Bottom Line: Car Washes Increase Revenue

By Jennifer Hoffman


With convenience stores selling an estimated 80% of the gasoline purchased in the U.S., adding a car wash may seem like a good idea. It gets even more promising when 86% of U.S. car wash equipment manufacturers reported a collective revenue increasing of 20% last year, according to a 2015 industry survey.

The study appeared in a Convenience Store Decisions article about car washes becoming a high-margin opportunity for convenience stores. “Presuming there is a market to be served and the site has the ability to process the demand, the car wash can contribute significantly to the bottom line,” Eric Wulf, CEO of the International Carwash Association, told CSD. He added that convenience store operators have more options than ever before due to new models and technologies. From mini-tunnels that minimize land usage to RFID technology that automates payment, more retailers are having success by increasing their throughput of cars per hour.

Car Wash Fundamentals

Like the convenience store or gas island, a car wash must be clean and functional, and offer a positive customer service experience. Car wash promotions are connected to the store’s marketing efforts and can tie into loyalty programs; the profit margins are intertwined.

CSD profiles Idaho-based Stinker Stores, which operates two touchless and eight soft-touch car washes. The select number of stores offering those services is notable, considering Stinker Stores operates 65 locations throughout the state. All of the systems have upgraded equipment to maximize efficiency and ensure that customers are getting the best experience.

Remember the Nationwide insurance commercial which depicted a rather large human baby as a car? Don’t mess with your customer’s baby! They will take to social media to complain, including on platforms like Yelp, and this can damage your brand.

Honk if You Have a Process

Whether installing or maintaining a car wash operation, it’s essential that you audit your operations both for functionality and marketing program compliance.

Sample audit questions:

  1. On average how long does it take a car to be washed, from the time it arrives at the terminal to the time the customer is ready to leave?
  2. Is equipment operational? (Can be more specific: brushes, rinsers, wipers, blow dryers, etc.)
  3. Is the car wash terminal an inviting, well-lit environment?

If the survey was built with Zenput, an answer of “no” to questions 2 and 3 would elicit a photo or explanation that could alert senior management that service is needed. Senior management could also set the average service time for Question 1. Therefore, they would receive an alert when the service time was taking too long. There might be a malfunction inside the tunnel or simply a traffic jam on a bright, sunny day when everyone wants a wash.

We usually say Zenput provides store-level insights. In this case, wash-level insights—down to a lack of soap—could be accounted for during an audit. It’s yet another example of how mobile technology can empower business operators to explore profit-building opportunities—without the fear of losing your shirt in the wash!

Topics: C-store

FDA’s New Rule on Sanitary Transportation Drives Home Importance of Technology

By Brian Harris


On April 5, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration finalized the Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food rule. This is the sixth rule of seven that implement FDA’s landmark Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). According to FDA, “the rule will require those involved in transporting human and animal food by motor or rail vehicle to follow recognized best practices for sanitary transportation, such as properly refrigerating food, adequately cleaning vehicles between loads, and properly protecting food during transportation.”

Quick History

The rule implements the Sanitary Food Transportation Act of 2005 (SFTA) as well as the requirement in section 111 of FSMA. The rule was proposed in February 2014 and builds on the transportation industry’s best practices for cleaning, inspecting, maintaining, loading and unloading, and operating vehicles and transportation equipment.

What/Who is Impacted

The sanitary food transportation rule establishes requirements for shippers, loaders, carriers by motor or rail vehicle, and receivers. Limitations in the law exempt transportation by ship or air. The rule does not apply to companies who ship food through the United States by motor or rail vehicle if the food does not enter U.S. distribution. However, companies involved in the transportation of food intended for export are covered by the rule until the shipment reaches a port or U.S. border.

Key Requirements

There are four key requirements of the Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food rule.

  1. Vehicles and transportation equipment must be suitable for the task. They must be able to maintain temperatures necessary for the safe transport of food.
  2. Transportation operations must account for food safety. Temperatures must be controlled, ready-to-eat-foods must not come in contact with raw foods, and foods must not have contact with allergens or non-food items.
  3. Personnel must be properly trained in sanitary transportation practices and the training must be documented. Training is required when the carrier and shipper agree that the carrier is responsible for sanitary conditions during transport.
  4. Records must be properly maintained for written procedures, agreements, and the aforementioned carrier training. Retention time for recordkeeping varies depending on the type of record and when the activity occurred; however, it does not exceed 12 months.


Failure to comply with the Sanitary Transport Rule, including recordkeeping requirements, is a “prohibited act” under the Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act. Violations carry the risk not only of civil enforcement but also strict liability criminal penalties. A person who commits a prohibited act under the FD&C Act can be subject to misdemeanor and felony liability regardless of negligence and regardless of whether the person knew of the violation. A second misdemeanor is a felony. FDA intends to coordinate enforcement with the Department of Transportation and potentially with state personnel.

As attorneys on point out: “[...] covered entities should clarify the scope of what might appear to be routine inspections… Companies that are covered by the new regulations should review their practices and procedures to ensure compliance and to avoid regulatory and litigation risks.”

Why You Need Technology Today  

In the age of technology, FSMA mandates such as the new sanitary transportation rule shouldn’t be as daunting. Technology exists to track shipments with GPS and digital thermometers can record temperatures of food. However, the rules can pose a problem when an organization doesn’t have a good grasp on accountability. At any given time, a carrier should be able to know whether or not its best practices have been followed. It should be able to measure compliance.

Mobile software solutions like Zenput help ensure that crucial tasks are being completed and that your staff has the information they need to ensure best practices are being upheld. With Zenput, checklists can be assigned to managers at specific locations, and a bird’s eye view of compliance—who completed the task, who didn’t, and problems encountered—is readily accessible. Importantly, Zenput provides the opportunity to identify and address compliance issues before they go beyond your organization.

The best part about this cloud-based technology is that no new devices are needed to implement it. The platform is readily accessible on a mobile device.

Topics: Restaurants

The Minimum Wage is Rising… As Should Employee Accountability

By Jennifer Hoffman


In California, the “fight for $15” didn’t have to reach a ballot vote, as was initially expected. Just the prospect of the November ballot incentivized lawmakers to form a plan to raise the minimum wage in a way that would appease groups on both sides of the issue. Governor Jerry Brown signed SB3 into law Monday, April 4, making California the largest state to improve the standard of living for low-wage workers, approximately 3.3 million men and women in California.

Under California’s new law, the minimum wage will rise by 50 cents in each of the next two years to $10.50 in 2017 and $11 in 2018. It will then rise by $1 for the remaining four years to reach $15 in 2022. The law grants small businesses with 25 or fewer employees an additional year to comply.

April 4 also saw the passage of a New York law that gradually raises the minimum wage from $9 to $15. This law is two-tiered, meaning a higher $15 per hour minimum in New York City and a lower legal minimum for less-costly areas. The bill also contains a “safety valve” that from 2019 allows state budget officials to consider the effects of the wage increases on regional economies and determine whether they should continue or be suspended. New York City businesses with up to 10 employees are given four years instead of three to comply.

Employee Accountability Should Rise With Minimum Wage

Not surprisingly, reactions to both laws in California and New York varied dramatically. Low-income workers and their advocates were elated, while business owners and officials expressed disappointment and concern about long-term effects on the competitive environment in each state.

Regardless of where business operators stand on the issue, there’s one point everyone can agree on: When you pay an employee more, you expect a comparable return from your employees. Likewise, customers increasingly demand a better customer service experience. They expect this on their own, but especially when they know workers are making more money. In light of these factors, it just makes sense that accountability within organizations should increase with rising wages.

Employee accountability begins with the onboarding process and clear communication of the standards that reinforce your brand’s mission. It ends with your organization’s ability to account for its own practices and procedures. Employee accountability comes down to having processes you can quantify.

Quantifying includes retail employee performance reviews, but extends well beyond that. It involves auditing the main floor, whether it’s a store or restaurant. It prioritizes cleanliness, whether it’s in the kitchen where employees work or in the restrooms your customers use. It accounts for the exterior of the premises, from the tidiness of the landscaping to the proper disposal of trash.

Are the tasks that support your brand’s image being completed? That’s the question business operators need to answer in order to gain actionable insights.

In theory, minimum wage increases can be good for the economy. When employees earn more, they spend more. The issue is that legislative decisions don’t exist in a vacuum. Businesses want to attract and retain good employees. In order to build and maintain a positive work environment, business owners and operators—especially those in high-turnover segments—must “take the temperature” of their operations. Implementing these processes will ensure that the employer is getting the most return for higher hourly wages.

See Also
How to Conduct a Retail Employee Performance Review
How to Conduct a Property Inspection
Brand Auditing for QSRs

Topics: Restaurants

Donating Unsold Food: It’s All in the Process

By Vladik Rikhter


Starbucks recently announced that it would donate 100% of unsold food that’s still safe to consume to help feed the hungry. With 7,600 Starbucks stores set to participate, coordinating this effort was going to require a well-planned system.

To properly develop a way to safely donate fresh food, Starbucks has been investing in research and quality assurance testing. Starbucks has named the program FoodShare, and will rely on an existing collaboration with Food Donation Connection and a new partnership with Feeding America. The program will focus on the donation of ready-to-eat meals. Food Donation Connection will pick up the food from Starbucks locations in refrigerated vans and deliver it to Feeding America for distribution to food banks.

According to Starbucks, the program had to be piloted because they had to make sure fresh items would remain cold enough to ensure their safety for consumption. Compliance is key. The temperature, texture, and flavor of the surplus food were all taken into account, a brand manager on the Starbucks Food team told USA Today.

The fact that a Starbucks brand manager commented is interesting. No matter how noble the deed, a donation to charity must be treated similarly to a marketing program rollout. The reason is simple: Your brand’s good name is attached to it.

In the first year alone, Starbucks FoodShare will be able to provide 5 million meals to individuals and families in need. Starbucks plans to scale this program over the next five years, eventually “rescuing” 100% of its food available for donation from participating company-operated stores. The effort could amount to 50 million meals by 2021.

Looking at Starbucks’ press release, I noticed the word “rescue.” That’s a term tied to Feeding America, and it’s actually more powerful than the word “donate” when describing this program. “Donate” connotes something was unneeded or unwanted. “Rescue” connotes that it was both valued and wanted. Again, the word choice is very much tied to branding.

In the future, Starbucks is hoping to expand its program and offer the service of its refrigerated vans to other restaurants. Considering 70 billion pounds of food is wasted in America each year, according to Feed America, Starbucks is hoping other businesses join the effort.

The Takeaway

The simple, underlying fact is that throwing out unsold food is easier than developing the process to donate or rescue it. That process is going to cost time and money. But a company has to ask itself this question: Do the benefits outweigh the cost?

Starbucks has positioned itself as the market leader in this effort because it invested the time and resources into developing a system that’s measurable. As a values-oriented company, Starbucks wouldn’t settle for less. In fact, if you visit the homepage of their website “Responsibility” is the tab next to “Coffeehouse.”

“We make sure everything we do is through the lens of humanity—from our commitment to the highest quality in the world, to the way we engage with our customers and communities to do business responsibly,” Starbucks writes under Company Information.

Starbucks is certainly not the first to come up with this food bank idea. However, they’re the first major foodservice chain to develop a program as comprehensive as FoodShare. There are other brands in the foodservice industry that haven’t lived up to lofty promises to donate unsold food—or maybe they have but they don’t have a means of sharing that information.

These brands should re-evaluate their presence in the communities they serve. They must keep in mind that actions speak louder than words, and through the lens of marketing, actions can be more influential when you have a means of sharing their progress.

Topics: Restaurants

Norovirus Prevention Can Be Measured

By Jennifer Hoffman


Google “norovirus” and what appears is basically all you need to know—“winter vomiting bug.” But what should also appear is a “reoccurring nightmare for the restaurant industry.”

Norovirus is the leading cause of illness and outbreaks from contaminated food in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In fact, about 50% of all outbreaks of food-related illness are caused by norovirus. Some foods are more commonly associated with outbreaks, including leafy greens, fresh fruits, and shellfish such as oysters. However, any food that is raw or handled after being cooked can become contaminated.

Health care facilities accounted for nearly 63% of norovirus outbreaks from 2009 through 2012, according to the CDC. The restaurant industry was the only other double-digit source at 22%. Infected food workers are frequently the source of outbreaks, meaning they touched food with their bare hands.

The Real Cost of Norovirus

While the CDC findings are important to understanding the scope of norovirus, it’s equally as important to drive home the dollar and cents of an outbreak. A recent norovirus outbreak at a Chipotle in Massachusetts serves as an example of how quickly things can spiral out of control for a brand.

Four of the employees at a Boston-area Chipotle came down with norovirus after being infected during an outbreak at their high school. One of the employee’s parents decided to alert the media as well as the local health department, which temporarily shut down the store. This incident was on the heels of Chipotle’s brush with a multiple-state E.coli outbreak. What followed was a mass exodus of investors and a $750 million loss in the company’s market cap in two days. Notably, the employees had not come to work sick and there were no reports of ill customers.

Given this perfect storm of foodborne illness, you might just think Chipotle has exceptionally bad luck. But you would have to say the same for Buffalo Wild Wings, which faced its own norovirus outbreak in Kansas right before Super Bowl Sunday. Once state officials confirmed the outbreak, the company’s stock fell 13% in one day to a 15-month low.

Don’t Leave Norovirus Prevention Up to ‘Luck’

Restaurant and foodservice brands must make every effort to prevent norovirus outbreaks. It start with training employees and ends with accountability; both can be documented.


Every employee must receive norovirus training during their on-boarding. Document when each employee has completed training, and have them sign off that they understand their responsibility to notify management if they contract norovirus or experience symptoms.


As part of a pre-shift checklist, each restaurant manager should ask employees if they have experienced any norovirus symptoms in the last two days.

Note: In the form, be sure to clearly list what those symptoms are, including diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and stomach pain. Other symptoms include fever, headache, and body aches.

Reacting to ‘Yes’

Let’s consider when your employee genuinely is sick and tells you. Management should be notified immediately. The employee should be sent home and the reason should be indicated in the form. If the employee was sent home mid-shift, the areas where the employee worked should be cleaned thoroughly.

Note: Set the guidelines for what constitutes a thorough cleaning. For instance, if the person was in charge of handling fresh vegetables, discard those vegetables and wash utensils/equipment they handled. Document when the food was discarded.

More Than an ‘Honors System’

To a certain extent, the success of accountability procedures comes down to the honors system.

  • Does every employee stay home when they are sick? No.
  • Do other employees want to “tattle” that a colleague is sick? Probably not.

Still, that doesn’t mean employees can’t be incentivized.  There should be a safeguard of anonymity, and perhaps even an incentive, if an employee alerts management that a colleague is ill with norovirus symptoms and handling food.

Depending on the size of the network, regional managers could verify the norovirus checklists of individual stores during a routine audit. Through a platform like Zenput, senior management could receive an alert about any store that’s not in line with training and accountability.

When it comes to compliance, food safety is too important not to follow up for compliance. In the event of an outbreak and subsequent investigation, your documentation and ability to take corrective action will make all the difference in moving past the incident.

Topics: Restaurants

First USDA-Certified Restaurant is Well-Timed Alternative

By Jennifer Hoffman


Like most good ideas, it started with a problem. Erica Welton, a former Costco food buyer, was frustrated by the lack of clean, quick options at lunchtime or on busy weekends. She would see people order organic greens in restaurants and then pour non-organic dressing on them—it defeated the purpose.

Welton’s restaurant, The Organic Coup, is reportedly the country’s first USDA-certified organic fast-food restaurant. USDA certification is not an easy benchmark. It means 95% or more of the ingredients served at this restaurant come from certified organic growers and farmers, as required by the USDA to receive certification.

Now you may be thinking, “Great. Another place where I can get a kale smoothie!” But that’s not the case, at all. In fact, the main menu item is The Coup Signature Sandwich—a fried chicken sandwich made with all organic ingredients and served with a side of popcorn. You can also get a chicken wrap or salad.

Welton has an aggressive growth plan for The Organic Coup. The first location in Pleasanton, CA, opened in November, and 25 are expected to open in the next 14 months. The chain will depart from the typical QSR in another big way: the starting salary at The Organic Coup is $16, which is $3.75 more per hour than the current minimum wage.

The Organic Coup is carrying out three trends we’ve witnessed in the QSR and fast-casual dining spaces in recent months:

  1. Better-for-you ingredients
  2. Simplified menu
  3. Paying employees higher wages.

For point 1, a parallel can be drawn to Panera, who made a commitment to drop artificial ingredients from its food, including 150 food additives, by the end of 2016. In the QSR segment, Taco Bell, McDonald’s, and Burger King have introduced healthy and nutritious food items to their menus. According to research firm Technavio, these new items, including fruits, salads, and low-fat chocolate milk will likely contribute to market growth in the Americas through 2019.

Point 2 is reminiscent of McDonald’s realization that their menu was too complicated. In early 2015, they rolled out a simplified menu with fewer items to reduce confusion and increase speed. The Organic Coup is starting out with just three menu options and two sides.

Menu prices are tied to both menu quality and employee wages. Point 3 can be compared to Shake Shack’s recent decision to raise menu prices while paying employees more, ahead of minimum wage increases which some cities have already enacted or are currently working to legislate. There’s also something to be said for quality: Shake Shack charges more for a premium burger. Similarly, a chicken sandwich from The Organic Coup will cost you around $9. It’s a good hike from a dollar menu, but with USDA certification, you’re confident in the quality of the product you’re purchasing.

The Takeaway

In many ways, The Organic Coup represents the future of fast-food. Not all restaurants will be able to make the transition to USDA-certified menus, but the point isn’t lost. The industry is well aware of changing consumer preferences.

The decision is not one that can be made overnight, but more QSRs can start the conversation now. They may have to reformulate products, switch vendors, and possibly change how a product is made at the store-level. Such decisions may affect prices, but they can also be a great promotional opportunity for your brand.

Don’t wait too long to start the process. There are competitors at every turn, and your customer might just go for that new chicken joint down the block.

Topics: Restaurants

Brand Auditing for QSRs

By Brian Harris


Anyone familiar with our software solution knows that we’re staunch advocates for executing at the store level. But sometimes you need to zoom out and look at the brand itself. You can become too focused on perfecting individual processes that you lose sight of what the processes are designed to accomplish.

Look at each process in your organization as if it’s a piece of a puzzle. When put together, the puzzle creates your brand image. So what does that image look like right now? It is possible to audit your brand just as you would audit at the store level. It comes down to designing a checklist that will help you determine if certain goals are being met.

Here are some questions to consider:

1. What is your brand strategy and brand promise?

This is equivalent to a mission statement. It will vary in wording, but no matter what kind of business you have, it probably should mention what each customer should expect on their next visit.

2. How is your brand positioned?

  • Knowing your market size and competitors.
  • Knowing what you do better than competitors.

3. Who is your typical customer? Does your brand speak to them?

Remember Taco Bell’s 2013 decision to remove their kids’ menu in an effort to focus on their core, Millennial customers. The strategy has been working. Taco Bell saw 8.2% sales growth in 2015—the second strongest performance among chains behind Starbucks, according to Technomic Inc.’s latest report.

4. How do customers perceive your brand?

This is where ­­investing in research can help.­ Unbiased polls and surveys can reveal important perceptions about your brand. It can also serve as a report card for how your brand aligns with its goals.

5. What are your brand elements?

URLs, social media presence, symbols, characters, spokespeople, jingles, slogans, packages and signage. The list goes on. All of these should reflect your brand.

A broader-focused brand audit can point you in the right direction for what you need to fix, but you’ll have to investigate at the store level to find out how the brand is being delivered.

The Measurable Parts of Your Brand Audit

Remember these 5 P’s:

1. Product

If you want to be the best burger joint in your local market, your offerings need to reflect that.

Check for compliance: See if your product is prepared correctly at the store level.

2. Placement

Stores need to be set up according to brand standards.   

Check for compliance: Franchised QSRs should be in compliance for the same tables, chairs, fixtures and art.  This also relates to signage placement and drive-thru operations.

3. Price

To be the best product in town, you have to have competitive prices. This comes down to awareness of competitor pricing.

Check for compliance: A simple photo of menu boards can help verify your pricing strategy across a network.

4. Promotion

The “big picture” aspect of auditing promotions is how you’re promoting, whether it’s TV, radio, or print. Customers expect locations to participate in the promotion, and they expect a similar experience from store to store.

Check signage for compliance: Signage is something that can be verified easily—it’s either present and placed correctly, or it’s not.

5. Property

Nothing can damage your brand faster than a dirty restroom, a sticky floor, or litter on the premises. 

Check for compliance: A thorough property inspection comes down to a good checklist. So maybe you don’t want to share a photo of a toilet. But maybe on your next visit to a store, a regional manager rates what he finds on a scale of 1 to 10 with “10” indicating the highest marks. Any area that gets rated a 5 or lower will be reviewed further.

Be sure to tell store managers and employees what you expect prior to auditing. It’s not about intimidating or micro-managing your staff; it’s about improving communication. Encourage them to provide input on how your brand can improve, and incentivize them to do their part in raising the bar. The brand can only improve when everyone works together in unison.

Topics: Restaurants

Learning from Subway’s Sandwich Compliance Lawsuit

By Brian Harris


Welcome to the 21st century, where anyone with a cell phone can turn your marketing campaign on its head. It was an “awkward moment” in 2013 when Subway was called by an Australian teenager who happened to notice his footlong sandwich was only 11 inches and posted about it on Facebook. Before long, the New York Post conducted its own investigation and found that four of seven sandwiches measured only 11 or 11.5 inches.

You can probably see where this is going—Subway’s parent company, Doctor’s Associates, recently settled a class-action lawsuit that consisted of anyone who had purchased a six-inch or foot-long sandwich from Jan. 1, 2003 to October 2, 2015.

While the settlement granted no monetary claims to potential members of the class, Subway had to pay $520,000 in attorney’s fees and agreed to institute practices for at least four years to ensure its bread meets the required 12 inches. The co-lead attorney for the class had the best line about the settlement: “It was difficult to prove monetary damages, because everybody ate the evidence.”

Subway should be commended for taking steps to address a compliance problem in their franchise network. This plan included four elements:

  • Using a tool to measure bread in every Subway restaurant
  • Conducting monthly compliance inspections where bread loaves are measured.
  • Instituting internal penalties for Subway restaurants that sell non-compliant sandwiches
  • Providing a consumer notice that warns consumers that due to “natural variations” in the bread-baking process, the size and shape of the bread may vary.

On paper, this plan would be adequate to prevent future violations. But keep in mind that a plan is just a plan without implementation. And so-called “implementation” is only as good as the system you use to verify it.

An attorney who commented on this case said it best when he wrote, “When it comes to class action defense, a penny of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The best way to succeed in any deceptive trade practices lawsuit is to never appear on plaintiffs’ radar screen in the first place.”

A Penny for Your Thoughts on Prevention

Having a system to verify compliance has clear benefits for building your brand and improving your product/service. But the Subway story drives home another reality: When you don’t take time to verify for compliance, you can be putting your brand at risk.  

Have you weighed the risks of not having a system that ensures compliance in your marketing programs?

Take time to consider those areas of your marketing program that offer both risk and reward. And if you want to learn how Zenput’s mobile solution can help verify implementation, consider scheduling a free demo with us.

Topics: Restaurants

McDonald’s ‘Create Your Taste’ Borrows from C-Stores’ Playbook

By Jennifer Hoffman


QuikTrip, Sheetz, Rutter’s, Wawa. All of these convenience store chains have cult-like food followings, and all of them have something important in common: Customers order through touch-screen kiosks.

Today’s customers, especially Millennials, love customization. Ordering by touch-screen presents an opportunity to express their individuality. Even non-Millennials appreciate touch-screen technology. From smartphones and tablets to the dashboard in our cars, we’ve grown accustomed to this convenience. C-stores have been leading the way to introduce touch screens into the retail space, and they’ve done so with great success.

So it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that McDonald’s, a brand that has at times struggled to find its footing in the 21st century, is taking a page out of c-stores’ playbook. McDonald’s is expanding its “Create Your Taste” (CYT) across the country. The concept lets guests design their own burger or sandwich at a touch-screen kiosk, or a regular counter. Our local San Francisco market is seeing the expansion of this concept. Two locations that offer CYT are already open, and a third is expected this spring.

Delivering on the Next-Level Promise

CYT is an opportunity for McDonald’s to compete not only with convenience stores, but also with its biggest QSR competitor, Burger King. For years, Burger King touted the customizability of its menu items. By making a serious move into self-ordering kiosks, McDonald’s could take customization to the next level.

But by promising that next-level experience, McDonald’s has to deliver on next-level quality. A customizable burger costs an average of $6, so it’s crucial that the food is better than dollar-menu fare. For instance, if a customer orders a toasted artisan roll, it should be freshly toasted. Toppings like jalapeno peppers, guacamole, and grilled mushrooms need to be well-stocked if offered. Employees may need training on the quality and quantity of the new ingredients. This calls to mind an experience I had at a QSR (not McDonald’s) where fresh basil was applied liberally like it was shredded lettuce; the sandwich was inedible.

Premium ingredients applied to classic recipes and delivered in a timely fashion through new technology can be a tall order to execute. That’s why McDonald’s is taking its time to roll out CYT. It’s currently available throughout Australia, and look for all of the McDonald’s in the state of Florida and Manhattan to be CYT locations by the end of the year. The paced rollout matches the brand’s new approach to the customer experience: Slow down, get it right, and enjoy the experience! 

See Also

The Secret Sauce to Fast Casual Restaurants’ Success
McDonald’s All-Day Breakfast: A Glimmer of Hope in Uphill Battle
Restaurant Operations Lessons from In-N-Out Burger

Topics: Restaurants

Successful Marketing Programs are Living, Breathing, and Changing

By Brian Harris


Scott Gerber has been referred to as the “Simon Cowell” of young entrepreneurship. He gives folks a kick in the pants to get their ideas off the ground. I find common ground with Scott in his concept of the one-paragraph startup plan. Essentially, Scott wants entrepreneurs to take your entire business plan and boil it down to a digestible format.

The one-paragraph startup plan is based on 5 points:

  1. Answer key questions about your business
  2. Write checklists designed to move your business forward.
  3. Execute your plan.
  4. Revise your draft plan based on the information gathered while executing the checklists.
  5. Continue to update your plan.

The one-paragraph startup is a living, breathing document based on what you observe and test in the field as you launch. For this reason, the concept easily carries over to marketing programs.

The one thing that all successful marketing programs have in common is the ability to follow up. Your marketing team can spend hours writing the most brilliant plan. But it needs to be tested, verified, and adjusted in the field. Results need to be measured and reported. Like fine art, the best marketing programs aren’t created in a vacuum. If you don’t have real-time insights, then frankly, what was the point of the hours spent planning?

The ‘One-Paragraph’ Marketing Plan Based on 5 Points

I’m not trying to undermine the importance of planning, but there’s something to be said about executing programs without the fear of perfection. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from working with Zenput customers, it’s that things go wrong in the retail environment and they go wrong often. That shouldn’t deter you from rolling out your plan with confidence and knowing that if something goes awry, you’ll be able to recover quickly.

Compose Your One-Paragraph Marketing Program

1. Answer key questions about the product/promotion

There are many sub-questions:

  • How will customers know the product is in your stores?
  • What is the best location for this product in the store?
  • How long will this promotion run?
  • As a CPG company, what materials will I need to provide to a retailer?
  • As a retailer, do I need to train my staff in advance?

2. Write checklist designed to move plan forward

Wouldn’t it be helpful if you could create a series of tasks to prepare each store for the next big program? For instance, if you’re a retailer and you’ll need floorspace, you could create a task for store managers to adjust the planogram and verify with a photo. If you’re on the CPG side, you could deploy your field reps to discuss the program with the managers of high-traffic stores. This is smart preparation working with your team in the field.

3. Execute the plan, while still utilizing checklists

Example checklist:
  • Materials are set up according to instructions.
  • Display is placed correctly in store.
  • Product quantity/facings are correct
  • Take a photo to verify. (Plus, it truly is worth a thousand words.)

4. Revise The draft plan, based on Your Checklist Results

Real-time results enable a remote marketing team to respond to questions/concerns prior to launch. Plus, it enables store managers to be your eyes and ears in the field. They know their store environment best, so give them a way to share their observations.

5. Continue to update your plan

Remember: The marketing plan can be living, breathing, and changing based on your ability to gather and respond to new information. Don’t worry about perfection from the onset. Strive for perfection by adjusting as needed.

Approaching marketing programs this way may require a cultural shift in your organization. But if you see room for improvement, dare to be the voice of change!

Topics: Retail