A Cost Analysis of Digital Checklists vs. Paper Processes in Your Restaurants

By April 15, 2021 Blog
two women working at a cafe

When you see the phrase “cost analysis,” you immediately think of numbers. So let’s consider a few recent statistics on the restaurant industry from the National Restaurant Association:

  • In 2020, sales were down $240 billion from projected levels.
  • 110,000 restaurant locations permanently closed in 2020.
  • By the end of March 2021, employment was down 1.8 million jobs from pre-pandemic levels.

This year the association has already surveyed restauranteurs about the top challenges they face:

  • 86% are concerned about lower profit margins.
  • 89% and 75% are concerned about below-normal staffing levels for full-service and limited-service restaurants, respectively.

The pandemic has made it clear that the restaurant industry can no longer function as it has for the past 30 years; survival depends on determining if every operational process is functioning optimally to meet the conditions of today’s marketplace. In other words, restaurant managers must find ways to do more with less. Those statistics establish why the cost analysis of moving paper-based processes to a digital solution is being done by so many brands.

The Paper Process

Restaurant managers must ensure their place is operating under budget and within legal compliance while also doing their best to guarantee the excellent customer experience that generates repeat business. Their responsibilities also include accounting, budgeting, inventory, human resources, payroll, and more. Managers who don’t have technological tools to alleviate some of the administrative burden spend too much time on these tasks and not enough time on leadership activities and mentoring their teams.

One of the most extensive – and unnecessary – time drains is compliance documentation completed on paper checklists and forms, probably combined with computerized spreadsheets. In what ways do these paper processes cost your operations?

  1. Time: for your employees to fill them out, your managers to record them, your auditors to examine them, and your operations team to file and save them, and then find them again for any external regulatory audits. It may be illuminating to figure out your actual costs by multiplying the time invested per week by the hourly pay rate of each staff member involved.
  2. Material costs: What does it cost to buy and maintain the rafts of clipboards, binders, filing cabinets, the reams of paper and copies made, even the square footage of storage space, that are required by the paper process? Not just for one location, but for your entire organization?
  3. Accuracy: When documentation is done by hand by individuals, and then hand-transcribed by other individuals any number of times, basic human error can be introduced at any step. This is even assuming that each form is filled out perfectly and that each spreadsheet is properly programmed and saved. It also doesn’t reflect real concerns that forms may be filled out incompletely or incorrectly (a practice called pencil whipping), lost, misfiled, damaged, etc. Finally, days, maybe weeks, may pass while the paper makes its way from the restaurant clipboard to the organizational level – and during that time, any part of the data collected may become obsolete.
  4. Delayed or subjective decision-making: For all the reasons above, it’s complicated to collate all data from every location into any sort of big-picture synopsis of the whole organization. If you wait for the data, you have to make decisions based on an outdated, incomplete, potentially inaccurate picture. If you can’t wait for the data, you’re making decisions entirely according to instinct or anecdotal information. How much money could your organization have saved, or made on missed opportunities, if you had quick and easy access to organization-wide data?

Going Digital

But is it worth it to invest in readily available digital tools? As the National Restaurant Association has said:

“The restaurant industry’s … tech innovation is accelerating at an unprecedented pace. Technology delivers the most advanced and efficient means through which operators manage and market their businesses, enabling employers and employees to better serve customers, on and off premises.”

In order to optimize your operations through digital checklists and mobile field audits, all you need is a cloud-based app and a smartphone. Your employees almost certainly have those; as of April 2021, it’s reported that 85% of Americans own a smartphone. Further, your employees are using them on the job: It’s estimated that, in 2020, more than 65% of Americans checked their phones up to 160 times a day. So the benefits of mobile technology to your business can range from minor cost savings in daily administration to significant improvements in operational efforts that improve the customer experience and lead to repeat business.

Here’s how it works. When all your daily checklists, compliance forms, and processes are reproduced digitally and available through an app, it takes any employee only a minute to open up the right form and complete it with a few swipes, taps, even photos or video. Every entry is automatically tagged with the employee, time, and location, and becomes your business’ official record. And every entry is immediately uploaded into the app’s dashboard and is available to anyone at any time. Your organization achieves complete transparency and accountability without any additional administrative effort. Potential issues or deficiencies can be recognized within hours, not days or weeks. The app also hosts your action plan templates, so it’s easy to build and assign a plan to relevant employees, complete with automatic reminders, deadlines, and notifications upon completion.

Digital, mobile field audit apps also keep all the data from every checklist and form from every location in one central, constantly up-to-date dashboard. Built-in data analytics make it easy to spot trends and act quickly to aid a struggling location or take advantage of opportunities.

When your organization is no longer fighting the paper battle, your team can allocate more time to activities like mentoring employees and building a consistently excellent customer experience. You can also take the extra budget money and allocate it to line items like staffing and food costs.

MeazureUp, By the Numbers

MeazureUp is just such a digital, mobile checklist and field audit solution. Let’s take a look at MeazureUp’s stats, as reported by clients and online reviews:

  • Clients report an estimated reduction in overhead of 30%.
  • Others report they conduct assessments 50% faster, reducing both time and material costs.
  • MeazureUp has received 95% positive reviews, and 97% would recommend to a colleague.

Here’s one final important number: MeazureUp offers a free trial for new users, after which the user fee starts at $20 per month. For more analysis of MeazureUp’s benefits to your restaurant, try it out today.