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Better Area Manager Performance = Better Location Performance

One of our clients told us recently, “I never want to lose a day, because it’s gone forever.”  His company owns and operates several hundred restaurants.  

What he was referring to was the perishability of our service based products.  If you have a day where your locations are closed, or are not operating greatly causing a reduction in throughput, or you are upsetting a lot of customers.  Those days can destroy your chances at hitting your numbers.  

A couple of bad days in a quarter can be the difference between flat performance and blowing your projections out the water. 2 or 3 bad quarters and you might lose money for the year. What most people need to be reminded about, in businesses with lower profit margin percentages, all of your profits are made on just a few days per year. 

When you lose days you lose profits.

It is this concept that fueled this client to invest in systems to ensure maximum uptime and performance.  They are different then some of our other clients because they utilize the OpsAnalitica platform primarily to enable their above store leaders.  They focus on their regional managers because they realize how important they are at driving success.

Whether you call them Area Managers, Regional Managers, Area Directors, Store Directors, Regional Directors, etc.. Your above store leaders have one of the hardest jobs in your company because of the following reasons:

  1. They are expected to implement corporate policy at a location level without always having direct control of the locations and/or the ability to be on-site on a daily basis. 
  2. They are expected to get measurable results while only being on-site for very short periods of time. 
  3. We expect them to be experts in a lot of different areas from local store marketing, hiring, operations, training, etc.. People with all these skills are hard to find!

Whether your locations are owned by corporate or franchisees, your patch sizes may be different, but your expectations of your area managers are similar. You expect them to carry out corporate policy, get results, and do it knowing they aren’t going to be in every location every day.  

Getting results when you are on-site everyday is incredibly hard to do, if it was easy and every location manager was doing a great job, you wouldn’t even have area managers, they would be an unnecessary layer of supervision.  The truth is that most companies believe their store managers need help and oversight to keep them on track. 

For area managers to execute influence and change employee behavior without being on-site on a daily basis and with very limited visibility is near impossible.   

Realistically, we also expect them to change behavior quickly, most area managers try to hit multiple locations a day, which means with drive times and store hours you can expect that most area managers are at a location from 1 to 4 hours a day.  

The more stores they have the less times they will be able to visit per quarter. We’ve seen franchisor area managers who get to their stores 1 time per quarter, 3 times per year. 

Oh yeah, Area Managers are expensive. In a lot of cases they cost an organization double what a general manager costs per year. has area managers making between 125K and 200K a year in total costs with travel benefits, etc..  

Also, they aren’t a lot of tools out there for area managers to use to be more productive.  I’m dying to know this; does your organization provide any specific tools for your area managers to use to make them more effective at managing their locations?  If you do, put your answers in the comments section below. Also, email, and the same POS reports that everyone gets don’t count. I’m talking about specific area manager tools that help them manage their locations.  

What I’m driving at here is that area manager’s are expensive and they have a really hard job to do. If we are going to have area managers, and I have yet to see a multi-unit location company that doesn’t, then we should invest in solutions that are going to help them be more productive.

The better your area managers do in managing their locations, sales and profits should follow.

If you are reading this and agreeing with my premise and you are thinking we should invest in tools to help our area managers be more effective. Then allow me to suggest that you should be looking for a Platform that will help your area managers in 3 areas:

  1. Help them make the most of their time while on location.
  2. Provide them with the ability to create action plans and be able to follow-up while not on-site. 
  3. Provide them with tools to make them a SME on the fly.

Shocker here, I’m going to suggest that you investigate the OpsAnalitica Operations Management Platform.  

Let me take you through how OpsAnalitica will make your area managers more effective in each of these areas.

Effective Use of Time

When you have just a couple of hours to be on-site, you don’t have time to improvise or waste. It’s a giant waste of your time to walk into a location and just look for what is wrong and right, it is too easy to get side tracked and taken down tangents.  For you to be effective, you need to go in with a plan on what you are going to look at, what you are going to review with your store teams, and leave them with an action plan of tasks to complete.

The best way to plan a great store visit is to follow a prescribed checklist of items that you want to cover with the store team.  A good area manager should always be researching and planning their location visits before they arrive.  They should be pulling KPI’s, reviewing current and past performance and bringing all of that data together, usually from different systems, into a site visit plan.  

Looking at past site visit plans and identifying recurring issues is a major part of planning your site visit.  Having quick access to historical site visits and being able to look at them next to each other for trends, really helps area managers focus on results.  We actually created a report to make it easier to identify these past issues.  

In addition to performance measures, a good site visit focuses the area manager, on how the location is functioning at the time of their visit. There should be questions in their site visit regarding current promotions, critical areas of operations, and general business standards (uniforms, cleanliness, organization, staffing, security, etc.).  

We always recommend that an area manager site visit, follows the same path each time, culminating with a sit down with the MOD at the end to discuss KPI’s and what the manager found on their site visit.  

Our expectation is that the site visit is focused but doesn’t take an exorbitant amount of time. Part of the Area Manager’s job is relationship building, coaching, and helping the current management team.  Keep that in mind, as some of us have a tendency to throw too much into the site visits.  

We realize that some area managers might be on site several times a week, that is great, but doesn’t alleviate the need for having a plan for every site visit. Just hanging out isn’t a plan, but realistically a plan also can be to follow-up on a couple of things.

You cannot afford to waste your in-store time because every time you are in 1 location without purpose, there are other locations that aren’t getting the support they require.

By focusing the area manager and giving them a process to plan out their site visits will make those interactions more effective and will increase the area manager’s influence over the team.  

Action Planning 

An area manager not only has to be effective while on site but more importantly their influence and control needs to be felt when they aren’t there, because that is going to be the default.  

How you exhibit influence when you are not on site is through action planning and follow-up. 

If I come on site and identify 3 issues that need to be addressed and then I leave and there is no follow-up on those issues.  Then my visits become lip service and I’m considered a joke, just a person that you have to appease while they are there because there will not be any consequences for not following through.  

We find that companies that use paper processes both at the location and area manager level suffer from a lack of visibility and accountability.  Paper makes it impossible to follow-up, store employees know that, so they just pencil whip and don’t complete tasks.  

I have a buddy who is a RM of 7 banks and he experiences this all the time. Someone screwed up and not surprisingly the paper logs weren’t filled out that day so he can’t hold anyone directly accountable.  This pencil whipping of the red book, in the restaurant industry, is as old as the red book itself. 

When you can conduct your site visit and identify action items that the location team needs to correct. Then you assign those out as action plan tasks, best practice is to have them take pictures of the corrected items to complete, and then follow-up on those tasks when you aren’t on-site allows you to be more effective. 

Plus, by holding the team accountable and following up on those action items,  you changed the behavior of the employees at the location level, your influence extended past your time on-site.  

In the OpsAnalitica Platform there are multiple ways to accomplish action planning tasks, the best part about using the platform, is that you are able to manage these items from your mobile device at any location. 

Subject Matter Experts

The amount of different subjects that an area manager has to be conversant in, depends on the organization. At Quiznos, our area managers were expected to wear a ton of different hats. From picking sites, to local store marketing, to everything operations, and the list goes on. 

A friend of mine worked at another franchise sandwich concept and their area managers were doing a ton of selling to the franchisees on upgrading their menu boards, and investing in marketing systems, and renovating their spaces. We always marveled at that, how do you go into a store and tell them they need to fix x,y, and z items and at the same time try to get the owner to invest thousands of dollars in upgrades. It always felt oxymoronic.  

Needless to say, most organizations require their area managers to be experts at certain things.  One of the easiest ways to make someone a jack of all trades, is to give them tools and processes to follow to get them up to speed. 

This is another area where an Operations Management Platform, like OpsAnalitica, can be used to provide advanced processes the area managers can help execute at a higher level.

By collaborating with your different departments in the organization and letting the experts drive the process, we can create tools for the area manager that will turn a novice into an expert. 

In addition, having these tools be applied universally across the organization should translate into a more consistent results, reducing the impact of less skilled practitioners.

Wrapping Up

If we are going to have these very expensive area managers that are responsible for holding our store teams accountable to following corporate processes and for driving customer satisfaction, sales, and profits.

Then it is a no-brainer that we should invest in tools that make it easier for these employees to be effective and to generate an ROI on their cost.  

An Operations Management Platform will allow your area managers to be better at their jobs and your entire organization will benefit from their success.  

If you would like to learn more about the OpsAnalitica Operations Management Platform, please click here and schedule a demo.