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Maybe it’s time to finally ditch the paper checklists and automate your restaurant operations

January 22, 2020
by CMX
by CMX

Maybe it’s time to finally ditch the paper checklists and automate your restaurant operations

Over the last twenty years, the industry has seen considerable investment in technology for restaurants and restaurant automation equipment to reduce costs and improve operational execution. Areas including order and inventory management, equipment and energy management, point of sale, and more recently online ordering and customer loyalty programs have all contributed to long term cost savings, improved visibility, and enhanced the customer experience. 

But there are still a couple “hold out areas” when it comes to operations. Namely <gasp> the “paper checklist”. Perhaps you’ve been considering a switch? If so, it’s likely the right move; one that will have a positive impact on customer experience, quality, food safety, and operational performance. 

Interested in learning more about the reasons you should be ditching paper for a digital transformation of your restaurant’s operational routines? Keep reading to find out! 


Why the Leaders in Foodservice are increasingly utilizing restaurant technology automation for Operational Excellence

A growing number of restaurant chains are shifting to digital apps for “operational execution” of daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly routines. Such technology for restaurants allows employees, managers and “above restaurant” field managers to utilize web-based and native apps to perform everything from simple checklists to in-depth audits, self-assessments, and inspections. This restaurant automation software is intended to ensure consistent team execution and improve customer experience.


The Key Benefits of Restaurant Technology for Automation and Operational Excellence


Leaders in Foodservice are using digital tools for:


Of course, it can be a daunting prospect to instal new technology for restaurants, but don’t let that hold you back! As QSR Magazine writes:

“Acquiring new restaurant-technology can be a tricky business. Because of ever-decreasing prices, an operator may not want to be the first to buy a new application or software system. Plus, no one wants to invest in untested equipment, regardless of its technological prowess. But, at the same time, if restaurants wait too long, there’s a real risk of getting left behind by both the competition and customers. Just as it has changed every other aspect of modern living, technology is constantly—and drastically—reshaping the quick-service and fast-casual businesses.”

Download our guide on Checklist Management


To better see the advantages that come through digitization, it’s helpful to review the issues with the archaic analog model. 


The Problems with Paper Checklists 

In 2015, John Chambers, Executive Chairman of Cisco System was the Keynote speaker at the BoxWorks conference. There, he predicted that, “At least 40% of all businesses will die in the next 10 years… if they don’t figure out how to change their entire company to accommodate new technologies.” Whether a startup, small business, midsize company, or fortune 500, the addition of restaurant automation software has indelibly changed how things were always done.  

Knowing this, it’s crucial that you understand the primary issues and challenges faced by restaurants that still use paper checklists for operational routines. These include:


  • Pencil Whipping – One of the most common problems when it comes to quality control is employees who routinely engage in “pencil whipping”. This occurs when paper checklists and forms get filled out without people actually performing the task or conducting the observation (much less providing critical feedback).


Such routines and quality-checks are supposed to promote safety, maintain quality standards, and ensure Operational Excellence, but that’s only when they’re actually completed and done so properly. So, the fact that the task can have little to no oversight results in employees frequently cutting corners. As you might imagine, neglecting these important duties can result in disastrous consequences for both restaurants and customers. 


  • Poor visibility – With paper-based checklists, processes, and routines - brands, franchisees, and managers often lack the visibility into the operational status and performance of their restaurants. This makes it incredibly difficult to maintain quality and consistency from one restaurant to another, which can be damaging to the overall customer experience and the brand’s reputation. 


Even when you have data on paper, it’s practically useless since it can’t be viewed by people who aren’t there. In addition, it’s costly in both labor and time to manually enter such information into a database. Poor visibility renders it difficult to identify trends, find areas for improvement or to help a restaurant make better decisions. 


  • Lack of accountability – Paper-based routines create a lack of accountability that impacts all restaurants, regardless of their size, location, or type. However, the issues are magnified with larger brands when they’re unable to ensure that their locations are following procedures and following through on addressing issues. 


Although many brands attempt to rectify this via third-party audits, such oversight occurs too infrequently to matter and is often “gamed” by the fact that employees are cognizant of the audit. Such foresight allows both managers and employees to prepare in advance for the audit and adjust accordingly, which prevents auditors from seeing how the business actually runs on any given day. As a result, the audit often ends up providing little to no useful information. And even if it does, the infrequency makes it exceedingly difficult to decipher between normal behavior and outlying mistakes, especially in a business with as much employee turnover as the restaurant industry.    

These are but a few of the major problems a business faces when it relies upon paper-based programs to manage operational routines. Fortunately, restaurant and technology automation has made it so there’s now a better way to do things.


The Key Benefits of Restaurant Technology for Automation and Operational Excellence

In a world of digitization, technological advancement thanks to restaurant technology companies have fundamentally shifted how processes can be executed in the restaurant industry. And, although consumer-facing tech is what’s often noticed, it’s the business-side tech that can have the greatest impact on Operational Excellence in the areas of food safety, quality and customer experience. Bishnu Nayak of FixStream said to Forbes: 

Technologies such as artificial intelligence, closed loop function and automation everywhere are becoming more reliable thanks to innovative big data technologies and statistical models. These increase productivity and reliability by reducing human intervention.

Key benefits  include: 

  • Reinforced Training – If you have a library of training and employee onboarding videos, you are able to reduce initial labor costs of managers or other staff members that would typically handle such new employee training tasks. This content can also be leveraged “just-in-time” by embedding them into the digital tools used for operational execution. This is especially important and beneficial in an industry that has widespread turnover. It’s critical to reinforce an employee’s training while performing tasks to increase retention, reduce errors, and improve performance. 


Download our guide on Policy Management


  • Ingrains Brand Standards and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) – Through digitization of daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly routines - both regulatory standards and standard operating procedures for the brand become ingrained in the restaurant’s culture. Although it may be forced compliance in the beginning, over time this digital demand for excellence and daily repetition of performing routines (as they’re meant to be done) instills a sense of pride that spans from the lowest level employee to upper management. Such regular attention to detail helps to cultivate and reinforce a culture of food safety and Operational Excellence. The old saying “measure what matters” applies here.

Utilizing restaurant technology automation for Operational Excellence

  • Improves Validation, Verification, and Monitoring of HACCPs – These three factors are essential aspects of any food safety and quality management program, particularly in light of its Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) plan. But what are they? Per the 2005 ISO 220000:

Validation – Obtaining evidence that the control measures managed by the HACCP plan and by the operational prerequisite programs (PRPs) are capable of being effective. 

Verification – Confirmation, through the provision of objective evidence, that

specified requirements have been fulfilled.

Monitoring – Conducting a planned sequence of observations or measurements to assess whether control measures are operating as intended.

Increased visibility and communication through digitization makes it easier and more efficient to ensure that all three parts of a HACCP plan are functioning properly.

“The main reason so many companies fail to improve customer journeys is that understanding what customers value is not an easy task. Identifying what drives customer satisfaction and translating it into operational-performance improvements requires deep customer insights, solid analytics, and modeling the most important customer journeys, with cross functional ownership and multichannel, end-to-end management.”

By having information instantly and routinely entered in a company-wide restaurant technology solution, you’re able to measure and aggregate data. From small details to major processes, this increased visibility allows you to identify trends, issues, and ensure resolution of issues through a closed loop Corrective Action Preventative Action (CAPA) process. Armed with such valuable knowledge, you’re able to ensure that quality, safety, and customer experience is consistent from one restaurant to the next. 

  • Enhances Task Management – The best technology for restaurants should include digitized checklists that prevent pencil whipping and ensures that task management, routine assessments, and preventative maintenance are occurring as expected. Using restaurant automation software provides visibility into what tasks are being done, and by whom. From there, you can gather insights into things such as the length tasks take, when they were performed, and the optimal time to perform certain tasks that might interfere with customer-facing ones.  


Creates A Culture Of Continuous Improvement and Active Managerial Control

  • Creates A Culture Of Continuous Improvement – By digitizing routines, you enable continuous improvement and optimization. This focus on quality, safety, and consistency tends to drive customer experience, which in turn drives revenue. Typically, the better the customer experience, the higher the revenue. And, often, the only thing separating brands with high revenues from those that are sinking comes down to how they operate and seek to continually improve.


Download our guide on Checklist Management

Digitally Transforming Your Restaurant’s Operations with CMX’s Restaurant Automation Software

At CMX, we’ve worked with dozens of restaurant brands and chains to provide them with the digital tools and digital solutions they need to succeed in a competitive world. Using CMX1, we help businesses improve their restaurant operations and operational execution in order to achieve Operational Excellence.

Whether you have tens, hundreds, or thousands of locations, our cutting-edge platform ensures that both your brand standards and regulatory standards are followed, thus ensuring quality, food safety, and consistency—all of which impact customer satisfaction, growth, and profits.    

In the name of optimization, we seek to enable Digital Transformation for every aspect of your restaurant’s operational routines including:

  • Policy, SOP, and Training Management
  • Audit management, Assessments and Inspections 
  • Operator self-assessments 
  • Opening, Closing and Shift Change Checklists
  • Environment Checks (dining room, bathrooms, parking lot, playground, promotional materials, etc.)
  • Food Safety and Food Safety Checklists
  • HACCP checks 
  • Restaurant Line Checks, temperature logs and monitoring including IOT integration
  • Customer Service (greeting, wait times, order accuracy)
  • Closed loop CAPA workflows
  • Incident management, withdrawals, and product recalls


Interested in learning more about Restaurant Operational Excellence and its essential technology drivers? Visit our blog on the very topic here or download our eBook on the topic

Better yet, reach out to us directly and one of our experts can give you insight on how to achieve and sustain Operational Excellence.

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