Stephen Covey, the bestselling author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, once said, “If there’s one thing that’s certain in business, it’s uncertainty.” I’m not sure that even Mr. Covey could have envisioned just how uncertain things would become.
Indeed, those in the restaurant business are managing through unprecedented uncertainty every day. In a recent survey by the National Restaurant Association, 96% of restaurant operators said they experienced supply delays or shortages of key food or beverage items in recent months. As a result, many of these restaurant operators, including 81% of casual dining restaurants, 68% of quick-service restaurants and 66% of fast-casual restaurants have had to make changes to their menu offerings.
A separate survey by the National Restaurant Association revealed 83% of restaurant operators experienced higher total costs in December 2021 compared with December 2020. This has forced many restaurants to increase menu prices to offset their rising costs.
Uncertainty is expected to continue with ongoing supply-chain snags, labor shortages, and new cost and supply pressures from the conflict in Eastern Europe. Because no one can predict when things will return to a more reliable state of “normal,” experts agree, flexibility is essential for franchise restaurants to overcome whatever happens next.
Menu flexibility, in particular, is central to successfully handling the ebb and flow of the current environment. As Aaron LaMotte, VP of Supply Chain Management for North America at Sodexo recently suggested in QSR Magazine, “Near-term solutions include being nimble on your menus and being able to make changes.”
Leverage Your Marketing Portal to Manage Through the Next Normal
Your marketing resource management portal is one of the most powerful tools you have for supporting your franchisees in managing uncertainty and adapting menus to changing local market conditions. If you don’t already have a marketing portal, it may be a good time to consider adding one. A marketing portal can not only help you manage during uncertain times, it will also enable you to emerge stronger and more efficient in the future.
The current environment underscores a long-standing challenge that franchisors face – how to efficiently manage all your marketing resources across your distributed organization, particularly localized versions of materials that address local market conditions. Of course, local conditions have always varied, but this has never been more apparent than in the past two years.
Below are some ways your marketing portal can help you flex your operations strategy to efficiently update menus and pricing as you navigate uncertainty and set your franchise organization up for greater resilience.
Location Profile Management - the Key to Enabling Menu Flexibility
A marketing portal that is equipped with location profile management enables a franchise brand to create rich location profiles that can drive more efficient and effective local marketing operations. This capability is particularly helpful at this time, when menus and pricing require more frequent updates.
With location profile management, individualized profiles contain location data, such as contact information, hours of operation, product pricing and structural details, like number of windows and tables, for each franchise location. Each time a franchisee creates a menu board, dine-in menu or carry-out menu within the marketing portal, the unique location data and the corporate-controlled data are automatically populated from the location profile, eliminating the need to retype this information each time a menu is produced, saving time, reducing typos and increasing accuracy. Here are some of the ways location profiles can contribute to menu flexibility:
- Updating menu boards, dine-in menus, carry-out menus, or local craft beer lists, to address changing market conditions
- Disclosing required information to comply with state and FDA menu labeling requirements, such as calorie counts and ingredients on menu items that have been modified due to availability of ingredients
- Promoting limited time offers (LTOs) of special menu items and pricing
This same tool can be applied to address today’s local market flexibility demands – from frequent menu and pricing updates, to calorie counts and other government-required information. Within the marketing portal, a franchisee simply chooses their location and the system populates the correct information into whatever marketing asset is selected.
Menu Flexibility and Data Management
Of course, the value of the location profile management capability is in the accuracy and localization of its data. Location profile data can initially be loaded into the system via a data feed, making for an efficient way to get started. The franchisor has the ability to lock down some fields to prevent changes by franchisees, while other fields can be free-form, enabling franchisee customization.
Once data is input into the location profile system, data automatically populates a wide variety of marketing assets with information that is customized to each location. This reduces errors in printed materials caused by having to repeatedly or manually input details. And, a franchisee with multiple locations can manage menu updates for all of their locations with a single login. This saves time, which is a treasured commodity for franchisees as they navigate today’s staffing shortages.
When menus and pricing must be updated frequently, confusion can arise if information on menus and signage does not match what’s in the POS system. Data in a location profile can integrate with a POS system to ensure pricing and menu items are up to date and consistent across marketing assets and customer touchpoints.
Maintaining Control Even in a Whipsaw Environment
From an administration standpoint, a marketing portal with location profile management gives franchisors flexible oversight of their distributed organization, even when marketing priorities change daily. Marketing portal administration options may include:
- Budget center flexibility. Franchisees can pay for updated menus ordered through the marketing portal, or the franchisor can pay, or some combination. For example, a franchisor may determine it will pay for menu production orders four times per year and franchisees pay for any orders placed in between those quarterly orders. Or, a franchisor may choose to pay for a percentage of the cost of menus ordered.
- Automated menu approval workflows. To ensure everyone is happy with the localized menus produced within the marketing portal, automated approval workflows allow franchisees, corporate team members and others with approval authority to review and approve digital proofs before going to print.
- Franchisee campaign participation. If there are specific times when franchisees need to update menus, enrollment in campaigns and updates can be managed through the marketing portal. An email reminder notification is automatically sent to the franchisee, while a dashboard enables franchisors to track franchisee participation.
- Location data controls. Information about the types of menus, including size-by-location, can be stored in a franchisee’s location profile so they are only able to order the correct size and type of marketing asset for their location.
- Reporting. Franchisors can access reports to see pricing as well as menu items across locations, menu formats being ordered, along with other reports that track marketing portal activity.
As labor and supply chain issues persist, so does the need for restaurant franchisors and their franchisees to operate nimbly. A marketing portal with the capability for location profile management is one tool that can help manage through current challenges and create lasting efficiencies that will continue to be valued during a more predictable future.
See how menu flexibility could work for your organization. Request a demo of the Vya system.