Everyone’s seen it: You go into a dining establishment, anything from a coffee shop to a fancy steak house, and they’ve got the cleaning checklist clipboard hanging up in the bathroom somewhere.
It’s OK to admit you look to see when it was last filled out.
It’s also OK to never want to set foot in that location again if you notice that it’s not filled out, or – even worse — filled out in advance.
That’s called pencil whipping, and it’s believed to be incredibly common in the restaurant industry. It’s also incredibly illegal and could put your entire business operation at risk if it’s happening on even one shift in one location.
Why the Falsification?
We all know why restaurants use checklists – they’re designed to protect public health and safety while ensuring brand consistency by pushing public establishments to spend time every day diligently checking every safeguard that protects their patrons. These checklists include temperature logs, line checks, proper cleaning procedures, and other safety checks.
The specific purpose of these checklists is to ensure your facility meets the requirements of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which the FDA introduced to reduce rates of foodborne illness. If you operate a restaurant, you know you’re legally required to maintain compliance with such regulations. In addition, in our current age of COVID-19, it’s been necessary for standard cleaning checks to expand and become more frequent in order to establish proactivity and safety in the minds of customers.
However, it’s difficult to convey the real-world implications of these random sheets of paper to employees. Common reasons for falsifying the checklists include:
- I ran out of time at the end of my shift.
- No one’s ever gotten sick from eating here.
- I work here and I know we’re safe.
- No one ever looks at these checklists, so who cares?
The problem is that you and your managers can’t be in every location for every shift; even if you could, it would be much more productive for your employees to understand their responsibilities around actually doing the checks and then filling out the forms, which are legal documents.
The Case Against Pencil Whipping
This is the crux of the problem: Not only are these checklists a crucial part of consistently ensuring your locations serve high-quality food, they are also key to meeting your legal obligations. These checklists cover high-risk factors that have been shown to contribute to customers getting sick or even potentially dying. While employees may see pencil whipping as a “white lie”-level infraction, in fact this one action could make your business legally liable for any settlement, which could be massive.
Have you taken a close look at your restaurant liability and food-borne illness insurance policy? It likely includes riders that release your insurance company from responsibility if your restaurant is found to be acting in an unsafe manner. Specifically, these policies usually protect the insurance company…
- When someone on your team knew of defective operations and failed to take corrective action.
- From any action that is fraudulent or dishonest, including errors of omission.
- From the results of any food-borne illness where your team should have reasonably known they were in violation of food handling mandates and, again, didn’t address the violation.
So how can you, at the enterprise operational level, ensure that each employee is responding to these legal requirements seriously and responsibly?
Just As Easy, But Honest
It’s been said that, if you want to stop pencil whipping, eliminate the pencil. And truthfully, it really could be just about that easy.
MeazureUp’s digital checklist solution for restaurants can ensure all the right actions are being taken on time, every time. It curbs checklist falsification by providing an accurate, real-time window into the status of each checklist in each location, throughout every shift. Here’s how it works:
- Your operations team builds and standardizes templates for all your checklists inside the mobile app.
- At the appropriate interval, any employee pulls up the checklist on their mobile device.
- With a few taps and clicks they quickly complete the form; they even have the option of taking a photo or video and appending it to the record.
- As soon as they complete it, the checklist entry is automatically stamped with the time, the individual who filled it out, and the geolocation. This is now your official record.
- Results are available through the app’s dashboard in real time; anyone can see it whenever they need to.
In this way, MeazureUp eliminates human error and establishes accountability throughout your operation. No employee can do the work for another employee or claim that a task was completed at some time other than is recorded on the digital checklist.
But what about the inevitable problems? MeazureUp tracks those too, offering insights that cover location, overall assessment score, and any failures before they can affect your guests. When any task fails, users are prompted to open an action plan to correct the issue; this plan includes the task, a due date and the employee who is responsible for correcting the task. As the due date for the action plan approaches, that employee is reminded to complete and close out the action. When it’s done, MeazureUp alerts all stakeholders that the item has been corrected within the allotted time.
MeazureUp also allows you to build standardized quality assessment templates that track multiple updates and audits in real time. And it can house and implement all your employee training so you can drive home from day one the importance and relevance of correctly doing these checks and finalizing the forms.
Lose the Pencil
Using a digital checklist solution like MeazureUp means each employee is held accountable, and they can see it happening; it becomes just another part of their work day. They can no longer become complacent about the importance of restaurant checklists. And your operations and management teams are always kept in the loop. This not only provides peace of mind throughout the organization but ensures the safe, high-quality product that builds trust with your customers.
To learn more about how digital mobile restaurant checklists can streamline your company’s operations, establish accountability, and ensure consistency across all shifts and all locations, contact us today.