Getting Back To ‘Quality’ Visits With Our Field Consultants
In the last two months franchisees throughout the country, with help from corporate, have placed a lot of emphasis on hot foods. We all understand this is the direction 7-Eleven is going, because it will help us remain competitive. The question that arises in the midst of all this activity is how effective is the quality visit from your field consultant during our transition into hot foods?
We realize hot foods are intended to help maximize sales and profits, and field consultants work with franchisees on some of their needs, but during the last two or three months it feels less like the quality visit we expect and more like it’s back to “policing” our stores. This change puts more strain on a lot of franchisees as we try to launch a new program while dealing with rising labor costs due to the minimum wage hikes being implemented across the country.
During my travels recently I asked franchisees what has changed with their quality visit. The majority answered that they feel their time is no longer their own. Weekends and evenings used to be time for the family, but now it seems like we are on call in case any issue arises at the store. I realize the importance of a field consultant texting a franchisee if there’s a problem that’s going to impact the store, such as a late CDC or a delivery issue. But we’re getting to the point where we’re being summoned to our stores by our field consultants for issues that could be rectified by our staff on duty.
In the past, the formula that worked best for the quality visits involved your field consultant calling you the week prior to find out what is on your agenda so he could come prepared. We have definitely broken away from that. Now the quality visit is more about what the topics of the week are, and those are addressed first.
When you look at the reason for this, I think it’s simple. Given the changes to our business, field consultants have been placed in a position where they need to get all stores in their area up to the new, universal standards set by SEI—not only in performance, but also in appearance. So instead of focusing on helping you maximize your sales and profits in accordance to your neighborhood and customers’ needs, your field consultant is more concerned with meeting SEI’s numbers. Because of this the field consultants are overwhelmed and it’s causing a negative feeling. We need to get away from the demands that are being put on field consultants by corporate.
I have always supported the hot foods program, but I believe it needs to be tested to see which items are best suited to each store in order to maximum sales and profits. My solution is for SEI to allow us to cook whatever we want for a month and give it a good shot, then reevaluate the hot foods program for individual stores. I also recommend that SEI absorb the write-offs for every store during that entire month. This would give us a true indication of hot foods sales numbers, if not nationwide, then perhaps in specific regions.
I believe fixing the hot foods program and repairing our quality visits with our field consultants will make us better ready to move the brand forward. The future is ours, and there are many things coming, but we need to establish goals that will lead to mutual satisfaction and profits for franchisees and SEI.