Category

Audits / Brand Consistency

7 Strategic Franchise Questionnaires

By | Audits / Brand Consistency
strategic franchise questionnaires

Some franchises, when they start, have just one quarterly audit – often driven by legislation such as food safety instead of having multiple franchise questionnaires. But did you know that the average franchisor in FranchiseBlast has six different questionnaires in the system? According to Atul Gawand, author of the book, The Checklist Manifesto, “The volume and complexity of what we know has exceeded our individual ability to deliver its benefits correctly, safely, or reliably.”

In a nutshell, this means that even in fields like aviation and medicine, checklists are needed to pool the collective knowledge. In the world of franchising, this is particularly meaningful because franchise owners are buying into a system because they want to tap into expertise. Let’s take a look at some of the common franchise questionnaires we find in our system, representing over 13,500 franchise locations. To keep it simple, we separated them out into Operations, Training and Marketing.

Operations

Most franchise questionnaires we utilize are within the Operations team. Although the stereotype is of the ops person as a checklist wielding intruder, there are many ways to make operations activities helpful and even collaborative. See some ideas below.

Quarterly or Annual Business Plan

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Business planning is a common questionnaire that is fantastic to build collaboratively with the franchisee, and one that you can come back to over and over again throughout the relevant period.

Pro Tip: Don’t make the common mistake of mistaking cash for profits. Profits is an accounting concept, while cash-in and out can make or break the business. See more business planning mistakes here.

Food Safety Audit

Food Safety is often driven by legislation thus is sometimes used standalone. Foodborne illnesses are preventable and safe food practices encourage longer lives, and a more resilient food industry.

Pro Tip: If you get your food safety assessed by a 3rd party such as Steritech or Noraxx, you can add it by integration to your Franchise Operations software. With this, you get the full picture of the franchise and create interesting comparisons such as cleanliness and customer service, for example, to gauge the customer experience as a whole.

Weekly/Monthly Phone Call Business Check-In

This is a simple audit, but helps you stay on top of communication with your franchisee. It simply records the call, and makes sure any follow-ups that you need get tracked in the Franchise Operations system.

Pro Tip: A picture can say a thousand words. Getting the franchisee to send photos for a phone check-in helps you know for sure that the topic of the call was actioned.

quick call audit

Training

Countdown to Opening Checklist

Taking a snapshot at a key time before opening will make sure new franchisees are set up for success. Countdown-to-opening is one of the most common terms in training but making it a clear checklist with follow-up tasks and built-in accountability means you won’t have surprises (negative ones!) on opening day.

Pro-Tip: Some franchisors like to take several “snapshots” such as 12-week, 6-week, 4-week and 2-week.

Trainer Arrival Checklist

Some franchisors choose to have trainers on-site for grand openings. To give customers the best experience possible, there are a lot of details to look after. While the food may be ordered, and the proper smallwares are ordered and sparkling, other details may be missing, such as giftcards at the cash or maybe employees are not able to clock-in yet.

Pro Tip: Seeing aggregate results of common issues found in openings, can help you emphasize certain things in in-class training for later groups. For example, if there is an issue across the board with franchisees not showing their grand-opening promotion in the window, you can emphasize the foot traffic that such a sign would bring.

Marketing

New Marketing Rollout Assessment

While it would be great to believe that as soon as the roll-out e-mail gets sent from the head office legions of franchisees march out and make the campaign happen, but in reality, that is not the case. Assessing a roll-out tells you about both perceived effectiveness of the marketing team from the franchisee side, and the compliance percentage from the franchisor side.

Pro Tip: When assessing a roll-out which requires specific training material on a recipe, for example, snapping a photo can act as a great proof point.

New Product Readiness Audit

When you are rolling out a new program, sometimes you need to assess the readiness of the team. This audit helps you assess where they are vs. where they should be.

Pro Tip: Training is the new marketing in many ways, as customers rely on reviews more and more for their food and entertainment options. Having training and a percentage of crew complete on your audit is a great best practice for a readiness audit.

Last Word

Once you have the right collection in place, you can build a franchise scorecard. Take a look at our Franchise Scorecard eBook here.



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12 Surprising Things You Can Do On Your Next Franchisee Visit

By | Audits / Brand Consistency, Franchise Relationships
Franchisee Visit

A visit from an Franchise Business Consultant (FBC) can stir up a lot for a franchisees. Some can see the FBC as a checklist-wielding intruder, while others may see it as a major disruption, like the Kool-Aid man bursting into the side of their operations when they are trying to get stuff done. While using your checklist is needed, why not provide them with some surprise value during the franchisee visit? Check out the tips below to learn more.

Your Next Franchisee Visit

It’s Not What You Think 

1. Recognize Good Performance

A powerful, but underutilized tool is recognition. During your visit, the franchise and their team may think you are going to “catch them doing something wrong.” What if instead… you “catch them doing something right”? Reading out an e-mail from a happy customer, or a nod of appreciation from the President or one of the Directors of the organization can go a long way. Some franchisors even send their FBCs on the road with travelling trophies. After your visit is over, a thoughtful and gracious e-mail, text or even some fun and memorable photos circulated on social media or on your internal message board can be powerful. You can also provide some recognition to the hourly team such as a verbal thank you, an Amazon gift card or a “shout out” on Social Media.

2. Teach to Fail Forward

“When challenges and problems occur, find a lesson,” says Jim Sullivan in his game-changing book Multi Unit Leadership. “Find the lesson, share it with your team and discuss how to prevent the problem from occurring again. Problems are opportunities to learn from not get upset about.” Taking this approach will get your franchisee and their team to step back, and hopefully realize that you are there to help, not judge.

3. Know Details Matter

Have you ever guessed on the cleanliness of the restaurant as a whole based on the standard of clean you see in the washroom? Reminding the franchisee that the details matter is a great message from an FBC when conducting an audit. It is easy to let things slide a bit as an operator, and having a different set of eyes can make a big difference. For example, when you walked in, did the first person you meet greet you with a welcoming smile, or were they focused in on their phone? A customer, who has driven 20-30 minutes, past dozens of restaurants, would have that same experience – whether good or bad.

4. Be a Thermostat, not a Thermometer

Jim Sullivan talks about the idea of controlling the temperature, instead of reflecting it. While you want to meet the franchisee where they are, you also want to be the voice of reason. If you are getting as “hot” or as “cold” they are, you are not going to help. Having some self control, and remembering professional boundaries creates a win-win all around.

5. Consciously Collaborate

Like it or not, with Social Media and our “always on” society, our world is more and more collaborative. Information does not flow from the top down anymore; instead it flows bottom-up and laterally. Instead of resisting this idea, roll with it. Consciously collaborating means that you help the crew be a team feel energized after your visit and there is a little more glue connecting them together. You can also create collaboration with their fellow franchisees or other people who can broaden their professional or personal expertise.

6. Put a Loudspeaker on Great Ideas

When you see great ideas at play on your field visit, why not amplify them, and share them with the rest of the system? Of course, you only want ideas that don’t go against brand standards but it can be surprising how creative great operators can be within them. Don’t forget that for McDonald’s, Ronald McDonald, the Big Mac and the Egg McMuffin were all franchisee ideas. From Marketing to operations, there are ideas you could take and run with.

7. Judge People on their Best Days

Have you ever felt unfairly judged by someone? It is a sinking feeling, which you may be unconsciously be creating for your franchisees. “Be balanced, be fair, observe often,” said Sullivan. “And consider all the grey areas before you make a decision in either black or white.”

8. Encourage Excellence

While you want to create an atmosphere of acceptance, at the same time, you want to follow the management precept of being “hard on issues, and soft on people.” That means that if you see food being prepared at a level 10/10, encourage that again. Don’t forget that being on a “dream team” feels much better than being considered second-rate.

9. Foster Financial Goals

Unit Level Economics is a hot issue at franchise conferences because it matters from both a franchisee and franchisor perspective. Franchisors are typically paid on revenue, which can create a perception among franchisees of even the most well-meaning of head office teams. Helping your franchisee meet or exceed profitability targets will show that you are there to help in the most meaningful way possible.

10. Create a Not-to-do List

Productivity experts such as Tim Ferriss talk about having a not-to-do list. In fact, these can raise performance more than adding more to your schedule.  That list will demonstrate that you are not there to put more on an already full plate. You are there to help them succeed.

11. See Service through the Customer’s Eyes

It helps to see the operation from a customer’s point of view, rather than through that of the manager’s or staff. After all, a great customer experience, may not be what you think it is.

“Not having to ask for anything,” says Sullivan. “Is the ultimate definition of customer service. Most customers don’t actually ‘want service’. Based on the thousands of customer we interview annually for the service projects we do for clients, what customers want first and foremost from business is to eliminate dissatisfaction. Yep, that’s right. They don’t want ‘excellence’, to be ‘wowed’, ‘delighted’, ‘blown away,’ or whatever the service buzzword du jour is. Customers want consistent positive experiences characterized by the absence of complaints.

12. Mind the Gap in Alignment

“Mind the Gap” is something you see at the subway station, but that advice is also good for FBCs. An exercise, suggested by Sullivan, may be exactly what you need for your next franchisee visit.

  1. Before your visit, answer the following questions: 1) what are my customer’s top ten complaints? 2) what are my customers top ten expectations? Be sure to write down your answers.
  2. Ask the franchisee, their managers and the hourly associates the same two questions.
  3. Your service challenges and opportunities will become crystal clear, comparing the synchronicity, overlap and/or disconnect among the different groups.

Last Word

Looking for more ways to enhance your service? Check out our 5 Boosts eBook on how to enhance your Franchise Audit at every phase.



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Franchise Field Audit Mistakes Infographic

By | Audits / Brand Consistency

Are you making any of the Franchise Field Audit Mistakes? If you want to learn about some solutions, check out out post on Field Audit Mistakes, along with some solutions.



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5 Ways to Use Data in Your Franchise Business Plan

By | Audits / Brand Consistency, Business Plans

According to the Harvard Business Review, “Recent studies show that only about 15% of decisions made by doctors are evidence based. For the most part, here’s what doctors rely on instead: obsolete knowledge gained in school, long-standing but never proven traditions, patterns gleaned from experience, the methods they believe in and are most skilled in applying, and information from hordes of vendors with products and services to sell.” If only 15% of doctor’s use evidence, it is extremely likely that franchisees use data in their decisions even less. This means smart franchisees using data will win a competitive advantage over those who do not.

In our recent post on franchise business plans, we discussed a step-by-step approach. Now we want to do a deep dive into data for the franchisor audience.  Using data is a fantastic way to uncover problems which can be valuable in that first part of the planning cycle of “identifying the issue” and then uncovering if the issue identified is actually a real business problem.

Rank

When referring to “rank” that is the franchisees ordered from best to worst, compared to the system or a sub-group, such as region or training class. The first few metrics include benchmarks, a vital metric for franchisees.

Why it’s important

Rank is important because you can see where the franchisee is compared to others in the system. It is like the “you are here” symbol on the map – orienting them as to where they stand in the system in terms of performance. While not everyone needs to be in the top 10, understanding rank can help them get a realistic view about what is truly going on in their business compared to their peers. Seeing the performance of like franchisees also helps them get inspired, and maybe curious about what is giving others ‘the edge’ such as off-premise sales or a neat new promotion.

Trend

Understanding how the franchisee is doing compared to previous months helps you see where they are going. In fact, some in the Private Equity world consider the trends to be more important than the numbers themselves.

Why It’s Important

Comparing to previous performance encourages self-directed competition, rather than looking to others. Franchisees can find this metric more motivating, since it is not externally driven; they find the motivation within themselves. This also helps get away from the “my market is unique” objection.

Example

In this example, imagine that % of online orders is something that you focused on strongly with the franchisee. Looking at the trend column, you can see that Sales and Checks are going down, even though online orders are going up. This could indicate a greater focus on the new online orders, resulting in neglect on the side of the traditional business. According to the book Measure What Matters, when a new goal is set, you want to look at the balancing metrics as well.

For example, when sales to up, you don’t want quality to go down. When a new product line is introduced, you don’t want the old product line to suffer. Setting two goals instead of one, such as keeping traditional sales consistent while increasing online sales, is a good practice.

Questions to Improve

This list shows the places where the franchise can get better in terms of being an operator. This serves as a starting point for the planning cycle. When you identify an issue, it may not get resolved right away. Instead of it getting forgotten the moment you step onto the plane on the way home from your franchise visit, you can have a plan and keep track of it so it will be resolved in the future.

Why It’s Important

Keeping the “questions to improve” top of mind helps crystallize what the most important action is based on the audit. After all, it is one thing to do an audit, but it is quite another to act on it.

Example

Above, you can see a number of failed questions on the audit. After a quick review, all of the questions are regarding cleanliness and food safety. In terms of planning a straightforward idea would be to group them together and create a plan around this issue.

Top Store Weaknesses

A franchise system is only as strong as its weakest link. When looking into weaknesses, it gives you a picture of the potential vulnerability of the franchisee, and what actions can be done to resolve it.

Why It’s Important

Having a weakness with a label of severity based on the franchise system helps the franchisee understand the seriousness of a potential issue. This then makes future discussions, and potential escalations simpler when there is a clear audit trail.

Example

In the example above, you can see this data at work. Important elements are marked as “critical”, such as Net Sales and Gross Sales – with a serious shrinkage of over 15% each. Smartphone usage is considered less important and is marked that way.

Bird’s Eye View

Pulling the focus back from individual questions, looking at the big picture helps you coach and plan appropriately.

Why It’s Important

An audit is a lengthy process, and it can be difficult to see the forest for the trees. Seeing the overall picture shows if the franchisee is failing on full sections, helping identify areas of staff concern or training needs.

Example

In the heat map above, you can see that the areas of failure are marked in red. In the next section up, you can see groupings of questions which were highlighted. Although this example does not show a full grouping failure, there are a few “collections” of 3-4 adjacent questions which are marked in red. Exploring those questions and finding a big-picture resolution in terms of training, equipment purchase or staff change, for example, could be transformed into a goal.

The Last Word

Are you ready to deep dive into data, for various parts of the audit? Take a look at our Franchise Scorecard eBook -full of metrics, KPIs and samples from a variety of verticals.



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Calibrate Your Auditors with FranchiseBlast

By | Audits / Brand Consistency, Brand Consistency

In a franchise environment, it’s important that the franchisee experience is as consistent as possible.  If you think of investing in a franchise as one of the most important financial decisions of a franchisee’s life, it’s understandable for them to expect to receive value from their coaching sessions. They also expect that the franchisor will hold all other franchisees to the same high standards in order to protect everyone’s investment. In this era of social media, a franchisee delivering an inadequate experience can permanently damage the system as a whole in the blink of an eye.

“Calibration”, a term many connect with engineering and music, is simply a way to ensure that measurement values are consistent with a standard. We can all hear when a guitar is out of tune, which means that the guitar is not consistent with the standard note – a C is not a true C – it is sharp, flat or otherwise not where it should be. In the context of auditors, if your auditors are not consistent, that means that they do not comply with a central standard. Instead of being consistent, each coach brings their unique point of view.

Given that each coach has their own unique strengths and weaknesses, it’s impossible to be perfect – for example, an auditor with a sales background may see personal interactions differently than someone who came up the ranks through Food Safety. Calibrating field audits is something forward-thinking franchisors should do on a continuous basis.  Calibration is usually performed with all of the coaches in the same unit at the same time, performing their visit and comparing notes. Given the associated costs and inconvenience for the franchisees, these types of calibration visits are few and far between.

However, did you know FranchiseBlast lets you review auditor calibration without having to leave the comfort of home office?  After you have performed a few audits, you can start looking at elements such as our Audit Insights report, comparing the overall score of each coach within their region.

audit calibration screenshot

This type of comparison is also available in a few of our other reports (namely the Global Performance report) and in the form of a dashboard widget. Keeping an eye on the variance in top-level scores across different regions is a good way to be proactive.

We recently took a deeper dive for some of our franchise partners during a quarterly business review. While the top-level scores seemed consistent enough, the franchise partner had a gut feeling some standards were not well calibrated. We decided to explore their biggest system-wide weaknesses together. Here’s what we found:

franchise auditor calibration table

As a first step, we took out Coach 1 who only completed a single audit where the franchisee was in compliance. We then observed a large gap between all the coaches. One coach was on average saying franchisees were respecting the standard 81.25% of the time whereas another saw just 25.71% compliance for this system-wide weakness.

We discussed this with the franchisor, and they said that it was a very interesting observation as Coaches 2-5 represent the East Coast whereas Coaches 6-9 are franchise business coaches for the West Coast. Both teams perform their calibration sessions separately. One group was clearly being stricter than the other.

We repeated the exercise with another franchise system and observed this gap on their own system-wide weakness:

auditor calibration table 2

Again, removing the outliers with only a handful of audits, we still end up with a huge gap between 5.56% and 92.41%. Statistically, it seems very unlikely that the territories are completely inconsistent for this standard. It’s likely a variance in how coaches are calibrated with regards to this particular standard.

How can we fix this? How do we get the coaches all “in tune”?  Pictures! In FranchiseBlast, each question can be annotated with a picture to clarify the success or failure. Similar to social media, we have a photostream for each question, allowing users to quickly peruse photos from a variety of auditors.

The franchisor can set up a remote training session where the photos in each territory are reviewed together as a group. Each auditor can comment on what is considered a failure for the question. Together, the team recalibrates in a proactive and constructive fashion. The review session is not about calling people out on doing the audits right or wrong; instead, the idea is to clarify the process for future audits. This way, the standard can be expressed more clearly and communicated to all coaches.

In both cases, some of these pictures were then re-used in the documentation for the standard, clearly recording what is considered a pass and what is a failure for future auditors or franchisees reviewing audits at a later date.

This quarter, why not review the calibration of three of your biggest system-wide weaknesses? The results can be eye-opening!



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Is your Franchisee Audit Too Generous?

By | Audits / Brand Consistency

Over the years, we have seen hundreds of franchise field audit questionnaires. They come in all shapes and sizes and cover many different aspects – in fact we wrote a field audit benchmarks article comprising of just this.

A number of systems have approached us and asked us for ways to improve their audit questionnaire, which they thought was too generous. More specifically, they were seeing all of their franchisees receive 90%+ scores when in fact they sensed that the system average should be more around a 70% or 80%. In fact, the average across all franchise systems we work with is 80% of audits pass and 20% fail.

John Doerr, author of bestseller Measure What Matters famously said “if you always hit 100% of your goals, you are not shooting high enough.” Conversely, if you’re hitting too few of them, you get demotivated. If it is at around 80%, and the goals are meaningful, people will sit up and take notice of those initiatives, and the people in charge of them.

Franchisors have told us that the problem with such high scores is that franchisees who receive them tend to ignore the recommendations that are made because they’re already doing exceptionally well.  This article lists out a collection of strategies you can employ to balance out your audit scoring.

Ineffective Strategy: Changing Question Weights

The natural first first reflex is to change the number of points allocated to each question. A critical question will be given more weight than a low impact one. At it’s base, this is a sound strategy when used appropriately.

Imagine you had a questionnaire with 100 questions, worth one point each. If a franchisee fails a critical question due to having rats taking over the kitchen, then they still end up having 99%. Sure, maybe the whole audit fails due to severity rules around such critical questions but when seeing that score, they’ll think they still did very well, and will be popping the champagne bottles, when in reality, the brand would be in grave danger. 

When faced with this, the reflex is to increase the point value of this question. Let’s say we make it 10 points. The questionnaire total is now 109, having moved that question from 1 to 10 points. Fail that question and you get 99 out of 109, or just under 91%. That’s a big jump and you’re making progress on being less generous.

The problem with this strategy is you can’t do it too often. If you do, then you end up with a similar problem because the critical questions rarely fail. As an example, imagine that you want the top ten questions to be worth ten points, and you leave the other 90 questions at their standard one-point value. Your total point value is now 190. Fail one critical and you’re back to almost 95%. In other words, you just halved your gains in the context of improving the questionnaire to be less generous.

Additionally, because your critical questions rarely fail, you’ve made things worse for the other regular questions. Fail a regular question and now you have 99.5% instead of 99%.  As you can see, this drives average audit scores up and reduces failure rates.

Don’t misinterpret the comments above as saying you should never change question weights. We believe questions should be weighted based on their importance. The lesson we are communicating here is that it isn’t typically the solution to this particular problem.

Strategy #1: Calibrate Your Coaches

Before making any changes to your questionnaire, you need to make sure that your coaches are evaluating the questions properly according to the same guidelines. This may imply having a meeting with the whole team and defining much more specific documentation about each question to quantify the criteria for a passing value. 

If you balance this with real data, you can ask people if they think that it’s normal that a certain question is passing 95% of the time. Perhaps the team will discover that certain standards were simply too easy to attain, and the bar can be moved up.  

A simple conversation with the team to be stricter may be a very easy way to get started on this problem.

Strategy #2: Add Questions that Will Fail Often

Sometimes auditors will sense that the questionnaire is dated and overlooks certain areas that would normally be failing often. In Strategy #1, you defined stricter standards; now you are expressing those standards as new questions instead of different evaluation criteria. This is a good start, though it’s not as effective as the next idea.

Strategy #3: Prune Questions

Another data-driven initiative revolves around pruning questions that never fail from your audit. If you run a report and see that a certain question has rarely failed across hundreds of audits, perhaps it’s time to consider retiring this question completely. Not only does this reduce the point total but it makes the coach’s visit faster. We are naturally driven to add more to a questionnaire, but it is good practice to review what you can remove once per year so the whole process becomes both manageable and meaningful.

This is usually easier said than done as it is very difficult to remove completely valid questions from a questionnaire. After all, questions in an audit come to symbolize the priorities of the organization such as quality and customer satisfaction.  

Strategy #4: Create Specific Questionnaires for Areas of Concern

Most franchise systems have two main questionnaires, one for a thorough annual review and a shorter one for more frequent visits. However, we’ve seen the average franchise has 6 questionnaires in our platform and that is because they have started utilizing the tool in various other use cases from store openings to limited time offer validation for the Marketing team.

In the context of our discussion, imagine a franchise has a lengthy questionnaire featuring 400 questions on quality, service, cleanliness, marketing, food safety and franchise coaching. Now imagine it has identified a large weakness or risk around food safety and their annual field audits are not helping drive the scores up, even if there are 100 questions on this specific matter in the audit questionnaire.

One initiative could be to create a new questionnaire, focused exclusively on food safety. This signals the message that food safety is so important that you’re doing audits exclusively on this matter. Additionally, because this was your main weakness, it usually implies scores will be lower. They aren’t brought back up by passing questions in other sections.

Strategy #5: Implement Penalty Scoring

There is probably no better technique to reduce scores quickly than making use of penalty scoring. It unfortunately comes with the trade-off of being more confusing to explain to the franchisees, especially when they are accustomed to receiving high scores.

The way penalty scoring works is as follows: Imagine you have a questionnaire or a section that has 100 questions worth 1 point each. Instead of subtracting failures from the maximum total of points (100), remove them from an arbitrary other number, such as 50.  If you fail one question worth one point, you get 98% (49/50). You’ve just made your questionnaire 2x stricter. If you fail 10, you get 80% instead of 90%.

If you chose to deduct points from 25 instead, you’ve doubled it again. If you fail 20 questions worth one point, you lose 20 points out of 25, leaving you with 5/25 or 20%. Compare this to the original situation where failing 20 questions would leave you with 80%. If you are going to roll out such a drastic change, it must be accompanied with change management and buy in from the franchisees.

Most Important Lesson: Get your Franchisee Advisory Council (FAC) Involved

When making changes to the questionnaire like this, it’s important to get the FAC involved. They need to understand there’s a problem with the status quo and that problem can negatively impact their bottom line if it’s not addressed. If people are ignoring food safety because the audit scores are too high, they risk getting people sick and that will damage the brand.  Involve them in the questionnaire design process and do a few test runs with them to ensure you have their buy-in.



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IFA: 5 Ways to Make Your Franchise Field Audits More Effective

By | Audits / Brand Consistency, Events

Date: Monday, February 25th, 2019
Time: 3:15
Location: International Franchise Association Convention, Las Vegas, NV

Moderator: Steve White, President & COO, PuroClean, Inc
Panelists: Jason Kealey, CFE, President, FranchiseBlast; Amy Perkins, CFE, Senior Business Consultant, Ben & Jerry’s; Melinda Thrasher, Manager, Client Services and Operations, IFX
Register: IFA Convention Registration

Whether you are performing self-audits or sending inspectors out into the field, conducting effective audits can make all the difference. Panelists will draw on insights gleaned from working with thousands of units across more than one hundred systems, and will do a deep dive on 5 key ways field consultants can boost the impact of their audits. Combining both technical and operational expertise, this session will provide a well-rounded, statistics-filled presentation relevant to both restaurant and service concepts alike.

CFA: 5 Ways to Boost Your Franchise Field Audit

By | Audits / Brand Consistency, Events, Franchise Relationships

Date: January 30, 2019
Time: 12:00-1:00 EST
Price: Free
Register: CFA Website

Traditional field audits and performance reviews can be outdated, onerous and ineffective, leaving the franchisees and franchisors frustrated with little in the way of improvement. Yet, when done the right way, these evaluations are optimal for franchisees’ development and can help highlight needed improvements to your business.

Learning takeaways:

  • How to make visits more efficient and maximize the time allotted to coaches
  • How to automate mundane parts of the performance review and increase productivity
  • How to expand franchisee coaching outside of the visit via self-improvement processes

Auditing Your Franchise Audit

By | Audits / Brand Consistency
Auditing your Franchise Audit

Leadership author John Maxwell said:

“Good leaders ask great questions that inspire others to dream more, think more, learn more, and become more”

When it comes to your franchise audit, are you asking the right questions? After over a decade in the franchising community and working with hundreds of organizations and thousands of units, we came up with the following questions to make sure that your audit is the best that it can be – or to “audit your audit”. Outlined below, you can see sample items that we check, and what they all mean. Examples are given in many cases to enhance clarity.

The elements below shouldn’t be perceived as a complete list of potential issues but rather a simple checklist for a quick review of the health of your franchise field auditing process.

#1 Audit contains superfluous questions.

Having extra questions means unnecessary work for the auditor. In addition to obvious extra questions, you’ll find more subtle questions that are simply redundant.

Example: “Audit completed by” field then where the auditor manually enters their name when that that information is automatically added by your software tool.

#2 Some questions address multiple concerns.

A question that addresses multiple concerns makes it difficult for the franchisee to understand what needs fixing.

Example: “Walls and floors are clean and don’t feature any apparent damage and the marketing posters on the wall are recent and approved.” When faced with a failure on this question, the franchisee would not be sure what to fix.

#3 Inappropriate question type used.

Question type – such as multiple-choice or text-based or yes/no should be carefully considered when building an audit.

Example: Using a yes/no question when it comes to temperature meeting a standard instead of simply recording the temperature value itself. Another more subtle example is a yes/no question followed by a free-form text question to indicate the reason for failure, or simply a yes/no question phrased in way that asks to auditor to clarify the issue in the comments section of the question. In that case, a properly designed multiple-choice question should be considered.

#4 Some questions are not Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant and Time-Bound (SMART).

The questionnaire designer should review the characteristics of each question to ensure the audits are objective and impactful. If a question is vague or addresses too many concerns, it’s unclear what is evaluated. If it’s not measurable, then the audit becomes subjective. If it’s not actionable, then even if you find a problem there’s nothing you can do to fix it. If it’s not relevant, it’s extra work that isn’t impactful. Finally, questions which aren’t time-bound are unclear as to what time period is being evaluated.

Example: Using terms such as “a reasonable amount of time” instead of simply recording how quickly the franchisee should perform the service in terms of seconds or minutes.

#5 Poor spelling or grammar.

Spelling and grammar errors can cause auditors and franchisees to lose faith in the system.

#6 The questionnaire is not structured to follow the flow of the auditor.

Matching the audit “flow”, starting outside the front door and ending with the coaching session at the back can save time and enhance the process.

#7 Documentation needs to be added to clarify the evaluation criteria for the question.

A question that refers back to standards should include a reference to the franchise manual or online standards guide.

Example: “Scheduling appropriate to sales volume” – the guideline outlining how many employees a franchisee needs for a given sales volume should be posted.

#8 Need to tag questions with the associated back-end process.

Audit scores are often represented by top-level section scores such as “Back of house: 80%” or “Cleanliness: 75%”. This is a good way to slice the information, but additional facets can be reviewed. It is a best practice to tag specific questions with the relevant process that drives that standard. When a set of standards fail and they’re all associated to the same back-end process, you can coach for the root cause rather than each standard. Learn more about questions and processes…

franchise field audit questions

Example: A standard such as “Smiling and welcoming guests” could be categorized as “Service” but a better way would be to tag it as “Training: Going above what’s required & wowing the guest”.

#9 The audit length is inadequate. 

The audit should only be as long, or as short as it needs to be in order to achieve its goals. Most long-form format audits in FranchiseBlast contain 2oo to 400 questions.

When shorter (ex: 50 questions), it could be perceived that the coach is performing a cursory visit and not going into detail. It’s normal (and desirable) to have short-form audits, but if your longest one is only 100 questions, you likely haven’t formalized your visit/coaching process.

When longer (ex: 600 questions), it could be perceived that the coach performing busywork and spending too much time filling out forms rather than coaching franchisees.  If you drill down into the data, you’ll normally notice a large cross-section of the audit never fails. These questions are candidates to be removed.

#10 Average scores are too high to drive change.

While at first it may seem like a good thing to have strong audit scores, scores that are too high will not drive change in the organization. An average score of over 90% will lead franchisees to lose motivation in terms of corrective actions as they see themselves as performing at an A+, where the franchisor’s view may be different. Solutions to this issue are complex but include:

  • Calibrating coaches to be stricter
  • Changing the standards to be stricter
  • Shortening the audits by removing questions which always succeed
  • Changing weights of certain questions/sections/failures.
  • Adding new questions aligned with the system weaknesses you know are present but aren’t fully reflected

Learn more about generous audits…

#11 Utilize question severity where applicable. 

There are some audit questions which are so core to the brand that they should have a “critical” marking – such as using unapproved suppliers. If questions are marked with severity, additional business rules such as “the audit should fail if any critical questions fail” can be easily put into place instead of a convoluted question weighting system.

#12 Use tasks when appropriate to define the corrective action plan.

When a weakness is recognized, it is a best practice to use a corrective action to get it followed-up on by the appropriate person. It’s typical to not start using the task system immediately when adopting a platform such as FranchiseBlast as it does require a bit of change management and expectation management with the franchisees. Once established, however, leveraging tasks can increase accountability.

Having a backlog of tasks indicates a lack of process or of training – it is a good idea to discuss expectations with the franchisees and coaches.

#13 Review processes and standards related to system-wide weaknesses.

When exploring system-wide weaknesses, sometimes there is a core process that is consistently not being followed.  To solve system-wide weaknesses it sometimes makes sense to include new practices such as recurring self-assessments.

Example: A consistent failure on exterior cleanliness may require a system-wide training or process reminder, perhaps complemented by daily self-assessments where pictures are submitted.

#14 Be a coach, not a cop. 

The franchise consultant role is evolving beyond simply being a “cop” who maintains standards. It is also a “coach” who helps the franchisee achieve their goals. The questionnaire should reflect this change.

Example: Having a “coaching” section in the audit is a fantastic first step towards creating at coaching culture.

#15 Use automatic KPI collection when possible to reduce the coach’s workload.  

We sometimes see questionnaires which include various number questions which need to be punched in by the coach. For example, what were last month’s sales, labour costs, etc. Automating this collection outside of the coaches visit, via an integration with the Point of Sale or other source system, can save the coach time plus enable them to have time to research ahead of the visit and prepare a proper action plan with the franchisee.

#16 Auditors are not well calibrated. 

When reviewing average scores among auditors, you may notice dramatically different scores. One root cause of this is an inconsistent understanding of what the standards are for each auditor. Learn more about auditor calibration…

#17 Completed audits have not been approved and/or incomplete audits are pending within the system. 

Having a backlog of pending audits could mean that completed work is not being used. Make sure to have an approval “rhythm” set up within the system and the appropriate auditor manager is aware of your expectations. Alternately, some questionnaires may benefit from being automatically approved.

#18 Not visiting all locations consistently 

Having locations “fall through the cracks” could be detrimental to the brand on many levels. Ensure that your visits are up to date as an important, but sometimes forgotten, check. We’ve often seen this in contexts where a franchisor expects each coach to visit each location quarterly but doesn’t effectively make the coaches accountable to do so.

#19 Consider adding new questionnaires.

The average franchisor in FranchiseBlast has 6 different questionnaires – is the set for your franchise complete? Sample questionnaires include:

  • Quarterly or Annual Business Plan
  • Weekly/monthly phone call business check-in
  • New store opening checklist
  • Food safety audit
  • Daily store logs self-assessments (openings/closings)
  • New marketing rollout assessment
  • New product readiness self-assessment

Learn more about strategic questionnaires… 

Looking for More?

If you want to download a version of the checklist, click on the LinkedIn icon from SlideShare below.

How to Implement a Program that Makes Compliance a Part of the Culture.

By | Audits / Brand Consistency, Restaurant, Retail

Several food safety scares in the 1990s, prompted franchisors across the world to pay more attention to better compliance. During this time, Sonic’s Chris Galuskin helped roll out a food safety initiative that was so successful, that health safety authorities in some regions allowed crew members to skip wearing gloves. We talked to Chris about the “20/20 rule” that he helped Sonic implement, and how people today could roll out something similar.

What was your role at Sonic and what is it today?
Chris:
“At the time I was a Franchise Consultant and it was the greatest job that I ever had. Sonic is a great company and I had a lot of fun. I eventually wound up becoming a Director of Operations. Later, I worked for franchisee out of Louisiana as a Director of Operations. Today I do some consulting and connect with people across my ever-growing network.”

What interested you initially in the franchising community?
Chris: “I just love it. You’re dealing with people who are entrepreneurs – they are always thinking outside the box. I love seeing people become successful, especially when they either use your idea entirely, or they adapt bits and pieces from it. Sometimes it is about helping them see what is right in front of them and that look in their face of “wow, I didn’t even know that”. Those things are really energizing for me.”

Thinking back to that time, of the late 90s, what prompted the renewed interest at Sonic about Food Safety?
Chris:
“We had this initiative, which was a national drive, and we really adopted it and made it our own. That was the ServSafe testing and certification. We really ran with it and our passion was to get everybody that was running a shift in the brand was to be ServSafe Certified.

“The first thing was to get our internal staff to be certified and train others, so it was a “train the trainer” model. That’s what really drove our interest and we started to really dig down deep into what Food Safety really was, and what that meant to us. We wanted to put a stamp on the brand. “

According to the ServSafe website, “the ServSafe Food Safety Training program leads the way in providing current and comprehensive educational materials to the restaurant industry. More than 4 million foodservice professionals have been certified through the ServSafe Food Protection Manager Certification Exam, which is accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Conference for Food Protection (CFP). “

Stef: How would you describe your program?
Chris:
“The program was called the “20/20 rule” which was where the company empowered the franchisees and their staff to wash their hands every 20 minutes for 20 seconds. It caught on with our franchise network and their teams. We would set a timer and we would put people in on the schedule and we would write a number or a letter next to that name. Participants knew that when the bell went off for group “A”, they washed your hands. We tried to pattern it around the fact that everyone could physically wash their hands every 20 minutes for 20 seconds.

“That program became so popular with the local health departments in some counties that they allowed us not to use gloves because we were washing our hands continuously. They were so impressed with it that we became the “poster child” for food safety.”

At that time, how many locations did Sonic have?
Chris:
“When we began, we were probably just short of 1,000 units. By the time I left, I physically opened the 2,500th unit on the outskirts of Jackson Mississippi. It was a time of dramatic growth.”

How did you communicate that program and roll it out in a way that it worked at so many locations?
Chris: “
One of the great things about Sonic is that they communicated very well. Through our ServSafe training, we physically had 75-80% of the brand rotating through this program. It was a topic discussion in every class we had. That in-turn got back to the unit-level and they shared that information as well.

“We also challenged them to share what the impact was for their people and we wanted them to communicate that back to us. This was shared in some of our publications that we have within the system.”

When you mentioned the communications, is that something that GMs of the restaurant would see, or did you have a publication that went out the front-line staff?
Chris: “
The GMs would get to see it, and they would post it on their communication boards. We had small posters that were put up next to the hand-washing stations that communicated that to front-line staff as well.”

What challenges did you have in terms of the program?
Chris: “Any time that you are dealing with humans, they always “buck”. They think it is different and they resist the change. But some of those challenges are good because some people come up with creative ideas to complete their tasks. People who are like that and are very curious and eventually they see the results for themselves. They understand why it works.

“Once you get enough buy-in, it becomes contagious. That was one of the things that Sonic was so great at, and still is today. They’re a very happy-go-lucky culture. It is a finesse that reflects in their commercials. They do this Dr. Pepper Sonic Games where they all come together and compete.

“If you are communicating, repeating, enforcing and following up, things become culture. It is part of who you are. It is in your DNA. That particular program eventually became their mantra for food safety.”

Do you think that having that happy-go-lucky culture helped with trust between the franchisor and the franchisee?
Chris:
“That is one of the reasons why I loved working for Sonic. They had a sense of allowing you to be empowered for the change in the brand. Your voice meant something. Patty Moore was the President at the time; she was very influential in instilling that type of culture. She was able to talk to the dishwasher and the CEO in the same breath – she connected people.  It is a very humble brand. “

If someone was to do something similar, what advice would you give them based on your experience in this program?
Chris:
When we did the program, it was labor intensive. It was the most untechnical application that you could imagine, using pencil, paper and egg timers. Today “there is an app for that”. Also – don’t be afraid to ask for help.  That is my experience with networking and asking questions. You will be surprised by the answers that you get!

For every Battle Tested Strategy, we do a series of “fun” questions. Enjoy! 

What new behavior or habit adopted in the past 5 years has most positively impacted your life?
Chris: “
Connecting with people who are like-minded – and it does not have be foodservice or retail. It is finding out what makes them tick and what drives them to do what they do. I think if you get a tidbit of that information, it makes you better. It becomes a “brain rolodex”; it is in there somewhere. You can pull back that information and remember “I talked to someone the other day.””

What is a purchase less than $100 that has most improved your life?
Chris:
“A couple of things: One is having the right cord for the right technology. It is priceless, and it is only $10. I am an Apple user and integrating it with other things can be excruciating. The other purchase is getting the best router that you can find. I don’t know if it is because I have become impatient with technology, or because my processes are dragging so much more broadband. But, man I love my router!”

What would you put on a billboard?
Chris:
“Learn something new today.”

What book have you gifted the most to other people.
Chris:
“It is Andie Andrews The Travelers Gift. It is the best read I have ever had – I literally get goosebumps when listening to the audio version.”




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