Overcoming Our Hot Foods Challenges


When it comes to hot foods, our guests today are looking beyond cheesy, greasy and fried temptations. No doubt our products are within our guests’ everyday budget, but there are several challenges to our hot foods program we must overcome before we can reach SEI’s goal of 20 percent of the total merchandise sales.

First and foremost, for years we have been working to improve the quality of hot foods such as mini tacos, chicken tenders, and chicken nuggets/dippers. We continue to push and try different things with no positive outcomes. From the consumer’s point of view and previous experience, this is the same item that was discontinued, but now is being reintroduced under the same item name. If we continue going down this path, not only will our guests lose faith in that item, but they will also lose faith in our hot foods program altogether. There are many inconsistencies with the sizes in the mini tacos, chicken tenders, chicken sandwich, and chicken nuggets/dippers. The size discrepancies result in the product not being cooked properly. The end result is not steady due to some foods being over or undercooked, and therefore leads to many guests’ unhappy with these finish products.

I understand that the complexity of seasonality in dealing with the birds, but we must still have a very high standard from our vendors to provide us with a consistent size for these items year-around. We must implement some quality assurance over these products on an on-going basis. Additionally, we must test and verify the items in one market for at least a year before introducing it to the entire country.

The second issue with our program is too many items to execute, cook, and hold the hot foods case. We already have three kinds of pizza (cheese, meat and pepperoni), egg rolls, four types of wings, mini tacos, etc. It seems every month SEI introduces a new hot food item. Instead of having that many items, we should focus on a few items that are high quality, easy to execute, and are tested thoroughly in different regions before introducing them to the entire country.

The third issue of the hot foods pro- gram is the equipment (Turbo Chef) and lack of preventative maintenance. We understand that cleaning the oven is the responsibility of the franchisees, and that it needs to be cleaned thoroughly. However, preventative maintenance needs to be performed by a professional service provider technician regularly and the heat settings checked so the equipment cooks the product in a consistent manner.

The fourth challenge is there is no nutritional information professionally displayed and visible to today’s health conscious guests. To fix this issue, there should be menu boards and/or professionally displayed POPs that visibly includes the nutritional information.

The fifth obstacle is the design and layout of our stores and equipment. The design and layout is not user-friendly for our staff to execute at the highest level to meet the speedy customer service demand. One of our brand strategies is to grow more stores, but as we are growing, constructing, and/or remodeling, we must design and layout the store equipment, so it is simplified and user-friendly for our staff and saves labor dollars for the stores.

Franchisees do understand with all the challenges we are facing with heavy regulated categories, we MUST focus and grow the food service. But, in order to achieve our 20 percent or higher goals, we MUST have high quality products consistently and the stores must have the right tools and well-functioning equipment in order to execute to the highest level.