How a Burger King Franchisee Communicates With Employees Across 25 Stores

August 3, 2023

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

Interview By QSR Mag

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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