Checkit recently worked with the catering contract manager for one of the UK’s largest accounting & professional services firms. They were looking for an operations management solution to the problem of too much time being spent on manually trying to check all of their processes had been properly completed. They reached out to us and we were able to demonstrate the value in using technology to support operational management in the catering sector.

Delivering quality in complex environments

Those working in catering often feed a huge volume of people every single day. This brings with it a responsibility towards clients and customers, to maintain a high quality of service and ensure food has been prepared safely. This is also an increasingly regulated environment – food safety, hygiene and allergen processes are now a critical part of daily operations, and regulation is only going to increase with the likes acrylamide directives. The key to delivering quality in such a complex environment is consistent and careful management of a range of operational processes which span entire teams of people.

A simple and powerful tool

There is a simple and powerful tool that can be used to vastly increase effectiveness in managing such processes efficiently and consistently. It may not sound like a particularly sexy tool but it can really change the way you work. This tool is a checklist.

It’s tempting to dismiss the checklist as something simplistic, or something that might be useful only for a worker who doesn’t know their own role. It’s also tempting to dismiss checklists as boring and prescriptive.

From pilots to doctors, professionals at the top of their game are improving their performance using checklists, and the potential to do the same in catering and hospitality is huge.

As systems and processes become more and more complex, those who oversee these processes need a way to effectively manage them. The checklist is a simple tool which has proven its worth across a number of industries, and it is going to be an equally vital tool for the future. Indeed, many critical daily tasks in leisure, foodservice and catering are ideal for checklists as they are repeated, time-sensitive and recorded.

When most people think of checklists, they think pen-and-paper, and this is traditionally what was deployed. However, there are some significant drawbacks in trying to use paper checklists in hospitality environments:

  • The physical environment does not suit pen-and-paper documents, which can easily lost or destroyed if deployed in areas such as kitchens.
  • Paperwork builds up quickly and may not always be reliable.
  • Physical records are costly to store, and difficult to recall when needed.
  • It is impossible to ensure the integrity of paperwork – it can easily be falsified.
  • The demands on frontline staff mean that the time taken to fill in records reduces their capacity elsewhere.
  • There is a lot of intelligence hidden in checklist records but it is almost impossible to analyse when pen-and-paper checklists are used

Digital capabilities

This is where a technology solution like Checkit comes in. Using technology, we can completely revolutionise the concept of what a checklist can do. Systems like Checkit offer operations management in real-time –  they still use the checklist as a central component, but in digital form, which allows a much broader set of functionality.

Using technology to drive work process checklists, we can do things like:

  • Introduce alerting and escalation – the system ensures that people record when they’ve carried out a task. But it also knows when a task has not been carried out, and can remind staff that it is due, or escalate where necessary. It provides, at real time, assurance that what should be done, is being done.
  • Immediately deploy new processes and procedures, or update existing. Given there are no longer multiple dispersed copies of documents to update, we can react quickly to change and have new processes running immediately.
  • Monitor things like fridge temperatures in real-time.
  • Easily maintain a single source of truth around process compliance. We can quickly and easily review current or historical records.
  • Develop actionable data which can be leveraged to support management decision-making.

The business benefit

Our client benefited from the Checkit solution in ways they could never have done using pen-and-paper.

  • Audits became much simpler. They able to instantly produce records for an auditor, and didn’t have to worry about the integrity of the records. They showed exactly what was done, when it was done and by whom. Consider that the FSA is currently looking at various options for future auditing including risk-based audit frequency, and charging for time on site – a technology system allows you to quickly demonstrate how robust your processes are and show any risks are being adequately managed. For our client, it directly led to less auditor time on site.
  • As many of you will know, the hospitality industry is facing a shortage of chefs. Our client had been forced to place a lot of reliance on agency chefs to quickly fill in roles which they were struggling to recruit for. Agency chefs, however, were unaware of the client’s processes and procedures, but Checkit helped to ensured agency staff worked within their processes right from the first day. Checkit was able to minimise any disruption or deviation from standards caused by the use of agency staff.
  • The client was able to improve the reporting to their own stakeholders. Checkit allowed them to visualise process completion and compliance in a simple way that immediately demonstrated the quality of their management, and they were able to show patterns and trends to demonstrate continual improvement.
  • Checkit’s automated temperature monitoring of fridges directly saved the client money and reduced food wastage by allowing them to quickly move stock when a fridge failed. They were also able to use the data provided by the monitors to proactively identify potential issues before a failure occurred and arrange for proactive maintenance.
  • The client was able to engage their entire team and get everyone feeling that they contributed to food safety processes. Team members said they appreciated the actual importance of the processes for the first time as they became more transparent. They said they had previously felt it was just a ‘tick-box’ exercise, but now felt engaged and enthusiastic.

We truly believe that our technology has a huge scope to assist with a wide range of business, but if you have specific concerns we can assist in tailoring a solution for you.

Technology is going to have a huge part to play in the future, disrupting many established practices and ways of working. We believe that it will be crucial to embrace technology in order to succeed and thrive. Managing a catering or hospitality business is only going to become more complex and more regulated, so it is critical to evolve the tools in use.