If you’re involved in a restaurant chain’s QA department, you’re probably aware that managing back-of-house (BOH) product complaints is a grind. The hours spent clarifying issues with restaurants, contacting suppliers, writing reports, and summarizing that data often becomes a full-time role. The worst part? You didn’t get into food science to deal with complaints and paperwork, you wanted to actively improve your brand’s food safety and quality!
Below I’m going to break down the top three problems that contribute to making BOH complaint management a grind for the QA department in a large restaurant chain and what you can do about it.
1. Missing (or inaccurate) information.
When a restaurant receives a non-compliant product from a supplier and files a report, they need to provide QA with a list of information before the complaint can be handled. You need to know the particular restaurant’s location, the exact supplier involved, the restaurant’s distributor, the product, and the lot number. You may need the product’s kill date, use-by date, thaw date, or other key pieces of information that may vary based on the product or complaint type. That is all before the actual issue is even taken into consideration; if you don’t know what the issue is in regard to, you can’t act upon it!
If any of this is information missing, you’ll be on the phone with the restaurant or waiting for e-mails in an attempt to gather the required information. Even worse is when something is entered incorrectly; an incorrect supplier may reflect a batch that should never have been delivered to the location in question, causing more headache and confusion for QA.
Once you’ve spent your morning collecting all of this information, you can begin to address the issue and form a corrective action with the supplier or distributor involved in the complaint, assuming it was a valid issue. Now, wouldn’t it be great if restaurants couldn’t submit a complaint without providing you with every required field? What if the complaint forms they use automatically generate the majority of this information for them?
Solution: An active complaint form, as opposed to a PDF or Excel sheet, with required and smart fields can ensure no information is forgotten and decrease the likelihood of inaccurate information being entered.
2. Poor restaurant participation.
Quite often, the biggest issue with complaint management is simply getting restaurants to participate in filing complaints in the first place. Encouraging restaurants to file complaints is important for both your brand’s quality and bottom line. However, if the filing process itself is difficult or time consuming, employees are likely to ignore the issues and use the defective product, or simply throw non-compliant products away. Restaurant employees are busy enough serving customers and dealing with their routine work, they often don’t have ten or fifteen minutes to submit a complaint, so they don’t. Consider the risk to your brand if the non-conforming product is a food safety issue and is showing up in multiple units concurrently. Now you really have a big problem, all because of poor restaurant participation.
This is typically the result of slow PDF complaint forms that must be manually filled out and scanned in to corporate QA. Even Excel forms don’t resolve these issues; they are typically overcomplicated for documenting the issue at hand, while being limited to being entered in front of a computer while the issue at hand is back in the kitchen. This results in non-compliant products either being served to customers or being thrown in the trash, both of which can harm your brand.
Solution: Simplifying the complaint process with auto-filled fields and enabling mobile use will reduce the burden and time required on the restaurant employees required to enter these complaints, improving complaint logging participation across your organization.
3. Manual summary reporting.
As if encouraging restaurant participation and gathering all of the required information wasn’t hard enough, QA is typically responsible for summarizing complaints and keeping records to analyze supplier and distributor performance. Using traditional methods requires QA to manually enter this data in Excel charts to keep track of a supplier or distributor’s complaint history. This involves an extra step of data entry and time spent away from improving your brand’s food safety and quality. These records are then stagnant, providing no additional functionality other than serving as a repository for complaint information.
Ideally, the process of filing a complaint would automatically populate the record into your active report. Any updates, corrective actions, and resolutions will automatically populate themselves in the record as well. This would free QA to work on improving quality, rather than managing records.
Solution: Automated report generation, linked to the complaint process, will remove this manual step and provide actionable, detailed reports now available throughout your restaurant organization.
At Actionable Quality Assurance (AQA), we’ve reviewed many restaurant complaint management processes and have addressed the biggest issues they’ve faced to create the ideal complaint management system. Transforming your QA role from a grind to a breeze is easily achievable. Contact AQA today, schedule your free demo, and take control over your complaint management system.