Vladik Rikhter

Recent Posts

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 to Spot a POS Vulnerability Before It Becomes a Security Breach

By Vladik Rikhter


If you’re a restaurant operator and you haven’t heard of the blog Krebs On Security, definitely check it out. Former Washington Post journalist and self-taught computer security expert Brian Krebs is often the first to break major news about restaurant security breaches.

For instance, in February, Krebs got Arby’s to acknowledge a data breach at its fast-food restaurants. Frankly, the cause is enough to lose your lunch: malware on payment systems once again!In a 2015 interview with Eater, Krebs warned that any restaurant company that uses point-of-sale (POS) systems is vulnerable to attack. POS systems are often set up to be accessed remotely, making them vulnerable to hackers.

As identified by Krebs, other security vulnerabilities with POS systems include enabling the same password for each system and running on outdated operating systems that don’t offer security updates and are simpler to hack. It’s no coincidence that chain restaurants are being hacked with greater frequency; often, several restaurants are linked to one internal system.Now you might be asking (because I definitely did): how a guy like Krebs breaks a story. As it turns out, hacked credit cards are often sold on the black market, usually web forums, and when there’s a major breach, there’s an influx. Krebs then reaches out to banks to see if they’re seeing or hearing anything suspicious. If there’s a pattern, Krebs then reaches out to the suspected chain to confirm whether or not they had a breach. Voila! That’s what led him to Arby’s in February. The company confirmed that it had recently remediated a breach, but had not publicly revealed the incident at the request of the FBI.

Arby’s confirmed that malware was placed on payment systems inside corporate stores, but franchised locations were not affected. In other words, the Arby’s breach was evidence of the vulnerabilities Krebs warned about two years ago!

Learning the Lesson

Here at Zenput, we try to provide our customers with the mobile tools to communicate better about their POS audits as well as possible breaches. We’ve discussed measures to prevent ATM skimming, and we offer a mobile form for audits of payment terminals in stores or at the pump. See below screenshot for an example:

POS audit on mobile

But in the case of Arby’s, they were a victim of a malware attack through their central system. Of course, we’re not privy to the inner workings of Arby’s security system, but you have to hope that they regularly ran updates and that software was updated. Keeping systems updated and making sure employees understand the POS terminal and its functionalities are critical tasks for any restaurant operator. When you create a procedure to protect against physical POS breaches, you can also create a checklist for POS employee training. Security is a team effort and one that’s executed from the top down, so make sure your team is in compliance with best practices. Also make sure they know the right steps to take if a breach is detected. That kind of preparedness can go a long way when recovering from an attack. Arby’s now faces class-action litigation with strong accusations: “The Arby’s Data Breach was the inevitable result of Arby’s inadequate data security measures,” says a credit union suing on behalf of its customers. Arby’s denies those allegations and plans to offer a vigorous defense.

But one company’s struggles are a reminder that any multi-unit restaurant operator is at risk, and it begs—or rather, demands—the question: are you up to date on your security measures?

Topics: Business Operations, C-store, ATM skimming, gas stations

How Employees Can Help Prevent Costly Restaurant Repairs

By Vladik Rikhter

Restaurant repair

We recently learned about a Manhattan-based startup that aspires to be the Uber of restaurant repairs. SendaGuy Now targets independent restaurants in New York who are in need of repair and maintenance service. In a savvy move, SendaGuy Now is incentivizing small operators to develop a preventative maintenance schedules by helping restaurants locate quality contractors who can provide important services when required without a service contract.Think about it: if the grill goes out or the refrigerator suddenly stops working on a holiday weekend in the summer, this restaurant is suddenly faced with enormous monetary loss or, worse yet, a possible health risk to customers.

A same-day repair can be costly, so SendaGuy Now can help small operators establish a preventative maintenance schedule based on their specific needs. It averts disaster and ultimately saves money by prolong equipment life.It’s a manageable scenario when a single restaurant knows its specific needs and communicates them through a mobile platform. However, knowing the needs of a dozen, maybe even 100 restaurants in a region, is definitely more challenging. Whether you have on-staff maintenance personnel or have contracted those services with a third-party firm, store-level managers and senior managers need to get on the same page with preventative maintenance.

As SendaGuy Now has helped to identify, these are the common “on-demand” maintenance services:

· Grease traps and exhaust systems (crucial to employee and customer safety)· Commercial kitchen equipment· Fire extinguishers· Fire suppressions systems· Backflow preventers· Refrigeration· Ice machines

So now comes decision time for restaurant chains, and this is what they need to remember: If you don’t have the resources to have a maintenance staff member or third-party contractor doing regular prevention audits, is it possible to have your managers and/or employees pitch in?

It’s more feasible than you think: Sit down with your maintenance staff or pay a third-party contractor to come up with a list of maintenance best practices at each location. See what tasks non-maintenance employees can handle safely, develop those practices into a daily checklist or weekly checklist depending on the need, and distribute those checklists to stores. Forget fax and email which may or may not be received—send the checklist right to your managers’ mobile device and track the response. What Came First: The Preventive Maintenance or the Audit? In restaurant operations, it’s definitely the baseline audit that comes first. Like in any experiment, you need to establish the “control group” before you attempt to test new protocols and procedures.

There are three basic components of a baseline audit:

1. Safety – The health and physical well-being of employees and customers needs to be the No. 1 priority at all times. For instance, let’s find out if there’s hand soap in the kitchen, and let’s get on the same page about kitchen thermometer readings.


Screen Shot 2017-03-14 at 10.26.31 AM.png


2. General Cleanliness – What defines “clean”? There’s what’s required by law, of course, but there’s also best practices you can implement between shifts, which can be unique to your business and the type of food you serve. Your baseline audit, especially one that requires photos, is going to help you determine those needs.

Screen Shot 2017-03-14 at 10.41.11 AM.png

3. Staff Guidelines – You can’t hold your staff accountable on what they don’t know. It all starts with senior management developing protocols and management carrying them out at the store level. Then, the only way to know if stores are in compliance is for regional managers, or unbiased store managers, to visit locations and use a checklist/audit form to document their observations. Everyone can have an “off” day or a miscommunication with a new employee. But if a store (or region of stores) is routinely being flagged for poor practices, that’s usually a sign of a bigger management problem that needs to be addressed. For those instances, it’s helpful to have a bird’s eye view and to be able to virtually “check into” a location for better understanding and follow-up.

Zenput puts proactive and preventative maintenance procedures within reach—literally, through mobile audit forms! Learn more about Zenput for restaurants by clicking here.

Topics: Restaurants, repairs

Can an Organic Fast-Food Restaurant Play the Value Game?

By Vladik Rikhter

organix.pngDid you notice that QSR magazine upped their 9 fast-food trends for 2016 to 12 trends for 2017? They kept the descriptions more succinct and business-focused rather than about the food itself. I have a theory for why this is… because today’s customers are all over the place!  Wouldn’t the foodservice industry be much simpler if everyone just wanted a salad for lunch and a craft pizza by night? (Answer: Yes it would be, but it would also be completely boring!)

We’re living in an age of fast-food paradoxes. Let’s face it: What tastes good isn’t always good for you. What’s good for you can’t always be delivered quickly and with real ingredients.

Dashboard dining is not exactly synonymous with mindful eating…. until now. Finally! Someone brave enough to try bridging all these gaps!

Meet the Brittsans, a couple who dared to open Nic’S Organic Fast Food: the nation’s first certified-organic fast-food restaurant with a drive-thru (two trends in one description)! Like many good food ideas, it all started with a pregnant woman who craved a burger. The Brittsans, who met while enrolled in Le Cordon Bleu, know fine dining, but they’re just like the rest of us—sometimes you have a hankering. It’s why their concept features a menu of burgers, fried and grilled chicken, AND salads. Breakfast (yet another trend) will also be served and will feature freshly squeezed juices and organic coffee.

“The organic lifestyle doesn’t mean you’re eating any healthier in terms of the food,” CEO Benjamin Brittsan told Chicago Eater. “What you’re benefitting from is from what’s not in the food.” (Do you feel the sun’s warmth? I believe the clouds just parted.)

This makes so much sense for describing what appeals to today’s consumers who actually don’t know what they want on any given day—they want it all and NOW! At Nic’s, they can order a healthy or indulgent meal without feeling bad about it either way. And an indulgent meal is less guilt-inducing when we know the ingredients are free of hormones and chemicals, and that the meat was sourced from a farm that uses ethical practices.

Brittsan is confident in his concept and bold enough to forecast opening 50 locations in the next three years. In fact, he wants to take his concept west from Chicagoland to California, right to the doorstep of competitors like The Organic Coup, which is opening its eighth location after launching in late 2015. The Organic Coup was billed as the country’s first USDA-certified organic fast-food restaurant. That’s a distinction from Nic’s, which is certified organic by Quality Assurance International, but it’s an organic certification nevertheless.

The Takeaway

New concepts like Nic’s and The Organic Coup represent an exciting opportunity for foodpreneurs with big dreams. It also presents an urgency for major fast-food industry players with menus that can’t be revolutionized to this extent. What is a red-headed gal, a stately colonel, and the Golden Arches to do?

The answer is to double-down on operational efficiency. The last listed trend in QSR’s article is “fast casual embraces value.” I think they saved the most important trend for last! As one industry expert put it, quick-service in infringing on fast-casual’s space, so fast-casual will have to compete on value. This is yet another paradox—organic, fresh ingredients usually carry a premium that’s passed onto the customer. Nic’s menu isn’t available, but we know The Organic Coup Signature Sandwich is $10. Fast-food will offer you a premium, non-organic version at half the price or less.

So will these newer fast-food restaurants flourish or have the growing pains of expanding businesses finding their way?

Will traditional fast-food players continue to tweak their menus or capitalize by offering more immediately recognized value?

We’re staying tuned to see how this one plays out!

Healthy Food in C-Stores: The Transformative New Trend

By Vladik Rikhter

healthy c-store food.jpg

From 1952 to 1972, Sheetz Inc. did not sell gasoline- the pumps were only added in 1973. There’s a similar story behind Oklahoma-based QuikTrip, which first began as a mini-mart in 1957 (And the founder was actually inspired by 7-Eleven stores during a visit to Dallas). It wasn’t until 1971 that QuikTrip installed its first gas pumps.

So there you have it. It took a decade, or in some cases two, for prominent convenience store retailers to offer gasoline. If there’s ever a “Jeopardy!” Convenience Store edition, you’re now well prepared.  Interestingly enough, both of these retailers are today considered innovative leaders in convenience store foodservice. QuikTrip is known for its QT Kitchens full-service counters, while Sheetz is known for its M•T•O (made-to-order) menu and Shweetz Bakery offerings. And as reported by Convenience Store News, both of these retailers are now looking to open more stores without gasoline. Food-only stores are not only a return to their roots, but also a realization that high-quality, prepared food (high-margin sale for retailer) is driving traffic, even without gasoline (low-margin for retailer).

"To be successful without gasoline, a store has to offer high-quality, well-differentiated prepared food," Donald Strenk, a consultant for the industry, told CSNews. "7-Eleven does well [without selling gas], but they may not be averaging $300,000 a month. Sheetz and QuikTrip have locations that do significantly high sales in the c-store."

Setting up a smaller store without gas pumps allows retailers to experiment both with a smaller footprint and different merchandise. For instance, QuikTrip’s 3,500-sq.-ft. downtown Atlanta store is even more focused on fresh foods than other locations.  

The fact that more convenience store retailers are committing to healthy choices was one of the headlines of the 2016 NACS Show. Aloha Petroleum, Ricker Oil Co. and Core-Mark International made commitments to the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) at this year’s show.

A commitment with PHA means more than “Oh, these apples in the cold case are nice to have in the front of the store.” We’re talking real commitment! For instance, Ricker’s committed to offering healthier food options at an affordable cost; marketing and promoting healthier food choices; and offering employee benefits such as a 50% discount on all fresh fruit and vegetables purchases. Aloha also committed to PHA’s beverage marketing initiatives to promote fruit and vegetable consumption and water as healthier choices. As a distributor, Core-Mark will do its part to modify merchandising sets to incorporate healthier options.

According to the PHA, half of the U.S. population visits a convenience store every single day, and these consumers are looking for healthier options. Each of the new PHA partners is “stepping up” to ensure both consumers and retailers have access to healthier, more accessible options. It’s what 21st century retailers need to do—step up to meet the changing preferences of consumers who demand quality and demand it now!

More Options, Better Execution

In our experience working with convenience store retailers, we know that consumer preferences change and that retailers must respond to them or risk the consequences of losing business. The most successful retailers adapt to change with ease. Some even thrive because they’re able to successfully differentiate themselves in the market.

Remember: The quality of fresh foods is ultimately a reflection of your brand. Because these foods are fresh, they often come with more food safety concerns, so employees must be mindful of storage temperatures and other food safety factors.

Ultimately, if retailers want to provide customers with better, healthier food choices, they have to optimize the store-level execution of safety checks and audits. 

If you’re looking for a solution to help maintain safe, high-quality food operations, read this white paper on creating a food safety audit, visit Zenput’s website, or schedule a demotoday.

Topics: C-store, food safety

Food Delivery: The New Frontier

By Vladik Rikhter


It’s a pizza company! … It’s a tech company! … It’s Domino’s!

I doubt Domino’s will pick up a motto that infringes on DC Comics, but that’s essentially what they’ve become—a superhero among companies that handles delivery themselves. Think about all of Domino’s innovations in food delivery over the past decade, as highlighted in this recent Eater articlethat declares Domino’s “the Best Delivery Startup in America.” When it comes to investing in technology, Domino’s has always been a company that got it right.

One of the great paradoxes of Millennials is that they are social media whizzes but antisocial because they are always on their phones. Domino’s foresaw the importance of on-demand and online ordering well before their competitors did.

Domino’s continues to set the bar high for companies who want to maintain control over their food quality by delivering their food themselves. Keep in mind that Domino’s is no spring chicken—it was founded in 1960! While newer pizza companies may be touting the craft pizza experience, Domino’s is still the go-to pizza delivery service for the pajama crowd. With Domino’s introduction of new chatbots, visitors don’t even have to talk to a human or go to the Dominos ordering website to order a pizza—just message the chatbot to order your pizza. Some of these innovations haven’t been perfect upon rollout, but considering Domino’s strong market position, they don’t need to be. Domino’s may be learning what works as they go along, but at the end of the day, they own their own process.

Here’s the reality: the third-party food delivery space is becoming crowded. There will be few winners and many losers. With Amazon, Google and UberEats now moving into the space—not to mention the expansion of GrubHub’s turnkey service—only the best will survive. So the question is: Where does that leave foodservice operators?

There are two possible scenarios
  1. Companies like Domino’s rely on third-party delivery companies to deliver their food
  2. They continue taking ownership of their own food delivery

Restaurant delivery isn’t for everyone. We know from our experience working with foodservice operators: delivery workforces are difficult to maintain.  

But if you offer delivery and you’re serious about becoming better at it, you have to become more serious about technology. You also have to become more serious about what’s going on in your stores. Domino’s can offer a pizza tracker because they’ve got the process for making a pizza down to a science. Even if you’re not at that level of tech, are you able to address problems in real time? Something as basic as an ingredient shortage or a failure to implement a new promotion can really hurt your bottom line.

Zenput is a mobile solution that helps foodservice operators gain valuable insights about their businesses in real-time. Whether you are exploring food delivery or looking to improve your current operations, Zenput can help you identify exceptions, timely address problems, and improve your restaurant operations. Zenput already helps the 5th largest Domino’s operator in the U.S. manage daily tasks and improve store productivity. Find out how Domino’s franchisee Hismeh Enterprises uses Zenput by checking out this case study.


Wanna ‘Pizza’ Your Restaurant Competition? Customization and Technology Are Key

What Restaurants Considering Third-Party Delivery Need to Consider

Performing Regular Delivery Driver Audits Protects Employees and Customers

Topics: Restaurants, Delivery

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

The Hidden Advantages for Multi-Unit Franchisees

By Vladik Rikhter


I recently encountered an interesting comparison to being a multi-unit franchisee. For some people, it’s like having a tattoo—they find they can’t have just one!

In fact, multi-unit franchisees account for 53% of the 450,000 franchise units in the U.S. and 76.5% of franchised restaurants, according to FranData. A report by Entrepreneur explains how multi-unit franchises used to be rare. The climate changed during the Great Recession when franchise brands saw that small operators of one or two units were struggling. Working with larger franchisees proved to be easier, considering their existing relationships with vendors and realtors and their ability to rapidly expand across a region.

One multi-unit franchisor put it this way: “If we build 50 restaurants, we don’t want 50 partners. It takes as much energy to manage 50 franchisees as it does 300. We want the sophistication of our partners to be as good or better than we are.”

In fact, many brands now have multi-unit signup deals for franchisees who are new to brand, but not new to the game. There are numerous advantages offered in these deals:

  1. Higher profits (more locations = more revenue)
  2. Better access to capital
  3. Shared marketing
  4. Lower infrastructure and human resources costs
  5. Lower costs due to greater buying and negotiating power with vendors/suppliers

These 5 are the “no-brainers,” considering they all have dollar signs readily attached to them. But there’s an added, hidden advantage to multi-unit franchising.

Increased Uniformity to Build Your Brand

Multi–unit franchisees begin to develop turn-key business models for what works best. A business plan on paper is one thing; in practice, it can become something very different.

The business acumen of a multi-unit franchisee increases as he/she experiences new events—both positive and negative—that impact business. When one of these events occurs, it’s not enough to chalk it up to experience and say, “I’ll know for next time!” You improve your business by documenting the experience. Take notes, capture your surroundings with a photo, and share the information with store managers in your network. Also document how you responded to the event and what you learned from the experience.

Let’s consider a scenario of what might happen in day-to-day operations:

  • You receive a notification that one of your locations ran out of a product or ingredient because a vendor failed to deliver.
  • Rather than look up a telephone number or find a computer, the store manager has a mobile form ready to go on their smartphone.  In addition, they attach a photo to show the out-of-stock.
  • The vendor is notified in real time of the exception. Faced with visual evidence, they comply with contract execution and notify their driver to make a stop.

Over time, you’ll begin to see patterns of historical analytics of exceptions. Maybe the out-of-stock is occurring during a certain day of the week, and the delivery schedule with the vendor needs to be readjusted. Information will be documented and stored to help you make a more informed decision. You’ll be able to adjust your processes and better train staff, if necessary.

While it’s wise to “expect the unexpected,” you’ll have a uniform process of handling many common challenges that arise.

So, while multi-unit franchising may be like getting more than one tattoo, just know that day-to-day operations aren’t permanent. When franchisees are frustrated by something or notice inefficiencies, they should have the tools necessary to help them adjust in real time.

Topics: Franchise, Restaurants

How CPG Rebate Verification Grows Your Brand

By Vladik Rikhter


CPG (consumer packaged goods) rebate verification works a lot like the "gold star" system in grade school. When retailers are compliant and correctly execute the program the CPG company rewards these retailers with a monetary incentive. Both the retailers and CPG company benefit from improved sales.

Here is what a field merchandising rep should be looking for verifying a CPG rebate:

  1. Are the correct SKUs set up according to planogram?
  2. Are promotional displays set up correctly?

No free lunch: Of course, these two items should be part of the rebate agreement. Did a retailer actually meet sales and volume criteria by following the planogram? Is there enough product available, and is the facing correct?

When done correctly, CPG rebate verification programs will save your organization the money and time critical to growing your brand.

3 Advantages of digitizing CPG verification for rebate programs:

  1. Eliminates the “middle men” of paper sheets and Excel. There are no duplication of efforts in recording notes, taking photos, and sharing them with your team. All of this information is collected on a central platform.
  2. Easily verifies time and place. Mobile platforms use GPS location and timestamp, ensuring that your team knows when and where these photos were taken.
  3. Quickly generates reports with actionable results. The right program helps you work smarter, not harder. Ideally, you can set the system to alert you of exceptions.  

Remember: You know best when it comes to your brand! The CPG company needs its own process for verifying that retailers are reaching sales and volume criteria according to the agreed upon terms—the methods that are best for your growth.

Need Proof? Don’t just take our word for it. See how Zenput helped Jack Link’s capitalize on its large direct and indirect teams

Topics: C-store, CPG

Fast-Food Giants Battle for Consumers’ Breakfast Bucks

By Vladik Rikhter


Breakfast is no longer just the most important meal of the day—it’s the most talked about meal of the day! The expansion of fast-food breakfast menu items was identified as the “top food story” of the year.

This year’s top headlines included McDonald’s all-day breakfast menu and menu innovations at Taco Bell. Just the other day, I logged onto Facebook and read my friend’s status/rant: “When the hell will Burger King get on the all day breakfast bandwagon? I don’t know if it’s a good thing or bad thing that they don’t... but waking up on a Saturday afternoon and going to get a Croissantwich always feels like a good idea.”

What is it about the prompt service of eggs, bacon and biscuits that captures our attention? “The fast-food industry is tapping the ‘want it now’ mentality of today’s consumer by offering greater availability of favorite offerings,” said Grace Leong, CEO and partner of Hunter Public Relations, a public relations agency that commissions a study of the nation’s top food news stories of the year. “Consumers who crave breakfast food in the afternoon no longer feel they should have to wait until tomorrow morning to satisfy it.”

And just how competitive is the fast-food breakfast landscape? AdWeek breaks it down by company. During the first 9 months of 2015, Taco Bell spent $79 million on national and local TV spots focused on breakfast. During the same period, McDonald’s spent $53 million; however, that was before the all-day breakfast announcement. Not to be completely outdone, regional chains also spent a lot on breakfast announcements. These brands included Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s ($18 million), Jack in the Box ($8 million), Chick-fil-A ($6 million), and Bojangles ($3 million). The effectiveness of the campaign is also relevant to market.  For instance, a couple of million for TV spots goes a long way in only four or five target markets.

That got me thinking about other smaller networks of restaurants—those who don’t have a million dollar budget for television and print advertising. How can convenience stores, in particular, make a stand against the QSR giants?

Better Promotions Can Help You Win

Recently, we discussed the “healthy” fast food debate. Fast-food breakfast campaigns all have something in common—no one is really touting the healthy, fresh ingredients.

Let’s face it.  Microwaved eggs and bacon won’t top the list of 2016 diet foods, but in all fairness, neither will real eggs and bacon.  However, real eggs and bacon have the appeal of being made to order with fresh ingredients. “Fresh” doesn’t necessarily have to mean healthy; it just means it should taste better.

Do you have what it takes to contend in the breakfast battle? Maybe your advantage is fresher ingredients with competitive prices. Promote your breakfast offerings inside and outside your store with well-placed signage and menus. Test new items like breakfast burritos and sandwiches, and exercise due diligence during rollouts by checking for compliance across your network.

Customers responded well to McDonald’s all-day breakfast because it’s time-tested and predictable. They know the Egg McMuffin will taste the same no matter what store they visit.

The real question is: Can you build a menu that makes you a breakfast destination? Pardon the egg joke, but you better get crackin’ on finding out what your stores need!

Topics: Restaurants