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Consistency – the challenge faced by hospitality businesses

Guest Blog:  Tom Muirhead talks about how to deliver a consistent, reliable experience to hospitality customers.

Checklists play a vital operational role in many hospitality businesses, particularly those which involve regular repeated processes and which require strict compliance under legal or regulatory oversight.

In today’s globalised world, multi-site businesses are tasked with an intricate problem. Consumers are savvy and fickle – with high expectations, they vote with their feet and they share their experiences online. So, businesses with hundreds or thousands of branches are expected to deliver a consistent, reliable experience to their customers, whichever branch they happen to choose.

Let’s take a look at this issue in a little more detail. Take your favourite Italian chain restaurant, for instance. It’s likely it appears on almost every high-street, airport, shopping centre and market square, wherever you go in the UK and possibly abroad. Every branch is operated by a busy team of casual staff (casual in the shift-rotation manner) who are responsible for ensuring the service, the food, cleanliness, maintenance, food hygiene and the booking procedures are all followed precisely, according to predetermined standards from Head Office.

It’s no mean feat, particularly when you consider that the turnover, experience and commitment of staff varies from branch to branch.

What if there’s a change to a process?

How do these conglomerate businesses cascade new processes to their franchisees and their workforce to ensure consistency across the group?

Get it wrong and consumers go elsewhere – as experienced by struggling restaurant brand Prezzo. On face value its offering was quite prestigious, however its consumer experience was somewhat inconsistent, with poor heating in some venues, maintenance issues and questionable service in some branches. In the face of fierce competition from neighbouring brands Pizza Express, Ask, Zizzi, Strada, Cosy Club, Carluccio’s, Jamie’s Italian and even Wetherspoons (I could continue for hours), Prezzo has sadly closed 100 of its stores, including my two local branches.

With this in mind, how can a multi-site hospitality business standardise processes and procedures, to ensure a consistent experience for its customers?

Here, I take a look at the most common solution and its digital alternative:

Pen and paper checklists

Before the arrival of digital solutions, businesses depended (and still depend, in many cases) on old-fashioned pen and paper checklists to ensure their workforce are following processes correctly. While familiar and somewhat convenient on face value, pen and paper checklists present myriad issues for a business. Not least because every little change to a checklist needs to be cascaded from Head Office to every branch and explained manually.

Pen and paper checklists aren’t dynamic. If there’s a spontaneous maintenance issue, it’s unlikely a paper checklist will exist specifically to address the problem at hand.

Paper checklists can be falsified – this makes them quite unreliable if required to prove due diligence in an investigation or review.

Additionally, pen and paper checklists by nature need to be printed out, on paper. This requires a lot of paper, ink and admin time. When extrapolated across a whole estate of hundreds or thousands of sites, the sheer volume of paper, time and money wasted is enormous.

If this wasn’t inconvenient enough, completed checklists need to be filed away, manually. This presents storage issues – in case of an investigation, records need to be kept on file for many years. Manual storage solutions are expensive, laborious, vulnerable to fire and theft and require space.

Digital checklists

Most successful conglomerates are adopting digital systems to manage their processes and checklists.

The benefits of a digital system like Checkit are vast but can be summarised into three key areas:

Consistency

When a process changes, for instance there’s an update to the table-setting procedure in a restaurant, a digital checklist is updated centrally by remote, operational managers. The resulting checklist is automatically broadcasted to every branch. End-users (the front-line workers) use a digital, handheld device to work through the new checklist as and when they perform the task. The device asks for clarification as the checklist is followed so the resulting process is consistent across every branch.

Efficiency

When a digital system like Checkit is used, workers complete the checklist as they perform the task in hand. The task can be timed, assessed and confirmed in live-time. Also, the system will alert staff to a task, providing a gentle nudge. This ensures that processes are followed efficiently, when and where they’re required.

There’s no manual storage because data is stored electronically in the cloud. This means no hefty admin requirement. Additionally, cloud database storage allows for fast, real-time reporting – no need for manual analysis. Remote managers have complete visibility of performance, issues and inconsistencies.

Profitability

Paper, storage, time and the associated overheads from pen and paper checklists can all be avoided when a digital system is adopted. Complete, remote visibility of operations allows Head Office to quickly identify and resolve productivity issues. Consequently, multi-site businesses with digital work management systems can focus on the brand and the all-important consistent consumer experience.

To learn more about how Checkit can help your business, contact us.

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Checkit provides Real-Time Operations Management for businesses that need to ensure safe, reliable and efficient performance.

For front line staff, Checkit automates, guides and enforces their activities, improving efficiency and consistency. For supervisors it automatically allocates and schedules work, making exceptions and issues easy to handle. For managers it creates broad control and consistency, providing continual insights across the business.

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