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.”