Why you need Restaurant Auditing Software
And why 3rd Party Audits aren’t enough
The aim of most auditing programs is to evaluate compliance, measure quality, identify issues, and assign Corrective Action and Preventive Actions (CAPAs) to address them. And for years, restaurant chains have relied on 3rd party audits to provide an independent check on brand standards and food safety standards. These audits are extremely valuable, as they provide an independent assessment against brand and regulatory requirements. But if your company is relying solely on 3rd party audits, which are far too infrequent and from a specific point in time, you’re missing the real opportunity - which is to go beyond just compliance, where you are driving continuous improvement and location performance.
One of the biggest benefits of performing more frequent internal audits and self-assessments, inspections, and daily checklists (at CMX we call these ‘Activities’), is that you identify and rectify any non-compliant issues long before the external auditors. This allows you to proactively address issues before they become systemic, and creates a culture focused on continuous learning and improvement in your restaurants. Continually ‘measuring what matters’ can serve as a just-in-time training tool for your employees, increase awareness of your brand standards, policies and procedures, and reinforce the expected behaviors for a restaurant that is safe, clean, and operating with consistency and excellence.
Aaron Clark, Senior Project Specialist, Restaurant Food Safety Team at Chick-fil-A
|“... the routines we've automated with CMX have been our restaurant quality and food safety assessments. We believe that part of the continuous improvement processes is regularly self-assessing your performance. Our programs are comprised of multiple assessments that are developed at the Chick-fil-A Support Center, and then made easily accessible for restaurants to use. And team members can access them to perform daily quality food safety checks to really ensure that their processes and systems are in place to serve great food and safe food.”
So if internal audits, self-assessments, inspections, and checklists are useful and ultimately essential for operating a great restaurant, you likely are wondering if there are ways to make them simpler, easier, and less disruptive to your daily operations? Is there a way to get more value from the process (especially if you’ve been using paper or Microsoft Excel-based processes internally)?
Of course the answer is a resounding yes, as it would make for a rather disappointing article if not, so read on!
Let’s talk about ‘Restaurant Auditing Software’
Yes, there is such a thing. Restaurant auditing software technology is already bringing benefits to national and global brands like Chick-fil-A, Arby’s, Buffalo Wild Wings, Checkers, Firehouse Subs, and large franchisees like Sizzling Platter who all leverage CMX1’s ActivityStudio®. In fact, they often refer to it as a game changer, and here’s why:
You can easily digitize ANY form or routine
With an intuitive, easy to use drag-and-drop form designer, and self-service tools - brands can digitally transform their paper-based auditing, self-assessment, inspection, and checklist programs all on their own with ActivityStudio® without the need for costly, time consuming software customizations.
As an example, on a recent webinar with several of CMX’s clients, Drew Roberts, Director, Brand Ops Performance for Buffalo Wild Wings said: “I don't know what we don't use ActivityStudio® for anymore. We use it for food safety, we use it for mystery shops, checks for execution… we're using it across every channel. We're learning that we can use CMX’s platform to quickly assess and share results with the field - it's endless really.”
Activities can be created for those in general operations, business consultants, above restaurant field operations, restaurant operators, restaurant managers, team members, and more. Here are just a “few” examples of the operating procedures and protocols restaurant brands are leveraging ActivityStudio® to assess:
- Brand Standards
- Customer Service
- Guest Experience
- Employee Pre-Shift Wellness Checks
- Health and Sanitation Shift Logs
- Proper use of PPE and COVID-19 Operational Procedures
- Food Safety Procedures
- Mock Health Department Inspections
- HACCP-based Line Checks including the use of integrated Bluetooth thermometers
- Environmental checks including interior, exterior and parking lots
- Equipment checks and maintenance
- Incident Management reporting for slips, trips, falls, and near misses
- Staff Development and Training Certification
- Operational and Business Reviews
- Candidate Interviews
- Damage assessments due to natural disasters, fire, and accidents
- Assessing restaurants for acquisition
- New construction, remodel inspections, and project management
“My jaw dropped when I saw how integrated ActivityStudio® already was – so many things are automatically taken care of through simple configurations and automation. What used to take hours can be accomplished in minutes. And with one platform, we have one system and no silos.”
It’s easy to use and you can perform activities while on the move
CMX’s Restaurant Auditing Software is available in the cloud and accessible via a browser or from Native apps for IOS, Android, and Windows. Users can work online or offline to perform restaurant audits, self-assessments, inspections, and daily checklists all while on the move in the normal flow of operations using mobile and tablet devices. Since the data is collected electronically, it can be instantly made available to staff members and team members in and above the restaurant, and leveraged to address issues and make better decisions for the business.
Who said audits can't be fun?
You can ensure nothing falls through the cracks or is missed
Paper-based activities and routines are easy to defer, skip or can be “pencil whipped” when things get busy. In addition to ‘ad-hoc’ activities, ActivityStudio® includes automated scheduling features allowing your brand to set and monitor recurring schedules for all your programs and activities. This ensures activities are getting done by the right people, the right way, and for the frequency and duration you expect.
You increase data completeness, accuracy and speed
Using electronic forms that leverage location based services (LBS), device cameras, conditional questions, drop downs for data selection, field and form level data validation, and business rules can greatly enhance the completeness and accuracy of data collected and the speed to capture it.
Brands can go even further when adding in the use of Bluetooth Low energy (BLe) integrated devices such as barcode scanners, temperature probes, and digital scales. All these capabilities provide uniform measurements which can also be easily traced back to source including users, dates, times and locations.
Rich Goodman, VP of Operations Services forFirehouse Subs
|“Because Firehouse Subs is constantly adding new Fire Marshals to help its growing family of franchise operators, it is important to have a system that is easy to teach so new auditors can get up and running quickly. And because the [CMX] system is available as an app for offline work, it offers the portability needed to make it easier for Firehouse Subs’ auditing and real estate teams to do their jobs from the field and provide management with real-time visibility into site-wide operations and quality.”
You can keep everyone in the loop in real-time
When using digital tools, the information and results are available in real-time. There’s no waiting around for the audit report to be written and the results uploaded or emailed (and potentially lost). If a critical finding is noted, the sooner it can be actioned the better. In our dynamic digital age, a bad review on social media is not worth the risk.
ActivityStudio® can be configured to:
- Automatically assign points and response times based on the criticality of issues,
- Leverage simple to complex scoring including ratings,
- Distribute reports and send notifications based on business rules to ensure critical information is getting to stakeholders and decision-makers
“At this very critical time in the restaurant industry, ensuring health and safety across our 500 locations is our top priority. ActivityStudio® gives us real-time visibility into the data we need daily to know our COVID-19 operational guidelines are being followed. This allows us to move forward with the confidence that we are following the latest CDC guidelines and are in full compliance with state and local laws.”
Isaac Morton, Vice President, Information Technology for Sizzling Platter
You can easily compare performance and monitor trends
Vast amounts of data can be collected over time with restaurant audits, self-assessments, inspections, and checklists. When data is collected on paper, any further analysis is manual which is a huge undertaking. Collecting data electronically with CMX’s Auditing Software means information can be more easily compared and analyzed over time.
Trends can be identified and regions, divisions, districts, areas, states, concepts, restaurant types and restaurant locations can all be compared. It becomes invaluable information about your business that can be used to improve operational execution.
Aaron Clark, Senior Project Specialist, Restaurant Food Safety Team at Chick-fil-A
|“The reason we built this platform [CMX1] for our operators as a self-assessment tool, is that we want this to be a product that they can leverage to help themselves. … We believe this gives our restaurants freedom and encourages them to truly use the tool to identify and resolve issues in their restaurants. Our operators definitely leverage the data from these programs to inform decisions in the restaurants and make operational changes. Many operators schedule weekly meetings with their leadership teams to review findings, and then come up with strategies in order to resolve these issues. Operators can also look at the results in assessments to just identify training gaps and understand where they may need to spend more time training their team."
You can identify repeat issues and take corrective action
One of the most important features our customers value of ActivityStudio® is the ability to automatically detect ‘repeat issues’. The software can look back over previous activities and determine whether an item has been missed in the past. Rules can be applied for repeats that can impact scores, ratings, and post activity workflows.
‘Non-conformances’ or ‘findings’ can optionally be turned into cases that include automated Corrective and Preventative Actions (CAPA’s ) workflows for tracking and resolution. This can include the requirement of photos and other evidence to show action has been taken, and can also include rules for review before closing.
“The repeat detection capability of ActivityStudio® is having an impact on our culture and behaviors. We are seeing much faster response times in identifying and addressing root causes for issues, to avoid impacting subsequent audits."
Tim Foster, Senior Manager of Training for Firehouse Subs
You can automate your record keeping
In the fast paced and dynamic environment of running a restaurant, keeping detailed logs and records may feel like an impossibility, but frankly, it should be at the top of your list. Having demonstrable evidence of having policies and procedures in place, and evidence of continually assessing your restaurants against brand and regulatory standards can greatly help in mitigating risk to the brand. The CMX1 platform and ActivityStudio® automatically records all the responses and corrective actions taken by your team with date and time stamps and organizes the timeline all in one place.
Danielle Williams, Operations Services Manager forCheckers & Rally’s Drive-In
“Compliance, food safety and guest and employee safety are not optional, they’re a part of doing business. What we are experiencing with the coronavirus just amplifies this. The ROI of investing in digital tools like ActivityStudio® is in the efficiency and automated documentation and record-keeping, allowing the field and regional general managers to get back to the business of serving and protecting our guests and employees”
You can make quick adjustments
Every auditing round and activity cycle brings new learnings, insights and opportunities for improvement. ActivityStudio® is designed to help restaurant chains measure progress against their objectives in real-time. With real-time data and reporting, and self-service tools - brands can take immediate action to adjust activity content or frequency, and create new activities to support changing business requirements and drive continuous improvement.
“ActivityStudio® gives us the ability to make updates and implement them to our system immediately. That flexibility and agility is critical when it comes to food safety and quality, which are paramount to Firehouse Subs and our brand mission of excellence."
Tim Foster, Senior Manager of Training for Firehouse Subs
Taking the next step...
As you’ve hopefully learned by now, relying on 3rd Party Audits for Brand Standards and Food Safety isn’t enough. And that’s why some of the world’s best known restaurant brands are leveraging CMX’s Restaurant Auditing Software to digitize their quality, compliance, safety, and risk-management programs across all aspects of their operations.
With ActivityStudio®, brands can empower their employees to create a culture of Operational Excellence, drive continuous improvement, and to ensure their locations are operating with consistency at scale. Ultimately, it’s a strategic investment in protecting your customers, employees, partners, and your brand.
And it’s not that costly or hard to get started!
If you’d like to learn how restaurant auditing software could work for you, and find out how Buffalo Wild Wings successfully rolled out ActivityStudio™ to over 1,200 locations, with multiple different audits and self-assessments in less than 30 days, get in touch with our team of product experts to discuss your goals and how we can help you achieve Operational Excellence.