Why Should My Restaurant Use Digital Checklists?

To some, checklists are just a paper full of tasks but when used correctly, checklists for restaurant operations can increase efficiency at both the employee and management level.

Why should my restaurant use checklists?

As an owner/operator, you know what should happen in each area of the restaurant at certain points of the day- tables should be wiped down before opening, salad dressings restocked, trash removed, the list goes on. You’ve likely organized these tasks into restaurant opening checklists, cleaning checklists, etc. But do you have visibility into when and how employees complete these tasks at each location?

The ability to ensure the completion of these tasks creates confidence in the quality, cleanliness, and caliber of customer service provided at all locations. Traditionally, restaurant checklists have been stacks of papers or a physical workbook. While these options are better than nothing, they create significant manual work both for yourself and your employees.

Enter: Digital Checklists

There are plenty of reasons a digital checklist will serve you better than any manual process. We’ve listed the most important benefits below:

1. Easy to use and increased efficiency

First, relying on a stack of papers while in a busy kitchen is not ideal. Oil spatters, water stains, etc. can affect the integrity of the reports documented on paper. Reliable data will come from tools that are rugged, and able to withstand a typical kitchen environment. Author of The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things RightDr. Atul Gawande, agrees that “good checklists are…easy to use even in the most difficult situations.”

Second, almost every other process in your restaurant is undoubtedly digital. Odds are, your employees don’t look forward to completing this one analog process every day. And as the workforce grows with younger employees, using a tool this demographic is already familiar with (like a tablet) will encourage efficiency and compliance.

Last, the traditional checklist requires a higher volume of manual tasks. For example, to accurately capture food temperature, employees first need to take the temperature and then manually record it on paper. Digital checklists automate and condense this process using a digital thermometer, which connects directly to the tablet’s software and automatically records the reading into the checklist.

2. Easily customizable

The features of every restaurant vary, even within the same franchise. Some locations have drive-thrus, and some have play areas, while others could have neither. Traditional checklists are one-size-fits-all. This means that a store’s checklist would include irrelevant tasks related to features and equipment the store may not even have.

A digital checklist should be customizable to fit a store’s exact needs. This way, your employees won’t need to skim through irrelevant checklist items, saving increments of time every day.

3. Decrease pencil whipping and human error

One of the major challenges of using manual checklists is the lack of transparency in the completion and quality of tasks. In order to get a full picture of completion at each location, you would need to compare and aggregate several handwritten workbooks, a process that can take a significant amount of time.

Without oversight, it can be hard to tell whether an employee actually completed the task or whether they quickly signed off without paying much attention. This is considered a pencil whip, which results in an inaccurate view of operations and puts the safety and cleanliness of your operations at risk. With a digital checklist, employees are obligated to complete tasks on time, with evidence in the form of a sign-off or photo.

4. Monitoring capability for owner-operators

It’s been established that aggregating data from several locations would take a significant amount of effort. In addition to just aggregating this data, any analysis or data mining would be equally difficult.

A digital checklist can gather data from every location into a centralized dashboard. With accurate and flexible data, it’s easy to pinpoint where food safety and cleanliness are overlooked or skipped in your operations. This capability will create a clearer understanding of operations at each location, and where optimizations may need to be made.

If your restaurants still use paper checklists, it could be time to consider the transition to a digital solution, for all of the benefits listed above. You’re sure to notice significant improvements in your operations.

When you do choose to switch to a digital solution, you need to be sure it’s the right solution. Stay tuned for our next post which will outline the most important features your digital checklist software should have.

Learn more about using digital checklists from our guide, “Digital Checklists: The Ultimate Guide for Restaurants”.