Five ways franchises are using mobile technology to improve field execution,
maintain quality and brand standards and boost profitability.
By Samantha Holloway
With an estimated 4,000 franchises competingfor 14,000 franchise candidates across the United States, according to recent calculations by Joe Mathews, CEO of Franchise Performance Group, simple supply-and-demand economics suggest that franchisees have significant choice and leverage in how, and with which brands, they spend their investment dollars. “This total for new franchisees entering the market is not enough to support the nearly 4,000 franchisors and 300 new concepts that enter the marketplace each year,” Mathews observes.
“Forward-thinking franchisors will show great financial discipline … and look to fund initiatives which will grow franchisees’ margins or ease franchisees’ operational burdens,” he continues, “making them expansion-ready so franchisors can realize new royalty revenue streams.”
Offering digital solutions that enable businesses to operate more profitably in the face of escalating minimum wages, labor scarcity and employee retention challenges helps franchisors win more market share. These solutions should ultimately serve a dual purpose: To improve execution and consistency that protects the brand, and to enable flexible use by franchisees for other tasks that boost the bottom line.
In our work with franchises in a wide range of industries, we see mobile-forward digital approaches impact profitability and deliver operational excellence in five key areas.
- Auditing Daily Operational Standards
Top-performing franchisors are arming franchisees with apps that include standardized and digitized audits, surveys and quality-assurance checklists to help store personnel complete operational tasks quickly and easily on mobile devices. No more clipboard, email or paper-based systems, redundant data entry or other time-wasters. Instead, an app delivers in-the-moment reference materials and training content directly to a mobile device, so even a new hire on his or her first day can effectively complete an audit and focus on other, higher-value work.
Using dashboard-based analytics tools, franchise leadership and owners can easily view reporting data from multiple angles to gain the real-time operational insight they need to ensure daily standards – as well as brand and regulatory requirements – are met, while also identifying execution gaps or areas where more training or resources are needed.
Using this type of execution management solution, Dairy Queen, a 6,800-unit global restaurant franchise, saw an 80 percent decrease in the time its employees and administrators spent verifying important operational standards had been met and delivered tremendous labor savings. “I used to walk around and take notes with a notepad, put my notes in another format before distributing them, attach pictures to the notes … and everything else,” says John Scheid, Dairy Queen’s director of concept support services. “Now it’s all in just one place.”
- Confirming Marketing and Merchandising
A system for digitally auditing the deployment of marketing and merchandising programs protects promotional investments for franchisors and helps deliver topline sales. It gives brands valuable data-driven insight into how campaigns are performing in the field, and into how operational execution is impacting program performance. It also helps to streamline program rollouts by providing display and sign schematics, gold-standard examples from other franchisees, and other program content delivered in-app to mobile devices.
The tax-preparation brand Jackson Hewitt used a digital approach to identify more than 500 issues impacting profitability, from missing signage to store closures to unoptimized hours of operations. It was able to drive resolution in less than 24 hours across 6,000 franchise locations from the data that surfaced in the app.
Franchise consultants can use data-derived insights from these digital audits to coach owners on standards and ensure customers receive a consistent experience across multiple sites. Restaurant and convenience franchises can use image recognition and machine learning tools in-app to scan cold boxes and evaluate merchandising compliance to planograms in real time, alerting teams to out-of-stocks, assortment issues and sales velocity patterns. This in turn saves labor and drives sales.
- Increasing Training and Engagement
Employee knowledge and engagement can make or break the customer experience and profoundly impact financial performance. A mobile-based training solution gives franchises the ability to deliver engaging, concise training content via mobile surveys and corresponding reference materials. Training completion is documented in-app, so leadership knows trainees are getting the critical information they need.
Franchisees can use the app to document performance issues, measure team morale through employee surveys and deploy tools to increase employee engagement and drive cost reduction in HR. Gamification, where employees become “players” in an internal game or contest designed to incentivize certain behaviors, provides a fun and compelling way to raise employee engagement. Using apps embedded in the system, franchisees can “gamify” certain key aspects of their operation, so employees and stores can accrue points, earn rewards and receive recognition for meeting standards and following important protocols consistently. This approach has delivered tremendous results for brands working to build and reward a culture of food safety.
- Monitoring Capex Assets
Franchisees can use intuitive digital frameworks within the same mobile app to monitor and assess valuable hard assets in a time-efficient manner. Store personnel can quickly and accurately audit equipment conditions, verify cleaning and maintenance protocols and integrate data captured with repair and maintenance work order systems with APIs. This approach lays a digital foundation for strong preventive maintenance programs, helps franchisees avoid costly equipment repair and downtime, and empowers franchisors to more accurately forecast equipment and asset lines in their P&Ls – avoiding expensive surprises.
- Driving Insights and Innovation
The ability to easily capture key operational data, then analyze it in intuitive, actionable company-wide dashboards, gives brands new levels of insight into operational trends and execution across all locations. Analyzing the data from multiple angles in real time helps brands improve the customer experience, adjust key processes to make them more efficient or compliant, and improve service, uniformity and execution. Qualitative, experiential data can also provide rich insights to inform future innovations, deepen customer segmentation and reveal risks.
As a franchise seeking to grow revenues in an increasingly demanding competitive landscape, offering turnkey, multi-use digital tools is no longer a luxury. It is a necessity to attract the volume and quality of franchisees and workforces required for brand growth.