The importance of checklists

Nancy Anderson
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In various industries there are certain quality control standards in place. As an item moves down the assembly line, every "xth" unit is pulled for evaluation and testing. If it meets the standards required, it is assumed that everything is in the allowable margin of error. If an item fails the test, the entire line can be shut down and necessary corrections made. Once the product has rolled off the line, it is difficult to make the needed corrections. We have heard recently of millions of automobiles being recalled to correct an accelerator issue; or an entire fleet of planes being grounded to check weldings on engine mounts. Quality control is important.

While the hospitality industry is seldom in a life and death situation, quality control is a very important to a hotel or restaurant's success. Failure to provide a quality product to patrons can quickly become the fodder of internet reports.

The question is, "How do you employ a system of quality control in the hospitality industry? The answer: checklists. Now a checklist does not hold the same allure as crashing a car-full of test dummies into a wall but they are important in their own way.

Imagine a restaurant's kitchen. The local health department will conduct a surprise inspection. They will come with their own checklist of items to be examined and rated, often simply as pass or fail. Hopefully the restaurant has been operating with a similar checklist, reviewing it not on a quarterly or even monthly or weekly basis, but daily.

In 1732, Robert Fuller's Gnomologia made popular the adage, "A stitch in time saves nine." This means simply that routine maintenance saves a whole lot of work later on down the line. Those who ignore a restaurant's checklist are setting the establishment up for more work at a later date - including a possible closing, or even law suits from sickened customers.

Hotel rooms are not inspected by the health department routinely. Instead, a housekeeping supervisor needs to review the work of the housekeepers before the room is put back in the system for use. Their checklist includes such items as cleanliness of the bathroom, carpets, furniture and the like. Would it be helpful to add checking the lights to make certain all the bulbs are working, or the TV remote to be sure it is functioning properly? Usually, the first things on a guest's 'checklist' when checking into a room is to turn on the lights and scroll through the TV stations. It's a very negative first impression if there is a problem with either of these. And of course, the supervisor's list parallels that of the individual housekeepers.

For the front desk, a checklist serves another important function: order. A desk clerk can be in the middle of a necessary function, such as assigning rooms or preparing meal coupons or making room keys, when something unplanned arises. The checklist is there to answer the clerk's question upon handling the interuption, "Now where was I?" With a checklist in place, you know the order in which actions are to be taken and can be certain all are handled correctly.

Quality control is important in all enterprises; yes, even in the hospitality industry. Checklists are important to that end. Therefore, never take them lightly or make short shrift of them. Use them to provide the guests and customers a quailty experience, every time.

By: Joe Fairchild


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