I met recently with a restaurant management group who had four brands under them that they were developing. Their growth strategy is conservative, preferring to run fewer but profitable restaurants with a focus on superior service at all of their locations. They will likely be at 30 restaurants over the next two years and were looking to implement processes to help scale their growth. I love working with people like this. We discussed their current way of auditing their locations for standards compliance and best practices.
Getting Outcomes from Compliance Inspections
Currently, one person on the management group visits restaurants and checklists them for compliance. He does it on paper, taking notes and checking yes/no boxes on a form. Then, when he’s got time, he re-enters that information into a spreadsheet and e-mails it on to the executive staff. When I asked what the lag time was between his identification of items that needed to be fixed or changed and the occurrence of that change, he said it could be weeks. They were right to dedicate a person to make sure their restaurants were following the model, but the way in which they were doing it left too much time and too many people in between the identification of an issue and the fix. And since these reports were not centralized, you couldn’t see trends or run reports from the aggregation of that data. It short, it was hard for them to link the visits to outcomes and follow up.
Doing compliance inspections is not an inexpensive endeavor. You have a senior employee or employees that know your system, spending time in the field visiting your locations. For national multi-unit companies, managing these regional people and covering the cost of flights, meals, hotels and rental cars can be a large line item on your P&L. It is important to get results from these visits.
Field Inspections and Audits: Results
Simply dedicating people to the field to visit your owners and managers communicates the importance of standards, but it doesn’t guarantee you get them. There are a few things you should do to ensure that these visits affect outcomes.
1.) Have clear, measurable standards and communicate them frequently to your owners and managers
2.) Conduct the reviews using cloud-based software such as Action Card so that results are available to you and your owners instantly
3.) Take photos and add notes to ensure items that need attention are documented clearly
4.) Allow owners on-line access to the reviews so that they can see what they need to fix and can update the review when they take care of the action items identified.
This transparency and real-time communication leads to faster outcomes and fewer phone calls and texts..