How To Keep Your GMs: Turn Them Into Operating Partners!
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How To Keep Your GMs: Turn Them Into Operating Partners!

How To Keep Your GMs: Turn Them Into Operating Partners!

While Q2 2019 is off to a great start, turnover continues to be a major obstacle for franchisees looking to fill their development schedules. Turnover is costly and extremely expensive and damaging to customers, while demoralizing to your teams. Another obstacle is that as the number of restaurants and new concepts continues to grow, so does competition for the best employees.

Challenge #1: Transforming the GM to operating partner

The general manager is the head coach of your team. A great GM provides mentorship and leadership, and in some ways is just as important in certain stages of a young person's career as their parents and teachers. As a young GM, it was my objective each day to teach someone something new and educate them on accountability. They were taught how important it was to be on time, hospitable, and a great role model to the rest of the team. It was important to embrace each other, have their back, and make them more successful than yourself. A great leader creates great leaders!

What I've said is no secret. However, I believe the challenge in keeping great GMs in your organization can be difficult. We know the best place to find a great GM is from another great organization that's trained and developed them to be successful. But as noted above, with more restaurants opening this has become more difficult.

Great franchisors must focusing on helping their franchisees with programs to transform their GMs into operating partners--on rolling out an operating partner program and saying goodbye to the title "general manager." In the restaurant business, this transformation is vital. As operating partners, GMs must have a voice in their business, skin in the game, and be able to provide their thoughts and ideas as partners. This will be a big key to continued success for both the franchisee group and, of course, the franchisor.

Challenge #2: Retaining hourly team members

Our team members are the most important pieces in our business. Most would say our customer is, and ultimately I would agree. However, our customers will only be as happy as the experience they have with our team members. If we focus on making our team members our most important business asset, this will lead to very happy customers.

The first thing we need to do after training and embracing the successes of our team members is to make sure we're doing everything we can to retain them. In our organization, we find that if we lose our in-store operator, within the first 30 days we will turn over nearly 50 percent of our staff. Team members don't want to start over with a new mentor/head coach/leader every 6 months. They want that person to be a constant in their lives.

The rest of what is needed to retain your team is harder than it seems, as many franchise leaders have found. Team members in our industry tend to be very young, and their activities and interests continue to grow. Technology plays a part in this, as information and interaction have risen to a new level in the social media age. These are some of the items we have focused on for retention.

  1. Using a scheduling platform that allows interaction with the team for covering shifts, communicating scheduled shifts, and praising team members. Team members in this day and age love interacting through technology. When dealing with their schedule, many don't like asking the manager or other team members directly as their first line of communication. Technology platforms also allow franchisor and franchisee to post training videos and key restaurant information to each team member.
  2. Training and educating team members for success. It is very important to have a detailed training program--and to use it. This provides education on properly preparing food for the guest, as well as critical food safety initiatives. I've found that knowledge, accountability, and empowerment are important to team members, and that it starts with training them the right way and providing them with the tools to be successful.
  3. Ongoing investment in both your own and your franchisees' business in the following areas also is key:
    • Technology programs that can interact with both employees and operating partners.
    • Repair and maintenance. If you want your team members to stick around and be proud of where they work, franchisees must take care of their business. No team member will stick around if your kitchen air-conditioning unit is down all summer and you expect them to work in extreme conditions. Industry conditions are extreme enough as the norm.
    • Pay a fair wage. Give team members what they deserve. Yes, this must come with knowledge, accountability, and tenure. Spend time engaging with each team member individually month-to-month and giving smaller increases more often to keep them both engaged and feeling rewarded.
  4. Along with this, consider introducing some of the following programs to your franchisees:
    • Rewards and recognition for managers and team members.
    • A morale budget to do something great for top performers.
    • Monthly or quarterly team meetings where managers cook breakfast for all the team members and/or hand out tenure rewards or hat pins.
    • Celebrate team members' birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, etc.

If franchisors focus on eliminating GM turnover by requiring every franchisee to have an operating partner for each restaurant, the franchise is well on its way. Franchisors that arm their franchisees with the right retention programs will continue to thrive and grow!

 Jason Ingermanson is president and CEO of JRI Management. Contact him at 785-404-2210 or

Published: August 24th, 2019

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