How to Manage Multiple Restaurant Locations and Overcome Industry Challenges

Multi-unit franchising, or owning multiple units within a specified territory, has become a popular strategy for quick serve restaurant (QSR) operators in recent years. In 2019, more than 75% of restaurant franchises were run by multi-unit owners, with the industry average being 5 locations per owner. There are several advantages to franchising multiple locations: Multiple revenue streams can make multi-unit franchise ownership a safer investment, since owners don’t rely on a single location to drive revenue. Multi-unit franchise owners may also experience lower operating costs per location. Additionally, buying restaurant supplies and advertising materials in bulk allows a multi-unit owner to save money by reducing unit costs. Overall, multi-unit owners are able to focus on higher-level business objectives, such as continuing to grow their business and improve operational efficiency, since they are no longer responsible for the day to day management of a specific franchise. 

However, with each new location comes added complexity. In this blog we will discuss three common challenges multi-unit operators face and how to overcome them: establishing consistent brand standards, managing multiple teams, and maintaining effective oversight.

Challenge 1: Establishing Consistent Brand Standards

Expanding into multiple restaurant locations can help build a stronger brand presence. If customers know they can travel between multiple franchise locations within the same geographic area, and experience the same standards of service, food quality, and restaurant atmosphere, you can build a reputation for reliability and consistency. Such consistency results in increased brand trust and loyalty from consumers. However, across multiple locations, each with different management teams and employees, it can be difficult to establish a consistent experience for customers.

Overcome The Challenge of Establishing Consistent Brand Standards

Hiring is a key pathway for franchise owners to establish a consistent brand experience across all locations. Owners should remain involved in employee hiring and training practices, from management role openings to part-time staff. Through consistency in hiring practices and employee training, a multi-unit operator can build a team that reflects brand values. 

Try these 3 tips for identifying top QSR applicants across each stage of the hiring process:

  1. Job Posting – Provide a thorough description of employee responsibilities and your brand’s overview in the job posting. The more detail the better! This limits the number of unqualified applicants, and gives potential employees the best opportunity to assess their capabilities prior to submitting an application.
  2. Interview – Develop a core set of interview questions, and identify your ideal scope of answers to each question. Design these questions to determine whether a candidate is qualified and shares your company values. Consistent questions across interviews also help to ensure that the interview process is fair. 
  3. Candidate Selection – It is beneficial for the location owner to communicate directly with potential employees. Although vetting candidates could be left to location managers, it is best for an owner to oversee the selection of new team members. The varying preferences of individual managers may eventually result in the differentiation of brand standards between locations.

Standardized guidelines for employee training promote consistency in operations across franchise locations. Consistent operational procedures are reflected in predictable customer wait times, food look and taste, and food quality. Encouraging consistency builds brand trust among consumers, and boosts customer loyalty. While employee training can be left to location managers, it is the responsibility of the owner to ensure that managers are experts on the employee training guide. Incorporate regular manager training sessions dedicated to reinforcing best practices in staff training. These ongoing meetings with location managers will help keep training top of mind among leadership. 

Challenge 2: Managing Multiple Teams

The quick serve restaurant industry poses several challenges to effective team management across multiple locations. First, due to the high turnover rate in QSRs, teams are constantly changing and welcoming new members. It can be difficult to consistently integrate new staff into existing operating procedures. Additionally, ensuring each team is well equipped for success can become complex. Sometimes staff or supplies will need to be transferred between locations, requiring a high level of coordination and communication. Low employee engagement can also pose challenges. Employees may feel disconnected from the mission of the broader company, leading to ineffective teamwork.

Overcome The Challenge of Managing Multiple Teams

Investing in team building with a focus on establishing effective communication can have long term benefits for team management. Frustration with one’s employer due to poor communication is the number one reason QSR staff quit, making this an essential skill to focus on during team building efforts. Ineffective communication between ownership and team members, and between teams from different locations, can cause employees to question their job and responsibilities, and the value of their role. Try these 9 communication exercises from Myva 360 with your management teams!

Teams that actively participate in team building see increased employee satisfaction. This is estimated to generate a 13-20% increase in employee productivity. Additionally, QSRs that invest in team building are likely to experience higher employee retention rates and greater interest from prospective employees. When employees feel a strong connection to their team, their managers, and to the broader organization, they are 3x more likely to stay with their organization. These trends greatly benefit multi-unit QSR owners by reducing the friction between QSR teams, and decreasing the complexity of multi-team management.

Looking for ways to strengthen your QSR team? Explore five free team building resources here!

Challenge 3: Difficulty Establishing Oversight Across all Locations

You can’t be everywhere at once. It can be difficult to establish oversight across multiple locations, where the implementation and execution of your business model may vary based on location and resource access factors. Effective oversight of all store operations is critical for managing these nuances. Poor oversight poses challenges to maintaining food safety standards, tracking progress on shift to-do lists, and maintaining brand standards.

Overcoming the Challenge of Establishing Oversight

Establish and maintain effective oversight of multiple franchise locations by using restaurant monitoring technologies with real time reporting. For example, a remote temperature monitoring system can combat food safety risks by improving visibility into food storage conditions. RTM systems provide real-time temperature measurements of refrigerators, freezers, and food products within equipment. RTM automatically records these temperatures into a digital, trackable dashboard. QSR owners can instantly view stats for all of their locations, even when they are on the go or working remotely. 

Digital shift management platforms also improve operator visibility into shift performance. One of the major challenges of relying on a papershift management system is the lack of transparency in completion rates and quality of tasks – from restocking paper towels in bathrooms to cleaning the walk-in cooler. This is especially true for operators of multiple locations. Opting for a digital restaurant checklist system allows owners to synthesize data from multiple locations and shifts into a comprehensive dashboard. Operators can pinpoint threats to food safety, cleanliness, and customer satisfaction from tasks that do not meet completion standards. QSR managers of multiple locations can benefit greatly from having a centralized, automated compliance tracking system. 

Tackling Multi-Unit Restaurant Challenges

While there are many benefits to owning multiple franchise locations, operations can become very complex. However, the challenges of establishing consistent brand standards, managing multiple teams, and maintaining effective oversight can be addressed. From consistent hiring and training practices, to open communication, and automating business oversight – you will achieve excellence across multiple restaurant locations!