Restaurant franchisees share insights on tech adoptions, franchisor relationships
Tim Tang, director of enterprise at Hughes, Daven Acker of Pizza Inn, Mike Monson of Sub Station 11 and Julie North of Chicken Salad Chick
Many restaurant franchisors can find it challenging to inspire franchisees to put up the cash often needed to implement technology, such as mobile ordering or menu boards. At the Restaurant Franchising and Innovation Summit in Louisville, Kentucky, however, three franchisees advised corporate attendees on how they can get buy-in from their own franchisees.
The session, "Franchisees Tell All: Are You Listening?", featured Tim Tang, director of enterprise at Hughes; Daven Acker of Pizza Inn, Mike Monson of Sub Station II and Julie North of Chicken Salad Chick. The group talked about what inspires them to invest.
Tech needs to make sense in context
Acker expressed his natural pessimism when it comes to new services or technologies. One reason for this is that some smaller stores simply aren't ready for it.
"We are a 60-plus year-old business, and many franchisees still use cash registers," Acker said during the event. So he recommended starting them slowly, using the example of buying an older car instead of a newer one. Just get them "rolling."
Monson pointed out that many vendors will claim a technology will work well with a franchisee, but it often fails to meet expectations. He believes it is key to keep pushing forward regardless.
"You never succeed without failing a few times," he said.
Take it slow
Every franchisee has different needs, and franchisors need to take that in mind when trying to push out new solutions. North emphasized that a franchisee with one or two locations will have different needs than one with five or six locations. In order to meet their needs, she said franchisors need to have clear training.
Franchisors also need to methodically work to get every franchisee on board rather than just throwing something in their corner and demanding a change, according to Acker. In order to do this, franchisors need to have a solid relationship with their franchisees. Acker said the franchisor CEO will sit down with him and discuss key changes, which in turn helps build transparency.
Tang brought up the example of digital menu boards, which are being thrust onto the market in greater numbers due to FDA-food labeling regulations. Most good franchisors will not force every franchisee to immediately adopt menu boards, but instead go through small incremental stages of deployment based on franchisee needs and cash flow.
Push the vision, not just the changes
"A lot of franchisors have these 'great ideas' that just suck," Acker said.
The challenge is to not just push these ideas out, but rather to revive the franchisee's enthusiasm when they first joined the brand, Monson said. Many new franchisees are incredibly excited when they first join, but older franchisees tend to be a bit more independent and slow to change.
When Tang asked Monson what he would do if he was a franchisor, he said, "Instead of trying to sell them on new technologies, the first thing I'd want to do resell them into the brand."
It's all about the relationship
All three of the franchisees brought up repeatedly the importance of building a trusting, transparent relationship with the franchisor. Once this is established, changes still won't come easily, but it will help them all move forward.
"Treat them the way you want to be treated," Acker said.
Bradley Cooper is a Technology Editor for DigitalSignageToday.com. His background is in information technology, advertising, and writing.www