize mobile ordering software, LED screen technology, in-store WiFi, POS etc. Keep in mind that many restaurant employees are under age 30. They’re the mobile generation – they don’t file. They press save. Millennials and Generation Z don’t use clipboards and pencils. They use mobile apps. If you want to get your standards management culture working properly, you need mobile tools your teams can use for food safety inspections.
Restaurants face a variety of challenges, including employee retention, high turnover, ongoing training, and working to boost performance. Restaurant owners and managers across the board complain that a major industry challenge involves continuous food safety inspections. The old-fashioned paper-and-pencil system sucks. If you want to improve the process, improve the tools your team uses. Upgrade to a mobile system, and your inspections will stop sucking.