Five Steps for Leveraging Digital Data Collection to Manage Changing Rules and Challenging Times

For large-scale restaurant operations, now is the time to double down on stringent standards, good customer communication, and consistent application of your standards. For franchises, that means making sure your evaluations and data collection house is in order. Food service has changed forever and getting an integrated digital approach to managing all your guidelines and compliance issues, especially across multiple locations, is more crucial than ever. 

In the age of COVID-19, the path to sustainable, safe operations lies in actionable, real-time data. You need to enforce your standards (follow guidelines) while remaining flexible, especially with customer confidence in the balance. Effective data collection helps you understand where you’re vulnerable and how you need to act.

We’ve put together five steps for getting the most out of your data:

1. Define Data-Based, Measurable Standards

You should already be following local guidelines (face masks, capacity, etc.) across your franchises. Guidelines might vary location to location (we’ll cover that later). However, creating your own internal standards has two advantages:

  • You can consistently inform your employees on how to behave. You won’t need to reference external sources if your own standards go above and beyond the requirements.
  • Determining your own standards allows you to focus on specific data points, especially data points unique to your business. These could be simple health and safety metrics or they could incorporate your specific brand standards.

Customizing your standards to reflect your franchises’ unique operations will give your data more depth. It also provides the flexibility to set particular goals for your data.

2. Communicate Standards and Keep Everyone in the Loop

Poor communication can be especially damaging when standards change—such as when a global virus outbreak requires new behavior from employees. With complicated instructions and shifting rules, communication is key to preventing a miscue. Especially when multiple or even hundreds of locations are involved, any miscommunication can have a major impact. If a company isn’t regularly collecting smart data, management may not realize there’s an issue until it’s too late.

Maintaining clear communication ensures your franchisees are always up-to-date with the latest initiatives. Using the right digital tools is the key to keeping everyone on the same page automatically. If you’ve standardized mobile data collection platform, when brand standards or safety regulations change, you won't need to worry about sending out a memo or addendum. Each franchisee's version of your critical forms will update to the newest version with the touch of a button. 

3. Use Front and Back-of-House Dashboards to Stay Aligned

New health and safety guidelines are par for the course in the age of COVID-19, and franchise locations need the tools to stay aligned with them. By using back-of-house dashboards to track sanitization compliance, you can easily keep staff in the loop. Dashboards can provide a visual representation of daily compliance, which bolsters a manager’s efforts to reinforce safe behavior. More importantly, it lets them know how the location is performing in real time.

Dashboards operating in the background can also help employees learn the new standards, gently reminding them when they miss a step in their health and safety protocols. Once the staff is sufficiently trained in local and brand standards and are consistently beating their sanitization “high scores”, you can consider boosting customer confidence with front-of-house dashboards.

When you show this information to customers, it works like a real-time health inspection certificate. Instead of proving that the franchise location was compliant on a specific day in the past, you can provide evidence that today employees are exceeding regulatory minimums. With up-to-the-minute performance data, customers can rest assured that the restaurant’s back-of-house staff is keeping up with the best practices.

4. Integrate Observational Data Collection in One System

Imagine a franchise that evaluates brand compliance using a mobile application designed for restaurants. Unfortunately, it doesn’t scale well—it’s an App Store freemium app with limited options. That’s why they still use a spreadsheet to collect quality control data, and they use paper forms for safety evaluations. Meanwhile, all their sales, order management, and supplier inspections are isolated within another separate system. What’s the purpose in collecting all this data if none of it interacts? 

With proper integration, you can make all your collected data work together in a single system. The option to compare, analyze, and understand data from multiple locations in one place streamlines the process of making data-driven decisions. Rather than micromanaging day-to-day tasks, operations leads can focus on training, growth projects, and big-picture improvement.

5. Leverage Analytics to Inform Your Decisions 

If you're not using collected data to make better decisions and identify trends, you're missing out. Analyzing your data brings the process of creating and enforcing internal standards full circle: now that you've seen your rules in action, you can adjust for further improvement.

Data analytics, such mobile form-powered reports and dashboards, will show you the patterns that emerge from the information you collect. With the right analysis system in place, you can get a deeper look at the data and brainstorm ideas for improvement before even setting foot in a franchise location.

You can even compare data captured from one particular location to locations all over the world to uncover the cause behind downward trends. With, you can create cross-sections of your data. These tools break the numbers down into bite-sized chunks. 

After you gather longitudinal food safety data, take action. Where are things trending better or worse? Make incremental changes, monitor the results, and make more data-driven decisions. You'll be able to understand how your initiatives affected the issue, pivot to improve it further, and forecast future developments as they take place.

A systematic approach to data collection is a critical part of managing standards. Collecting consistent, clear, and actionable data puts you in a position to make better decisions and enforce your standards more consistently.