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Yes, Chef

Like many Chicagoans, we have been glued to the TV show “The Bear,” about a talented chef who inherits a dilapidated Chicago beef joint in Season 1 and turns it into a fine dining establishment in Season 2. The restaurant scenes in this series are unbearably tense, particularly in the kitchen scenes that follow the crew as they try to keep pace with orders, deal with faulty equipment, and negotiate fraught work relationships.

All that tension seemed strangely familiar, but we couldn’t place it until the season finale, when we realized that running a restaurant has many parallels to managing a regulatory authority inspection.   The front room is the dining area with the “host”; the back room is the kitchen with the inspection team as “crew”; and, of course, the customer is the inspector.

Without further ado, we present lessons learned from “The Bear” on managing an inspection:

Use a reliable ticketing system.  The restaurant “front of house” (hosts and wait staff) communicate orders to the “back of house” (kitchen staff) via software that transmits input orders into paper tickets.  A good ticketing system is the backbone of the restaurant; when it fails in Season 1, because the person who configured it forgot to cap the number of orders, the kitchen gets completely bogged down.  Similarly, an inspection succeeds or fails on its ticketing system, which connects the inspection front room to the back room. When designing Ready Room’s system, we deliberately kept configurations to a minimum so the system could be up and running in minutes.

The expediter is the MVP. In Season 2, the expediter at Ever (a real Chicago restaurant) manages all the traffic in the kitchen:  she receives the tickets, requests resources (“hands”), follows up on tasks that are lagging, and generally keeps everything moving so the diners’ food arrives on time and at the right temperature. This role is analogous to the “Assigner” role in the inspection, who is the conduit between the front and back rooms. Ready Room supports the Assigner’s work by providing a visual interface that helps them perceive the status of the inspection at a glance. Our LiveView technology ensures real-time updates, so the Assigner doesn’t have to refresh to see the latest changes.

Know your customer. In “The Bear,” the staff at Ever note their customers’ preferences, special occasions, and allergies.  They even Insta-stalk one couple and, learning that they’re teachers, comp their meal for the night.  Do not – repeat – DO NOT stalk your inspector on Instagram  – but DO pay attention to your inspector’s background, knowledge of the therapeutic area and GXP area, and preferred style of communication.  For example, if an inspector with a GLP background is performing a GCP inspection, your team may have to provide some education on GCP issues or even translate GCP concepts into GLP ones. Ready Room’s storyboards help users practice effective ways of explaining issues to inspectors, and you can also attach an explanatory presentation that can be delivered to the inspector with a click.

Train backups. In the season finale, Sydney has to step in for Carmy when he gets locked in the walk-in, leaving Richie to pinch-hit for Sydney as expediter. Because the length of an inspection day is even longer than a restaurant shift, this happens more often than not. Cross-training is critical, and inspection teams also need to be able to adapt their workflow on the fly to accommodate fewer team members, or more, depending on the volume of requests.  Ready Room’s intuitive, color-coded workflow helps users move between roles. Trainees can easily learn to “stay in their lane” that corresponds to the color of their role.

Prepare ahead. Prep cooks clean, chop, dice, and even cook food ahead of time wherever possible so orders can be made up quickly.  In an inspection, some expected requests can similarly be “staged” so they are ready to go when requested.  Ready Room has a separate staging area that helps users separate staged items from requested items.

Always Be Communicating (ABC). Kitchen staff alert each other (“corner,” “behind”) as they pass by so they don’t get accidentally burned or stabbed by a colleague. Inspections don’t include such potential for physical endangerment, but it is important for inspection team members to convey information about requested documents so they don’t step on each other’s toes.  Ready Room captures comments, which “travel” with each request, so important information about the request is never lost. To communicate live, users can use chat or integrated videoconferencing.

Every second counts.  Timing is important in fine dining so that each course for each diner at a table arrives simultaneously. Inspection teams have more leeway, but they can’t let requests sit too long.  Each Ready Room request includes a timer that lets users know how long it’s been since the request was generated.  Automated alerts turn requests yellow and red when they’ve been sitting for longer than desired. The audit trail also helps users

Show respect. All kitchen staff call each other “chef,” a verbal reminder that everyone on the team is an equal contributor to the success of the venture. In a regulatory inspection, a little politeness and consideration go a long way toward the success of the team. Ready Room provides transparency into the inspection activity, which helps calm the chaos. A calm team is a polite team.

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