Category

Field Audits

12 Surprising Things You Can Do On Your Next Franchisee Visit

By | Field Audits, Franchise Coaching
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. 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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How to Resolve Franchisee Problems Effectively

By | Brand Consistency, Field Audits
resolve franchisee problems

It is true, when selling a franchise we sell systems, and then we coach them on how to navigate through those systems. But, what happens when there is a problem? This model of franchisee problem solving starts with determining if the franchisee problem is actually important. Surprisingly, sometimes you can determine that the franchisee may not be following the system perfectly, but it doesn’t really matter that much in the big picture. If it is a problem, then it is either a skill deficiency or a knowledge deficiency. If it is skill, then there should be some sort of training – executed by the training team, or by the coach themselves. If it is a knowledge deficiency – you want to figure out if it is a case of simply providing the information that the franchisee needs,or if you need to go into performance management.

This highly rational process is great to share with both new franchise coaches and experienced ones alike. It is also a positive spin on problem resolution. Instead of starting up a round of no one’s favorite activity: the “blame game” between franchisor and franchisee, going through this process analyzes what is going on, and moves towards a solution.

Franchisee Problem Resolution Process

When a franchisor first starts, the first question is often, “how do I sell more franchises?” Once that goal is achieved, there is a next challenge, “how do I solve problems with the franchisees that I have?” As with many phases in business, one challenge is often followed by a new, and sometimes even more difficult obstacle to overcome. In this post, we will take a look at a simple but powerful process for solving franchisee problems. We also worked with some of our friends in the franchising community to enrich the article with experiences.

Now for the fun part, let’s look at some examples:

Signage Example

Due to the popularity of off-premise sales, all stores are required to have a “Online Pick-up” sign. During an audit, the FBC saw that the store did not have that sign or a special area at all.

Is it a problem?

Yes – the fastest growing stores include online ordering. The store is also struggling to reach their growth goals.

Is it a skills deficiency or a knowledge deficiency?

Skills: The franchisee was more established in the system, and was not aware of this change. The FBC took some time explaining the benefits of off-premise, and talked about one of the franchisees long-time friends who was gaining a lot of traction in this area. After getting a post-audit task via e-mail, they promptly ordered as sign and created the designated area.

Outcome

Although the franchisee was violating the system, it was a more recent development, and they made the change promptly. It also gave the FBC some time to educate them on the off-premise opportunity, and get them engaged in the idea.

Customer Service Example

A customer calls into Home Office complaining that the franchisee is not picking up the phone. The receptionist smartly takes the order over the phone and e-mails it urgently to the franchisee. However, the Franchise Business Coach (FBC) has a problem. 

Is it a problem?

Yes – taking customer orders through the phone is key to the business.

Is it a skills deficiency or a knowledge deficiency?

Both: the FBC connected with the franchisee, and found that they did their customer calls at night, and could not pick up the phone. They followed the appropriate process in that they did not answer the phone while with a customer. However, the franchisee also did not check their voicemail regularly to call customers back in a timely manner. They knew that this was a bad habit, and that it violated the system – but sadly they did not see themselves making a change. 

Outcome 

The FBC recommended that the franchisee work with an answering service to resolve this problem. This way, calls get answered without the need for the franchisee to “break the flow” of their conversation on site with the customer.

Learning

Going through the process this way helped build a stronger relationship with the franchisee, and helped the FBC understand them better (such as a dislike for multitasking).

Sales and Marketing Example

Franchisee was using out of date marketing material which included an old logo and outdated message points.

Is it important?

Yes – keeping marketing material current is key to a strong brand.

Is it a skills deficiency or a knowledge deficiency?

Knowledge: The FBC discussed the issue with the franchisee, and discovered that she was putting saving costs ahead of keeping the brand consistent. Years earlier, she had invested in a large amount of flyers due to the economies of scale with printing. But, now those flyers were holding the business back from complying with brand standards. The FBC worked with the Marketing team to help the franchisee understand the importance of a consistent brand, and Marketing provided a recommendation of approved vendors who did smaller printing runs so this would not happen in the future.

Outcome

Due to this handling of the issue by everyone involved, the franchisee became an advocate in her region about brand consistency. Treating it fairly helped strengthen the system as a whole.

Parting Thoughts

This simple and smart process can help your franchise on many levels. It is also even better if it is automated. Check out FranchiseBlast’s brand consistency tools, which includes post-audit tasks, to learn more.



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How to Ask the Right Questions on Your Audit

By | Field Audits

When you are selling a franchise, what are you actually providing?

  1. A system that is proven to work in providing value to the target market
  2. A brand creating value in the market
  3. Support for the franchisee to succeed better than they would on their own

Today, we are going to take a look at the first point, but asking the right questions on the audit covers all points.

Every franchise that chooses to do in-person audits, is taking on a project that is a costly undertaking, including staffing costs, overhead and travel. It is important then, to make sure that the audit questions are correct, and are actually strengthening the system as a whole.

Recommended Model

Our model is to connect back-end processes to each question.

Back-End Process –> Question

For example, as discussed in our Audit of Your Audit post, 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 and wowing the guest”.

Training: Going above what’s required and wowing the guest à Smiling and welcoming guests.

Other Examples

  • HR and Training: Finding the Right People –> Formal staff orientation using orientation checklist
  • HR and Training: Retaining Your Team –> High performing crew members identified for advancement
  • Customer Service: Creating a Memorable Experience –> Prioritizing the guest in front of you
  • Approved Vendors: Using Approved Products –> Authorized snacks sold only

 Where Can You Find Back-End Processes?

The franchisor’s back-end processes are within the DNA of the franchise. This DNA is typically found in the following places:

  • The Franchisee manual: This manual will show exactly the value and recommendations that you give your franchise.
  • Training: For many smaller and emerging systems, the training team is the custodian of all things process related. What franchisees are learning is a great place to find your processes.
  • FDD: Although it will not show all of your systems, the FDD can be a good place to find what is important.
  • Purchasing: for approved vendors for what, the purchasing team can help determine your back-end processes.
  • Safety Regulations: Restaurants will have to comply with local food safety regulations that may not be in the manual, but will be recommended by consultants or internal experts experienced in the space.

Making the Connection

If you are trying to connect an existing audit with existing back end processes, here is a suggested process.

  1. Match questions to existing standards found above. Some questions, such as food safety, can be reviewed by food safety consultants or internal experts.
  2. Fill in the gaps. Did you find some standards that are not being checked by your audit? These are fantastic points to add to your audit to make it more relevant. Or – are there questions currently in your audit that are incredibly relevant, but are not
  3. Remove extraneous questions. If you have questions that are not linking to any sort of process perse, it may be time to remove them.

Are You Ready?

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59 Customer Service Audit Questions Your Franchise Needs to Know

By | Brand Consistency, Field Audits

Some call it customer service, others call it guest experience. No matter what, understanding the end-to-end experience that you are giving customers is key to keeping them coming back again and again. But, when was the last time you reviewed your service audit? We researched over a dozen audits, and found some of the most relevant questions in them to effectively manage service. Please note that these audits come from an array of businesses, including restaurant, both table service and QSR, salon and education. This is part of a larger series including questions on Marketing, Food Safety and Food Quality.

Overall

  1. Hours of operation current and posted.
  2. The store atmosphere – energy is positive.
  3. Staff is engaged in “guest first” culture.
  4. Employee teamwork, positive attitude and high morale apparent.
  5. Proper staffing levels to handle current sales volume.
  6. Manager present and on the dining room floor and conducts table visits.
  7. Manager conducting shift huddles every shift.
  8. Manager visibly leading shift and coaching team through peak periods.
  9. Music style playing in keeping with brand standards.
  10. Sound quality good and all speakers are working.
  11. Temperature is appropriate for the time of year.
  12. Additional information available on nutrition and allergies – take picture.

Timing

  1. Was there a sense of urgency while making products?
  2. Dine-in food order – record time off of timer.
  3. Dine-in coffee order – record time off of timer.
  4. Drive-through food order – record time off of timer.
  5. Drive-through coffee order – record time off of timer.
  6. How long does it take to make a smoothie – record time off of timer.

Uniform

  1. Each crew member wearing an approved uniformed shirt and it is clean and crisp – provide picture.
  2. Each crew member wearing pants or shorts, consistent with uniform policy.
  3. Each crew member wearing an approved hat or visor.
  4. Each crew member wearing an approved apron which is crisp and presentable.

Quality

  1. Focused service on the guest in front of crew member.
  2. Genuinely interested in customer and natural.
  3. Knowledge of ingredients and able to suggest toppings.
  4. More than two plates are delivered on trays.
  5. All drinks are delivered using a tray.
  6. Teachers are applying lesson standards according to the curriculum for the appropriate level.
  7. Teachers are giving proper assistance for students including on the spot corrections.
  8. Lesson equipment in good condition.
  9. Teachers are rotating at correct times during lessons.
  10. Reception team properly handing the guest off to the stylist with an introduction.
  11. Reception is checking notes in the CRM regarding the guest’s previous experience.
  12. There are no magazines older than two months and no newspapers older than one day.
  13. All tablets are clean, charged, functioning and have cool apps installed.
  14. Refills are offered on the dining room floor.

Promotional

  1. Customer asked if they have a rewards program card or app.
  2. Process stamp card or introduce new guests to the loyalty program.
  3. Upselling opportunities are consistently observed; friendly in nature to assist building in store sales.
  4. Utilize suggestive selling and talking points at POS.
  5. Sampling program implemented.
  6. Customer informed of upcoming promotions.

Experience Management

  1. Customer feedback management in place.
  2. Has more than 20 guest experience reviews.
  3. Store resolves complaints within 48 hours.
  4. Store has an over 70 NPS score in the last 30 days.
  5. Feedback is actively being used to adjust and improve the guest experience.

Exit

  1. Guests are thanked upon leaving the counter or exiting the building.
  2. Team members using the guest’s name during check-out process.
  3. Thoughtful closing: close the transaction in a friendly manner.
  4. Any notes that might make the guest’s next visit better is getting added to the CRM.

Question for You

Now that you have looked at the questions from our research, we have a question for you. Are you integrating timers, pictures and forced tasks into your audits? You can do this using the Field Audit app with FranchiseBlast. With a 30-day free trial, it is simple to see what our audits can do for you.



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5 Ways to Use Data in Your Franchise Business Plan

By | Field Audits, Franchise 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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54 Food Quality Questions that Your Franchise Needs to Know

By | Field Audits, Franchise Audits

Every restaurant has their own unique flavor, and it is the dozens of little details that make it right. Although different systems have their own recipes, there are certain things, such as fresh water and food temperatures that are relevant to everyone.

In the big picture, having high quality food not only helps your franchise, but it also helps families in your community. Having a quality meal at a restaurant can help children try new foods and a family “tradition” of eating out can foster bonds and even enhance brain health.

According to the family dinner project, “recent studies link regular family meals with the kinds of behaviors that parents want for their children: higher grade-point averages, resilience and self-esteem. Additionally, family meals are linked to lower rates of substance abuse, teen pregnancy, eating disorders and depression.”

We explored dozens of food quality audits and took a look at questions that are most relevant to a general audience. While it is important that each question connect to a back-end process, we thought these questions could serve as inspiration, to ensure that your guests get that great experience that keeps them coming back for more. We also have related posts on Food Safety Audits and Marketing Audits in this popular series.

Big Picture

  1. All food is prepared and served according to current, approved operational standards as defined in the recipe manual and training guides.
  2. No unapproved ingredients or menu items present or being served. All food supplied comes from the approved supply chain including produce.
  3. All branded proprietary food products, ingredients and packaging fully utilized.
  4. Any cheat sheets in use are accessible, accurate and clean.
  5. All required menu items are available.
  6. Pastries look eye appealing with a minimum of 3 and are made fresh daily.
  7. Appropriate system in place to track 2-hour shelf-life of coffee pots.

Recipe

  1. Observe and verify recipe accuracy and presentation.
  2. Timers are programmed correctly and are in use according to “items sold” projections.
  3. Chicken nuggets are being dipped and agitated in milk wash properly.
  4. Chicken nuggets being breaded and put on colored tray properly.
  5. Chicken nuggets being put into fryers properly.
  6. Fried foods are draining for at least 15 seconds.
  7. Pizza recipes and assembly are correct with ingredients evenly spread to ensure “flavor in every bite”.
  8. Dough tastes to recipe standards.
  9. Donut fillings were prepped according to recipe standards.
  10. No pre-making of product.
  11. Was product being held for next-day sale or consumption?
  12. Frosting light and fluffy – not a glaze – no time temperature abuse apparent.
  13. All recipes followed for dough and toppings.

Warm and Hot

  1. Rice is moist, fluffy, served with slotted spoon and does not exceed 12-hour life.
  2. Steak is moist, a good color with steak sauce flavor evident, served with 2 oz spoon and does not exceed 1-hour life.
  3. Chicken is diced in 1/2″, not overcooked and caramel in color, served with a 2 oz spoon and does not exceed 1-hour life.
  4. Bacon is brown in color cooked crisp without white spots and free of clumps served with a 2 oz spoon and does not exceed 6-hour life.
  5. Record the weight of a random meat portion. Medium: 2.2 oz. Large: 4.4 oz
  6. Order a random sandwich. Check weight and compare to standard. Take picture.
  7. Soups should be monitored throughout the shift, stirred, hydrated as needed to keep the original consistency and prevent scorching. Pans with scorching on the sides must be changed out as needed.
  8. Brewer calibrated and clean, including spray heads.
  9. Espresso machine is kept clean, steam wands sanitized after every use.
  10. All selections of coffee offered at appropriate time of day.
  11. Coffee grind is accurate.
  12. Check coffee flavor – ensure there is no evidence of grounds.
  13. Final bake temperature is verified for all products with a calibrated digital thermometer.

Cool and Cold

  1. Chips are fresh tasting, crisp, properly salted with consistent color.
  2. Water filtration in use, cartridges must be dated when changed (every 6 months to a year), filters clean.
  3. Shaved meats are sliced as thin as possible without shredding.
  4. Bun interior characteristics feel soft and moist and have an open, honeycombed grain structure.
  5. Bun top exteriors have smooth surface with no significant cracks or ridges.
  6. Mayo properly spread and going from “coast-to-coast”.
  7. Creamer carafes are stored appropriately and meet temperature requirements.
  8. Ice machine producing flaked ice in an appropriate volume, kept clean.
  9. Ice tea bubbler clean and in good repair.
  10. Proper ice tea procedure followed with flavor check.
  11. Donut standards followed on handling, cooking and assembly.
  12. Lettuce standards followed on storage, presentation and assembly.
  13. Buns are being buttered according to procedure.
  14. Cookies are baked to standard, chewy and moist, baked daily and properly dated (24 hours)
  15. All baked goods selections meet quality, weight and presentation requirements.
  16. Fruit donuts ONLY strawberry, lemon and raspberry.
  17. Pastry eats moist throughout without being over or under done.
  18. Proper amount of frosting used on pastries – it is evenly spread and appears moist.

Temperature-Specific

  1. Macaroni and Cheese: 160F-170F
  2. Sliced Tomato: 35F-45F
  3. Coffee Brew Temp: 190F-200F
  4. Coffee Serving Temp: 170F-178F

While your individual food quality audit will be associated with your own brand and recipes, we hope that these sample questions have served as some inspiration.



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50 Food Safety Audit Questions Your Franchise Needs to Know

By | Field Audits, Food Safety

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data from the year 2000, “foodborne disease causes approximately 76 million illnesses; 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths here in the U.S. each year.” Food safety has therefore become central to the food experience for all restaurants.

Food safety leader Steritech says “Today, more than ever before, food safety violations are top of mind with your customers. Consumers don’t hesitate to share their experiences — a single negative food safety incident can pose serious risks to your bottom line and your brand.”

According to food inspectors Noraxx, there is a high cost to “good enough” when it comes to food safety. “In a heartbeat, that one bad experience could undo all the good will that might have taken months or years to build up.”

We researched over a dozen audits on food safety, and found questions that you could find useful as you update your food safety audit.

Temperature Control

  1. Cold foods maintained at 41 degrees or below in all cold-holding devices including refrigerators, storage devices and ice-wells.
  2. Hot foods maintained at 140 degrees or above.
  3. Refrigeration records are available and complete.
  4. Proper cooling methods (placing food in shallow pans or using cooling wands etc.) are used for foods that require time/temperature control for safety.
  5. Frozen foods are held solidly frozen so that they are hard to the touch.

Food Handling

  1. Date marking is applied at time of preparation to ready-to-eat food prepared on site and intended to be held cold more than 24 hours and does not exceed a 7-day shelf-life.
  2. Food products dated, and not held past their expiration date.
  3. Discard policy is being followed – old food is “wasted” during inspection.
  4. Received food put away promptly.
  5. All ingredients are refrigerated when not in use.
  6. Foods are from commercial suppliers. Foods and packaging are in sound condition.
  7. Foods and food-contact packaging are stored at least six inches off of the floor.
  8. Fruits and vegetables are properly washed prior to processing and serving.
  9. Produce wash procedures are executed properly and have the correct concentration.
  10. Foods are properly protected from contamination.
  11. Staff know the proper procedures for preparing gluten-free menu items.

Equipment and Utensils

  1. Food-contact surfaces properly sanitized (at least every 4 hours during continuous use).
  2. Food-contact surfaces of equipment and utensils durable, non-toxic, easily cleanable and in good condition.
  3. Utensils in the prep area are clean and well-maintained.
  4. There is a dedicated thermometer available in the kitchen area for verifying temperatures – which is clean and well maintained.
  5. Fire extinguisher – accessible with inspection dates.
  6. First aid kit – stocked and easily accessible.
  7. Wiping cloths are kept clean and dry or else immersed in properly diluted sanitizer. Separate cloths are used for wiping food-contact and non-food-contact surfaces.
  8. Disposable cutlery – stored in a sanitary manner with all handles facing the same way.
  9. Sanitizer test kits are open and readily available for use.

Personal Hygiene

  1. No bare hand contact with ready-to-eat foods. Disposable gloves worn when handling them.
  2. Eating, drinking and tobacco use restricted to non-food areas. Drinking allowed from cups with a lid and straw and stored so they cannot contaminate the food-contact surfaces.
  3. All hand sinks have hot and cold water available.
  4. Every employee has a branded hat and long hair is tied up.
  5. Employees, including drivers, are not wearing outdoor clothes in the food preparation area.
  6. Jewelry on the hands and wrists is limited to a plain ring with no set stones.
  7. Associates frequently washing hands to standard using correct hand washing steps.
  8. Associates not displaying symptoms of illness.

Cleaning

  1. Chemical sanitizer solutions at proper concentration and temperature per label instructions.
  2. Original containers of toxic materials have a legible manufacturer’s label. Bleach not allowed or approved in restaurants.
  3. Interior garbage containers are cleaned and emptied as needed.
  4. Exterior garbage storage is covered and doors kept closed between uses. Containers are emptied as necessary and the surrounding area is maintained clean to avoid pests.
  5. Sinks – not used for prep and dishwashing at the same time.
  6. Floor – clean under shelving.

Facilities and Controls

  1. Ventilation is adequate: vents, fans and guards are clean.
  2. Plumbing provides adequate pressure.
  3. Pest prevention program is effective.
  4. Floors, walls, and ceilings are smooth, easily cleanable and in good repair.
  5. Potable water is available from the public water system or a non-public system that is properly maintained.
  6. Air gaps/backflow prevention devices are in place where required. Sewage disposal systems, including grease traps, are operating properly.
  7. Mop sink is clean and in working condition, with mops and mop buckets hung or stored properly.
  8. Back door area – clean and organized.
  9. Shelving – clean/organized/no rust/sufficient.
  10. All employees preparing food have a valid food handlers certificate on-site.
  11. National food safety certifications posted.

Food safety audits are an important part of franchising. That is why FranchiseBlast has integrations with food safety leaders such as Steritech and Noraxx.

*The questions in this post are for information only. To do a compliant food safety audit, please consult a certified professional.



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Calibrate Your Auditors with FranchiseBlast

By | Brand Consistency, Field Audits

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 | Field Audits, Franchise Coaching

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 | Events, Field Audits

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.