Pizza Factory wants to be a major player in its space. This solution has been a key factor in driving its momentum forward.
Pizza Factory has 102 units across seven states—California, Nevada, Washington, Idaho, Arizona, Texas and now Georgia—with 25 more sites in development. With plans to expand within those states and into others, Pizza Factory says that managing brand consistency has been both a priority and a challenge.
That’s true of many restaurant brands—with expansion comes the growing pains of ensuring each store is visited to weed out any discrepancies between local practices and brand standards. Steve Gibbs, vice president of operations at Pizza Factory, says he has long believed that “what you inspect you can expect, and what you measure improves.”
“The challenge for us at Pizza Factory is that our stores are mostly owned by independent franchisees,” Gibbs says. “They aren’t employees, so you have to manage through influence. My goal as vice president of operations is to calibrate expectations, communicate brand standards, and leverage the experience of our operations team to help franchisees run better restaurants, make more money and become growth ready.”
When Gibbs came on board at Pizza Factory a little over two years ago, there were aspects of the system put in place by his predecessor that he was impressed with. The brand used AuditApp, a digital site-visit checklist created by software company MeazureUp, to ensure site visits had a purpose, and that the data from each visit was aggregated in real-time. Gibbs found AuditApp to be a critical tool, but he noticed it wasn’t being used enough: the franchise business coaching (FBC) team was conducting an annual site visit at just 40 percent of its stores, while almost none of them had been visited more than once in the previous year. Additionally, many franchisees had never logged into the AuditApp dashboard, or seen data from site visits.
That was a shame, because AuditApp had great potential for the brand, and has since been used as a key ingredient in shaping the franchisor-franchisee relationship. Here’s how it works: AuditApp digitizes site visit checklists that used to be done on paper. The software automatically sends emails to the c-suite and store manager to ensure everyone is aware, in real time, of any notes that need to be addressed. One feature many team members, at all levels, really appreciate is that photos can be uploaded displaying a certain area that needs to be cleaned, for example, or a recipe that is not being executed correctly. The site visitors can then request a photo be uploaded when the issue is resolved.
“AuditApp keeps a record of all visits, sorted by the location, so at any point you can access previous visits and pictures that were taken,” Gibbs says. “Each visit generates anywhere from 30 to 70 photos that are dated and time stamped. One thing I like about AuditApp versus a competitor that I used in a previous life is that the pictures you take on your phone during the audit go to the cloud rather than being copied on your phone. This creates a better user experience, especially as somebody who might conduct over 100 visits per year.”
Ultimately, features like these have made site visits a structured process that has shown immediate benefits for Pizza Factory. Most of all, Gibbs appreciates that the app helps create a collaborative effort rather than a punitive process. That makes franchisees more likely to buy into the site visit process, helping the restaurant improve its operations over time.
“I think one of the biggest things MeazureUp has helped us accomplish is making sure that you have a purpose when you’re doing a site visit,” Gibbs says. “You want a reason to be there so that you’re not just visiting, you're interacting with a franchisee, praising or coaching them. Also—and I think this is critical—it creates an atmosphere where this isn’t an audit that’s done ‘on’ the store owner. Rather, it’s done with them.”
And while AuditApp helps at the store level, it also helps c-suite executives identify if there are problems that are more than just “one-offs.” For example, if the team members in several Pizza Factory stores were adding too much sauce to a particular recipe, it might identify that something was breaking down during the training process or that the portioning system being used was ineffective.
“We might also use it to profile and see how many stores need a particular piece of décor, or how many have ice makers on their drink machines, and so on and so forth,” Gibbs says. “The backend of the MeazureUp program produces a lot of data that helps us measure a ton of things, big and small.”
Another way Gibbs and his team have leveraged the data is by analyzing which survey questions are most commonly missed during site visits. It leads the brand to question: If something is being missed more than, say, 33 percent of the time, is it an unrealistic expectation? Is it something that franchisees, or store managers simply don’t know how to do, or don’t have the resources to fix? How can it be addressed?
“Let’s say it was a piece of equipment that wasn’t getting cleaned enough in multiple stores,” Gibbs says. “We’d put together an internal webinar about how to clean it and shoot it out to all of our stores to help educate our franchisees. Then, if we ever see that problem again, we can refer them to that webinar and ask them to upload a pic to MeazureUp when it’s completed.”
Gibbs is so confident MeazureUp has made his brand better as a franchisor that it has become something he brings up during the discovery process with potential franchisees. He explains to them how AuditApp helps make their lives easier by automating the process of ensuring brand-wide consistency.
“This is definitely a selling point when I’m talking to potential new franchisees,” Gibbs says. “Franchisees don’t really want you in their store telling them what to do. They want support. So we tell them, this is a collaborative process that happens twice a year and helps ensure your stores are as profitable as they can be. It reassures them that they’re joining the right brand.”
For more info on getting more out of your site visits, visit the MeazureUp website.