The Impact of Millennials on Casual Dining: Insights from Panera Bread & Krispy Kreme

By Rob Shell


The impact of millennials on the restaurant industry is an increasingly common topic of conversation. “Casual dining is in danger—and Millennials are to blame,” reports Business Insider in an article entitled “Millennials are killing chains like Buffalo Wild Wings and Applebee’s.”

The article notes that this blame game has become cliché in retail. If you look at The EquiTrend Report from Harris Poll, Millennials actually give more brand equity to restaurant chains than their elders. They respond well to reliability, convenience, and consistency. Successful restaurant chains are figuring out how to leverage menu variety and social media to attract young diners.

Millennials, Millennials, Millennials—it’s becoming like The Brady Bunch equivalent of “Marsha.”

Finally, there was a recent study that put age aside and focused on the very specific quantifiable ones—between independent restaurants and chain restaurants. Research firm Pentallect partnered with Critical Mix to better understand consumer attitudes about independent vs. chain restaurants in regard to critical performance attributes, and the results may be surprising, even to veterans of the restaurant industry.

Here’s what they found:

There are two key takeaways from the chart above:

  1. Independent restaurant traffic and revenue growth is outperforming chains in all but three areas: use of technology, social media use and—to a lesser extent—location.
  2. Consumers rated Independent restaurant chains in 12 out of 15 studied attributes across both operational and emotional metrics. For most attributes, the perceived independent performance advantage is wide.

My own key takeaway/food for thought:

  1. If independent restaurants catch up on technology and convenience, chain restaurants are in greater trouble.

Getting to Work

Pentallect’s study clearly outlines some specific areas that chain restaurants can focus on when looking to improve their consumer ratings. If it seems like too much to tackle at once, take a closer look at a chain like Panera in the past couple of years.  

As reported by QSR magazine, the company agreed to be purchased by Krispy Kreme parent company JAB Holding in April and announced its plan to hire 10,000 employees to boost its delivery service from 15% to 35%-40% of the entire system in 2017.

The company also released its 2016 edition of its Responsibility Report that highlights key accomplishments over the past year, including achieving 100% clean food for its U.S. food menu and Panera At Home consumer packaged goods; converting nearly 70% of company-owned bakery cafes to Panera 2.0; and introducing a major expansion of small-order delivery. The company reports that it’s tracking past $1 billion in digital sales for the year.

Panera is also donating more than $100 million each year to fight food insecurity and operating nonprofit cafes aimed at addressing food insecurity.

Take all of the things Panera is doing and then check Pentallect’s list. You can see that they’re checking off a lot of the attributes on that list. With JAB’s backing and a demonstrated commitment to raising the bar, Panera is poised to have a massive global presence with enormous success. But there’s one important key to that success…

Maintaining Operational Excellence

It’s impossible for chains to enact Panera-level broad reforms without the use of technology. Technology, as Pentallect reminds us, is where chains still have an advantage, and when used appropriately, technology has the ability to make a large organization operate with the communication and cooperation of a smaller company.

Everyday, savvy restaurant operators are leveraging mobile technology like Zenput to increase store-level insights and increase operational efficiencies. Learn how Zenput might be the right ingredient for your restaurant operations by clicking here.

Topics: Business Operations, Restaurants, restaurant cleanliness

You Can't Have 'Brand Consistency' Without...

By David Mostovoy


I’m very loyal to a local fast food restaurant and, on average, I’m a monthly patron. On my most recent visit, everything was on point with the food, as per usual. But there was something else that slightly soured my experience. The customer service was legitimately unfriendly and contradicted the brand’s messaging. On the side of the truck, there is a photo of the founder smiling, yet the cashier barely acknowledged my presence. I asked for a container of hot sauce and suddenly found a small container next to me- there was zero discussion and the cashier returned to looking at a smartphone and completely ignoring me.

I’ve been to this local business enough times to know that the staff changes. On my last three visits, there have been three different cashiers. Two out of three were friendly and interacted, so I’m more inclined to consider this negative experience the exception, not the rule. But what if this had been a customer’s first introduction to this brand? Let’s just say it wouldn’t have done anything to build loyalty for future visits.

In a previous post, I wrote about convenience store retailers who can win if they maintain a sense of self-awareness of what sets them apart and consistently deliver on an exceptional customer experience. For many retailers, what sets them apart is fresh food. But as evident in my recent food truck experience, the food isn’t everything for building brand loyalty.

That’s why customer service interactions are synonymous with brand consistency. And for most retailers, there are multiple points of customer interaction that require attention.

Improving Consistency at All Points of Customer Interaction

So how do you improve consistency across a brand through customer interaction? Start by tracking the customer’s journey from the moment they arrive at your store until they leave.

For instance, convenience stores that offer fuel at competitive prices will always bring customers and foot traffic inside the store.

But retailers should audit:

-How is customer service at the pump? Are prices consistent and card readers working properly? Are promotions that incentivize customers to go inside the store present? (It’s is all part of the customer service experience!)

See mobile form example by clicking here.

-If the customer gravitates towards foodservice, how is the ordering experience?

Note: With touch-order kiosks, the initial interactions are kept to a minimum in order to streamline the experience. But how about when the food is ready? Handing the food item to a customer and interacting can go a long way.

-Is the customer greeted when they approach the register? “Hello, did you find what you were looking for?” can do the trick.

Remember: You could have a fantastic marketing and merchandising team. But if you’re looking to take your brand to the next level in brand loyalty—to the point where the customer gets excited about their next visit—you have to dig into your store-level interactions. Understanding those interactions is how brands obtain actionable insights that are used to optimize the customer experience and build loyalty.

How to get started: Don’t wait to jump in! Be mindful of your strengths and potential weaknesses, and try to establish a baseline audit. From dispensing beverages to using a restroom that might deter a foodservice purchase, consider areas that might be problematic in your stores and audit for those specific things. Your checklists can always be adjusted in the future and with the right platform, this can be done easily, in real-time, and without time-consuming paperwork.

Click here to see more mobile form examples that can be implemented using Zenput.

Learn more about Zenput’s mobile solution for convenience stores by clicking here.

Fresh Food Wins If Brands Can Deliver Just One Thing…

By Brian Harris


Customers have all been there. That disappointing experience at their favorite c-store or restaurant that makes them question all they know to be true in life. Well OK, maybe that’s a bit dramatic. But it is a disappointment when it happens, and it can make them think twice about returning—at least to that location.

An alternative scenario is when a customer knows that one location makes a better sandwich, has fresher coffee, and always stocks the latest flavor of a packaged beverage. Maybe they’re willing to go out of their way to that favorite store or restaurant, if the company has already established brand loyalty. At the end of the day, it’s these little inconsistencies that can have a big impact on a brand. Details matter when channel blurring is on the rise. 

The “little things” add up to brand consistency, and consistency can make or break a brand.

The Fresh Food Advantage

If you work in the foodservice channels, you know the importance of brand awareness for customers—you know the products and services that attract them to your store. But are retailers aware of their own brand? In other words, are they aware of their strengths and weaknesses and how to hone in on what sets their brand apart?

Focus on THE attributes that drive customers to your store, but don’t completely neglect your weaknesses.

Raw data is great for learning about what is working in your stores and what isn’t. But data alone won’t tell you why Store A is consistently better at promoting new menu items than Store B. That’s when operators need to zoom into each location to better understand what’s going on.

How to Create the Consistent Customer Experience

What makes a brand addicting to customers? For c-stores, it’s no longer “cokes and smokes” that keep them coming back for more—it’s coffee and food. But not just any food, as fast-food restaurants have learned that customers want options beyond what’s deep-fried. They’ve started to take more cues on flavor and better ingredients from the fast-casual segment.

Today’s foodie culture is advantageous to c-store and foodservice retailers in their efforts to set themselves apart from the competition. These two channels also have the advantage of having smaller footprints for a faster, more streamlined experience.

If foodservice is your greatest potential to separate from the market competition, it’s time to raise the bar across your network. It starts with better insights at the store level using a technology everyone in your company, no matter their level of experience, already has.

3 steps to gaining store-level insights using mobile technology:

  1.  Empower your foodservice category managers to communicate their greatest needs through an easy-to-use mobile form. Ask them to complete a baseline survey, but also ask them to use this as an opportunity to document their pain points. From staffing, to maintenance, to vendor relationships, there may be easily-solvable issues managers simply don’t have a way to communicate.
  1.  Set up automated alerts to find out when stores need more support or maintenance. Food preparation area at risk? Bathrooms sending customers running for the hill? Senior managers will know about these issues from the next store audit, and now they’re able to act.
  1.  Act on a plan to resolve the issue. A clear directive is sent to the store-level manager and the task remains “open” until a follow-up ensures completion.

When there’s a better understanding and a course of action at the store-level, a brand has a greater chance of delivering consistent customer experiences that build loyalty.

Ready to zoom in on your foodservice operations? Learn more about Zenput’s solution by clicking here.

Topics: Retail, Franchise, Restaurants, C-store, consistent customer experience

The Key to Balancing Tech and Human Interaction in Retail

By Vladik Rikhter

Retail technologySource:

From Wi-Fi and digital menu boards in Wendy’s to growing lines at the automated checkout in Target, technology is increasingly present in retail environments.  

To quote a friend’s photo caption of an Amazon Books store in Manhattan: “But why?”. To me, the better question is, “Why not?”. In the case of Amazon, the retailer’s decision starts to make more sense when you realize that the bookstore does not accept cash. Shoppers receive the discounted price for being an Amazon Prime member and for having downloaded and installed the app. If they’re not Prime members, they pay full list price. Hence, Amazon is driving more traffic to its online platforms via a physical store.

Even in stores that rely strictly on foot traffic, like grocery and convenience, we see more incentives to download and use mobile apps for special promotions. Slowly but surely, we see the tech revolution’s impact on retail. But the operative word is “slowly.”

As it turns out, today’s customers want a strong technology presence coupled with the familiarity of human interaction during a shopping experience, according to the new Retail Perceptions report from Interactions.

Consider these key findings among the more than 1,000 adult shoppers surveyed:

- 48% expect retailers to utilize technological features successfully to improve their shopping experience.

- 62% are motivated by an initial human greeting upon entering a store.

- Only 10% of shoppers want to interact with a store associate as part of the checkout process.

- Nearly 60% of consumers spend more money at stores that send mobile notifications.

In 2017, shoppers are seeking balance. We see this in customer support experiences as well. The technology of a chatbot or automated answering service can resolve some issues, but certain interactions require an actual human that can “save face” for the brand. This was evident in one customer’s recent interaction with Papa John’s. And while automated checkout has arrived, we’re still a long way off from robots helping you find a can of green beans or making your customized sandwich.

Brands are left with an important question. In light of changing consumer preferences (that are being influenced by automation and technology), how do you elevate the customer service experience?

Improving Store-Level Insights

As the customer service experience evolves with technology, so must the company’s internal use of technology. Pure sales data only goes so far, and some companies may not be ready to invest in technologies like heat mapping or movement-tracking cameras. But there’s good news: Gathering information at the store-level is less complicated than you may think. It can be accomplished with technology that all your associates already have. 

In 2017, everyone has a computer right in their pocket via a smartphone. It’s a matter of empowering your employees with mobile technology. Make your employees your eyes and ears on the ground with the right apps. Encourage them to help audit stores in a way that can improve the customer experience.

For instance, regional managers can visit stores and easily note whether or not customers are greeted when they arrive in the store. They can also document the checkout experience. Perhaps there are plenty of cashiers but not enough employees working the foodservice counter. Or, it could very well be that your restrooms are sending customers running out the door! These are the kinds of issues that don’t appear in a sales report, but they could very well come to light in routine store audits.

Remember: retail insights are only useful if they’re actionable. There’s a mobile solution that not only uncovers exceptions, but also enables users to set daily tasks and track their completion.

Learn more about Zenput’s store audit features by clicking here.

Papa John’s Customer Complaint Reflects Common Issue Faced By Franchise Businesses

By Rob Shell


Yelp, Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin - dissatisfied customers have plenty of options when it comes to venting about poor customer service. Papa John’s is the latest target in these increasingly public complaints. The incident reveals issues endemic to the fragmented franchise environment - holes in communication between the operator and franchisees. And the company’s response provides a superb example in dealing with public customer complaints.

Last month, Troy Dunn, a TV personality best known for hosting “The Locator,” tried to order pizza for Mother’s Day. Before outlining the problem, Dunn clarified that he is a fan of Papa John’s. “Great company, great culture and great product,” he wrote. “But what I am about to share demonstrates how not listening to employees, franchisees and customers can lead to a culture of intentional bad customer experiences.”

Here’s an outline of Dunn’s experience:

  • Dunn wanted to place an advanced order, a special deal, for “5 Specialty Pizzas for $50” from his local Papa John’s franchise at his wife’s request on Mother’s Day. He gets an error message.
  • Dunn calls the local store and is surprised to learn that they are closed for Mother’s Day. After asking why the website didn’t tell him that in the first place, the employee responds “I know, Sir. I’m sorry. We hear that a lot.”
  • The franchisee who is closed recommends another store, but when Dunn changes the location, the website deletes his shopping cart. The second store didn’t recognize the specialty pizza deal.
  • Dunn then calls the customer support hotline to speak to a customer service operator who, unfortunately, did not have the ability or authority to offer a solution.
  • Dunn gives up trying to order the pizza.

Papa John’s Responds

The letter eventually made its ways to the eyes of the Papa John’s executive team. Mike Nettles, the recently-appointed chief information and digital officer for Papa John’s, brilliantly responds in an open letter to Dunn.

Nettles acknowledges the failure and cites the nature of any “franchisee-oriented business.” He says Papa John’s could have taken better steps to “insulate our guests from this ‘behind-the-scenes’ complexity.” He also acknowledges that the information corporate collects on franchisees—like hours of operation, delivery boundaries, and pricing/promo levels—doesn’t properly guide the customer journey.

Nettles offers possible tech solutions, like not showing the customer deals that aren’t readily available to them and a “let us try and help” feature to guide the customer to a more successful outcome. Also, Dunn shouldn’t have had to call a customer support hotline. There should have been chat support when he experienced issues placing his order. The customer service rep on the hotline could have been better trained to resolve the issue.

Nettles concludes his letter with an assurance that Papa John’s is working to improve its digital order fulfillment systems. He then offers to pay, out of his own pocket, for a surrogate Mother’s Day party for Dunn and his family. And he offers to make the delivery himself.  

Takeaways from Papa John’s Reaction…and One Lingering Issue

First off, kudos to Nettles for, as he calls it, “taking the hit” and acknowledging the failure. He also offers some specific solutions to the problem Dunn experienced. This is encouraging and will certainly be steps in the right direction for the Papa John’s brand.

But Dunn’s criticism of Papa John’s wasn’t just over one experience on a website - it is about brand reliability and consistency in the company’s franchise system. This is a problem that Nettles alludes to when he says part of the reason we failed is “anchored deeply” in the nature of any franchisee-oriented business.

When I read that, I have to ask, “But why!?” Why are problems deeply anchored? In his letter, Nettles writes that he, “[would like to] invite you (along with anyone else reading this) to join me in designing what I think can be a tremendous improvement in our systems. Consider this an open focus group.”

Offering a Solution

Is Papa John’s doing everything it can to solve these kinds of issues? Can it do more?

Some franchisees are already taking the initiative to deliver a consistent customer experience, supported by robust technology solutions. Check out the case study of Papa John’s franchisee JNE Inc., which uses Zenput to track performance and assigned tasks, and improve restaurant performance. This means not only responding to issues as they come up, but also being proactive to stop potential problems from negatively affecting business.

As Dunn said, it’s about empowering the powerless, and by establishing procedures and processes that transfer across locations. Imagine if franchisees had a means, in real-time, to identify and resolve issues at the store, and analyze trends to get better insight into each stores’ execution. That’s the whole key to operations improvements, right? It’s not just about the parent organization’s ability to collect data—it’s about using the data to share actionable insights with franchisees. Ultimately, your operations always need to always have customer service in mind, which is really the overriding message of the JNE inc. case study.

Organizational change begins with a willingness to explore new ways of doing old things. In 2017, technology is fundamental to the kind of change that improves restaurant operations.

Explore Zenput’s functionalities and see if this platform is the right ingredient for your restaurant operations.  

Topics: Restaurants

3 Preventable Problems That Set Up Franchisees for Failure

By Joe Skupinsky


Image source:

The relationship between a franchisor and a franchisee is much like a human relationship. You want to strive for a healthy, co-dependency built on open communication and mutual respect. You don’t want it to be needy, possessive, or insecure as a result of poor communication. That kind of operational environment can make one of the parties want to either lock the door behind them or leave the key on the table.

Franchising is a two-way street and both parties can have a different perspective and interpretation of events.  With this in mind, we’ve pinpointed 3 common problems that often indicate a franchisee is being set up to fail:

  1. Poor communication and understanding of expectations. Saying and doing are two very different things. For example, are your brand’s best practices actually being fulfilled in your stores or are they just pages in an Excel spreadsheet or binder tucked away in the back office? The successful franchisor leads by example, like by organizing key operational responsibilities into actionable tasks. When paper checklists are transformed into a checklist on a mobile device, you suddenly have capabilities that you never had before- like viewing aggregated data in real time, tracking actionable items like tasks and projects, and more.

Pro-Tip: A corporate-owned store can provide a great baseline for operations and help franchisees determine how to communicate expectations to franchisees. Both parties should embark on a path to better operations together, so be flexible where possible. For example, standards for cleanliness can’t be compromised, but perhaps you can negotiate on the execution of category promotions.

  1.  Not responding to franchisee’s real needs in real-time and/or franchisees not reporting issues in real-time. In 24-hour retail environments, equipment can break, staffing shortages can present a real problem, and brand loyalty can suffer. Customers remember the broken coffee machine, the dirty floor or restroom, and long lines at the register. Do you take any proactive or preventative measures leading up to the problem, and what do you do when there’s a real situation in a store?

Pro-Tip: Franchisors can empower franchisees to communicate via real-time notifications. Think about it this way: In an unfortunate circumstance like a family emergency, how do you want to be contacted? Do you want an email that might get buried in your inbox on a busy day, or do you want a message right to your mobile device? In today’s fast-paced world, most people want the notification as soon as they look at their device. Plus, as a matter of practicality, you want documentation of the reported event.

  1. There’s no follow up at the store level. It all comes down to accountability. For example, the marketing materials or product didn’t arrive to the store in time, and a rush shipment went out. The franchisee receives the materials and the issue seems to have been resolved. However, what senior management should do at this point is allow the franchisee to set up the promotion and confirm they did so with a photo. In fact, all franchisees with the same promotion should be doing this to ensure proper execution. 

Pro-tip: It’s not unreasonable to think that you could send out a directive like this in the morning and gage compliance among your network by the end of the day, all by a simple glance at your mobile device. Effective franchisors won’t make audits and checklists a “big brother” spy game; rather, they’ll use these insights to reward effective franchisees and employees who are going the extra mile. 

Bonus Pro-tip: Zenput provides the tools that can improve communication and accountability between franchisee and franchisor. Find out more about Zenput’s mobile platform and the power of real-time insights by clicking here. 

How Domino’s Plans to Stay Ahead

By David Mostovoy

Screen Shot 2017-05-16 at 11.25.09 AM.png

Image Source: Google

While other pizza chains struggle, Domino’s is thriving (Over 1300% stock price increase since IPO in 2004). That’s the subhed of this story on investment site The Motley Fool. Shares of Domino’s Pizza jumped more than 11% in October, according to data by S&P Global Market Intelligence. The pizza chain jumped 13% in same-store sales in the third quarter, making it the 22nd consecutive quarter of positive growth for its U.S. business. Domino’s is making bank, too, with net income rising to 24.8% year over year to $47.2 million in the third quarter.

We’ve already discussed what Domino’s is doing right in tech. Through an array of digital platforms, customers can quickly and efficiently place an order. In fact, more than 50% of Domino’s business comes from digital orders, compared to about 20% for the industry as a whole.

Those who have followed Domino’s transformation during the past couple of years know their success is not luck or coincidence. They’re a company that has invested heavily in technology and marketing, and realized how the two go hand-in-hand. Moreover, Domino’s has its operations down to a science, from the Pizza Tracker once an order is placed, to delivery. Combine that with a revamped and innovative menu, and Domino’s has created a recipe for success.

It’s also worth noting that Domino’s recently made history when it completed the first commercial pizza delivery by drone in New Zealand. The company is excelling in overseas markets as well, with same-store sales rising 6.6%—an impressive 91st consecutive quarter of international comps growth.

What Comes Next

When you’re experiencing the kind of success Domino’s is seeing, it can be tempting for a company to rest on its laurels. Complacency is one of the most dangerous states for a brand. Domino’s has avoided this by continually innovating in not only what customers can see, but also what they can’t see.

Domino’s franchises are using Zenput to maintain high customer satisfaction standards, food safety, and quality. Zenput mobile solution provides Domino’s the ability to audit operations, labor activities, and cash uses. Zenput is also a real-time notification tool that enables two-way communication between stores and management. For instance, Zenput can be used to audit vehicle inspections, request maintenance or supplies, and communicate customer or property incidents. From the top-down, senior district managers can use Zenput to assign tasks to his/her stores and track compliance among those locations. Domino’s has even used Zenput for customer care phone audits.

All of these components are part of customer service, and exceptional customer service—quite simply delivering a hot pizza to a hungry customer in time—is what will continue to set Domino’s apart from the competition. And Zenput plans to continue providing the real-time insights that will help Domino’s improve its business decisions.

To learn more about how one of the largest Domino’s operators uses Zenput to manage daily tasks and improve store productivity, download the case study.

Topics: Restaurants

There's a Better Way for Global Franchises to Communicate

By Brian Harris


Arby’s is planning an expansion into Canada.

Grimaldi’s pizza expands to United Arab Emirates.

Carl’s Jr. opens its first location in Chile.

Papa John’s plans to open 20 stores in Morocco.

These are just some of the global franchising news we’ve encountered in the last few weeks. It’s truly amazing what globalization and high-speed communication has done to the food franchisee community, and it’s evident in the bold overseas expansion plans of some top companies.

When it comes to overseas expansion, you often hear about the parent company partnering with a locally-based franchise development company. This locally based company helps the brand transition to that particular market, especially with communicating to staff.

While it’s important to take local customs and culture into account, there are just some aspects of a brand that can’t be compromised—much like a language that must be translated. Here are three of those values that are pretty standard across the industry:

  1. A clean and inviting dining experience

-> The global franchisor will have to abide by rules and regulations of the country of expansion.

  1. Courteous customer service

-> What is considered a friendly customer greeting in this country? Perhaps it’s not a requirement to look a customer in the eye, but instead to use a formal greeting.

  1. Fast and efficient service

-> Is the overseas kitchen equipped the same? Is the franchisor offering new, fresh menu items that have different prep times? These are all nuances that must be accounted for.

So how, exactly, do you account for brand compliance, especially when the franchisor and franchisee may be several thousand miles away from each other?

Using a Nimble Communication Platform

Relying on traditional forms of communication—emails, calls, and fax—can create barriers and frustrations. For instance, if the franchisor requires the global franchisee to call in during business hours, it may be during a critical prep time or when the franchisee is preparing to run through their end-of-day list checklist before closing the restaurant.

Instead, consider a real-time, cloud-based, mobile platform. Franchisees can work with franchisors to translate brand best practices—literally to translate the language and figuratively to account for any cultural nuances. Those best practices can exist as a series of simple checklists that are easily disseminated to mobile devices via the cloud.  

Rather than requiring franchisees to call or email, franchisors can update store conditions and communicate concerns in real time. They can also upload a photo or video to illustrate exactly what’s happening in their stores. A platform like Zenput also enables franchisors to set up different levels of alerts.

For instance, a senior manager at the franchisee development company may be alerted to key maintenance issues, which the parent company can’t easily resolve in real time. But if the franchisee reports that key materials, such as signage and branded store elements, never arrived via shipment, then managers at the parent company could act. The parent may also want to be alerted to any food safety concerns at the store level and to track the follow-up process.

The best way to find out if this platform is right for your organization is to try it yourself.

Check out some of Zenput’s mobile forms that may be helpful to global franchisors:

Food Quality Evaluation Form

Restaurant Food Safety

Restaurant Customer Service Evaluation

Restaurant Scheduling and Procedures

To learn more about how Zenput helps restaurants, click here.

Topics: Franchise

Effective vs. Ineffective Franchise Operators. Where do you fall?

By Vladik Rikhter

future fast food pic.jpg“Expect problems and eat them for breakfast.” – Alfred Montapert

I think this is one of the most inspirational quotes for franchisees. Not just because it’s food related, but because it’s the truth of the business they know. Foodservice franchises, whether they are restaurants or convenience stores, are a messy business to manage. Food safety is its own realm, not to mention the expectations of customer service. Then there’s all the equipment and storage responsibilities.

The restaurant manager encounters challenges every day. It’s how they respond to those challenges that makes or breaks a brand. Are you eating them for breakfast, or are you letting them consume you?

If you’re a franchise operator, you know that you can’t be everywhere at once. You sign a contract and you place a great deal of trust in another operator to uphold your brand’s standards and best practices, which you’ve taken great care to define and communicate… or at least you think you have.

That’s the thing about compliance in a franchise network—you need to communicate well with franchisees early on and clearly define serious standards violations.

To make this point clear, I’ve created the following 5-point progressions of an ineffective vs. effective franchisor.

The Dichotomy of the Ineffective vs. Effective Franchisor


  1. Has a contract but never extracts the most relevant information to create simple checklists.
  2. Doesn’t clearly communicate core brand expectations with franchisees on a regular basis.
  3. Visits each location, documenting with paper and pen. Notices some problems that aren’t yet violations. Never follows up on them.
  4. Expects franchisees to readily answer phone calls and emails during business hours. Feels like they find out about problems when it’s too late.
  5. Feels blindsided by a franchisee’s problem that goes public.


  1. Has broken out the contract into manageable lists, with some criteria that are not simply “yes” or “no.” The checklist requires detail and explanation to complete.
  2. Regularly communicates with franchisees. Pushes out updates and notifications quickly and in real time.
  3. Documents store conditions using a cloud-based mobile technology on a readily accessible device. Use of a nimble platform alerts senior managers to core inefficiencies, enabling them to act on their findings at a particular location and assign follow-up tasks. Therefore, compliance is well-documented.
  4. Understands that franchisees need to operate their business during business hours and can benefit from new technologies.
  5. Can predict franchisee failures before they happen. And in the worst-case scenario, if the franchisee relationship results in legal action, the franchisor has thorough documentation of non-compliance.  

If your operations sound more like the “Ineffective” model, don’t fret. The “Effective” model is well within reach. It starts with your commitment to explore new systems and update your processes through technology.

Get started by looking at what Zenput can do for restaurants and c-stores.  Or schedule a demo here.

Topics: Business Operations, Franchise

How McDonald’s Can Make New Menu Item Execution More Manageable

By Joe Skupinsky

mcdonalds interior.jpgHas McDonald’s finally hit its stride with its newly announced menu items? Analyst Andrew Strelzik of BMO Capital Markets thinks so. From a stock perspective, he believes that McDonald’s is on pace to reach its 2019 objectives, which includes a cash return to shareholders. Finally, some good projections for the Golden Arches.

When it comes down to it, a $22 to $24 billion cash return to shareholders comes down to brand initiatives. According to Strelznik, McDonald’s is poised to benefit from new menu items, a corresponding large-scale marketing project to promote the new items, and a stronger brand image to support demand. McDonald’s is set to take advantage of an improving restaurant environment that will emerge in the second half of the year.

Today’s modern food culture values real, made-to-order food, and McDonald’s seems to have gotten the message. By mid-2018, customers who order a Quarter Pounder can expect a fresh beef patty off the grill, not from out of the freezer. The move to go fresh comes after the chain tested the fresh beef burgers at more than 400 restaurants in Dallas and Tulsa, OK, for about a year.Competitors Wendy’s, In-N-Out Burger and Shake Shack all use fresh beef. Considering that McDonald’s revenue fell for the fourth year in a row last year, it might have been time for the company to return to its roots: the hamburger. That’s really what it comes down to, right? Quality food served in a quality environment by friendly staff. Everything else is a distraction (a point Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s seem to have realized by dropping the sexy ads and introducing a Baby Back Rib Burger).

Combine that with the fact that McDonald’s has recently lowered prices across its drink menu, and launched a line of Minute Maid slushies in the Midwest and South. Indeed, it seems like Mickey D’s has a spring in its step as it aims to recapture lost customers.

Food Safety is a Top Concern Among Franchisees

As a brand initiative, McDonald’s fresh beef is exciting, but don’t forget that when it was first being tested in restaurants, franchisees were rightfully concerned about speed of execution and food safety. According to a Nomura survey, one franchisee wrote, “If we do not handle the meat perfectly, there is an opportunity for bacterial invasion of our product.”  

That is absolutely true, and brings to light storage, handling, and preparation concerns. Food safety is a wide-scale, concerted effort that requires attention to detail, documentation and adequate follow-up. It’s one thing to test a concept in 400 restaurants. It’s another ballgame to have more than 10,000 restaurants offering fresh beef. And in an organization as sprawling as McDonald’s, food safety is going to require the initiative of forward-thinking franchisees.

Forward-thinking is about using technology to your advantage. It’s about realizing that there’s a better way to communicate through real-time, cloud-based technologies, and that there’s a better way to document kitchen conditions than paper and pen.

Let’s face it: it’s safe to never change your menu and to never change. It’s also how brands lose—when they can’t adapt. As one McDonald’s franchisee stated, "Our line continues to slow down with added items and will continue to do so. However, we are a restaurant and we ought to always serve the best food so [the slow down of the line] may not outweigh the positive [of adding fresher ingredients]."

A lot of critics have wondered if McDonald’s would ever be able to make a comeback. It seems like all the pieces are finally coming together. The question remains: are franchisees up for the challenge? Will they be able to navigate the “noise” of more foot traffic, avoiding distraction and prioritizing food safety?

There are tools to help franchisees create a consistent customer experience. Check out Zenput’s mobile form for gaining store insights and contact us for a demo.

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Topics: Restaurants, restaurant cleanliness, cleanliness