Great Harvest Bread Company opened in Montana in the 1970s, and soon began expanding as a so-called “Freedom Franchise.” The idea was that the brand’s unique identity should be presented in a slightly different way in each location, catering to the demands of the community that it would serve. It wanted to avoid opening “cookie cutter” storefronts that all looked the same, so it promised franchisee support without much of the pressure to build a storefront and experience that felt exactly the same from store to store.
This approach to franchising clearly worked—the formula has created a beloved brand with 180 locations across over 40 states, all of which have the goal of being a neighborhood hub. But the Freedom Franchise model has also created consistency issues that the brand has found to be increasingly pressing, especially as it begins to open multiple locations within a given market. As the brand expands, it still would like to uphold its authentic identity as a Freedom Franchise while also offering guests a consistent dining experience.
“I’ve said for a long time that every franchise company is a ‘Freedom Franchise’ until they hit about 30 units,” says Mike Ferretti, CEO and chairman of the Great Harvest Bread Company. Ferretti has been with the brand for over 20 years, and he’s overseen a great deal of growth during that time. “When you’re a smaller franchise with not a lot of market overlap, you’re maybe not quite as concerned with consistency across markets. But once you get to 30 units, you have to be.”
Ferretti and his 12-person field operations team now try to ensure that the distinct guest experience a patron gets in Minneapolis will be much the same as the one they enjoy when they take the family on vacation to Orlando. One recent example Ferretti cites as having given his team a headache is that some franchise locations were not in compliance with the brand’s rewards program. This became an issue when guests would be traveling and would be surprised to learn they could not accrue loyalty points. Another issue has been store locations buying different types of ingredients—for example, having over 20 types of flour being bought across the brand’s footprint—leaving the franchisor with little leverage in negotiating pricing with distributors.
For the above reasons, Ferretti and his field operations team have been increasingly turning to MeazureUp’s AuditApp, a digital site-visit checklist app built to help restaurants increase their franchisee compliance and brand-wide consistency. Now, whenever a member of the Great Harvest Bread Company’s field operations team enters a franchise location, they run through a checklist and flag areas that may need improvement. Users can take photos of good or bad practices they notice during a site visit, and require that a photo get posted when an area of concern is addressed. The app unifies the site-visit data under a central dashboard that displays benchmarks and trend lines and helps the field operations team quickly analyze whether issues are one-offs or more widespread. “It’s a fabulous platform because we can see everything in real time,” Ferretti says. “It’s improved the consistency of evaluations and improved the timeliness of reports.”
Ferretti also notes that the program has become something that franchisees themselves enjoy. A small but growing number of them have even started using it to self evaluate their stores. This is a huge bonus to a brand that has 180 locations across over 40 states and has plans to expand even further—even if there are 12 members of the field operations team, they can’t be in every store each week, or month, even.
“One of the things I love most about AuditApp is that we’ve been using it long enough where we’ve developed a history at each location,” Ferretti says. “I can go back and see what’s being followed up on, what’s gotten done, and where improvements are still needed. Even if I can’t physically be in a store, the visual aspect of it helps me see what stores are looking like. That’s huge.”
For more on AuditApp, visit the MeazureUp website.