Kitchen Solvers
Published August 11, 2021

Why Franchisee Satisfaction Is the Number 1 Driver for Kitchen Solvers

How they use FBR’s benchmarking data to quantify happiness and measure success

Zach Nolte, president of Kitchen Solvers, a six-time Franchisee Satisfaction Award winner, talked with Nicole Dudley, FBR’s Director of Client Relations, about how they use FBR’s survey to put quantifiable metrics around franchisee satisfaction, and use the survey data to show their franchisees that they are listening and making changes based on their feedback. As Nolte points out, “In this world where franchising is such a relationship type of business, why wouldn’t you be looking back at the number one thing that should be driving your business, which is franchisee satisfaction? If people aren’t happy in your system, you don’t have anything to sell.” 

Watch the Interview: 

 

What It Means to Be an FBR Award Winner

Nicole Dudley: I’m here today with Zach Nolte at Kitchen Solvers. Thanks for joining me today, Zach.

Zach Nolte: Thanks for having me.

Nicole: You guys have been working with us consistently since 2010…pretty much as long as I’ve been working here, which is awesome. You’ve been a great client throughout that entire time, and through the process of doing the survey and asking and collecting feedback from your owners, we’ve been able to name Kitchen Solvers as one of our Top Franchises for six years.

Along with recent features, such as our Top Franchises for Culture, our Top Low-Cost feature, and then the recent Recession-Proof list we released and announced last month, it’s great to see those types of callouts throughout the year for a great brand. I want to kick it off with you on, what does it mean to be an FBR award winner?

Zach: It’s more or less a huge confirmation that the message that’s in our core values and the message that’s also in our mission statement is making an impact all the way through to our franchise partners.

To continuously be awarded these different awards in all different categories, it means that we’re doing something right and it’s resonating with our franchise partners.

To continuously be awarded these different awards in all different categories, it means that we’re doing something right and it’s resonating with our franchise partners.

Nicole: From working with us and going through that, has the survey data that we provide to you changed the way you do business, if it’s changing at all?

Zach: I wouldn’t say that it has directly changed the philosophy of how we’ve been managing our business. We take a very franchise first, franchise partner first, kind of attitude.

Also, again, doing this allows us to reconfirm what we’re doing and in our goals, and being able to make sure it is a well rounded statement that resonates with our franchise partners, and it engages that.

We’re able to then take something that’s inherently difficult to measure from a satisfaction standpoint and apply some numbers to it, and then also benchmark it across other brands that FBR has, and it allows us to then benchmark year to year.

Doing this since 2010, we have a lot of data that we can go back and say, these are the years that we made these big jumps, and we can then correlate it back to certain things that we’ve done those years and are able to capitalize and keep growing as a system.

Nicole: Was that one of the big reasons to choose working with us – the benchmarking –  or were there other factors that came into choosing to work with FBR?

Zach: It’s definitely along the benchmarking side of things, and it is difficult to get some of that feedback from your franchisees without having this type of survey in place.

You can base your franchisee satisfaction off of sales, certain phone calls you have with the franchise partners, or some franchisee engagement, but you have those partners that may not be doing those initial things like calling the home office every single day.

They may be sitting back and reviewing some of their recordings, or they’re not responding to some of the emails going out. Trying to find a way that we can get that information in a very non-intrusive type of way. That’s what the survey has done for us and be able to get that feedback without having to call everybody and say, “Hey, how’s it going?”

Nicole: It also helps to know, because from the survey side of it you have those that can be anonymous but also those that choose to put their name on it, that when you do make those phone calls, your conversations can be more directed as well. It ties back to that survey feedback – that’s always great to do that and engage in that way.

From using it operationally, what’s been your experience when it comes to possibly using the data and the feedback with candidates or with helping to grow the system?

Zach: We don’t use the FBR survey or the additional tools for advertising, but what we do is that we tally those numbers at the end of the day.

If we’re seeing certain categories that rank very high, we portray those in all of our franchise development efforts, and we incorporate it into this holistic type of approach where they see that we have franchisee satisfaction.

It’s then heard through all the validation that the franchisees are doing with our current franchises, and it’s showcased in a way that they keep seeing these numbers, and then they also are validating those numbers through a lot of those calls.

We have it on our one-pagers for sell sheets. It’s on our websites. It’s in all of our webinars. We’re showcasing a lot of those different categories in our score. We use it over and over again in all facets of our business.

We have it on our one-pagers for sell sheets. It’s on our websites. It’s in all of our webinars. We’re showcasing a lot of those different categories in our score. We use it over and over again in all facets of our business.

 

Driving Strategy with Data

Nicole: That helps tie into the next question I have. A lot of franchisors talk about using the data with their strategic planning. How do you guys take that and help drive your strategic plans and also share it with your team internally?

Zach: When we get that data back, I give everybody instant access to it so that we’re all reviewing data right when we get it.

We spend the next week or two reviewing it, digging in deep, reading all the responses in the survey, and then we have a team meeting internally to discuss some of the things. Mostly just focused on the pros, but then also taking a look at some of the things that we could do better. Those then are established as our next year’s goals or drivers.

We do the survey at the end of August or September, then we have our convention or our annual conference that we have with all our franchise partners the following January, and we bring to the table all the results that we have found.

Then we also put together initiatives so that the franchise partners can see an action that’s being taken upon some of their responses, and we showcase that for everybody to see, so they can see that a lot of what they’re doing in this survey, that something’s being done about it.

If it is something that we need to incorporate from a support standpoint, we’re hearing them, we’re listening to them, and then we’re also incorporating it into the next year’s goals and philosophy. We use it every day on the operational side of things.

Back to your original question, too, on more or less the, Is there any type of numbers that we can pull from it? it’s hard to draw a direct correlation between the survey and sales revenue, or whatever that is, but we have been able to see since we’ve been doing this survey that things are increasing.

We could probably draw some correlations that we’ve been seeing our margins increasing every single year. Our franchisee satisfaction increases every year, and along with that comes all these other ancillary things that make this system a positive system to be in.

 

Changing the Narrative Through COVID

Nicole: September 2020 was the last time we did the survey, and of course, the last year has been difficult for many people. Do you have a specific success story that’s come out of 2020?

Zach: There’s a lot that came out of 2020. I would draw back to three things we did. We over-communicated, we showed a lot of empathy, and we also stayed very fluid through this last year.

The over-communication part happened with all the CDC guidelines and also with the PPP loans, and all that type of stuff. Right before we took the survey, we were getting hit with COVID and the lockdowns, and in that type of year, we scored very high and a lot of that came down to how we communicated with our franchise partners.

The PPP loan, in general, was very confusing even for those people that were supposed to be the go-to loan officers. We over-communicated on a lot of that stuff so that they knew exactly who to go to if they wanted the loan, and what was at stake when they did it.

We also did a lot of things, like we hold a Friday call every single week, and we have for the last seven or eight years. In that Friday call, just to give the franchisees a chance to listen to other people going through the same exact things that they are, to listen and have that sounding board, also helped a lot throughout that time.

Then we were then able to stay fluid with our virtual sales processes, coming out with new ways that we could help sell to our customers that still wanted our services, but were more cautious about being in their homes.

We came out with a lot of those types of things that, again, were support services that we gave to our franchisees, which then were directly talked about in the annual survey that we do with them.

Throughout that year then, we did show an overall growth in overall sales. A lot of our franchisees came out happy, and coming into this year, this industry is booming right now.

Nicole: Awesome. From the operational side to the growth and recruitment strategies that you had, did it change how you approached bringing candidates on or marketing to potential owners?

Zach: It did. There was a lot that had happened from a franchise development, and then also from a COVID, so there’s a lot of moving parts. We did have to then start telling a little bit of the story about how COVID has impacted our business.

We were fortunate to not have to be forced to be locked down or shut down. We were deemed somewhat of an essential business. We did have to tell that story about the industry.

Things were educated on differently, but we kept hitting home on the support, the type of value that we can provide, and then also the fact that we’re a small flexible office that franchisee satisfaction and our per unit metrics are number one to us. We kept hitting home on those types of things.

 

Fostering a Positive Culture Across the Organization

Nicole: When you think about your culture, it seems very strong with those types of relationships and communication styles that you guys have. How else would you describe the culture and how you foster it among your employees, your franchisees, and the leadership team?

Zach: Three of our core values are respect, integrity, and partnership, and you can sum all those words up to, family. Unintentionally, I saw Kitchen Solvers as more or less a team and that group type of setting, but when you take in those three different core values, you blend in with us at the home office, our personalities, the types of people that we’re bringing in, this is a family. It’s an extension of their existing families that we can share all the same ideas. We’ve all been through the same battles, and it’s hard not to come back and say, this is a family type of atmosphere, and you can see it every time we get together at our Friday calls, conventions, everything else.

It’s inherently ingrained into us whether we like it or not. [laughs] This is who we are, and we’re always going to be that large family that people can be a part of, and we’ll keep going that way.

Nicole: We’ve certainly enjoyed partnering with you guys throughout the years. I want to wrap it up with one question. If you were talking to someone and they asked you why they should do business with FBR, what would you tell them?

Zach: I throw it back at them and say, “What are some things that you do to measure success?” They would probably give me those cliche answers of, “Oh, yeah. My sales volume, my profitability numbers are through the roof,” and I’m like, “Well, are your franchisees happy?” and they would say, “Yeah.”

I’m like, how would you know they are happy or not? Show it to me. You quantify it. Most people can’t do that, and if you can’t quantify those things and you’re not measuring those things, you need to be.

In this world where franchising is such a relationship type of business, why wouldn’t you be looking back at the number one thing that should be driving your business, which is franchisee satisfaction? If people aren’t happy in your system, you don’t have anything to sell.

In this world where franchising is such a relationship type of business, why wouldn’t you be looking back at the number one thing that should be driving your business, which is franchisee satisfaction? If people aren’t happy in your system, you don’t have anything to sell.

If you’re not measuring it, you need to be. The FBR survey is a number one driver for all my decisions starting off at the beginning of the year, and that’s also going forward for setting goals. It’s always going to be part of it. I just throw it back at them and see what they say. There’s no reason not to.

Nicole:  Exactly. There really isn’t. You should just do it, right?

Zach:  Exactly.

Nicole:  I appreciate that, and I do appreciate all your time today. Thank you so much, and I’ll talk to you later.

Zach:  Awesome. Thank you very much.

 


   

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About the Author: Ali Forman

As the Marketing Director, Ali’s role is to educate franchise companies about and inspire them to participate in FBR’s research in order to grow and improve their brands. Ali lives in Maine with her husband and two sons.
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