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We may have too much faith that it cannot happen, or won’t happen or we’re simply naïve. Perhaps we don’t seek, therefore we don’t find. Maybe it’s assumptions, perhaps laziness, or even poor work ethic. It can breed and morph in a culture where accuracy is considered unimportant. It is commonly known as – pencil whipping, or faking information on documents.

Faking reports has been the centerpiece of highly publicized incidents in child protective services where children in jeopardy died from abuse or neglect because the documentation of social worker visitations was manufactured. False information that home visits were conducted was entered on official reports because frazzled overworked caseworkers were overwhelmed trying to complete regulatory mandated tasks. Investigators checking service records after airplane crashes on occasion have found them falsified, likely contributing to the stressed parts failing. Thorough inspections would have identified the parts in question and facilitated repair or replacement. Instead they were “pencil whipped” and people died.

What affect would faking or manufacturing information on important documents have in the restaurant industry? Personally, what affect would they have on the manager or owner? Restaurants may fall victim to the pencil whipping phenomenon when the fast pace of the business collides with multiple mandatory tasks to complete. So, where may you be vulnerable if someone on your staff and/or crew manufactured information and how could it negatively affect your business?

Inventory – There are obstacles to checking in inventory accurately. Boxes may be shrink wrapped together and big boxes may hide smaller ones. Managers may be too busy to check in the incoming inventory, so they make assumptions or pass on the responsibility to inexperienced crew members. They may be too busy, too lazy, or not equipped with the best of work ethic to do a thorough daily count; so they may give their best guestimate. The result for your business - poor inventory control and unexplained losses.

Waste – Proper procedures may not be followed documenting waste as the day progresses. Digging through the garbage cans is just too unpleasant so the wasted product is given a “best guess”. The result for your business; - improper food cost control and a loss of profit.

Cleanliness – Restroom check-off sheets posted in the restrooms may not reflect true accuracy of inspections. Were they really checked each hour as indicated or every few hours and the rest of the entries just filled in? Are trash cans in the dining and restrooms emptied regularly? Does your staff clean as they go? Is your staff following proper hygiene? The result for our business - negative impression to the customer and a loss of repeat sales.

Cash Management – Daily safe counts may be mandatory, but left uninspected when assumptions of accuracy are made. Deposit reconciliations may be recorded with assumptions that figures are correct, or placed in the hands of a single person with no oversight. Cash transactions may not be handled with attention to detail. POS performance reports may be ignored, and theft left unchallenged. The result for your business - substantial cash shortages.

Times and temperatures – Food safety checklists require accurate times and temperatures to ensure food is safe to eat. During peak times, the checks may be forgotten and later falsely checked off as completed. The result for your business - serious contamination and illness, negative publicity, loss of business, and adverse sanctions.

We make checklists so our staffs have guidance on who, how, when, and what is to be completed. We create audits and inspections to improve our operations by providing a systematic and disciplined approach to evaluating compliance. That compliance is the key to the integrity and accountability of doing the right things right to operate a successful business. We trust that our employees will comply with the rules and procedures because they have been well trained, but need the structure in place to verify that they are being followed as intended. It provides the inspection of what is expected. The breakdowns in compliance and routine follow up are just too costly in so many ways.

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User Comments – Give us your opinion!
  • Steve Pierce
    71404256
    Libby, great article. And we have found considerable waste in the sanitation chemical side of the "house" too. Executives and managers may be interested:
    http://www.foodservice.com/articles/food-safety/food-sanitation-chemicals-a-better-business-model/
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Latest posts by D. B. "Libby" Libhart
D. B. "Libby" Libhart
D.B. “Libby” Libhart has more than 30 years of experience in the loss prevention industry. He has provided security and safety leadership in retail settings such as department stores, drug stores and quick-service restaurants. Before launching his own company, LossBusters, Libby served as the Senior Director of U.S. Security and Safety for McDonald’s Corp. He entered the QSR industry with Taco Bell and subsequently YUM Brands.
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