The Best Ways to Prevent Pencil Whipping

We all have been guilty of pencil whipping one time or another, whether it be clicking “I agree” to the terms and conditions you simply scrolled through or signing off on a package without checking the contents yet. But, when it comes to your food safety, you don’t want anyone to be cutting corners.

In a previous Squadle blog post, we explained fixes companies can integrate to resolve pencil whipping and incentivize compliance. Considering the implications that pencil whipping can have in QSR, in this post, we will further expand on tips to help solve pencil whipping at your restaurants. 

What does Pencil Whipping Mean?

Pencil whipping means when you approve a form or document without properly reviewing or completing the task as required. The term “whipping” comes from the act of checking boxes quickly without reviewing the content. Essentially, it is giving the green light to something you’re not sure is up to standard. 

No symbol crossing out pencil whipping

In many cases, pencil whipping is harmless and can save you time. For example, even if you read every detail of terms and agreement, would you understand it? So instead, most folks quickly scroll through the terms, check the box and move on–literally whipping their pencils around. However, food safety protocols should never be skimmed or brushed over.

Dangers of Pencil Whipping

Pencil whipping can occur in a multitude of ways. When people are pencil whipping in restaurants, they could be skipping over food safety protocols or missing the early signs of disasters. 

Equipment needs to be checked frequently in order to ensure that there are no faults. However, when it gets used every day with no probable problems, a proper inspection can be forgotten. This results in machines going unchecked for months which becomes a hazardous liability to employees. Checking inventory is also a routine task that can be daunting, particularly in a large warehouse. Employees sometimes inaccurately report “accurate” stock counts. 

Safety checks are highly susceptible to pencil whipping. Take, for example, a walk in freezer that requires routine temperature checks. If an employee decides to pencil whip the temperature logs, they won’t be able to track when the temperature changes resulting in unscheduled downtime. This can lead to expensive repairs, loss inventory, poor-quality food, loss sales, reputational damages, and upset customers. When employees decide to finesse temperature recordings on paper that are within an appropriate range, it creates a panic around food safety precision. Temperature logs become unreliable, and inconsistent, which decreases the likelihood of obtaining a high grade for health inspections. It brings a location’s entire food safety program into question, putting not only the company but employees and customers at risk.

Solving Pencil Whipping

Stopping pencil whipping is an attainable goal for a company. It can and should be done for the benefit of your management, employees, and customers. Taking a friendly and proactive approach to solve pencil whipping in your business is the best solution. 

Make it part of the company culture 

In a past article, we discussed the benefits of a positive workplace and 4 ways that restaurants can improve their culture. We addressed open lanes of communication as one of the more effective ways to foster a positive culture. Open communication also allows for employees to obtain more clarity on the tasks that need to be done. Try setting up one on one meetings with employees to go over job tasks and invite them to ask questions without the pressures of co-workers. In these moments, it is important to not judge any questions that are asked, even if they feel obvious; there are no stupid questions. Provide supervisors a full skill set so that when employees ask questions, supervisors listen and respond accordingly. There are numerous ways that management can foster and nurture open communication. Tailoring a system based on employees’ input is the best way to do so. 

Ditch paper and Invest in going Digital 
Paper with an arrow to Squadle's tablet

In a digital age, switching from paper to digital checklists, shift management, and temperature monitoring is realistic. We have seen ordering takeout and/or delivery shift from a phone call to the tips of our fingers with UberEats, DoorDash, Grubhub, and more. There is no better time than now to improve your operational responsibilities and lower costs with digital automation softwares. Ditching paper and going digital has benefits for the company’s operational performance but it also positively impacts your employee engagement, customer experience, food quality, and, of course, food safety. Therefore, to help discourage pencil whipping and eliminate the pencil entirely, invest in Squadle’s digital checklists, shift management, and temperature monitoring system. Squadle tablets connect to bluetooth pyrometers, temperature sensors to automatically record the temperature reading directly onto the device–excluding the pencil. 

Creating Accountability with Digital Food Safety 
Squadle products

A reason pencil whipping takes place is because there is no accountability for these tasks; therefore, they are being falsified on a daily basis. A couple of tactics can be implemented with Squadle’s checklist software to help decrease pencil whipping in your restaurant. 

Tactic #1: When folks collect data from a survey, they often can easily omit responses solely based on how long a participant took to fill out the survey. There is a baseline amount of time it takes to answer, for example, 5 questions. This same concept can be applied to your restaurants to help reduce pencil whipping. Squadle’s software can track the amount of time it takes for employees to complete a specific task or action. If the time is too short, it is clear that pencil whipping has occurred. 

Tactic #2: How many times have you gone in to use the restroom at a restaurant and seen the restroom cleanliness form or washroom inspection checklist with various scribbles of employee’s initials? A good way to add accountability here is with QR codes. QR codes can be used to track whether or not an employee actually inspected that part of the restaurant or not. When the QR code is scanned, it shares a timestamp of when, for instance, the bathroom was cleaned or the equipment was checked. 

When a task or action is skipped, pencil whipped or has not met safety requirements, corrective action will be promoted within Squadle’s digital food system to help ensure compliance

With a few easy and simple tips, restaurants can eliminate pencil whipping and the dangers it comes with considerately. By investing the time, efforts, and money into creating real solutions to pencil whipping, the safety and satisfaction of management, employees, and customers will drastically rise.