Surprise inspection! The phrase is enough to strike fear into the heart of any convenience store manager. Inspections are an unavoidable part of being in the business, but failing any one of them can be embarrassing at least and costly at worst – or can even shut down a store entirely.
Managers must prepare all shifts at each store to host these inspections – and here are best practices for that preparation, along with a tech recommendation that will make your efforts as efficient and wide-ranging as possible.
Types of Inspections
Governmental agencies inspect convenience stores to ensure they’re meeting regulatory standards in a variety of areas that protect public health and safety. These agencies and their areas of concern include:
- Your local health department, which inspects for food handling safety according to U.S. Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration regulations, as well as state and local rules. Ask your local health department for copies of their health inspection forms.
- A labor department, including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which inspects to ensure the physical safety of both employees and customers. OSHA often conducts surprise inspections, so read up on their requirements.
- A local law enforcement agency, which inspects for public safety and security concerns. A safety inspection can include anything from parking lot potholes and security cameras to gas pumps to signage for wet floors. Ask your local agency about relevant regulations and which ones top their inspection priorities.
Always Be Prepared
Inspections can occur at any time, so the best way to prepare is just to be ready all the time. While this may sound intimidating at first, in the long run it’s less stressful than allowing procedures to slack and then have to bring scores of details up to code in a very short time (assuming you’re notified of the inspection). It’s also just better business practice.
Achieving a state of constant readiness requires two things:
- Complete and effective employee training.
- A reliable system for tracking daily checks and providing reminders.
For these two things, you need only one tech tool: MeazureUp. This digital, mobile solution houses your employee training materials, your daily checklists, and all your audit preparation and results – and the app is easy to use through any smart device. Here’s how it works.
You already know your employee training must include important but perhaps unfamiliar regulations around handling food items when stocking, removing outdated merchandise, or preparing fresh foods. It also must cover how to safely use equipment, when and how to wear protective gear, and how to complete maintenance schedules as recommended by the equipment manufacturers. And all that covers just the food-related aspects of your business. Equally detailed training is needed around sanitation, safety and security throughout your property. It all adds up to a mind-boggling number of details to be remembered by every member of every shift in every store.
But what if they didn’t have to actually remember every single detail?
When all your employee training materials – the how-tos, illustrations, reminders, best practices, even videos – are available in an app like MeazureUp, any employee can just pull up the app and search for the topic or simply cross-reference that day’s checklist. Within seconds they know what the temp is supposed to be on that cooler or every step to cleaning up that oil spill in the parking lot. If they have any questions, it’s easy to take a photo or video and have a trainer or manager get back to them right away from any location. No employee, no matter how new, has a reason to feel unsupported.
We referenced daily checklists, and that’s the second part of MeazureUp’s magic. Your entire operation can ditch every paper checklist and clipboard, every spreadsheet, and every binder, and instead use digital, standardized operational checklists customized to your organization. These lists are available to every employee at all times; it’s the work of a few seconds for shift workers to swipe and tap their way to completed regulatory documentation and of a few minutes or hours for any trainer or manager to see the results of each shift’s efforts. Got a store where the water temperature is too low for proper sanitation, or a shift that forgets to check the bathrooms? These deficiencies are quickly noted, and since MeazureUp also houses action plan templates, they can be quickly and efficiently brought back into compliance.
The other thing you know about inspections is that they’re not just for regulatory agencies. Your brand has standards that must be maintained to develop the consistently excellent customer experience that brings repeat business no matter the location. So MeazureUp’s third gift to you is an easy, fully customizable internal auditing component. Using all the real-time data saved from every checklist and form (including photos, notes and videos), your management team can audit any store along any regulatory axis at any time — even from a remote location. No store should be caught flat-footed by a surprise inspection ever again.
Your team saves hours of prep time because the data is already collected and available for analysis in multiple ways. You can even easily pull the results of every store inspection going back to the app’s implementation to uncover trends, encouraging employees to focus on traditionally problematic tasks while also highlighting the staff’s strengths.
When internal inspections are complete, managers can talk to employees about the objectively collected data and get proactive about any necessary retraining. These conversations also prepare employees to talk to governmental inspectors during their visits. Meanwhile, a continuous feedback loop develops between the audits, the employees and the checklists that helps ensure consistency and efficiency in every store.
Every Inspection, Every Day
That brings us back to the simple truth that each of your stores is inspected many times every day. Every customer who pumps gas, uses the bathroom, or grabs a coffee or a hot sandwich is judging your store on cleanliness, item availability, food quality, customer service and more – and what’s at stake is their patronage.
Maintaining a store in inspection-ready condition every day requires effort and dedication – but MeazureUp is the tool that can make it easier, not just for each front-line employee but for everyone in management.
For more information on how MeazureUp can help eliminate the fear of surprise inspections, visit https://meazureup.com/grocery-convenience-store-checklist/.