What Google Can Teach Restaurants

Aaron Cohen, Co-Founder and VP of Business Development, CoInspect
Aaron Cohen, Co-Founder and VP of Business Development, CoInspect

By Aaron Cohen, Co-Founder and VP of Business Development, CoInspect

What Google Can Teach RestaurantsMost people don’t know what Google’s PageRank really means.  It’s not a ranking of website pages. It’s named for Google co-founder Larry Page because he devised the initial algorithm to rank a website’s importance.  While the formula is a closely guarded secret, it’s commonly understood that the genius of PageRank is how it uses the “wisdom of crowds” to distinguish the value of two search results.  Simply put, the more sites that linked to you, the more likely you were to improve your PageRank. The quantity and quality of links improve PageRank.

The wisdom of crowds implies that a crowd can solve problems better than any single individual.  Our purchasing decisions have changed as a result of this insight powering many new organizations.   Without the wisdom of crowds, there would be no TripAdvisor, Yelp, or Amazon. Before Amazon, nobody knew that people who bought that Discraft Frisbee also frequently purchased that Yeti thermos.

So we know the wisdom of crowds plays a big role in determining search results and influencing purchasing decisions.  But what if that measurable wisdom could improve organizational outcomes? What if we could determine what the best nurses, teachers, and police officers do and could use that information to better train and measure future employees in those important roles?

As part of my job, I spend significant time working with staff at restaurants and food manufacturers.  Easily 75% of their employees carry smartphones, yet 95% of them cannot use them to improve their companies.  In many other industries, apps on smartphones make employees more efficient, productive, and better at their jobs.

While restaurants and other food companies could use their employees’ phones to distribute content and information, run protocols, and create schedules, most within the food service industry prefer paper systems for their operations.  According to CoInspect research, 93% of America’s largest 300 restaurant chains use paper and pencil for operational line checks.  This paper is then filed for (on average) three years and never analyzed or structured into data that could have an impact on operating margins.  Also notable: 75% of food companies don’t have multimedia training available on mobile devices. Domino’s lovers can order a pizza from their phones, but the person who makes that pizza checks the oven temperature and writes it down on a clipboard with a pencil.

Typically, the top reasons cited for restaurants and other food companies to keep employees from using their phones at work include:

  • We don’t want to pay for their data. (Are you sure you have to?)
  • We don’t want them distracted by their phones.  (But you do want them to use your intranet to learn best practices, accessing your training content, etc.)
  • It’s a regulatory issue.  (Yes, but only for kitchens. Restaurant facilities are bigger than just their kitchens.)

Restaurant chains vary widely in their operational performances.  Many factors – including location and geography – create the disparity.   But most restaurant CEOs point to operating rigor as the primary reason for a given location’s success.

The best restaurants have the cleanest bathrooms and neatest parking lots.  They have air conditioners that never fail and serve their food at the proper temperature every time.  That’s because the best restaurants already use the wisdom of crowds in their culture. They collaborate, train, and cooperate better than other restaurants.  But this critical information is neither captured nor measured, which is a major missed opportunity.

Back at the home of PageRank, Google works tirelessly to optimize their operational performance based on structuring the wisdom of crowds, or in this case, their employees.  Recruiting procedures are improved based on the data collected from participants. Office furniture gets rethought in light of user feedback. Even the chefs at Google get the wisdom of eaters.

Collaborative operators will outperform hierarchical operators going forward.  That’s because collaborative, data-driven executives will take advantage of their employees’ computing power and their wisdom to continuously improve.

Aaron Cohen co-founded CoInspect to make food safer and filing cabinets obsolete. CoInspect software powers food safety, quality assurance, and standards management for restaurants and food manufacturers.  The company’s obsession: Make software that is fast, flexible, and easy-to-use. For more information, visit www.coinspectapp.com or reach him at aaron@coinspectapp.com.