Story Highlights

  • Field support employees link the head office and each restaurant
  • Field support should measure and recognize high performance in their district
  • Training as coaches will help them do their jobs better

This is the fourth article in our series for restaurant leaders and describes the third point of The Golden Thread, Gallup's strategy for getting ahead of your restaurant competition. Read the first, second and third articles in this series.

Field support employees are the third point on The Golden Thread of a growth-oriented, profit-making restaurant culture.

Positioned properly, field support can coach, align and motivate whole companies around their purpose and brand promise.

Whether they're called district managers, regional managers, field trainers, field recruiters, HR business partners or market directors, field operation specialists are the interface between stores and the head office, which puts them in a pivotal role.

Field operatives must understand the high-level, data-driven decisions made on a corporate level to drive purpose and strategy. Then field support must communicate the most critical information in a scalable and operationally simple format to paint a picture that motivates store employees on the front line.

Meanwhile, field operatives have to understand the granular and sometimes location-specific issues of stores, analyze how they support the company's purpose and values, and make it all relatable at headquarters.

They must then integrate those two perspectives into a functional solution -- one that allows stores and headquarters to deliver experiences that allow customers to feel the brand promise consistently.

In a lot of ways, field support employees are the engines of a crucial feedback loop that establishes a conduit of culture. And they have a tremendous impact on how consistently your front lines deliver your brand promise to your customers.

The effectiveness of that impact depends on how the company empowers field support to align the head office, front-line employees, culture, purpose and brand promise.

Coaching Performance

In world-class restaurants, field support people have the tools to align headquarters and stores around creating the optimal customer experience.

Exactly which tools differ from company to company and sometimes even from store to store.

But in food service, it's no longer enough for field leaders to excel at operations. Those are just table stakes in the hyper-competitive restaurant industry.

They need to be coaches, too.

Coaching, to field support, is aligning the front of the store with the C-suite on the subjects of purpose, values, brand promise, product, strategy and customers.

Good coaching builds good cultures. But too often, field support people find themselves being either apologists or enforcers for the head office.

That's the wrong way to cultivate culture.

Better by far is the field support people or coaches who can explain, align and motivate.

A manager who isn't sure why the brand moved from a $10 lunch to a 4x4 deal needs a district manager who is able to explain the strategy so clearly that counter people can easily relay it to their customers.

A vice president who wonders if waiting areas are a good place to start upselling needs regional managers with solid, highly localized knowledge.

A franchise owner who thinks local sourcing is a pain needs a field operations partner who can coach anyone through the values of local sourcing and tie them back to purpose and culture. And then unite everyone behind the initiative.

To do that well, field support needs metrics that are clear, accessible and transparent. But remember, metrics are about people -- not just numbers and not just performance. Most field operators struggle understanding how to coach their teams on the mass amount of data they have on hand. It isn't about how good your data is but how well you can translate that data to coach the people that create the change.

Those metrics should take into account what local customers are saying, how engaged local employees are, what turnover looks like on a store-to-store basis, and how well the field support team is succession planning for the future.

Employees should know exactly what success looks like, how to get there and where to find help if they need it. And every time a metric indicating success is hit or surpassed, field support should broadcast that performance story far and wide.

Field support cheerleading turns high performers into role models and coaching examples.

A manager who knocked the new $10 lunch out of the park, a server who consistently doubled appetizer orders among customers who aren't even seated, or a vendor relations specialist who found fresh carrots in New England all winter -- they all have a field support person with metrics to brag about and a lesson to teach.

Recognition is a huge part of engagement, but it's also a useful tool for continually reaching the numbers that matter.

Meanwhile, field people must always circle back to how performance supports -- and is supported by -- the culture, purpose and brand promise. They should champion it in a continuous loop from the head office to the store and back.

If they aren't set up to play that role, reimagine what the role should look like or change it completely. Don't think you are stuck and have to have a hierarchical approach to managing your stores or supporting your franchise owners.

And field support should always keep the customer firmly in mind.

Everything always comes back to the customer.

The Conduit

Field operations are the conduit connecting the head office with customer-facing employees.

When conduits break, whole organizations can develop a spray-and-pray mentality -- spray the strategy as broadly as possible, pray customers buy it.

That's no way to deliver your brand promise to customers.

For long-term growth and profit, empower field support to align headquarters, stores, culture, purpose and brand promise. Teach them to coach and keep everyone accountable for transparent metrics.

Give field operatives what they need to do what only they can do -- bring different parts of a company together to serve customers.

Gallup can help you train your field operatives to connect the entire company:

Jennifer Robison contributed to this article.

Gallup