July 8, 2020

5 Tips for Getting Restaurant Franchisees to Follow Through on Marketing Initiatives

By Mike Rocco

Is that restaurant franchise manager your best friend or your worst nightmare? Probably a little bit of both. Especially if you’re fighting the age-old battle that seems to affect everyone in marketing and advertising. Certainly, you know what we’re talking about—the rogue restaurant manager doing his or her own thing instead of corporate’s thing. You would all be better off if they’d just listen, right? Here are some examples with which you’re probably familiar:

  • We’re two weeks in to our one-month-only LTO and your waitstaff still doesn’t know what the specials are?
  • We spend so much time and money on POS materials, the least you could do is use them.
  • Where in the world did that menu item come from?
  • I’ve never seen our logo in that color before.

Needless to say, the list could go on and on. And, for you and every other marketing and advertising manager in the industry, it probably does.

So the real question is, what can you do to change it all? Well, unfortunately, there’s no magic wand, but there are some best practices you can put into place that can go a long way to help get those rogue restaurant managers to be better team players.

Listen To Your Restaurant Manager First. Talk To Them Second

When you stop in to check on things, is your first reaction to start talking about what you are doing for them, or questioning if they’ve implemented anything in particular? If so, flip the script. Let them have a chance to speak first. And listen. Really listen. Not multi-tasking on your phone or waiting for them to finish so you can talk.

They, like most people, want to feel heard. Really heard. The only way to make them feel that way is to listen to them talk about their problems and needs, what they want, what they think would help their business, and so on. Maybe they’ll actually have a good idea or two. If not, they’ll at least feel heard.

At that point, you can then share your thoughts on business, menus, promotions, etc. But don’t start with a list of what they’re doing wrong, start with what you and corporate are doing to help them. Maybe even tie-in some things you’re doing to what they brought up minutes earlier as you listened. Furthermore, take notes on this visit, so maybe next time when you stop in, you can share things you and corporate are doing that addresses the concerns they just brought up.

In the end, the more you listen to them, the more they’ll listen to you. And the more likely they’ll be to implement the many requests and requirements you put on them.

Leave Your Ego At The Restaurant Door

In order to make the above section on listening really pay off, you simply have to act like the restaurant manager knows more than you do. Heck, maybe they actually do know more when it comes to things like localized customer-wants and staffing issues. More than likely they’ll be looking at things from only their point of view, not corporate’s needs and the needs of all your other restaurant locations. But that’s okay. Just remember whoever does the most talking usually ends up thinking it’s the best meeting. So let them do the most talking, and you do the most listening. That simple act of humbleness will go a long way in building the trust you need to ensure they’re doing their part in pushing your message, your brand, your LTOs, and so much more.

Involve The Restaurant Franchise Owner in Key Marketing Projects

Everyone wants to feel important. Especially the people who truly are important—like the franchise owners of your restaurants. So meeting with the restaurant manager is great, but also seeking out input from the franchisee is important too. After all, they aren’t just there for fun, they’re independent owners who have their livelihoods on the line.

Furthermore, many times they’re an extension of the chef/cook, manager, and customers, so they too may know what works and what doesn’t for their particular restaurant location(s), as well as what customers may or may not like. And listening to what they think will not only help you learn, but they, too, will be more likely to think your ideas are coming from a good place, with their best interests at heart.

Even better, the more they’re engaged with both you and corporate, the more of an advocate they’ll be—better positioned to push down ideas and directives to their staff and better able to make sure that staff is doing what they’re supposed to be doing on a daily basis.

Think About A Restaurant Franchise/Manager Advisory Panel

Many brands find great success—and ideas—by taking the process of listening even one step further, by forming an advisory panel of your best and most successful franchise owners or managers. You can even go so far as to make sitting on the panel a reward…with your most successful restaurant locations each year being rewarded with one person sitting on the panel.

Some brands go even further with the reward with an annual meeting at a fun destination location, but that’s certainly optional. What is mandatory though is giving these “best of the best” a real say in the direction of the brand. Those restaurants that go this route, see renewed enthusiasm and vigor with those panelists who feel like the brand truly appreciates and values their input. The end result: you and corporate get fresh, new ideas from throughout your organization and restaurant locations are way more likely to back everything you and corporate send their way throughout the year.

Don’t Just Tell Them What the Brand is Doing For Their Restaurant, Show Them

One last tip is, sometimes we just have to see things to believe them. And, chances are, you’re already doing a heck of a lot of stuff that adds real value for your restaurant locations, but franchise owners and managers might not have any idea you’re doing them. So think about spending time to put a short presentation together before your location visit, with real-world examples of ways your brand is living its purpose and helping advance the sales for that particular restaurant.

  • Corporate puts a lot of time into creating fresh new menu items and LTOs. Share that process, and share what expected increases they will see if they fully implement the offers.
  • Also share the results you’ve seen from past LTOs, promotions, or traffic-driving ads that sent more customers to their restaurant location. Corporate spends a lot of money on analytics. Show your locations that what you are doing is actually working. But show it for their store level—that’s what they truly care about.
  • Like any restaurant, they probably receive their fair share of customer complaints. But over 50% of complaints come straight through social media, so you’re probably also handling a lot of complaints for them—and they may not know this. Don’t be afraid to share real, concrete examples of customers you’ve turned around for them.
  • If you are supporting their local community in any way, make sure they know about it. That support surely leads to increased brand awareness—and, ultimately, traffic. Even better, maybe there is a way they can play a role, too.

TLDR: Be Sure to Get Buy-in From Restaurant Franchisees & Managers

If you want restaurant managers and franchise owners to finally start listening to you and corporate, it’s important for you to listen to them, too. And many times, that means letting them talk first—and longer. But that’s how they learn to trust you and corporate. To truly understand that you have their best interest at heart, and how the only way for you win, is if they win first—so EVERYTHING you’re doing, week after week and month after month, is for them. Once they start realizing that, they’ll be much more likely to start implementing the well-thought-out plans you have to increase their traffic, their web orders, their check averages, and more.

Anyone who does marketing and advertising for restaurants knows, you’re always dealing with rogue restaurant managers or franchise owners who are doing their own thing instead of corporate’s thing. How can you get them to be a team player, as they’d benefit from it as much as you would?

  • When you stop in for a visit, let them talk first. If they feel like they’re being heard, their more likely to listen to you. The more you listen and tie-in your ideas with things they’ve said, the more they’ll trust you.
  • When you start talking, don’t start with what they’re doing wrong…save that for later. First talk about things you’re doing to help their business.
  • Leave your ego at the restaurant door. The last thing a restaurant manager wants to think is that you think you know more than them—even if you do.
  • Engage the franchise owner, too, even if they’re not overly involved in the day-to-day. They can help push corporate directives to all employees and make sure they’re implemented daily.
  • Think about starting an advisory panel with top franchise owners and/or managers. Their input can be crucial in generating fresh ideas, and they’ll feel more heard—leading to greater follow-through on their part when it comes to implementing corporate’s ideas.