Why franchisee self-audits helped improve business at The Cheesecake Shop

Franchisee self-audits get thumbs up at The Cheesecake Shop
Franchisee self-audits get thumbs up at The Cheesecake Shop

An easy to use app has helped The Cheesecake Shop introduce franchisee self-audits across the national food retail chain.

The Cheesecake Shop moved from in-house auditing conducted by field managers to outsourced auditing, and 12 months ago adopted the d-i-y process that is getting a big thumbs up from franchisees.

MD Ken Rosebery tells Inside Franchise Business Executive the business implemented the new process in response to a franchisee satisfaction survey.

Looking at the auditing challenge

It was clear franchisees hated auditors turning up with a clipboard and marking a flour-covered bench top dirty even though the franchisee was in the middle of cake-making, he explains

“It was a flawed process. Most franchisees and franchisors would get that. You are in an operational environment, a busy shop, being assessed during the day on every little detail.”

The outsourced auditing had been seen as a solution to the inefficiencies of the in-house audits previously conducted by field managers.

In the face of time pressures field manager audits were being missed, and there was a tendency to focus purely on compliance. That meant some field managers avoided the tough conversations or full training sessions required to bring a franchise outlet in line with performance standards.

“It was setting up a franchise area manager as cop and coach,” Rosebery points out. 

It also proved an inefficient use of the field manager’s time.

“So we thought, let’s do something different. Let a franchisee or member of staff do the audit.”

Why franchisee self audits?

Rosebery countered the objections that franchisees would not maintain the standards recorded beyond the day of audit by pointing out that franchisees have the same opportunities to drop standards with an outsourced auditing process.

“This is a big issue with franchisors, the surprise visit. But we took the attitude of trust, that of course franchisees want to comply so long as they know what they need to comply to.”

The solution is providing photos of every element that will be audited so franchisees have something to match. 

Rosebery points out that providing images of the required standards for a display cabinet, for instance, leaves franchisees in no doubt as to what is expected of them.

“Compliance 100 per cent of the time is an issue of practicality and trust. We’ve had an enormously positive feedback from franchisees.The purpose of the audit changed to educate franchisees not to harangue or criticise them.”

How does it work?

Each audit takes less than 15 minutes and the program has been designed so there is one round every five weeks, each with a particular focus, such as front of house, back of house, workplace health and safety.

Franchisees provide 10 photos to match the 10 questions.

The whole process is undertaken using an Op Central app on a phone or tablet, making the audit quick and easy for franchisees. Photos record time and date and can’t be stored on the app which ensures audit accuracy.

Head office reviews the audits and provides feedback using a traffic light system. If a franchisee fails the standard they get a red light, which means they need to get green lights on the next five audits.

Continual failures are handled first by the field team, and as a final resort an external audit is conducted with the $300 cost paid by the franchisee.

Benefits of digital innovations

“The process has worked brilliantly. The software allows for an action plan from the audit, field team can review detailed reports. We have complete transparency from head office to franchisees,” says Rosebery,.

The system is one of several digitally-driven innovations that are improving processes in-store for the dessert chain.

Adopting the self-audit, online learning and centralising financial management has freed up field managers’ time by removing repetitive tasks.

“We knew we had to make their life more productive so they could focus on coaching and mentoring,” Rosebery says.

The Cheesecake Shop is also innovating in the mystery shopper zone, replacing the TruRating digital system with an in-house PoS interactive screen using emoticons.

“That traps data and gives us an idea of customer happiness.Mystery shopping leads to too much room for disagreement over the measurement credibility. You have to have measures franchisees find credible.”

The Cheesecake Shop is in the process of rolling out this customer measurement and PoS system.