Researchers at Cornell University and Michigan State University conducted a study of restaurants in three local markets over a 10-year period. Here is what they found regarding restaurant success rates: After the first year 27% of restaurants had closed; after three years, 50%; after five years, 60%; after 10 years, 70% of the restaurants had failed. There are a multitude of reasons for these numbers. One big reason restaurants fail is lack of sales due to poor execution. Offering your guests bad experiences will kill sales. If you look at the worst Yelp reviews, you will see many claim food poisoning. I never give a restaurant that poisons me a second chance.
According to a 2014 Consumer Reports survey, 66% of diners complain about incorrect temperatures of their food and drink. Improper food temperatures greatly increase the chances of food poisoning.
This is why it is imperative that restaurants conduct line checks. A restaurant “line check” is the process of evaluating all ingredients for quality, temperature, and inventory levels. Ideally, managers/owners do line checks before each meal service. Unfortunately, most restaurateurs don’t do line checks. If proper line checks were the rule and not the exception, many customer complaints would be diminished.
The best way to complete a line check is through a simple four step process:
- Create a list of all relevant ingredients found on the cook’s line and other heating/cooling units. It’s best to have a brief description after each item that describes what the product should be like. A good example is: Diced Tomatoes: red and delicious-not transparent or mushy.
- Get a couple of 1/6 or 1/9 pans (one with clean spoons; the other for dirty spoons), a thermometer and a scale.
- Start at one end of the cook’s line and systematically work through the entire line tasting, measuring temperatures, and spot checking portion and ladle sizes. You will likely be surprised at what you find.
- When you do find items that are sub par; be a hero and repair, reheat, throw them out, or set them aside for appropriate utilization. But get them off of your cook’s line!
After your line check is complete, you can go into the meal service with confidence knowing that all of your cook’s ingredients are up to par and with proper inventory levels. It’s a few less things to worry about!
Conducting line checks is also a great way to help “firm up” cook’s training by giving them your “eye” for quality. Many cooks don’t want to serve the ingredients that they have on their line. But they do so because they think they are supposed to. When cooks have excellent quality ingredients to work with they will take more pride in their work and produce better quality menu items. It’s that simple. I like to take new servers on line checks too. This gives them an opportunity to see the level of quality provided, and taste everything. Thus helping servers understand the menu better.
So what is the alternative to conducting line checks? Simple, you are inviting devastating chaos into your business. Without line checks you can expect very inconvenient surprises, often, and at the worst possible times! It’s like wearing a seatbelt, you don’t always need it, but when you do-you REALLY do.
There are two types of restaurateurs. Those who do line checks, and those who don’t. Which do you think are more successful?
Good Luck and Good Food!