Sub Station II, Chicken Salad Chick, Pizza Inn franchisees: Tech buy-in demands time, trust

| by Bradley Cooper
Sub Station II, Chicken Salad Chick, Pizza Inn franchisees: Tech buy-in demands time, trust

Franchisors who want franchisees to invest in tech tools, like mobile ordering and menu boards, would do well to remember that it pays to put yourself in their shoes if you want them to walk the road into future technologies with you. That was the theme of the feedback from operators with three brands involved in a panel discussion on the subject at the Restaurant Franchising & Innovation Summit in Louisville this week. 

Hughes Director of Enterprise Tim Tang led the lively discussion with panelists Daven Acker of Pizza Inn, Mike Monson of Sub Station II and Julie North of Chicken Salad Chick. Overall, the group relayed that the franchisors would be wise to keep the following qualities in mind when discussing any franchisee's need to invest in restaurant technology. 

Tech needs to make sense in context
Acker expressed his natural pessimism when it comes to new services or technologies. One reason for this is that some smaller stores simply aren't ready for it.
"We are a 60-plus year-old business, and many franchisees still use cash registers," Acker told the audience at the event venue, the newly opened Omni Hotel in downtown Louisville. 

Acker recommended that franchisors begin the process slowly with their operators, using the example of buying an older car instead of a newer one. Just get them "rolling," he said.

Monson pointed out that many vendors will claim a technology will work well with a franchisee, but it often fails to meet expectations. He believes it is key to keep pushing forward regardless.

"You never succeed without failing a few times," he said.

Take it slow
Every franchisee has different needs, and franchisors need to keep that in mind when trying to push out new solutions. North emphasized that a franchisee with one or two locations will have different needs than one with five or six locations. In order to meet their needs, she said franchisors need to have clear training.

Franchisors also need to methodically work to get every franchisee on board, rather than just throwing something in their corner and demanding a change, Acker said. He pointed out that franchisors need to have solid relationships with their franchisees. 

By way of example, Acker said the franchisor CEO will sit down with him and discuss key changes. That, in turn, helps build a sense of trust since the franchisor is taking the time to be transparent about methods and motives. 

Tang also mentioned an example in digital menu boards, which are being thrust onto the market in greater numbers due to the enforcement of FDA-menu labeling regulations starting on May 7. He said franchisors might do best not forcing immediate menu board adoption from all franchisees, but instead deploying these incrementally, based on franchisees' needs and cash flow.

Push the vision, not just the changes
"A lot of franchisors have these 'great ideas' that just suck," Acker said during the hour-long session.

The challenge is to revive franchisees' initial brand enthusiasm, rather than just push ideas out, Monson said. Many new franchisees are incredibly excited when they first join, but older franchisees tend to be more independent and slow to change.

When Tang asked Monson what he would do if he was a franchisor, he said, "Instead of trying to sell them on new technologies, the first thing I'd want to do [is] resell them into the brand."

It's all about the relationship
All three brands' franchisees repeatedly stressed the importance of building a trusting relationship between franchisee and franchisor where frankness is the norm. The three business owners said that once this level of trust is established, suggested changes should move along more easily in many cases. 

"Treat them the way you want to be treated," Acker said.

If you're interested in hearing more,please register now for the upcoming international Restaurant Franchising & Innovation Summit in London this coming July 16-18 in London. 

Feature photo: iStock

Photo inset: Networld Media Group

Topics: Restaurant Franchising & Innovation Summit, Systems / Technology

Bradley Cooper

Bradley Cooper is a Technology Editor for and His background is in information technology, advertising, and writing.

wwwView Bradley Cooper's profile on LinkedIn

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