Why District Managers Struggle to Improve Store Performance

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The Restaurant Performance Index (RPI) measures the general health of the U.S. restaurant industry. It’s released on a monthly basis, and September’s outlook (out October 31, 2014) saw a decline of 0.9 percent as compared to August. While that number may not seem huge, it’s meaningful in the sense that it indicates a generalized pessimism around the state of the food service industry.

While the macro trend may not necessarily have a direct impact on any given district manager’s micro sphere, it’s a worthwhile number to pay attention to because it can help predict demand and thus help district managers plan ahead.

In particular, it can be a useful metric for determining how your store should be performing. For example, if the RPI is trending upwards but your restaurant is seeing decreased sales, that’s not a good sign.

In general, district managers often struggle to improve store performance when it lags behind more global indicators. But the reasons why they may struggle to do this are complex and often require careful examination in order to be brought to light and solved.

So, why do district managers struggle to improve store performance? We found six key reasons:

1. They Lack Day-to-Day Insight on Store Performance

Many restaurant managers lack visibility into how their stores are performing. That’s because most restaurant locations rely on physical logbooks that are kept manually, with information being entered into them on a daily basis.

This means that district managers need to visit each of their stores every day in order to gain insight into how individual locations are performing. It’s not a sustainable practice, and in the long run it can lead to a lack of insight into store performance.

Even worse, physical logbooks are often kept imperfectly, so even if district managers are able to visit each of their locations on a regular basis, they may still find themselves unequipped with the kind of data they need to determine how stores are performing and make decisions about what to change.

2. They Aren’t Gathering Data Efficiently

In other cases, restaurants may be gathering data on a regular basis, but the data may not be stored efficiently. Physical logbooks gather valuable information in a place where it is difficult to access, both remotely and on location.

It’s also inefficient to process that data, which means that much of it often winds up being “trapped” in old notebooks and binders where it would need to be manually entered into a computer system in order to be made sense of.

This type of data collection is so inefficient that it’s almost pointless to collect the data in the first place.

3. No Accountability or Consistency for Data Collection

Paper logbooks, long the industry standard, mean that district managers and corporate headquarters are able to exert very little control over the data collection process.

There is little to no accountability or consistency in data collection when using physical logbooks. Employees know that it’s too difficult for management to track down each individual logbook and look up how data has been entered, so they get away with sloppy reporting.

There’s really no way to ensure accountability or consistency of data collection when you use physical logbooks, but a digital reporting solution can make a huge difference.

4. They Gather Data, But They Never See It

In some cases, locations may do a decent job of entering data into physical logbooks. But the nature of paper logbooks is such that district managers never see this data. Instead of being available in a database or analytics dashboard, the reports are held up in stacks of paper logbooks stored in corporate warehouses.

Furthermore, reports of a personnel issue or inconsistency in food temperatures need to be handled as they happen. Not only is this data never used for business strategy, but it also prevents district managers from addressing issues in real-time.

5. They Don’t Know How to Convert Analysis into Action

Other restaurants collect data via more sophisticated, technological means, but they don’t know what to do with the information. They may have analysis paralysis, or they may simply not know how to convert analysis into action.

Gathering business intelligence and converting it into action is one of the key ways for district managers of struggling restaurants to improve store performance. But of course, that’s much easier said than done.

In reality, converting analysis into action requires not only efficient and painstaking data collection but powerful business intelligence software that can help you make sense of the information and convert it into actionable steps forward.

6. They Aren’t Measuring the Impact of their Improvement Efforts

Finally, even those district managers who are gathering data efficiently, maintaining accountability and converting analysis into action will still have a major hurdle to overcome: measuring their improvement efforts.

Making an effort to improve your store is noble, but if you aren’t measuring your improvement strategies and determining what works, you won’t be able to make good decisions about how to steer the ship and when to correct course.

So while you focus on gathering the right data in the right ways and converting it into action, don’t forget to methodically measure the impact of your improvement efforts.

These six challenges can be the barrier between mediocre performance and wild success for many restaurant district managers. But they can be overcome with the help of diligence and technology like our digital reporting solutions.

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