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How a Burger King Franchisee Communicates With Employees Across 25 Stores

The franchise group prides itself on a people-first culture. Recently, it added a solution that helps emphasize that value.

Bennett Management Corp. is a franchisee group based in Toledo, Ohio, that owns 25 Burger King locations as well as five Tony Packo’s stores. Founded by Bob Bennett in 1965, the company has always strongly believed investing in the education and well-being of its employees would translate to running better restaurants. 

“We care about our people,” says Jimmy Harmon, who was named the company’s CEO in 2013. “That’s the number one most important thing to our business. When Bob Bennett started this in the 1960s, he said it was about people pleasing people. We’ve kept that up. We’re very people oriented.” 

For as long as Harmon has been with the company, one of the major challenges has been communicating with team members across each store location. Whether that means distributing new recipes, training materials, or a change in company policy, ensuring every team member got the message required a lot of hustling around on his part. 

“I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent driving around from store to store playing the messenger,” Harmon says. “Even when you do that, sometimes it feels like 50 percent of the people in your stores know what’s going on. That’s sad to me—so I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how I can become better as a leader and get those messages out.” 

For these reasons, when Harmon and his team first learned about a software solution called UPshow SHIFT, they saw it as something worth trying. After a successful pilot, the company rolled it out across all 25 of its Burger King’s locations, as well as its five Tony Packo’s stores. 

Here’s how UPshow works: a screen is placed in the back-of-house and operates as a digital whiteboard visible to all team members. Harmon and his team can remotely communicate to each screen in real time. UPshow has an automated functionality that displays employee birthdays and anniversaries. Team members can also scan a QR code and add an employee bio, recognize a standout job by their teammates, or give other types of feedback. 

The boards automatically update based on SHIFT Data, a data-powered solution, leveraging sales, training, and operational data to provide performance updates in real-time in a dynamic, and easily digestible visualizations.

Bennett Management Corp. now uses both SHIFT features for a variety of different purposes. For example, in the ongoing quest to educate and take care of employees, Bennett recently launched a Healthy Recipe contest, where team members can use a QR code to upload a favorite healthy recipe that is then featured on each screen. Each submission enters team members into a raffle for a prize, such as an activity tracker watch. 

SHIFT is also used for fun and effective upselling competitions between stores, tracked in real time and displayed on screen. A recent example that showed Harmon just how effective SHIFT can be was something of a family affair—Harmon’s teenage daughter works in one of the company’s Burger Kings. One day, Harmon picked her up from work and asked how many Hershey’s Pies she had sold during her shift—the company was running a contest to see which store could upsell the most that day. 

“She didn’t even hesitate,” Harmon says. “She looked at me and she said: ‘14.’ So here’s a tool we put in the restaurant that’s made everyone really care passionately about competing with others and trying their hardest to sell more, and enjoy it while they’re doing it. It’s been a really powerful thing in that way.” 

Recently, the President of Burger King, Tom Curtis, and Jose Cil, the CEO of Burger King’s parent company, Restaurant Brands International, paid a visit to see Bennett’s 25 stores. It was a big deal, Harmon says, and one that felt worth relaying to everyone on the ground. Not only was SHIFT Comms a great way to give employees a head’s up to expect visitors, but it also was a fun way to relay updates about the visit—photos of Curtis and Cil interacting with team members began to populate the display boards. 

“As long as I’ve been doing this, communication has been a real challenge,” Harmon says. “How do you get the messages from me, the CEO of our franchisee group, out to every single team member? This has been such a great, positive way to communicate with everyone.” 

Read the article on QSR Magazine

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How a Jersey Mike’s and Little Caesars Franchisee Uses TVs to Build Culture

By Charlie Pogacar, QSR Magazine

Showcasing everything from employee highlights, to store-by-store metrics, is motivating team members.

Brothers Jason and Scott Zieman own and operate nine Jersey Mike’s locations, as well as five Little Caesars stores, in the Akron, Ohio area. The owner-operators have always been proud of the work culture they’ve built inside their businesses, dating back to the days when they were in the Arby’s system. 

“We’ve been doing this for 30 years when you take into consideration our 15 years with Arby’s,” Jason Zieman says. “Until recently, we had never had a problem with staffing. Maybe we’d have an isolated issue here or there, but by and large we did really well taking care of our employees, and they’d stay with us for a long time.” 

When COVID hit, that began to change. Experiencing what so many operators across the industry have dealt with, Zieman says the staffing issues began to get so dire that it started keeping him up at night. “That’s been our biggest concern lately,” Zieman says. “And maybe that's why we have always done well historically. Because our team members, and our culture, are important enough to us that we think about it a lot.” 

Amidst increasing turnover, the Ziemans starting looking for ways to make their culture whole again. At the annual Jersey Mike’s franchisee conference in March 2022, they were introduced to a solution that would soon change their workplace for the better: UPshow SHIFT, an employee engagement platform that highlights things like employee bios, birthdays, and work anniversaries on back-of-house flatscreen TVs. Employees can simply opt in and upload their info via their smartphone to participate. 

“I feel really confident our work environment improves for our team members when they feel as though they're being highlighted and appreciated and communicated with,” Zieman says. “You can hear it as you walk through one of our stores. There’s somebody being wished a ‘Happy Birthday,’ or somebody saying, ‘I didn’t know that about you.’”

The solution appealed to the Ziemans because of its simplicity. Jason Zieman says he is the furthest thing from somebody who believes franchisees need every piece of technology in order to create a dynamic workplace. In fact, he and his brother are often quite skeptical of anything being hailed as the “next big thing.” 

“I don’t have social media,” Zieman says. “Maybe I date myself by saying that, but I’m just not a tech-y person. I’m a chalkboard kind-of-guy. But, obviously, technology appeals to the current generation of people who work in our restaurants. I love UPshow because it’s a digital whiteboard. It helps us communicate with employees while they work. No phones, laptops, or managers necessary.” 

The platform has other useful capabilities, too. With the click of a button, Zieman can post store-by-store rankings, sorted by any metric he’d like to highlight: throughput, revenue—UPshow can do all of that and more. Sharing these leaderboards with team members created a sense of store pride, he says, to the point where cashiers are now upselling larger sandwiches, meal combos, and cookies and drinks, in the name of friendly competition. In that way, UPshow has helped bring the company’s suggestive selling objectives to life. 

The Ziemans also use the TV screens to showcase training-style messaging, like which ingredients go into an LTO, or cleaning protocols that should be carefully followed. Daily checklists can be shown as a reminder, always in view of employees walking past. 

Still, when it comes to building culture, Zieman believes it’s the highlighting of birthdays and work anniversaries that have been the most effective part of implementing UPshow at his stores. It’s given his 14 storefronts an ROI that is only intangible insofar as its usefulness exceeds any dollar amount that could be attributed to it—the returning sense of camaraderie is worth every penny. 

“How UPshow affects our stores is something I’m not even going to try to measure, because I don’t think you truly can,” Zieman says. “The affordability of it is incredible, and the sky is the limit for the effect it’s having on our culture.” 

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How a Buffalo Wild Wings Franchisee is Streamlining Employee Communication

A delightfully simple digital solution has had a huge impact. 

Lindsay Luke is the human resources manager and training coordinator for Womac Group, a franchisee that owns four Buffalo Wild Wings locations in Michigan. Recently, she found a binder at one of the company’s storefronts that contained pivotal information regarding best practices. One problem: the information was from 2019. 

“Nothing in here is up to date,” Luke says, holding up the binder. “If we’re not looking at it on a day-to-day basis, things get missed. Additionally, the information loses relevance over time. It’s why we’ve been switching to digital platforms.” 

Luke and her team recently added UPshow SHIFT, a digital solution that’s helping Womac Group communicate pivotal information to its employees in a seamless, real-time fashion. Here’s how it works: an UPshow TV is installed in the back-of-house. All different types of messaging—from training materials, to new menu items, to sales goals—can be displayed on the screen. Luke and her team can quickly add content with the click of a button and have it display at all four of their stores. 

“We use UPshow SHIFT for just about everything,” Luke says. “For example, when Boneless Bar Pizzas came out, our corporate team built these amazing videos showing how to build them. UPshow SHIFT allows us to maximize the visibility of training content that usually only lives in our LMS. We display training assets at specified times throughout the day which is really beneficial for teaching our kitchen staff how to make those items during their shift.

The new solution stands in sharp contrast to distributing training materials printed on paper, or notifying employees about changes to corporate policies, for example, on a notice tacked up to a bulletin board. Everybody with Womac Group—from Luke and her team at the main office, to store managers, to hourly team members—has benefited from the transition to UPshow.

Storefront managers like Derek Kolasinski enjoy easily highlighting metrics—like store-versus-store, real-time suggestive selling initiatives and contests—as UPshow is integrated with their Aloha POS system. Stores can also run training videos, like the ones Luke referenced, when team members need an introduction or refresher on how certain food or drink items are made. “UPshow SHIFT has changed our store by helping us create a stronger learning environment,” Kolasinski says. 

Kolasinksi also loves the way UPshow helps spotlight employees and highlight milestones like work anniversaries or birthdays. Employees play an active role in this process—they can scan a QR code with their phone and upload their bio, including any information coworkers might enjoy knowing about them. 

“Seeing things like your birthday on TV is a cool experience for everyone,” says store manager Derek Kolasinski. “I think updates like that help get everyone engaged, and it helps build a strong team culture.” 

Soon, Womac Group will open three more Buffalo Wild Wings locations. Luke says UPshow will continue to be the franchisee group’s preferred communication channel of choice as they expand to different parts of the state. 

“We are a company that is always looking for ways to grow, innovate, and evolve,” Luke says. “We learn and grow. Things that used to work may not currently work—our company is truly great at saying, ‘hey, let’s revisit this and evaluate and go from there.’ Things change so fast these days and we have to make sure the way we are communicating with our employees feels relevant to them.” 

Read the article in QSR Magazine

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