Brands of all sizes must conduct regular safety and quality audits to ensure all locations are consistently compliant. In these traditionally in-person audits, inspectors often find issues that need to be corrected, and would tell the brand location’s operator what was wrong. The operator would then go correct the problems. With this approach, location operators often felt like these audits were punitive and they’d “get in trouble” for any non-compliance issue.
Then, the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way brands audited. As travel restrictions prevented in-person inspections, brands pivoted to virtual auditing. Now, we predict that the future of operational excellence will be collaborative, virtual auditing, and encourage more food brands to adopt this model and enjoy many significant benefits.
Focus Brands International’s Intentional Approach
Focus Brands International, a division of Focus Brands LLC, has united seven iconic brands across more than 1,850 locations in 60 countries. For years, they conducted traditional, in-person, third-party audits. However, because of their sheer size, they were only able to visit and audit 10% of their brands’ international locations per year.
When the pandemic made in-person auditing a challenge, Focus Brands International pivoted to virtual visits out of necessity, developing their Customer Experience Center of Excellence (CECE) and Operations Excellence Reviews (OERs).
In their quest to develop a new auditing solution, Focus Brands International sought a more collaborative approach, and developed a virtual collaborative coaching model for store reviews. The new system is a radical reimagining of what continuous improvement and feedback can look like.
As part of their efforts, the company provided tools for an online coaching team who could provide reviews in each location’s language and time zone. They also developed a well-defined review system, providing coaches and franchised location operators clear standards on what they’re reviewing, how it’s being evaluated, and what comes next.
Then, they established a system that would provide more frequent (quarterly) contact with all franchisees. Coaches connect with franchisees four times per year, providing brand updates, conducting collaborative reviews, providing positive reinforcement, and highlighting opportunities to improve. Coaches emphasize the collaborative model, helping franchisees define corrective actions and training for each identified improvement opportunity. All reviews, checklists, corrective actions, and reporting are handled through the RizePoint application. Rather than replacing in-person visits, Focus Brands International is using virtual visits to make in-person visits more impactful.
Data, including information collected from Operational Excellence Reviews (OERs), is stored in a centralized hub to support franchisee success. The CECE uses this data to make best practice recommendations, and franchisees also have access to a support portal and other individualized tools to help increase safety, quality, and compliance across the enterprise.
The Results Are Overwhelmingly Positive
Focus Brands International has experienced the following positive benefits:
- Time spent per review is 65-75 percent lower compared to in-person reviews.
- Costs of virtual audits are a fraction of in-person reviews.
- They can visit more stores more often. They had 126 in-store inspections in 2020, and more than 2,000 virtual visits in the first three quarters of 2022. Before pivoting to virtual audits, they could only visit a tenth of their locations per year. Now, they work with all locations once per quarter.
- Improvements in compliance.
- Franchisees are happy to get more attention and support.
- Locations within the same market are adopting information from each other’s reviews to progress more quickly.
- The company is using data from these reviews to identify activities that affect change within the business.
- The field teams can take the information from Operational Excellence Reviews to make market-wide and highly personalized recommendations.
The Future of Operational Excellence Is Collaborative
The virtual, collaborative auditing approach is helping other brands:
- Inspect locations remotely, in the language and time-zone of the store operators.
- Build a collaborative culture, with coaches working closely with franchisees to elevate their safety, QA, and overall operations.
- Save significant time and money vs. in-person audits.
- Capture valuable data to measure against store performance.
- Establish a single source of truth for a brand’s safety and quality specifications, standards, and compliance documents.
- Use search-driven analytics to sort through tremendous amounts of data, drilling down to each specific location, issue, and trend.
- Visit locations remotely multiple times per year to provide the type of support that franchisees need.
Brands want (and need) to maintain exceptional safety, quality, and compliance standards at every location so customers can experience brand consistency. Today’s tech solutions are driving positive changes – maximizing safety and compliance, increasing support to all locations, saving significant time and money, capturing and centralizing data, and more. The future of auditing and operational excellence is here, and brands will enjoy many significant benefits from this new collaborative approach.