How Dine Brands Increases Value Cross-Functionally with FoodLogiQ Connect
Learn how Dine Brands Global Quality Assurance Specialist Jason Brown is leveraging the Trustwell Connect platform to drive business continuity throughout the company, whose brands represent 6,000 restaurant locations worldwide.
Dine Brands Global is one of the world’s largest full service dining companies in the world, and franchises two iconic brands, Applebee’s and IHOP. A customer since 2018, the Dine Brands Quality Assurance team has evolved their programs by leveraging the Trustwell Connect platform for years. Dine Brands’ current approach to food quality and safety? Building value through new efficiencies and superior visibility.
Value-building is not always the first thing that comes to mind when one mentions food safety or quality assurance. As Dine Brands Quality Assurance Specialist Jason Brown points out, “Quality Assurance is not known as the money-making part of the organization.” The philosophy of building value is more often claimed by business units like franchise operations, advertising or innovation. Many believe that the importance of protecting customers, delivering top-tier, traceable ingredients and resolving incidents swiftly are investments reflected in red on their company’s balance sheet. And, when things are going well, quality and safety can remain out of sight, out of mind. “You don’t really think about the things that are going on behind the scenes,” says Brown, “The restaurant doesn’t care about how long it takes to get a credit until they need a credit.”
However, the Dine Brands team is proving that, armed with the right digital tools, value-building is something Quality Assurance can drive on a fundamental level.
Building Value within the Quality Assurance Team
Like a true value-oriented leader, Brown has taken a Land and Expand approach. Starting, of course, by building efficiencies from within the Quality Assurance department. Backed by his FoodLogiQ Customer Success Manager, Brown felt emboldened to build new and streamlined processes. “The CSM was very helpful for making things happen,” says Brown, “I said to them, ‘If I do something wrong and it breaks everything, can you repair it?’” Rather than break everything, however, Brown methodically made improvements to the way Dine Brands sets and reviews supplier requirements, in addition to document management. “We set even stricter guidelines for our suppliers. With the ability to assign documents based on certain answers or custom attributes linked to a product or location, or create workflows to have configurable review steps, we were able to put filters on what suppliers were doing,” Brown explains, “It makes it really hard for them to do things wrong, and that was huge.”
Brown also used FoodLogiQ Compliance to revamp the company’s quality incident management process, which resulted in a transformation of the credit decision process. “Prior to the updates that I made using FoodLogiQ, a credit decision would take about 30 days because the process allowed things to fall through the cracks. Our system just wasn’t set up in a way that was conducive to reminding people,” says Brown, “Currently, our average time for a credit decision is about 4-6 days from submission to close, and I would say we have a 90% approval rate from all of our suppliers based on the new workflows.” Down 600% from the original 30 days marks a massive improvement, Brown emphasizes.
Efficient Auditing and Stronger Supplier Relationships
The Trustwell Connect platform has enabled Dine Brands to build a stronger product specification auditing program across stakeholders. “It’s a much simpler process for everyone involved,” explains Brown, “Our previous process was to complete the audit in Excel and put it in a folder online. Then, it was the Product Manager’s job to go online, send that completed report to the supplier in an email, and then verify that they had reviewed the audit in a separate excel sheet. The amount of data that you’d have to crunch just to find out which audits a certain supplier passed or failed was insane. Now, I just run a report to access that information instantly and can also find out why they failed.”
Instant access to documents has created new feedback loops within Dine Brands’ supplier relationships, and has helped create value for the companies that Brown’s team works with. Supplier reviews, for example, have become a more positive experience for everyone. Conducted annually, these check-ins take a birds-eye view into the issues, incidents, audits, assessment and response times for suppliers across products. “That information would have taken a week to get. Now, it’s available on-demand for the person who needs it, as they need it,” says Brown. This includes the suppliers themselves, who are highly invested in the performance of their own businesses.
“Reviews can conjure a lot of anxiety,” Brown admits, “But, for a lot of people or businesses, it’s really valuable learning information that is essential for operating and improving. We now have suppliers that can’t wait for their reviews. If it takes an extra week to get their audit done – because we had too many products or something like that – they’ll say, ‘Hey, I normally get my audit by now!’ FoodLogiQ has helped us take that entire system and change it.”
The Importance of Visibility Across Business Units and Partners
Interoperability within food businesses carries the same benefits it brings to broader industry exchange: source-of-truth visibility, reduction of redundancies, faster information retrieval and more comprehensive information capture upfront. On a high level, Brown sees the Trustwell Connect platform as a method to drive alignment within Dine Brands by centralizing information and streamlining communication. “If I have the information, and then another person has the information, and another person has the information…eventually, something’s going to get lost. Whereas, if there is one hub for the information, you will get a more rounded view of things,” he says. This mitigates risks and reduces the chances that an essential piece of information isn’t lost, or left uncommunicated to a stakeholder making impactful decisions.
With software that allows for configurable fields and permission setting, Brown sees an elegant way to serve many needs. “It’s really about data management and collection that can inform someone at whatever level of specificity they need, while always being consistent. If I’m recording 20 things, but you only want to know 10, that’s great, here’s the 10. But if another department needs more detail, here’s a report with the additional data.”
For example, if there is a foreign object incident, Brown will let the risk management team know the restaurant and product impacted, but can exclude extraneous information like the distribution center. This is easily achieved by creating a role with permissions to see those exact two fields of data, keeping confusion low and enabling more seamless communication with the point of authority for a given item. Otherwise, Brown says, “Maybe the information will get lost in an email, maybe it doesn’t. That’s really where additional notifications and bringing in outside teams come into play. You can direct them back to the main source of information, share it with them and alert them to things they didn’t even know were happening.”
Another example of upfront data collection that has had broad implications across the company, is the reporting of COVID-19 cases within Trustwell Connect. Brown explains, “We adapted our quality incidents management tool to capture COVID-19 cases at our restaurants, which was very informative to our internal teams. This information was initially shared via an Excel sheet, and it became a confusing process with endless streams of emails…I knew we could handle this in FoodLogiQ Compliance and share it with easy permissioning configurations. It’s a ton of data, so we’ve been collecting it upfront. We have one source for all of it, and we make it available to the different departments, exposing only the data that they need to see. We were able to share it with our operations teams, leadership, our field operators and with third parties like food safety evaluation auditors. The solution has had a much wider impact beyond our QA team.”
Dine Brands also works closely with other entities to realize their business at scale. The company partners with a purchasing co-op to source their products, meaning transparency and communication are key. Brown explains, “We have a gigantic product list that we put out for each brand. Our co-op puts that together every month and then sends it over to us to review before it goes out to our restaurants and our distribution centers. The problem is that final product approval comes from our Quality Assurance team, and information can change during the production phase. Now, we’re utilizing Connect to make our system the source of truth, which enables the co-op to come in and acknowledge or verify things. If I have a different product code in our system than their system, our product code is right. We captured that label, even if they bought it.”
What’s Next: Bringing Value to Franchisees
The strategy to build value via centralized information sharing is something Brown and the Dine Brands QA team is continuously building towards. In addition to streamlining processes like credit retrieval, Brown sees the Connect Platform as a tremendous resource for franchisees or operators down the line.
“The ability for a franchisee, or restaurant managers, to be able to go in and check certain aspects of their business at a very quick glance is huge. An operator or a general manager at the restaurant level could just log in, have access to their one page, be set up for the products that they have through their supply chain in the system, and go put in all the information that we require. I think they would have a much quicker turnaround, and I think they would report more,” says Brown.
And, while it sounds counterintuitive, reporting more is often a good thing. Proactive reporting yields important data that can further improve the consistency and quality of the product. Brown explains, “It gives a franchisee power to say, ‘Hey, I am unhappy with the current quality of that product, it is leading to an increase in guest complaints.’ That’s food cost, that’s retention – it can provide value in so many ways.”