Brian Harris

Recent Posts

Your Sales Are Falling: What Next?

By Brian Harris


Marketing and operations: In your organization, do they work together like peanut butter and jelly? Or are they more like oil and water?

If they’re the latter, you could have a problem on your hands when your sales fall or when they “hiccup.” A hiccup is temporary. You make an adjustment—drink some water, hold your hands above your head—and it eventually it goes away. But a persistent hiccup is a more serious condition that may require medical attention. In the world of sales, this attention may come in the form of a retail sales audit. Or, it may just be a matter of looking at both marketing and operations at the store level.

The “Dos” and “Don’ts” of Diagnosing the Problem

DON’T throw more money at a program without a way of measuring ROI

What change did you make in marketing? Look at changes in your loyalty programs or couponing. Although this may seem like backdoor data analysis, the success of marketing programs is very much tied to store-level processes. For instance, a change in your marketing program must be communicated at the store level in order to be successful.

DO make adjustments in the field

Once it rolls out across your network, a marketing program isn’t a framed portrait hanging on a wall. It’s living, breathing, and changing. Gathering store-level insights helps you respond to real-time challenges. Communicating those challenges to staff in a timely way is just as critical.

DON’T mistake an operations problem for a marketing problem

Let’s reconsider the hypothetical loyalty program rollout. Have your employees received proper training to explain the new program to a customer who has questions? Preparedness doesn’t have to involve a face-to-face customer interaction. With the arrival of warm weather, many convenience stores are rolling out fountain drink beverage programs. If those machines aren’t prepped and ready for higher volume, the results of that program could be disastrous. C-store shoppers pair snacks with beverage purchases, so the loss can be felt across multiple categories.

DON’T blame your staff

True, some employees are prone to underperformance. But preparation, training, and accountability are on their managers. Employees will become disenfranchised when they aren’t given feedback or if they don’t think a manager is responding to their specific needs. Listen to your staff—they’re your eyes and ears in the store.

DO audit your staff

You’ve heard the saying that your team is only as strong as its weakest link. Your regional manager doesn’t have to interrogate staff on his/her next visit to the store. But asking employees a few questions at the point-of-sale, observing their ability to assist a customer, and generally noting their whereabouts in the store (staffing behind registers, at the food ordering counter, etc.), can be helpful in understanding sales performance.

DON’T blame outside competition for stagnating sales

It could be that there’s a new competitor in the market, but their presence shouldn’t sabotage your business suddenly. Strive to perfect your greatest strengths, but also address your weaknesses. With the rise of channel blurring and added competition from quick-service restaurants and drug stores, there’s little room for error in providing “the basics”—a clean, inviting store with friendly staff.

DO create checklists to make sure the basics are being met

Use a checklist to ensure that daily operational tasks are met. Also note where expectations are exceeded. Reward managers and employees for a job well done. These recognitions incentivize employees and can do wonders for morale.

“There’s an App for That”

DO look at how technology can help your network improve.

A mobile solution like Zenput provides store-level insights and accountability. Track the progress of a marketing program rollout. Create checklists to strengthen your core operations and identify weaknesses. Upload a photo or video to get the point across faster and with clarity.

We started out with a basic question: What do you do next when sales are falling? Well, where do most people turn when they have a question or need? Nowadays, a lot of them reach for their mobile device to look up an answer! That’s what Zenput provides—real-time answers at your fingertips, readily accessible through a user-friendly platform.

Topics: Retail

Time to Reject the Status Quo in the C-store Workforce

By Brian Harris


Now in its eighth year, Convenience Store Decisions and Humetrics Human Resources Benchmarking Survey identifies the key employee issues affecting convenience store retailers and what they can do to overcome them.

Respondents represented chains of varying sizes with varying annual revenue. About 45% were corporate personnel, and store managers and human resource professionals represented another 23% each. Below, we’ve summarized some of the report’s key findings, and offered our own analysis on what can improve.

Stagnate Employment Indicates Stagnant Employees

It’s the perennial trend of the convenience store industry: The biggest human resources challenge in 2015 was keeping good people. Among respondents, 71% expect that to be the same case for 2016. While 26.5% expect to add more staff this year, 60% expect they will not change significantly in 2016. In terms of employee turnover, 28.3% of respondents saw an increase in 2015, but experienced an hourly employee turnover of just 55%, which is lower than what NACS, the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing, reported (77%).

Analysis: CSD points out that few retailers are taking any proactive measures or doing anything differently to meet this challenge. They also point out the fact that when employees are fired, it’s mostly due to attitude issues. For this reason, pre-employment attitude screening tools can help.

We see another opportunity in increasing employee accountability in a way that keeps employees engaged. This needs to be a wake-up call for the industry. We’re not advocates of micro-managing—in fact, that’s counterproductive and quells innovation. Rather, we advocate for the clear assignment of roles and the ability of the employer to follow up on whether or not tasks are completed.

Increasing the productivity of your staff will help your bottom line, and it can also make employees more engaged. No staff member should feel they’re picking up the slack for someone else on the team. When good employees believe they are heard and treated equally, they are more likely to stay. Ideally, these good employees will advance into management roles—a win for everyone!

Training on the Upswing

Whereas in 2015, 70% of respondents reported that training programs stayed about the same, 44% expect them to stay the same in 2016. Retailers who plan to increase training will put the greatest emphasis on customer service skills (78%), followed by foodservice safety/sanitation (44%), manager/district training and teamwork (43% each).

Analysis: These stats are definitely a silver lining. It tells us that retailers are realizing the benefit of increased attention to new employee on-boarding, and perhaps they’re learning the hard lessons of the food industry over the past year. While foodborne pathogens in the supply chain may be difficult to control, retailers must do everything in their power to maintain sanitary conditions in food preparation areas. It’s no longer acceptable just to “wing it”—they must follow a checklist to ensure all appropriate measures are taken.

Missed Opportunity Through Technology

When asked about new technologies acquired to improve the hiring process and/or increase productivity, nearly 60% of retailers reported no additions in 2015 and 50% have nothing planned in 2016. The other 35% mostly mentioned new systems of payroll, recruiting and scheduling.

Analysis: What about task management through mobile technology?  The best part about implementation of mobile technology is that it doesn’t require a large investment in new equipment. Rather, it’s a matter of employees downloading an app onto their smartphones. Create a checklist for your managers, assign specific tasks to specific stores, and monitor completion of critical tasks. In the convenience industry, a real-time solution—one that includes GPS locator and the ability to attach a photo—just makes sense.

It’s time to stop settling for the status quo in the convenience store workforce. From retailers to technology providers, let’s make it a goal to work together to increase productivity and improve the adaptability of this ever-changing industry.

Read CSD’s full report

Topics: C-store

McD's Channel Blurring with All-You-Can Eat Fries

By Brian Harris


Let’s all take a moment to consider two facts about McDonald’s:

  1. Seventy percent of business comes through the drive-thru window. (Bloomberg, Nov. 15)
  2. A franchisee in Missouri is about to test a McDonald’s sit-down restaurant prototype. (St. Joseph Press-News)

Both are true—and truly opposite!  What gives?

It’s not exactly news that channel blurring has been on the rise for the past few years. Dubbed the “McDonald’s of the Future,” the restaurant will combine everything customers enjoy about modern, convenient dining. Earthy tones will evoke the feeling of a fast-casual dining atmosphere (think Panera) complete with couches, arm chairs and self-order kiosks. Touchscreen menus are not a new concept either. In another show of channel blurring with convenience stores, McDonald’s has expanded its “Create Your Taste” concept, featuring self-ordering kiosks, across the country.

While the minimum wage debate continues, self-ordering kiosks are not designed to replace employees. Rather, they are designed to enhance customer service by allowing patrons to personalize their orders, from burgers and sandwiches to desserts. But the most “restaurant-y” features of them all in the McDonald’s of the Future? All-you-can-eat french fries and tableside service!

Convenience stores have worked hard to shake their old “cokes and smokes” image. It seems that McDonald’s is also trying to reinvent itself from “fry and fly.” Indeed, the futuristic McDonald’s restaurant will encourage customers to come in and take their time. Kiosks can actually slow down the ordering process as customers select more fresh ingredients, customers can linger with a McCafé in the lounge area, and kids won’t want to leave the revamped play area, complete with digital play and tabletop video games. A separate party room with a dedicated staff will allow families to have birthdays and special occasions.

The Importance of the Other 30 Percent

Let’s revisit the first fact we shared about McDonald’s. While the 70% of customers visiting the drive-thru are crucial to success, the company is very wisely not overlooking the other 30% of its business.

Customized menu options tend to have higher prices, so the opportunity is to upsell on menu items. It’s also about brand-building and creating more loyalty with a better restaurant environment. When the foot traffic segment increases in value, the business benefits as a whole.

That’s an interesting proposition, whether you operate in the convenience store or QSR space. It’s smart to take the strongest area of your business and strive to become the best at it. But it’s just as wise to look at other areas where you can better serve your core customer. In this case, it seems McDonald’s is taking steps to appeal to Millennial parents, the upcoming generation of big spenders.

Testing these concepts at the store level will only broaden McDonald’s horizons. As a brand, these are the kinds of insights they’ll need if the restaurant of the future is to become a reality nationwide.

Topics: Restaurants

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

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

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

Raising the Bar on C-Store Restroom Cleanliness

By Brian Harris


As I sit on an airplane reflecting on restroom cleanliness, my friend has just stood up to use the facilities. (Inconveniently, he has a window seat.) It’s the reason why I wouldn’t join him in having a coffee before the trip. I tend to avoid public restrooms whenever possible, but sometimes you don’t have a choice—like when you’re 30,000 feet in the air!

How important is bathroom cleanliness in the world of convenience retail? According to a recent report by Convenience Store Decisions, it does impact your business.

“Bathrooms likely have a larger impact on inside store sales than some retailers realize,” David Bishop, managing partner at consulting firm Balvor LLC, told the magazine. From working with a c-store retailer, he learned that one out of every 10 customers walking into the store visited the bathroom. However, none of these customers indicated that using the bathroom was the primary reason for their trip. “In other words, having great restrooms isn’t pulling customers into the store like a good promotion does,” Bishop explained. However, a dirty bathroom can “push customers right back out the door—especially if the customer had interest in prepared foods where both your hands and a stranger share a sandwich through touch.”

Why are restrooms so memorable? Probably because they put most of our senses on guard, including sight, touch, sound, and smell. That’s how you should be auditing—in consideration of the senses.


  • (Safety first): No smoking signs are posted.
  • Smoke detectors are present and working (should have indicator light).
  • “Employees must wash hands before returning to work” signs are posted in correct location.
  • Toilets flushed and seats clean.
  • Toiler paper is present in each stall.
  • Stall doors lock.
  • Trash cans are emptied.
  • Floor is mopped.
  • Mirrors wiped down.
  • Sinks are free of debris.
  • Hygiene products, if offered, are stocked.


  • Soap containers are filled and working.
  • Hand-dryers/soap dispensers are working.
  • Cold/warm water is working and at safe temperatures.


  • Light music is playing. (It could help diffuse the sound of sinks and toilets.)
  • Smoke alarms are installed.


  • The bathroom is properly deodorized.  
  • The bathroom smells like smoke. (That should trigger an alert/action from senior management.)

Other important things to audit:

  • Is there an employee schedule/checklist to ensure the bathroom is being cleaned periodically?
  • Are the proper supplies available to clean the restroom?
  • How does the temperature of the bathroom compare to the rest of the store/restaurant? (Is the customer comfortable here?)

Ratings and Photos

Some of the variables above may require more than a “yes” or “no” answer. That’s when it’s helpful to have more options, including a ranking system. Zenput allows senior management to set parameters on restroom audits. For instance, you can set the bar that all of the restrooms throughout your network must be rated a “6” or above on cleanliness entries.

With maintenance issues like dirty floors, a full trash can, or defective stall doors, field managers can take a photo and upload to their audit. Based on this photo, a task can then be assigned to fix this problem. The manager or staff addresses the problem and a new photo is shared for verification. Once verified, the task is marked complete.

Restroom audits come down to employee accountability and a brand’s definition of “clean.” If you rely on your staff to clean restrooms, make sure that the same person isn’t getting stuck with this task. A good employee could get frustrated and leave if other employees aren’t pitching in to help.

Define “clean” as a company/brand. Don’t forget that you set the bar by having clearly defined parameters. Developing a restroom audit can help you define those parameters, so go ahead and get started!

Topics: C-store

Your Out-of-Stock Problem Runs Deeper Than an Empty Shelf

By Brian Harris


In your common retail “nightmare,” customers come into your store looking for a hot product, and you don’t have it. They walk out and you lose the sale. That’s the most basic definition of an out-of-stock. But the reality is that the out-of-stock problem runs much deeper than lack of product.

Out-of-stocks can occur for numerous reasons. Here are just a few:

  • Inventory reporting inaccuracies – a mismatch between basic supply and demand
  • Customer can’t find the right item – a planogram compliance issue
  • Customer can’t find the in-store promotional item – lack of product or lack of communication about product placement/materials
  • Poor customer service - inadequate staffing or lack of customer service knowledge

In other words, if the customer is not leaving with a purchase, it’s the equivalent of an out-of-stock.

How to Eliminate Out-of-Stocks

Retail out-of-stocks are not a new phenomenon. They’re an age-old industry problem that cost billions of dollars in lost sales every year, detract from customer satisfaction, and inflict costly damage on brands. But what has changed is the retailer’s ability to do something about out-of-stocks.

All of the previously mentioned scenarios have something important in common: They can be prevented with timely and accurate information, otherwise known as actionable insights.

Monitor Your Retail Programs

New merchandise programs take time and energy to roll out. Don’t let the effort of your planning go to waste. Checking for compliance throughout your network ensures that you’ve optimized store conditions, your employees are knowledgeable about the new product, and you’ve addressed any issues that may arise in the stores.

  • Verify planogram compliance to ensure products are placed correctly on the shelf and in the store.
  • Verify in-store displays and signage with a photo.
  • Verify compliance by region and individual location.

Now, do something with the information you’ve collected. More importantly, do something that goes beyond email or phone calls. In real time, you’ll be able to view important metrics concerning the product rollout. Have managers check in once the product hits stores and ask them to share a photo to verify the display.

Basically, don’t just say a prayer and hope that each store got it right. When you have the ability to pop into your stores from anywhere, you’re bound to see greater returns.

Sample Planogram Implementation Form

Topics: Retail, CPG

5 Things to Check Before Closing a Restaurant

By Brian Harris

sorry-we-re-closed.jpgPhoto by Nick Papakyriazis

What should be on your checklist before leaving? Here are five important things to remember every night before closing:

1. Clean up. No really...CLEAN IT

The first and most important part to closing up a restaurant is to make sure that all the kitchens, equipment, cutlery, and glassware are clean. If there’s a mishap in the morning—weather related or otherwise—and the opening shift doesn’t have time to clean up, your customers could walk into last night’s mess. Don’t just spot clean. A clean floor is indicative of a clean environment, so sweep, mop, and vacuum as needed.

 2. Stock up for tomorrow

Server stations quite easily become the messiest areas of your restaurant. In quick-service and fast-casual restaurants, server stations are self-serve stations. Customers don’t typically treat this area like their own kitchen counters. Whether it holds condiments like ketchup and mustard, or cups and other utensils, the server station should be fully stocked at the end of the night.

3. Check bathrooms

First off, this is a standard safety issue. You want to make sure everyone has exited the restaurant. You can’t be too careful to check your premises thoroughly before locking the door. Then make sure that the bathroom is re-stocked with toilet paper, paper towels, and soap. Customers often measure the cleanliness of a restaurant by the bathroom, and having a spotless bathroom can make a customer feel more “at home.” I’m more likely to remember extraordinarily clean bathrooms, but I definitely remember those that were gross.

4. Garbage

The garbage is the next thing to check before closing up shop. Clean up around the wastepaper basket, and make sure that all the trash bags have been removed to the dumpster. Remove the kitchen garbage for sanitation and to prevent odors.

5. Check entrance/exit points. When locked, audit cash.

Check that the building has been locked down properly. When it has, collect all cash and prepare all deposits. Click here for more on developing a proper cash auditing process. Before leaving, double check that all the doors and windows are locked.

Bonus tip: Monitor exceptions. It’s impossible to be everywhere at once, especially in franchised operations. When we talked about opening your restaurant for business, we included auditing for compliance. Now, we can take it a step further. With a tool like Zenput, you can actually receive a notification when one or more of these tasks is not being completed or is not being properly executed. Hold employees accountable for closing tasks. Address what’s not getting done and where. Also take the opportunity to reward employees for dedication at the end of a long night. It’s possible to gain this level of insight with the right tools.

Topics: Franchise, Restaurants