How do you maintain consistency in employee training, culture, and service quality across different locations?
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How do you maintain consistency in employee training, culture, and service quality across different locations?

How do you maintain consistency in employee training, culture, and service quality across different locations?

For multi-unit restaurant franchisees, fully staffing their locations with quality employees  remains a challenge post-pandemic. Hiring, training, and retaining good employees – especially at QSRs where annual turnover can exceed 100% – remains a problem for many operators. But not for franchise organizations that employ best practices and have their team’s best interests at heart. We asked five multi-unit restaurant operators how they maintain consistency in training, culture, and service quality across their locations over time.

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DAVID BLACKBURN

Company: CEO, Southern Rock Restaurants

Brands: McAlister’s Deli, 155 in 13 states

Years in franchising: 12

David Blackburn was named the 2022 Single-Brand Leadership MVP (Most Valuable Performer) for achieving brand leadership with one brand. He is McAlister’s largest franchisee, was GoTo’s (formerly Focus Brands’) 2023 Developer of the Year, and has signed development deals for 69 more McAlister’s.

We have a very dynamic training program with assets and resources on a shared hub at GoTo Foods (formerly Focus Brands). We also can assign our own training modules for new employee orientation and training for our team to engage electronically.

We have a disciplined approach to onboarding. To ensure we are prepared for someone to start, we make sure a Certified Trainer is assigned and that we have enough supplies and uniforms. It’s great to get off on the right foot.

In a general sense, we try to identify, hire, and retain folks with a friendly personality who are engaging and work well on a team. You can’t get everything you need from a training program, so having team leaders and managers who enjoy teaching and working with others is important.

I think culture starts with having an inclusive environment that’s fun to work in, where people look forward to going to work. Just two days ago, someone told me they look forward to coming to work as much as they look forward to leaving work to go home to their family.

Being fully staffed is a big part of culture. You must have enough people to execute well, not only for our guests, but also so our staff doesn’t get burned out. Service quality is all about having enough. Someone told me a long time ago there are only two ways to mess up a restaurant: not enough people and not enough product to meet peak demand. And now, 45 years later it has never been more true.

MITCH COHEN

Company: CEO, Management 360 LLC, Samm Property Management

Brands: 8 Jersey Mike’s, 3 Sola Salon Suites open and 6 in development

Years in franchising: 41

Mitch Cohen is a board member of the IFA and the Multi-Unit Franchising Conference. He also is the CEO and founding partner of PerforMax Franchisee Advisors.

We work extremely hard at providing consistent service at all of our locations. We use all the tools our franchisor has given us to coach and teach each employee. We have a one-store mentality and we use that in each location.

Training is an everyday practice where each manager and area manager works with each employee during their shift, continuing to reinforce recipes and guest service, which is at the heart of what we do. When we hire new employees we discuss our culture, great subs, great customer service, being part of the community, and making sure we give back. Let’s make sure each guest feels at home.

Being able to manage this across multiple locations means making sure that leadership is present. I love that we could have one person who travels from location to location and is training and teaching all team members.

JOHN METZ

Company: CEO, Founder, RREMC Restaurants

UNITS: 62 Denny’s, 5 Hurricane Grill & Wings, 2 Wahoo’s Fish Taco

Years in franchising: 22

John Metz is a Past Chair of the Multi-Unit Franchising Conference and former franchisor of Hurricane Grill & Wings, which he sold to FAT Brands in 2018.

Training. We have consistent training throughout our brands. Denny’s has a really good online training platform called Ignite. FAT Brands uses World Manager as their platform. All our modules are on the Internet and are accessible at each store through iPads. For our GMs, a requirement for bonusing is that each site needs 85% of the staff to complete the franchisor’s online training. This is one of five metric bonuses for our GMs.

Culture. We have an inclusive culture, and we still struggle to get it right. We set the culture for RREMC Restaurants (the management company), our RVPs set the tone for the GMs, and our GMs set the culture for their restaurants. Most important is the culture at each individual restaurant, and we do our best to support each one. Our culture at the home office is we are there to serve the restaurants and the RVPs. There are no cash registers at the home office. A lot of home offices don’t get that right.

We also have an annual GM conference every year. This year we’ll have more than 125 attending over 3 days. The entire conference will be about turnover, retention, and training. Jim Sullivan will be a keynote speaker.

Service quality. You can have all the training in the world, but how do you translate all that training into service for the guest? One problem is that crew members have a bad habit of bringing their troubles to work, and sometimes human nature is to take it out on other people, whether staff or customers. When they bring their baggage from home to work, that is very difficult to deal with and typically doesn’t work well.

We have a lot of competitions. We incentivize our servers to sell certain things, and the one who sells the most receives an incentive. This still doesn’t change attitudes. We can’t teach happiness and smiling. The individual has to bring that to the job. Right now, when it’s so hard to hire, you can’t always get people with good attitudes — and that gets transferred to guests, unfortunately. That’s the hardest part. Today’s employment situation is very difficult.

ERIC ROBISON

Company: CEO, Robison Venture Group, LLC

Brands: Rock N Roll Sushi, 7 units in Georgia

Years in franchising: 8

An outstanding performance each time in each city is a critical part of us delivering a consistent experience. We do this through a rigorous system of checks and balances. We have daily checkpoints of product freshness.

We are always doing on-the-job training as well as multi-location group training to make sure we are staying up to date on all the current products and maintaining the same standards of excellence.

Culturally, we are always looking to grow our team with partners who love sushi and Rock N Roll! It all starts with finding the right people who are excited about the amazing food and experiences we are providing each day.

JOHN MILLESON

TItle: Franchise owner

Brand: Mr Brews Taphouse, 1 open, 1 opening in the coming months

Maintaining consistency in employee training, culture, and service quality is crucial for the success of my businesses. From my perspective, achieving this level of standard requires a concerted effort to prioritize my employees’ well-being and help empower their professional growth journeys.

That’s why I personally oversee the development of our comprehensive training — so it is uniquely tailored to each role and ensures that every employee receives the same high-quality training no matter the location they work in. As we look to open our second Mr Brews location in Mesa, Arizona, this consistency not only guarantees that all team members possess the necessary skills for the job, it also fosters a shared understanding of Mr Brews’ values and company standards.

A strong culture starts with investing in my team. I firmly believe in fair compensation as a cornerstone of employee satisfaction and motivation. To carry this into practice, I implemented a policy to go above the standard rates for servers, which has proven to attract and retain top talent. By valuing my employees’ contributions and compensating them accordingly, I believe I have cultivated a culture where employees are not just loyal, but also driven to excel and stay in their roles. This has proven a successful strategy - in the 3 years we’ve been operating in Mesa, we’ve only had three team members leave.

I believe my management style is simple: fair, but firm. I set clear expectations for performance, attitude and behavior, holding everyone accountable to the same standards. Consistency in leadership ensures that my team understands what is expected of them and helps them to feel supported and encouraged to achieve their individual goals.

Overall, my commitment to employee development, fair compensation, and consistent leadership continues to foster a culture of excellence at Mr Brews Taphouse. By prioritizing my team’s growth and well-being, I ensure that my business maintains the highest of standards. Ultimately, this approach not only drives success internally, but is reflected in the overall customer satisfaction we see in our guests.

FRANCHISEE BYTES

How do you balance life and work?

I don’t think I do this well. It is something I continue to work on year after year. However, I have also learned that it is not something you have to perfect. Each needs its own attention at different times.

—Sam Askar, Askar Brands, 75 Dunkin’, 42 Church's Texas Chicken, 1 Papa Romano’s, 1 Blackjack Pizza. Askar Brands is also the franchisor of Papa Romano’s, Blackjack Pizza, Papa’s Pizza To Go, and Breadeaux Pizza

I believe that they are connected. If you are happy with your life, you will be more productive at work. When both are in sync, you will have inner peace.

—Steve Leibsohn, Owner, 35 Wetzel’s Pretzels, 2 food trucks, 1 Twisted by Wetzel’s

That starts with having a fiancé who appreciates your work life and even works for the company. My life doesn’t revolve around my job, but I do need people in my life who can respect what I do. That means understanding that at any given time my phone may ring or a text may come through that is work-related. It takes a special person to understand this and, luckily, I have that person in my life. He also recently came on as the director of construction for the company and has become an integral part of building the new Scooter’s buildings, as well as remodeling many of the Subways and other repair work. I have also taught my staff how to handle almost every situation.

—Rachel Wallace, CEO, CHF (Cup Half Full) Investments, SRW Management, 25 Subway, 3 Scooter’s Coffee open (11 total signed), 1 Best Western Plus

I don’t think there has to be a traditional “balance” when you are hands-on with your work, as many of us in franchising are. When your work makes you and your family happy, you can be both working and living all the time. I try to keep my office meetings to weekday mornings so I can spend weekends with my family, but we all live on a flexible schedule. I do think taking some occasional breaks for travel and vacation is important.

—Neil Hershman, Owner/CEO, 7 16 Handles, 3 Dippin’ Dots & Doc Popcorn, 2 Captain Cookie

This is always a challenge. The biggest thing I do is set boundaries. When I’m at work, I need to be invested in that. When I am at home, I need to be at home. Anything that has not gone as planned at the locations can be handled when I get back to work. At times, this seems near impossible, so I focus on developing the right people to handle issues when I am not accessible so that I’m needed less. Always be focused on developing someone who will replace you, so you can protect your own time. It’s a resource we can’t get back.

—Karl Malchow, Owner, Renegade Pizza, 5 Toppers Pizza

It’s an ongoing process, but my family is my top priority.

—Pathik Patel, President, VAAP Management, 16 Dunkin’, 1 Buffalo Wild Wings Go, 1 Curry Up Now

Making time for family is the most important part of that balance. I try to include my wife and kids in almost everything that I do.

—Joe Piro, President/Franchisee, Supreme Greens Franchise Group, 21 Salata Salad Kitchen, 3 Face Foundrié

Published: April 22nd, 2024

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