How Domino’s Plans to Stay Ahead

By David Mostovoy


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Image Source: Google

While other pizza chains struggle, Domino’s is thriving (Over 1300% stock price increase since IPO in 2004). That’s the subhed of this story on investment site The Motley Fool. Shares of Domino’s Pizza jumped more than 11% in October, according to data by S&P Global Market Intelligence. The pizza chain jumped 13% in same-store sales in the third quarter, making it the 22nd consecutive quarter of positive growth for its U.S. business. Domino’s is making bank, too, with net income rising to 24.8% year over year to $47.2 million in the third quarter.

We’ve already discussed what Domino’s is doing right in tech. Through an array of digital platforms, customers can quickly and efficiently place an order. In fact, more than 50% of Domino’s business comes from digital orders, compared to about 20% for the industry as a whole.

Those who have followed Domino’s transformation during the past couple of years know their success is not luck or coincidence. They’re a company that has invested heavily in technology and marketing, and realize how the two go hand-in-hand. Moreover, Domino’s has its operations down to a science, from the Pizza Tracker once an order is placed, to delivery. Combine that with a revamped and innovative menu, and Domino’s has created a recipe for success.

It’s also worth noting that Domino’s recently made history when it completed the first commercial pizza delivery by drone in New Zealand. The company is excelling in overseas markets as well, with same-store sales rising 6.6%—an impressive 91st consecutive quarter of international comps growth.

What Comes Next

When you’re experiencing the kind of success Domino’s is seeing, it can be tempting for a company to rest on its laurels. Complacency is one of the most dangerous states for a brand. Domino’s has avoided this by continually innovating in not only what customers can see, but also what they can’t see.

Domino’s franchises are using Zenput to maintain high customer satisfaction standards, food safety, and quality. Zenput mobile solution provides Domino’s the ability to audit operations, labor activities, and cash uses. Zenput is also a real-time notification tool that enables two-way communication between stores and management. For instance, Zenput can be used to audit vehicle inspections, request maintenance or supplies, and communicate customer or property incidents. From the top-down, senior district managers can use Zenput to assign tasks to his/her stores and track compliance among those locations. Domino’s has even used Zenput for customer care phone audits.

All of these components are part of customer service, and exceptional customer service—quite simply delivering a hot pizza to a hungry customer in time—is what will continue to set Domino’s apart from the competition. And Zenput plans to continue providing the real-time insights that will help Domino’s improve its business decisions.

To learn more about how one of the largest Domino’s operators uses Zenput to manage daily tasks and improve store productivity, download the case study.

Topics: Restaurants

How McDonald’s Can Make New Menu Item Execution More Manageable

By Joe Skupinsky

mcdonalds interior.jpgHas McDonald’s finally hit its stride with its newly announced menu items? Analyst Andrew Strelzik of BMO Capital Markets thinks so. From a stock perspective, he believes that McDonald’s is on pace to reach its 2019 objectives, which includes a cash return to shareholders. Finally, some good projections for the Golden Arches.

When it comes down to it, a $22 to $24 billion cash return to shareholders comes down to brand initiatives. According to Strelznik, McDonald’s is poised to benefit from new menu items, a corresponding large-scale marketing project to promote the new items, and a stronger brand image to support demand. McDonald’s is set to take advantage of an improving restaurant environment that will emerge in the second half of the year.

Today’s modern food culture values real, made-to-order food, and McDonald’s seems to have gotten the message. By mid-2018, customers who order a Quarter Pounder can expect a fresh beef patty off the grill, not from out of the freezer. The move to go fresh comes after the chain tested the fresh beef burgers at more than 400 restaurants in Dallas and Tulsa, OK, for about a year.Competitors Wendy’s, In-N-Out Burger and Shake Shack all use fresh beef. Considering that McDonald’s revenue fell for the fourth year in a row last year, it might have been time for the company to return to its roots: the hamburger. That’s really what it comes down to, right? Quality food served in a quality environment by friendly staff. Everything else is a distraction (a point Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s seem to have realized by dropping the sexy ads and introducing a Baby Back Rib Burger).

Combine that with the fact that McDonald’s has recently lowered prices across its drink menu, and launched a line of Minute Maid slushies in the Midwest and South. Indeed, it seems like Mickey D’s has a spring in its step as it aims to recapture lost customers.

Food Safety is a Top Concern Among Franchisees

As a brand initiative, McDonald’s fresh beef is exciting, but don’t forget that when it was first being tested in restaurants, franchisees were rightfully concerned about speed of execution and food safety. According to a Nomura survey, one franchisee wrote, “If we do not handle the meat perfectly, there is an opportunity for bacterial invasion of our product.”  

That is absolutely true, and brings to light storage, handling, and preparation concerns. Food safety is a wide-scale, concerted effort that requires attention to detail, documentation and adequate follow-up. It’s one thing to test a concept in 400 restaurants. It’s another ballgame to have more than 10,000 restaurants offering fresh beef. And in an organization as sprawling as McDonald’s, food safety is going to require the initiative of forward-thinking franchisees.

Forward-thinking is about using technology to your advantage. It’s about realizing that there’s a better way to communicate through real-time, cloud-based technologies, and that there’s a better way to document kitchen conditions than paper and pen.

Let’s face it: it’s safe to never change your menu and to never change. It’s also how brands lose—when they can’t adapt. As one McDonald’s franchisee stated, "Our line continues to slow down with added items and will continue to do so. However, we are a restaurant and we ought to always serve the best food so [the slow down of the line] may not outweigh the positive [of adding fresher ingredients]."

A lot of critics have wondered if McDonald’s would ever be able to make a comeback. It seems like all the pieces are finally coming together. The question remains: are franchisees up for the challenge? Will they be able to navigate the “noise” of more foot traffic, avoiding distraction and prioritizing food safety?

There are tools to help franchisees create a consistent customer experience. Check out Zenput’s mobile form for gaining store insights and contact us for a demo.

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Topics: Restaurants, restaurant cleanliness, cleanliness

What McDonald’s Needs to Learn from Starbucks’ Mobile App

By David Mostovoy

mcdonalds vs. starbucks.jpgOne of my least favorite phrases is “victim of its own success.” For instance, I remember that was the reason why a popular fireworks show on a riverbank was canceled. It was so popular and drew such large crowds that the police couldn’t handle the public safety demands. It became too costly—a victim of its own success.

I don’t know about you, but if a program is going to fail, I always want it to be an outright flop, not because it’s so popular that the infrastructure needed to make it successful isn’t there. However, that was the headline for Starbucks’ mobile ordering and pay app. By the numbers, 1,200 U.S. Starbucks locations saw a 20% jump in mobile pay and ordering during peak hours, which caused such bottlenecking at the counter, then sales were hampered and foot traffic fell. Let’s just say the spike in traffic got a little too hot for the coffee giant.

But a 20% jump in mobile pay and ordering? It’s an excellent problem to have, if you can handle it! As cited in the Chicago Tribune, a Deloitte study revealed that customer visits in fast-food increase by 6% and spending rises 20% when technology is used to place an order. You can see why more and more chains are pushing for mobile ordering.

When I heard that McDonald’s is about to jump on this bandwagon, I started to feel some mild level of concern. This is a chain that isn’t just preparing coffee, but a number of food items, and some of their problems with execution have, in recent years, been well-documented. But CEO Steve Easterbrook seems to understand the challenge ahead. "We've been very mindful that if we're going to be creating demand, can we meet that demand?" he told CNBC. “Can our kitchens keep up and our managers do a great job? So, we will actually link from end to end as you place your order, and it's integrated into our kitchen operation so we can actually meet the demand that we'll be creating, so we're confident there's no hurdles as we grow our business."

The Chicago Tribune reported on some specific adjustments McDonald’s is making as it tries to regain the 500 million U.S. customers it has lost since 2012, when it phased out the Dollar Menu. Kitchen assembly lines are getting shorter to allow for more volume, while rows of order kiosks are being added to scan phones and bring up personalized orders and custom offers. Parking lot spaces will be dedicated for curbside pickup.

Unlike Starbucks, McDonald’s will incorporate location-tracking technology to notify the kitchen when a customer arrives, and to therefore avoid filing an order too early. McDonald’s app will send a notification to mobile customers once they enter the parking lot, giving them a choice about how they pick up their food, counter or curbside. And perhaps the best feature—I say this as someone who once bought movie tickets for the wrong theater—customers can place an order and pick it up at any McDonald’s location. Now THAT is innovation and communication across a chain!

Meeting Operational Needs

Easterbrook has said mobile pay and delivery, which McDonald’s is also expanding, is about “meeting customers where they are.” I think McDonald’s has also learned it’s about meeting their restaurants’ needs where they are—hence all the preparation and store-level updates. From what has been reported, it doesn’t sound like Starbucks took enough precautionary measures to meet the elevated demand. Something was not measured and planned for correctly.

For McDonald’s specifically, this will come down to kitchen and counter execution because for fast-food, it’s really all about the food. Let’s face it: If you were going on a date, are you choosing the ambiance of Starbucks (and assuming it’s not a peak-hour rush) or a McDonald’s? But hey, maybe you ARE going to McDonald’s because you and your date want to try one of those new fresh burgers they’re cooking up. (In that case, you’ve found a keeper and my advice is to get married at the nearest chapel on the way home.)

But seriously, it all comes down to food and whether the customer wants to return. One thing you can say about McDonald’s: When you thought they were against the ropes, they’ve fought back by embracing new opportunities through technology. I’m rooting them on during their comeback.

Food for Thought

Are you a restaurant operator that’s exploring new technologies, particularly mobile technologies?

Zenput is used in more than 9,000 restaurants worldwide. Every day, we enable multi-unit restaurant operators to gain visibility into store operations by tracking and assigning tasks to store employees, identifying store-level problems, and analyzing location data to better understand employee and restaurant productivity.

Check out some of our mobile forms for restaurant operations, and if you have any questions/comments, feel free to reach out!

Topics: Restaurants

How Employees Can Help Prevent Costly Restaurant Repairs

By Vladik Rikhter

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We recently learned about a Manhattan-based startup that aspires to be the Uber of restaurant repairs. SendaGuy Now targets independent restaurants in New York who are in need of repair and maintenance service. In a savvy move, SendaGuy Now is incentivizing small operators to develop a preventative maintenance schedules by helping restaurants locate quality contractors who can provide important services when required without a service contract.Think about it: if the grill goes out or the refrigerator suddenly stops working on a holiday weekend in the summer, this restaurant is suddenly faced with enormous monetary loss or, worse yet, a possible health risk to customers.

A same-day repair can be costly, so SendaGuy Now can help small operators establish a preventative maintenance schedule based on their specific needs. It averts disaster and ultimately saves money by prolong equipment life.It’s a manageable scenario when a single restaurant knows its specific needs and communicates them through a mobile platform. However, knowing the needs of a dozen, maybe even 100 restaurants in a region, is definitely more challenging. Whether you have on-staff maintenance personnel or have contracted those services with a third-party firm, store-level managers and senior managers need to get on the same page with preventative maintenance.

As SendaGuy Now has helped to identify, these are the common “on-demand” maintenance services:

· Grease traps and exhaust systems (crucial to employee and customer safety)· Commercial kitchen equipment· Fire extinguishers· Fire suppressions systems· Backflow preventers· Refrigeration· Ice machines

So now comes decision time for restaurant chains, and this is what they need to remember: If you don’t have the resources to have a maintenance staff member or third-party contractor doing regular prevention audits, is it possible to have your managers and/or employees pitch in?

It’s more feasible than you think: Sit down with your maintenance staff or pay a third-party contractor to come up with a list of maintenance best practices at each location. See what tasks non-maintenance employees can handle safely, develop those practices into a daily checklist or weekly checklist depending on the need, and distribute those checklists to stores. Forget fax and email which may or may not be received—send the checklist right to your managers’ mobile device and track the response. What Came First: The Preventive Maintenance or the Audit? In restaurant operations, it’s definitely the baseline audit that comes first. Like in any experiment, you need to establish the “control group” before you attempt to test new protocols and procedures.

There are three basic components of a baseline audit:

1. Safety – The health and physical well-being of employees and customers needs to be the No. 1 priority at all times. For instance, let’s find out if there’s hand soap in the kitchen, and let’s get on the same page about kitchen thermometer readings.

 

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2. General Cleanliness – What defines “clean”? There’s what’s required by law, of course, but there’s also best practices you can implement between shifts, which can be unique to your business and the type of food you serve. Your baseline audit, especially one that requires photos, is going to help you determine those needs.

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3. Staff Guidelines – You can’t hold your staff accountable on what they don’t know. It all starts with senior management developing protocols and management carrying them out at the store level. Then, the only way to know if stores are in compliance is for regional managers, or unbiased store managers, to visit locations and use a checklist/audit form to document their observations. Everyone can have an “off” day or a miscommunication with a new employee. But if a store (or region of stores) is routinely being flagged for poor practices, that’s usually a sign of a bigger management problem that needs to be addressed. For those instances, it’s helpful to have a bird’s eye view and to be able to virtually “check into” a location for better understanding and follow-up.

Zenput puts proactive and preventative maintenance procedures within reach—literally, through mobile audit forms! Learn more about Zenput for restaurants by clicking here.

Topics: Restaurants, repairs

Where Yelp Doesn't Help: How to Stop Restaurants from Failing Health Inspections

By David Mostovoy

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Once you hear a story (good or bad) about a restaurant, you never quite forget it. For instance, I still remember how my friend walked past a deli she regularly frequented—closed at that hour—to see an employee smoking a cigarette behind the counter. And then there’s my friend in another state who went to order ice cream from a small shop where the employee was a on a cigarette break. The same employee scooped the ice cream without washing her hands. And then I’ve already told you about a friend on the East Coast who was in the awkward situation of attending a company dinner knowing that the restaurant was recently cited for a health citation.

Even though I don’t live in those cities, I still remember these stories well. No city is above these kinds of problems. In fact, I recently saw an article about the 54 businesses that failed health inspections right here in San Francisco.

Now it’s no secret that we San Franciscans love our restaurants. In fact, in 2012 (if you find more current data, drop us a note) real estate website Trulia found that San Francisco is the top city for dining out, with 39.3 restaurants per 10,000 households. So in the grand scheme of things, the restaurants that failed are a small representation of our culinary empire. For those who don’t know how San Francisco’s restaurant rating system works: The city’s Department of Health rates San Francisco restaurants on a 100-point scale that’s similar to school grades. If you score 100 or in the high 90s, you’re the equivalent of an A+ student. But unlike Los Angeles and New York, letter grades aren’t posted in the windows, so it’s less apparent how restaurants scored.

And that’s where a local technology company stepped up to the plate. In 2013, restaurant review site Yelp added San Francisco’s health inspection information to its platform in an effort to improve transparency around food safety. Then, in 2015, Yelp began testing consumer alerts to warn customers about the results of recent health inspections. And in 2016, Yelp began flagging businesses that sued customers for leaving negative reviews.

Bottom line: Technology is changing how people learn about restaurant safety. Yelp brings attention to the problem, and in that way, it’s a great industry watchdog. However, it doesn’t provide the actionable insights that help restaurants fix their problems.

If you are the restaurant operator, you need to use technology to improve your operations. It’s the 21st century—there’s no reason not to! The saying “there’s an app for that,” is absolutely true. Here at Zenput, we set out to develop the app that would help remediate common problems that retailers, including foodservice operators, experience.

Take a closer look with us….

Use Technology to Help the Process of Improving Standards

In a related posted, I highlighted the 5 standards to uphold in order to maintain a clean restaurant. For every recently cited restaurant—and for other restaurants who are concerned about being named in the future—the issue comes down to staff retraining.

Develop your procedures, disseminate them to managers, train staff, start documenting progress, and follow up on progress. Then “rinse and repeat.”

Maintaining restaurant cleanliness is not only about changing behaviors, but also about making individuals accountable for their own behaviors. If you’re a restaurant operator who is concerned about the time commitment or extra manpower needed to implement these changes, you are probably not considering what’s available to you in the mobile technology space. And if you’re a restaurant operator in San Francisco, that’s where another locally-based technology company, Zenput, is here to help!

Our platform helps restaurant operators communicate better at a store level to improve their execution. Get a bird’s eye view of compliance while also having the ability to virtually check into a store to find out why benchmarks aren’t being met. You don’t need more employees or equipment to do this. You simply empower your current staff with a cloud-based, real-time technology on the mobile device of their choosing.

Whether you want all your managers to review new guidelines with employees, or want a specific location to clean up its act, Zenput allows users to issue those directives and follow up on compliance.

We’re used in 9,000 restaurants and growing… Is your business next?

Click here to see what Zenput offers to restaurant operators.

Topics: Restaurants, restaurant cleanliness, health inspections

Operating in ‘The Now’ with Mobile Technology

By Brian Harris

mobile-shopping-in-storeIn a previous blog post about Omnichannel retail, I suggested that retailers have to “start thinking mobile” because that’s where their customers are moving. However, I also explained how it doesn’t mean that every retailer suddenly has to overhaul their business model and start handing out 3D glasses. In other words, keep doing what you’re doing—but do it with your mobile customers in mind.

The results of a recent study by the National Retail Federation’s Shop.org division and Forrester, provide some data to back this up. Forrester forecasted that in 2016, direct online sales totaled 11.6% of total U.S. retail sales ($394 billion), but digital touchpoints impacted an estimated 49% of total U.S. retail sales. This is great news for many of our retailers, particularly those in the convenience and restaurant industries, who rely heavily on foot traffic.

Here are some of the study’s other key findings that support the idea of using mobile technology in “the now”:

  • Customer service topped the list of new initiatives retailers will invest in over the next year (confirming that flashy virtual and augmented reality are not the priority… for now!)

  • 45% of retailers surveyed said mobile initiatives transformed their overall digital customer experience

  • 54% of retailers say mobile is one of their top initiatives in 2017 (followed by marketing at 46%, site merchandising at 42%, and omnichannel efforts at 22%)

  • Smartphones made up 47% of online traffic among retailers surveyed

NRF Vice President Artemis Berry noted that retailers have found “that even modest investments in mobile initiatives can result in huge returns.” And I especially love this quote: “This is no longer a new way to reach customers, but it has certainly become a highly effective method and one that boosts the level of customer engagement across the brand.”

Again, there’s no need to reinvent the digital wheel, but better that you hop on the mobile train now before it’s too late.

Forrester Vice President and Research Director Fiona Swerdlow adds that today’s customers are empowered with information and technology. “To grow, retailers know they have to operate with a customer-obsessed mindset to deliver the experiences that consumers now expect at every touchpoint,” she says. “It’s about having all aspects of the business—stores, mobile, merchandising, customer service, fulfillment and more —work together to deliver total value to your customers wherever they are, at any time.”

If how to optimize the retail industry was presented as a dissertation, I think Swerdlow just gave us the thesis statement. That’s what it all comes down to -enabling the various parts of your business to work together in real-time.

Empowering Your Employees to Communicate  

Working at Zenput is interesting because I, along with many of my coworkers, also happen to be regular customers of many of the major retailers we serve. We help major retailers that collectively serve millions of people—including their own employees, past and present. That’s what I’d like retailers to take into account when they’re proactively considering technologies that are a “natural fit” for their businesses. Your customers use mobile, your employees use mobile… so why not invest in the mobile technology that can improve your business?

Think of the various components Swerdlow discusses and what you might accomplish if you had a real-time solution to address these needs:

  • Stores - from external maintenance to internal equipment, gain the ability to report store conditions as they change, in real time.

  • Merchandising and Fulfillment - From out-of-stocks to the new promotion delivery that never came, report it in real time. Take a photo and share it with your network to confirm the latest marketing execution.

  • Customer Service – On store visits, allow your managers to observe and report on customer service best practices. It could be included in a simple checklist of whether employees are dressed appropriately for work, use courteous language, and offer customer assistance. And this goes beyond playing “big brother” on managers—it allows an organization to celebrate those employees who go out of their way to make a customer’s day easier.

Are you ready to use mobile technology to improve your business?

Learn more about how Zenput helps retailers increase their execution by scheduling a demo.

Topics: Retail, Restaurants

5 Musts for Every Restaurant Inspection

By David Mostovoy

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When a city’s health department decides to inspect restaurants, they can cover a tremendous amount of ground in what seems like a relatively short amount of time. For example, the Philadelphia Department of Health inspected nearly 500 restaurants, delis and other eateries between Nov. 9 and Nov. 21. Good news for local restaurants: they only found a few serious offenders.

In today’s click-bait world, restaurant health inspection stories seem to be on the rise. The Business Journal publications are especially in tune with the latest reports in various municipalities across the U.S. Some of these journals make it a point to publish the findings as they’re reported. Years ago, if a restaurant was cited for an offense, it could make the paper, but then eventually it would go away. The restaurant would fix the problem, reopen if it had closed, and life would go on. In today’s news environment, bad publicity has a permanent home that’s just a quick search and a click away. It’s imperative for restaurants to not wind up on the “naughty” list anywhere because it can do irreparable damage to their brand.

Based on our experience working with restaurant operators, these are the top 5 things to audit weekly in a restaurant:

  1. Food Safety/Cleanliness – Well, this may get a “duh” response since it’s a restaurant, but you’d be surprised with what turns up in some reports, especially when it comes to food that isn’t stored at correct temperatures. This is one of the most egregious offenses because it’s so simple to avoid, yet so costly to all involved parties if not appropriately addressed. It all comes down to working thermometers (for food storage and cooking of meats), adherence to food preparation guidelines, and adherence to proper cleaning procedures.

 P.S. If the food thermometer issue is a sticking point, you can use the BluTherm food thermometer to digitally record readings, which makes auditing process easier.

  1. Make sure employees are adhering to rules – Because that’s the reality: there are rules that are more than guidelines or suggestions. You may have heard this past week that Hawaii may become the next state (among just a handful) to require food handler certification at either a state or county level. If you are in one of those states, your restaurant audit needs to include employee records. Other routine tasks, that include cleaning and inventory management, must also be accounted for on a regular basis.

  2. Ability to report to management. How many times do you mean to send that email or follow up by phone, but something comes up and suddenly you’re pulled away from the task at hand? It happens to all of us. But not reporting issues as they arise in restaurants is where it can get dangerous or, at the very least, negligent. “If you see something, say something” needs to apply to restaurant operations and managers need real-time tools to confidently report any issues they encounter during audits.

  3. Restaurant condition – To the point of reporting any issues, part of the restaurant audit needs to address the condition of the facility. “Standing water” can appear as a note on a health inspector’s record because it can lead to mold, mildew and invite pests. Routinely check for leaks on the interior/exterior walls, ceilings and other permanent fixtures. Also be sure to check the lighting and utilities like gas and water.

  4. Ensure marketing materials are in compliance – Restaurant audits aren’t just about the nuts and bolts of the facility. Have the menus been updated to reflect the latest items? Is there signage in the store reminding customers of the latest promotion? Are prices accurate? The restaurant audit is the perfect opportunity to check these finer details, as they reflect on your brand.

Zenput is the mobile, cloud-based solution that helps restaurant operators gain location-by-location insight on key metrics and maintain accountability across the organization. Learn more about Zenput’s functionality for restaurant operators by clicking here. 

Topics: Franchise, Restaurants

5 Standards to Uphold for a Clean Restaurant

By David Mostovoy

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What do you do when you haven’t been at a company very long and your CEO wants to go to a favorite restaurant that was recently flagged for unsanitary practices? Well, because the practices were well publicized, you go and hope they acted on the message. This was the awkward situation a friend of mine on the East Coast found herself in this past week. A restaurant in an upscale New Jersey town was one of the cited offenders, according to inspection reports that were collected and published on NJ.com. So there she was, trying to enjoy dinner, knowing that an inspector had recently discovered there was no hand soap in the kitchen restroom. Yikes!  

But it got worse when she realized her favorite sandwich shop not only lacked hand soap at the sink, but also had no visible thermometer in the reach-in refrigerator. Her favorite sushi destination had an unclean food prep service area and floor. At that point, she was ready to stop reading… but how can you?

Ignorance may be bliss if you’re the customer, but it’s not a happy-go-lucky time for the restaurant owner. It’s embarrassing to be called out for things that are easily recognizable and fixable. Health inspections aren’t a trivia game show with mystery questions—operators know in advance what officials look for prior to inspection. It’s time for smarter operations!

Here are 5 standards you should uphold in order to maintain a clean restaurant:

  1. Develop clear and regular cleaning procedures. Cleanliness is not only a safety issue—in some cases, it could impact the quality and safety of food. Check out this story of an employee in Eugene, OR, who starts off her day by cleaning the oven of a pizzeria.

  2. Make sure store-level employees understand and are constantly reminded of the importance of cleanliness. The general manager from the pizzeria in Eugene has a corkboard that keeps up-to-date with food handler cards, so she can check to make sure her employees’ cards aren’t expired. If they are, she hands them off to her kitchen manager to address the issue. The employees must be re-certified before returning to work.

  3. Start documenting progress. Documentation isn’t just a nice-to-have; it creates a vital paper trail that can be vital in documenting important information. And if you have the right tools, you can go paperless and have all information, including past audits and inspections, stored securely on the cloud.

  4. Track the progress of locations to see which stores are clean, which stores aren’t, and why. Communication is key. The point isn’t to dishearten or shame restaurants into submission. It’s to keep customers satisfied. By educating foodservice employees and encouraging managers to develop effective procedures, restaurant operators can keep their customers consistently coming back for more.

  5. Have the ability to follow up on and fix issues at individual locations. What was the point of conducting an audit in the first place? Health inspectors in my friend’s NJ town and elsewhere will return to make sure restaurants are making progress. When it comes to health regulations, restaurant managers need to follow up once a directive is given. It’s not enough to assume these problems have been resolved. Again, documentation and communication is critical.  

The Takeaway

Creating, distributing, and collecting a baseline audit for cleanliness can be a time-consuming process without the right tools. With Zenput, restaurant operators can create a mobile form, edit, and send it out to the appropriate employees as needed. That form is automatically distributed to employees’ mobile devices, and when they answer each question, the results are aggregated in an easy-to-read dashboard. Moreover, a senior manager can set up real-time notifications of any unsanitary condition discovered during the audit. To ensure accountability, the auditor can upload a photo of a problem and the senior manager can follow up with that store to make sure the issues were resolved.

For more examples on how Zenput helps restaurants uphold standards and clean kitchens, visit Zenput's website or request a demo.

Topics: Restaurants, restaurant cleanliness

The Evolution of Drive-Thru Dining

By Brian Harris

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Time for a trivia question: Drive-thru dining has evolved parallel to which two technologies?

This is a trick questions where you might first think that the answer is the evolution of the car. But if you think about it, a Model-T could roll through a drive-thru at the same rate as a 2017 Ford Focus. There’s still a human handing a bag of food to a driver through a window—something that hasn’t changed throughout the decades and probably won’t change anytime soon.

The real answer is cooking/kitchen technologies and digital signage. Preparing food quickly and efficiently, and making sure the order is right are the two factors that, together, continue to be the fulcrum of change (or stagnancy) in the drive-thru industry. The companies who really want to win this game invest in their kitchens and digital signage to improve transaction times and order accuracy. The biggest winners are the companies that have spent their resources integrating these technologies to streamline the customer service experience. These companies understand why customer satisfaction and loyalty is pivotal to the future of their brand.

OK, so if an operator is not innovating but still has 60% to 70% of its business rolling through the drive-thru, they don’t have to be too concerned, right? … Wrong!

Burgers-and-fries operators should be very concerned about the entrance of popular fast-casual players into traditional QSR territory. A good example is the Panera Bread drive-thru I recently saw on the edge of a college campus. The researchers behind the 2016 QSR Drive-Thru Study were surprised to see that total transaction times increased slightly over the past year. They were just as surprised by data that showed made-to-order chains like Panera were very close to the transaction times expected of more traditional QSRs.

If you’re the burgers-and-fries operator, here’s your “uh-oh” conclusion from this study: “If these [fast-casual brands] start to use the technology that speeds up total transaction times, they will be within a few seconds of most of the traditional operators.”

Check your rearview mirror because the competition is approaching!  

Areas of Improvement

Let’s return to those slightly elevated transaction times. Researchers also noticed a dip in service times when the numbers of cars in the drive-thru line starts to grow. The data suggests operations start to fall apart as volume starts to peak. Operators have the data and technology to anticipate the uptick in traffic, so there’s seemingly no reason why the line should start getting long. So why does it?

What the data doesn’t always account for is the human factor. Is the staff prepped and ready to go? Are they carrying out best practices in the kitchen throughout their shift? Is your digital signage and intercom in the drive-thru functioning properly? If it’s not, has anyone noticed? These are just some of the questions a sales sheet can’t answer. But they are questions your managers can answer by regularly auditing locations.

One such solution comes from Zenput, a mobile solution that can help drive-thru operators discover and resolve issues that can hurt their business. Auditing isn’t a “gotcha” game between restaurant employees and management. Rather, it’s a way to gain actionable insights to address real concerns at the store level, improving customer service, boosting team morale, and improving sales.

Learn more about auditing a drive-thru operation with Zenput by downloading our free drive-thru audit guide.

 

Topics: Restaurants, drive-thru

Food Delivery: The New Frontier

By Vladik Rikhter

DRU-dominos-pizza-robot-640x360.jpg

It’s a pizza company! … It’s a tech company! … It’s Domino’s!

I doubt Domino’s will pick up a motto that infringes on DC Comics, but that’s essentially what they’ve become—a superhero among companies that handles delivery themselves. Think about all of Domino’s innovations in food delivery over the past decade, as highlighted in this recent Eater articlethat declares Domino’s “the Best Delivery Startup in America.” When it comes to investing in technology, Domino’s has always been a company that got it right.

One of the great paradoxes of Millennials is that they are social media whizzes but antisocial because they are always on their phones. Domino’s foresaw the importance of on-demand and online ordering well before their competitors did.

Domino’s continues to set the bar high for companies who want to maintain control over their food quality by delivering their food themselves. Keep in mind that Domino’s is no spring chicken—it was founded in 1960! While newer pizza companies may be touting the craft pizza experience, Domino’s is still the go-to pizza delivery service for the pajama crowd. With Domino’s introduction of new chatbots, visitors don’t even have to talk to a human or go to the Dominos ordering website to order a pizza—just message the chatbot to order your pizza. Some of these innovations haven’t been perfect upon rollout, but considering Domino’s strong market position, they don’t need to be. Domino’s may be learning what works as they go along, but at the end of the day, they own their own process.

Here’s the reality: the third-party food delivery space is becoming crowded. There will be few winners and many losers. With Amazon, Google and UberEats now moving into the space—not to mention the expansion of GrubHub’s turnkey service—only the best will survive. So the question is: Where does that leave foodservice operators?

There are two possible scenarios
  1. Companies like Domino’s rely on third-party delivery companies to deliver their food
  2. They continue taking ownership of their own food delivery

Restaurant delivery isn’t for everyone. We know from our experience working with foodservice operators: delivery workforces are difficult to maintain.  

But if you offer delivery and you’re serious about becoming better at it, you have to become more serious about technology. You also have to become more serious about what’s going on in your stores. Domino’s can offer a pizza tracker because they’ve got the process for making a pizza down to a science. Even if you’re not at that level of tech, are you able to address problems in real time? Something as basic as an ingredient shortage or a failure to implement a new promotion can really hurt your bottom line.

Zenput is a mobile solution that helps foodservice operators gain valuable insights about their businesses in real-time. Whether you are exploring food delivery or looking to improve your current operations, Zenput can help you identify exceptions, timely address problems, and improve your restaurant operations. Zenput already helps the 5th largest Domino’s operator in the U.S. manage daily tasks and improve store productivity. Find out how Domino’s franchisee Hismeh Enterprises uses Zenput by checking out this case study.

Related

Wanna ‘Pizza’ Your Restaurant Competition? Customization and Technology Are Key

What Restaurants Considering Third-Party Delivery Need to Consider

Performing Regular Delivery Driver Audits Protects Employees and Customers

Topics: Restaurants, Delivery