The fan-favorite buffet brand had to close stores and furlough staff during COVID. Here’s a tool that’s helping it bounce back.

No type of restaurant got hit harder by the pandemic than buffet brands. Golden Corral can attest—a recent deep dive by FSR magazine illustrated why the fan-favorite eatery was forced to shutter around 125 locations in the early days of the pandemic. 

With that in mind, Golden Corral’s comeback story has been one for the ages. Not only has the brand returned to its 2019 form, but it actually exceeded those pre-pandemic sales benchmarks by 3 percent to 5 percent in 2021. Numbers like that help explain why the buffet brand earned the International Foodservice Manufacturers Association’s Gold Plate Award in 2022. 

The newfound momentum has former franchisees asking to get back into the mix, and the brand is raking in new inquiries as well. So how did the brand get here? For starters, it relied heavily on a dedicated team of executives and employees who took on more work than they once had. Consider Manny Gomez, the brand’s senior training instructor, who was suddenly tasked with a way to streamline onsite visits. Where some may have felt burdened by this, Gomez—who has been working for Golden Corral since 2003—saw it as an opportunity. 

“After COVID, we came back and had to take on other roles,” Gomez says. “For us, this was just another example of being able to branch out and do different things.” 

Gomez immediately identified an issue. Golden Corral’s site visits—conducted to ensure brand-wide consistency—had previously been done on paper and then entered into a program on a laptop. It made the process tedious and didn’t generate optimal results: if something were flagged as an issue, it wasn’t always formally communicated to the franchisee, or store-level management. Other members of the C-suite would have no way of knowing if it were a one-off, or a recurring regional issue. 

Eventually, Gomez and the team at Golden Corral implemented MeazureUp’s AuditApp, a digital site visit tool with a mobile-first approach. Site visits are, in real time, entered into a portal that automatically generates notifications and action plans for the C-suite, regional management, and store-level team members. If Golden Corral were going to re-enter a growth phase, its overall consistency depended upon real-time information and knowing that any issues were being followed up on. 

Gomez says his team has a couple of different favorite use-cases when it comes to AuditApp. The first is the ability to deploy corrective strategies through action plans: “You can create action plans right on the spot,” Gomez says. “I love the ability to set and send reminder notifications whenever we want. Too many times you set a goal or action plan and never revisit. MeazureUp helps close that gap.” 

Gomez and his team also enjoy the ability to take and quickly upload photos to spotlight areas where corrective action is needed—or to highlight where a location is doing something especially well. “A picture is worth 1,000 words,” Gomez says. “Our multi-unit operators say that all the time. And the pictures are not just a way to show something that needs to be fixed. It’s just as effective to show evidence that something good has happened.” 

As Golden Corral hits a new phase of growth in a post-COVID landscape, MeazureUp’s AuditApp has already embedded itself as a key tool for the brand. Gomez says the app’s effectiveness will only proliferate as the brand uses it more and establishes annual performance benchmarks at each location. 

“It’s been a year since we implemented AuditApp, so now the data is starting to pile up,” Gomez says. “Before it was: ‘Okay, here’s what is coming through.’ Now we can see trends, what are repeat issues and things like that. It’s been really helpful. 

“Everything we inspect,” Gomez continues, “we expect a good result. If you’re not looking at things, you can’t expect them to improve. So we’re seeing some good things coming from this, for sure.” 

For more information on Audit App, visit the MeazureUp website

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