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Case Studies Digital Food Safety

Case Study: Hattie B’s Hot Chicken

The coolest hotspot for Nashville-style hot chicken these days is Nashville-based Hattie B’s Hot Chicken. Their widely acclaimed food has been featured on The Food Channel, praised in food blogs and major publications from coast-to-coast, and listed among the best fried chicken restaurants in the U.S. (including sixth on The Daily Meal's list of America's 75 Best Fried Chicken Spots).

That’s thanks to Executive Chef John Lasater’s fresh take on the bird. Nashville-style hot chicken has a long and tasty history behind it, so when Lasater tackled the dish, he wanted to cook up something fresh and distinctive. “How can we make this more pronounced but also rounded in flavor and just have that umami [flavor] bomb?” he asked himself. “That’s what we were really gearing on, so I started playing with cayenne and my other components, so they would balance out.”[ii]

Hattie B’s is also a family affair. Lasater’s father-in-law and brother-in-law are the original founders, and together they built a casual eatery offering delicious food, an inviting dining environment, and an array of local craft beers on tap.

No wonder Hattie B’s hot chicken has taken flight. Its original central Nashville location has been joined by two additional stores in Nashville, one in Memphis, and another in Birmingham, Alabama. Lasater and his in-laws are also eyeing additional stores on the horizon.

However, rapid growth, especially across state lines, creates new challenges for restaurants, which already face an uphill struggle to succeed in a crowded marketplace. How could they ensure their food safety and quality programs would be enforced consistently and rigorously at all locations? Enter ComplianceMate.

“As we’ve started to expand our business, thanks to the success we've seen, I want a good QA and food safety program in place to cover all our bases,” says Lasater. “That way we can protect our brand and continue to take advantage of new opportunities.”

ComplianceMate fits that need perfectly: the checklist and temperature monitoring solution can enforce brand standards across an entire network of stores, while simultaneously adapting to any specific local requirements. A hierarchical view in the ComplianceMate dashboard also enables users to see all locations at a glance and identify alerts on any issues at any given store. Thus, ComplianceMate enables Hattie B’s to maintain brand standards universally.

“ComplianceMate helps us to ease some growing pains,” says Lasater. He explains that one store can de

velop idiosyncratic habits that might not take place at other locations. “As a company, we want one playing field, one set of rules and procedures.” He says that consistency might not seem like such a big deal with only one or two locations, but once you’re chasing five or more locations, it becomes paramount to enforce consistency and protect the brand. ComplianceMate also offers tools that can help enforce corporate policies beyond just monitoring food temps.

Checklists can be customized and completed from any handheld smart device. As they are completed, the information is uploaded to a secure cloud in real-time, so that Hattie B’s leaders can make sure procedures are being followed in tandem everywhere. If not, if temperatures go out of spec, or if a checklist isn’t completed appropriately, automated alerts can notify store managers and company executives.

Strengthening a food safety and quality assurance program is just the start. It’s equally critical that any solution be able to fit into the restaurant’s normal flow.

“When I think about systems, it’s critical to keep them as simple as possible,” says Lasater, “because that means it will take off faster and won’t bog down our operations. Anything that eases operations make it easy for people to be successful.”

Prior to ComplianceMate, Lasater and other leaders at Hattie B’s were trying wrangle endless lists and papers for their food safety program, scheduling multiple rounds of meetings with kitchen managers, and more. Lasater explains that ComplianceMate’s easy-to-complete checklists and automated alerts ended their previously endless paper chase, even while creating an automatic and easy-to-access paper trail.

For example, anytime a health inspector walks in and wants their temperature log, Hattie B’s can pull everything up. “If a guest had a foodborne illness that they linked potentially back to Hattie B’s, we can look at all of our temperature history, and that will eliminate us as a culprit.” Traditional paper records can get lost or be left incomplete. “A lot of factors can put you into a situation you don’t want to be in,” Lasater says of the old way. ComplianceMate, however, frees Hattie B’s from manual temperature checks by using remote, wireless sensors and probes, so it also eliminates the possibility of human error.

“And ComplianceMate acts like your partner,” says Lasater.  ComplianceMate will send alerts to any designated contact(s) if a certain checklist isn't done by a certain time, or if a temperature goes out of spec.

Even if it's 2 a.m. and the cooler goes out completely, ComplianceMate generates a phone call, so the manager or executive can get to store and fix the problem, before they end up losing product and wasting money out of pocket. 

The system also generates a checklist completion report at the end of each week, so that users can see all anomalies. That creates opportunities for further coaching and ensures all systems are working the way users want them to do. 

“ComplianceMate support has been phenomenal,” says Lasater. He cites ComplianceMate’s quick responsiveness to questions, comments, and issues as an indicator of the strength of partnership between Hattie B’s and ComplianceMate. “It’s great to be able to just reach out and get requests answered quickly.”

CM Systems, LLC & ComplianceMate™

CM Systems, LLC provides monitoring systems for food safety compliance and operational effectiveness in various industry segments. Their principal product offering, ComplianceMate, offers real time monitoring, both of equipment and Standard Operating Processes within a restaurant operation including temperature monitoring (using wireless sensors), HACCP control, real time reporting/list completion and remote management. Customer's staff can efficiently work through the variety of procedures they conduct daily, gathering all the required data in a digital, time stamped format. This data is transmitted via "the cloud" whereby it can be reviewed in real time using a web enabled device. The system incorporates a variety of alerting options, so staff can complete within the time required. With the advent of cloud technology, ComplianceMate leads in moving paper check list to the electronic format and bringing food safety monitoring into the 21th century.

Hattie B’s Hot Chicken

A family run restaurant that serves "Nashville Style" Hot Chicken and homemade sides in Nashville, TN; Memphis, TN; and Birmingham, AL. Coming soon to Atlanta, GA

[i] https://www.thedailymeal.com/travel/america-s-75-best-fried-chicken-spots/slide-71

[ii] http://www.foodrepublic.com/2016/08/25/meet-the-man-who-launched-the-nashville-hot-chicken-craze/