Houston Enterprises, a rapidly expanding KFC franchisee group, is on the cusp of opening its twentieth location. With 4X growth in the past few years, the company’s vice president and chief operating officer, Sherry Houston, has her work cut out for her. When the organization ran four restaurants, it was somewhat manageable for her to build personal relationships and keep up with day-to-day communications around training and payroll through phone calls, store visits, and weekly manager meetings. However, as the business prepared to accelerate expansion, Sherry knew this approach wouldn’t scale. She heard about Crew’s frontline digital workplace at a conference, and decided to give it a try.
Houston remembers, “At first, we had our managers experiment with Crew, and they just loved it. We quickly realized how useful the platform was and rolled it out to the rest of our frontline in days.” Since then, the company has added several new locations, and the ability to instantly communicate using an easy-to-use app is a huge time-saver. Once the COVID-19 pandemic started, Crew’s group messaging capabilities became even more important for getting out real-time updates to the entire organization within seconds.
In addition, Crew gave the company’s general managers a virtual space to post schedules that everybody can access from their mobile devices. By allowing frontline workers to keep track of their schedules without visiting or calling into the restaurant, this helped minimize missed shifts. Now, managers can see which employees view each schedule. And staff can effortlessly find their own coverage if they want to swap shifts simply by sending out a quick message via Crew, rather than calling 15 different people one-by-one.
There are very few services that actually live up to the hype and do what they say they're going to do. That’s why I was skeptical when our sales rep said Crew would change the way we do business, but it truly has. I can't imagine growing the way we have without the advantage of instant communication through Crew.”
Sherry Houston, Vice President and COO, Houston Enterprises
The most significant benefit of Crew came in the form of a more connected workforce—from the c-suite to the cashier, and everyone in between. Houston notes that being able to reach anyone at any time saves her two to three hours each and every day. However, she points out, “It's not just the time savings, it’s about the culture we’re able to build across our widely dispersed locations. Especially with a pandemic going on, there are people on the team who I won’t be able to meet face-to-face for a long time, but I can build relationships with them using the Crew app, and that’s important in my role. Plus, everybody in the company can privately contact me, which they are often more comfortable doing through digital channels than over the phone.”
Houston utilizes Crew to share speed and accuracy rankings with the company every day, showing everyone, down to the latest new hire, how their restaurant is tracking towards its goals compared with other locations. The company’s area coaches help motivate the frontline by regularly posting celebrations when workers receive positive comments from the customer hotline. “We’re able to recognize that person in front of everybody immediately,” says Houston.
Since managers have their own dedicated group on Crew, they also problem solve together, which takes pressure off the area coaches from worrying about things like troubleshooting maintenance issues. Finally, Houston Enterprises moved its weekly manager meetings onto Crew, rather than meeting in person or over Zoom to review store metrics, with each general manager simply posting their numbers to the group and exchanging best practices in real time.
Most recently, Crew has been helping the team keep up with rapidly shifting communication, training, and scheduling demands. The platform gives the company’s leaders peace of mind by capturing which employees see each message, so there’s no question about compliance expectations. "When COVID-19 first started, there were operational changes daily, sometimes more than once a day,” shares Houston. “Crew lets us send updates to the entire team at once—about mask requirements, daily training reminders, how to handle product, what to disinfect, ideas for how to support touchless payments, supply chain issues, and store closures.” She continues, “We noticed a huge difference when we started posting a daily cleaning checklist. Teams quickly engaged by sharing pictures of what they had cleaned, which not only got people motivated, but gave them that little sense of friendly competition.”
The mobile app’s shift coverage functionality also proves invaluable when people aren’t able to come to work because of COVID-19 symptoms. While call-ins have increased, the organization is able to manage its staffing needs dynamically using Crew. Houston estimates that not having to call around looking for last-minute coverage saves each of the general managers hours every week, adding up to a monthly savings of thousands of dollars for the business. “Every time a manager had to pick up the phone, they felt panicked because their store wasn’t staffed,” mentions Houston. “Using Crew to find shift covers keeps their stress levels down, so they can run a better shift and our customers get better service.”
Crew’s impact has been most noticeable at the business’ newly acquired locations, which gained the benefits of digital communications late last year. With the help of Crew, as well as other contributing factors, several restaurants have been able to reduce turnover and improve operational performance month after month, including their daily voice of the customer and speed metrics, which have increased 5% and 10%, respectively. “A lot of this success can be attributed to posting updated metrics and reminders daily in Crew, along with gaining the feeling of being part of a bigger team,” commented Houston.
The best part of Crew for me is being able to easily reach out to all managers, get responses quickly, and see who has read the messages. It’s awesome to be able to celebrate the teams at a store when they receive recognition, because it makes them more involved in their restaurant goals and performance.”
Sarah Williamson, Area Coach, Houston Enterprises