The Top 3 Challenges Multi-Unit Operators Face Today and the Next Wave of Operations Execution

By Pete Schott

OpsX Challenges

Restaurant, retail, and other multi-unit operators have less control over the fate of their businesses than ever before. Shifting market dynamics, changing customer preferences, new technologies—while adapting to these external forces that are increasingly out of their control, top operators are looking within to harness and drive competitive advantage out of that which they can control: their own operations execution.

What is operations execution?

Operations execution is the completion and quality of critical work, processes, oversight, decisions and more that field and store teams perform day to day in every store across a multi-unit operation. It refers to an operations’ ability to roll out and enforce key initiatives such as brand standards, food safety protocols, marketing & LTOs and do this effectively. 

Today, many operators still use pen and paper to track things like their pre-rush readiness checks, or rely on phone calls and text messages to escalate issues that should be documented; others have begun using technology but are often troubled by limited use cases or lack of store and employee adoption. The fact is, it’s harder than ever to execute against this critical work well and cost effectively, risks associated with even one mistake in one store can be catastrophic. Here’s why:

The top three industry challenges facing operators today

Over the last six years as a company, we’ve heard from thousands of operators, chief operating officers, VPs of operations, district managers, GMs and more and the consensus is clear; the rules of the game have changed and the industry is on notice.

1. The cost of labor and turnover in the industry continues to increase. Minimum wages are reaching record highs and putting pressure on margins, whether it’s from state or local laws (or bills passing in the house of representatives) or the organic demands of the labor market. The turnover rate—70% at best but often above 100%—not only adds to these costs, but also forces operators to rely on less experienced staff to efficiently and correctly follow important procedures, food safety protocols, and more.  

2. Store-level visibility is critical, and there’s now no room for error. Whether you have dozens, hundreds, or thousands of locations that you operate, it has historically been difficult if not impossible to know what’s happening in every store—whether brand or food safety standards are being followed, what issues are pressing, and more. This is a challenge as old as the industry itself, but has become exponentially more difficult with the reality that news of a single food safety incident or bad customer experience spreads instantly and can impact revenue immediately.

3. Competitors are innovating faster than ever. New products, marketing campaigns and LTOs; new processes, and technologies and more put pressure on the rest of the industry to think differently or get left behind. Deployment of these strategies for multi-unit operators is notoriously problematic, but adding speed and complexity to the equation only makes things worse.

The question is then, with this new set of challenges in an industry that has been around for over 100 years, what are top operators doing to not only survive but position themselves to win?

Elevating team execution in every store

The fact is, improving your operations execution is entirely dependent on the performance of your field and store employees. Operations leaders are investing in solutions that automate certain tasks and free up employee time to focus on other work, and enable them to deliver higher quality work and outcomes every day. 

In upcoming blog posts we’ll dive into some of these areas with more examples of how operators are doing this today. For tactical guidance on how to begin implementing some of these strategies today, check out our Restaurant Operations Execution Playbook

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