Performance Scope + Boloco – Elevating the Employee Experience
Restaurant operators have long-been plagued by employee hiring and retention. With so many options in terms of where to work, potential employers must now strive to build strong and lasting cultures. This is done to promote employee development and engagement, and – not to mention – to avoid potentially crippling turnover.
For more than 15 years, PerformanceScope has helped clients develop healthy and productive internal work cultures through the development of their employee engagement survey tools. The tools measures employee experience and engagement, and are driven by the philosophy that happy employees make for the happiest guests.
“Our research shows that operators who give employees a say in their work environments results in healthier cultures, more engaged employees, lower turnover rates, and higher guest satisfaction levels,” said Mark Netsch, founder of PerformanceScope. “Low unemployment rates, increased competition and minimum wage pressures are only adding to operational burdens. Therefore, the restaurants concepts that can maintain engaged teams are increasing their ability to outperform their competition.”
The survey gives restaurant operators the ability to systematically capture employee feedback to support workplace culture, improve employee experience and ultimately improve the guest experience. “When operators take a proactive approach to measuring the employee experience – by actively listening to their teams – everything and everyone benefits,” Netsch said.
In 2018, Boston-based Boloco engaged PerformanceScope to measure the employee experience and support their vision for lasting employment success. Boloco’s founder, John Pepper, holds the belief that employee engagement and guest satisfaction are inherently tied together. “It’s nearly impossible to deliver on the guest experience without an engaged team,” Pepper said.
Pepper’s understanding of the issue stems from time spent working for a large company early in his career. “I always felt that my voice was kind of muted,” he said. “So, when I started my own company I wanted to make sure listening to the employee voice was an integral part of how we do things.”
In order to build employee feedback into their system, Pepper said the company first had to help them overcome their fear of getting into trouble for expressing their thoughts. “Many of them came from jobs where their voices had been muted by design,” he said. “So, it took me a while to get them to understand they can say what they think without getting into trouble. So, we did a lot of exercises where we tried to help people retrieve their lost voice.”
Pepper was confident about the satisfaction levels among Boloco’s employees; however, he felt the company needed to quantify what he believed was true. This is why he turned to PerformanceScope to design and deploy their employee engagement survey.
“We had done a ton of things ourselves, including building our own app, Worthee, but I was still wondering how to quantify our culture and measure the health of our culture. PerformanceScope had a simple, affordable way to accomplish that on a consistent basis,” he said.
A Deeper Look
Launching their first PerformanceScope employee engagement survey in December 2018, Pepper learned employees were getting mixed messages from managers when compared with messages from the executive team.
“We learned through the survey that while we were training and encouraging team members to speak their minds, but at the restaurant-level there was too often the message of ‘listen to your boss.’ So right away there was a conflict of culture that we didn’t previously know we had. Overcoming that and re-evaluating our training systems and internal communication was a critical piece of correcting the issue,” Pepper said.
Thanks, also, to an upward feedback section regarding employee feelings toward leadership, Pepper learned that at one location in particular there was cause for management concern.
“I remember seeing the survey results and wondering, ‘What’s going on there?’ But because team members knew they would not get in trouble for sharing their voice, we were able to address the issue and now we’re on the path to recovery,” Pepper said. “While the culture of our staff was affected, it was not in a way that impacted our guest experience.”
Pepper’s experience and subsequent results are not foreign to PerformanceScope founder Netsch. Over the years he has reviewed employee engagement survey results for brands large and small. However, John’s positive reaction to the results and ability to act quickly, make Boloco a stand-out brand in terms of employee engagement.
“John's passion for the people-side of his business is truly unique,” Netsch said. “He wants to do what is right for his employees and he understands the challenges of the modern labor market and the cost/impact of his labor market on the guest experience. He also understands the individual culture at each of his nine locations will determine overall organizational health and business outcomes.”
In the six months since the December employee engagement survey, his teams have updated operational procedures and are using these improved systems to better support his employee’s efforts to provide great customer service. Additionally, Pepper launched a second survey as a way to track progress since December.
“We are really focused again on doubling down on our efforts to address the mechanics of our business. One of the things we realized was a lack of consistency across our restaurants in terms of operational procedures, such as how you clean, and not leaving things to chance,” Pepper said. “Our team is pretty loyal and I felt good about a lot of things, but based on our employee experience survey results, we also had some misses. The survey helps you foresee what’s coming because what you see today may not be reflected in today’s results. For example, you could see from the survey that one of our teams was literally about to implode, and that was not on the radar.”
For Pepper and Netsch, the best way for multi-unit brands to know how they’re doing is to systematically capture employee feedback. And it’s been a well-researched strategy. In the book, “The Service Profit Chain,” the theory is covered and explored that employees who feel empowered often make better decisions for the business, provide a better guest experience, and ultimately drive better business outcomes.
“A restaurant draws from a limited geographic pool of employees and every business is competing for those same employees. The best employees seek the best leadership, like water seeking its own level. Capable, self-starting employees do not stick around lousy management long,” Netsch said. “Operators who take a proactive approach to systematically measure their employee culture, will retain the best employees and deliver the best guest experiences each day.”