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The impact is expected to grow as Focus Brands International rolls out data analysis and works to create a continuous improvement model not just within each location but within each brand, as the locations learn from the successes of others. 

Collaborative, Virtual Auditing Unlocks Clear Restaurant ROI

How Focus Brands International is using virtual visits to make in-person visits more impactful.

The future of operational excellence is collaborative, virtual auditing, which offers significant benefits and unmatched ROI versus a traditional, third-party auditing approach. More food brands should (and, likely, will) embrace the collaborative auditing model moving forward. 

Focus Brands LLC is a great example of an organization making this positive shift in auditing, with Focus Brands International having united seven iconic brands across more than 1,850 locations in 60 countries, using brand, safety, and quality auditing to maintain consistency and high standards across all locations. 

Like many other organizations, Focus Brands LLC has historically provided support and feedback for its brands’ international franchisees through traditional in-person, third-party audits. However, its large global presence made it difficult to have full visibility across the business with in-person visits alone. Until 2020, they were only able to visit about 10 percent of their brands’ international locations per year. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. 

The pandemic’s travel restrictions posed increased auditing challenges, especially for international locations. Focus Brands International needed to get eyes on all locations without having to physically visit them. Out of necessity, they pivoted to virtual visits, developing their Customer Experience Center of Excellence (CECE) and Operations Excellence Reviews (OERs).

A radical reimagining of continuous improvement and feedback

Focus Brands International wanted a new auditing solution that would help drive franchisee success, providing the tools to help make their businesses operationally more efficient so they can achieve higher sales. 

In building operational excellence best practices for franchisees, Focus Brands International sought a more collaborative approach, which led to the creation of a coaching model for store reviews. The new system is a radical reimagining of what continuous improvement and feedback can look like.

Their new approach includes:

Online Coaching. Focus Brands International provided the tools for an online coaching team, and developed a well-defined, tiered review system that gave coaches and franchised location operators clear standards on what they’re reviewing, how it’s being evaluated, and what comes next. 

Quarterly Reviews. They built a system that provided more frequent (quarterly) contact with franchisees. Using video calls, the coach provides brand updates, conducts a review, provides positive reinforcement, and highlights opportunities to improve. The detailed reviews include multiple picklist responses for each question and define corrective actions and training for each identified improvement opportunity. This also includes tiered actions so franchisees can put an immediate fix in place while working on a longer-term solution. All reviews, checklists, corrective actions, and reporting are handled through the RizePoint application.

Unified Center for Success. Data collected from Operational Excellence Reviews (OERs) is stored in a comprehensive hub that will also house information and analytics to support franchisee success. Ultimately, the CECE will capture data and use that information to make best practice recommendations. Franchisees will also have access to a support portal and other individualized tools to help them drive greater success. 

The Results

Focus Brands International 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 impact is expected to grow as Focus Brands International rolls out data analysis and works to create a continuous improvement model not just within each location but within each brand, as the locations learn from the successes of others. 

Traditional reviews are typically always about lag measures. “You did this wrong, fix it. You did this wrong, fix it.” But the brands get so much data out of these reviews that they can formulate that into a lead measure to identify activities that effect change within the business.

Rather than replacing in-person visits, Focus Brands International uses virtual visits to make in-person visits more impactful. The field teams are able to take the information from Operational Excellence Reviews to make market-wide and highly personalized recommendations.

How this approach can help other brands

Digital auditing solutions allow brands to:

  • Inspect locations remotely, in the language and time-zone of the store operators.
  • 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.
  • Build a collaborative culture, with coaches working closely with franchisees to help them elevate their safety, QA, and overall operations.
  • Visit locations remotely multiple times per year to provide the type of support that franchisees need.
  • Save significant time and money vs. in-person audits. 

Great facility management is about maintaining exceptional compliance standards across a business so customers can experience brand consistency at every location. Today’s tech solutions automate processes, clarify communication, and get fast, accurate reporting to support brands’ franchisees globally. More brands are expected to adopt this model and embrace this future of auditing and operational excellence.

Kari Hensien is president of RizePoint, a technology leader in the food safety, quality management, compliance, and social responsibility space. RizePoint’s quality management software solutions help companies, including Starbucks, McDonald’s, Marriott, and more, keep brand promises through their quality, safety, and compliance efforts. Customers gather better data, see necessary actions earlier, and act faster to correct issues before they become costly liabilities. Check out RizePoint’s new website to learn how these solutions can help your company.

In his capacity as Vice President of Operations & Training for Focus Brands InternationalJohnny Tellez has undertaken the task of advancing the level of operational management, guidance and support provided to the franchise teams abroad. In consideration of time, language, geographical, and financial boundaries; a new approach incorporating technology and virtual capabilities needed to be developed. The result became the Customer Experience Center of Excellence, a centralized coaching center from which operational reviews are conducted virtually, around the clock and in the local language. Leveraging his career in food service and passion for innovation, he is eager to share a look at Focus Brands LLC’s solution to leading operational excellence in an increasingly virtual world.