With 175 stores, Kroger-owned Loaf ‘N Jug convenience store needed a better way to manage their day-to-day operations. With The Manager’s Red Book®, they streamlined their operations and cut down on expensive administrative costs.
• Multiple locations were using different systems for the same processes
• Checklists and paper weren’t organized and difficult to track
• District managers found it difficult to track performance across stores
• Operational was losing efficiency because managers were communication face-to-face only
Loaf ‘N Jug managers are all using the same operational handbook
• Communication is centralized and recorded, reducing errors and increasing accountability
• Cash deposits are closely tracked and initialed, reducing cash handling mistakes
• Administrative costs are more predictable across all stores
As one of five Kroger convenience store chains, Loaf ‘N Jug has found that the key to success for its 10 c-stores involves getting everyone on the same page—quite literally. The Manager’s Red Book® is used in all 175 Loaf ‘N Jug locations, including those with Subway restaurants or car washes and has been since 2012. The result? Streamlined operations at every level, from district management all the way down to store employees.
“The Manager’s Red Book® makes running our stores 100 percent easier because you go into a store and you’re looking for one book instead of 12 binders and three clipboards,” says Loaf ‘N Jug District Manager Maria Warden, who has been with the company for a little more than eight years. “It makes your life a lot easier.”
The Onramp to Increased Efficiency
Prior to implementing The Manager’s Red Book®, each store was following its own set of systems, making it tricky for management at the district level and above to understand and manage operations.
When Nancy Riggs, Vice President of Quick Stop, a division of Kroger, came onboard at Loaf ‘N Jug, she brought with her a history in restaurant management, which helped pave the way for the initial implementation of The Manager’s Red Book®.
Nearly every task, checklist, calendar, inventory, maintenance, cash or sales log they currently have in their Manager’s Red Book®, they were using before but the challenge was that each store had its own way of doing it.
“We probably had 10 or 15 binders and clipboards and whatever else with all this information on them,” Warden explains. “The Manager’s Red Book® put it all in one place and unified the company so that everybody was using consistent forms and tasks on a consistent basis.”
Like any new system, there was some initial reluctance to change on both the store and management level, which was eventually overcome. “I believe in The Manager’s Red Book®, and it’s one of my passions, but not all district managers felt that way initially.” Warden pushed forward in spite of the initial pushback, which was really just a response to change. Her belief is that you only get out of it what you put in.
“If the person selling the idea isn’t behind it or doesn’t understand it, you could run into some trouble. But at this point, everyone at Loaf ‘N Jug is on board.” Loaf ‘N Jug managers get their first taste of the operational handbooks in training, where they are expected to walk through The Manager’s Red Book® page-by-page and step-by-step. Warden adds, “We always have another associate present to explain how it works and why it’s important. It’s important to sell its story.”
“The Manager’s Red Book® makes running our stores 100 percent easier because you go into a store and you’re looking for one book instead of 12 binders and three clipboards.”
– Maria Warden, Loaf ‘N Jug District Manager
Convenient & Consistent Checklists with The Manager’s Red Book
Once the transition to a single hub for their tasks and communications was complete, the Loaf ‘N Jug managers really hit their stride. Managers make notes of nearly everything that happens as well as more long-term aspects of the business. “They list their goals and communications and all the vendor sign-ins so we can keep track of any unpaid invoices and so we know who has been on all our sites.”
There are the all-important checklists and logs to support the day-to-day shifts that keep their convenience stores running smoothly. “It’s a must for the manager at the store as well as for the assistant manager team. Just because the manager is off doesn’t mean The Manager’s Red Book® sits in the office for two days until they get back,” she says. Warden uses The Manager’s Red Book® for administrative tasks as well as employee encouragement and feedback.
“Everything’s in there,” she says. “If I paid out somebody’s greeting card, I write that in there. If I paid out a mystery shop, I put that in there. I’ll also write, ‘Great job, team!’ or ‘Keep up the good work!’ So it’s not just a to-do thing. It’s also calling out the good things at the stores too.”
Tracking the Bottom Line with One Manager’s Red Book
“Any time you have better control of your expense line, it has a huge impact. Even just the predictability of paper costs is a huge benefit to your supply line. Payroll time, supplies, inventory management, cash management—I can’t think of anything about The Manager’s Red Book® that doesn’t save us money.”
One example Warden cites is The Manager’s Red Book’s role in preventing one of the biggest logistical headaches and public relations nightmares facing anyone in the restaurant business—the looming, and ever present risk of contamination and foodborne illnesses.
“If you factor in food safety, it can cost the company huge amounts if someone does get sick, not just because they got sick but the bad publicity,” Warden says. “It can be extremely detrimental to a company, so having all of our food safety information on hand in The Manager’s Red Book® is a huge benefit.”
The Manager’s Red Book® includes monthly maintenance logs, repair and maintenance concerns, as well as pages to log food and beverage quality, par levels, shortages and waste. Managers and district managers can see who completed each task and if it was completed properly or needed corrective action.
“Having accountability for everything on a daily basis makes it easy to go back and see where an error was made, especially in cash handling.”
Keeping track of expenses on cash lines, merchandise and vendors is also more organized thanks to the deposit logs and records that are all kept in The Manager’s Red Book®. Having such a tight handle on cash flow also makes it a breeze for management to investigate any issues.
“The Manager’s Red Book® creates accountability for every associate for all the cash,” Warden says. “If it’s used properly, it’s extremely beneficial. It’s also helpful for researching when people make mistakes, because we are all people, and we all do make mistakes. Having accountability for everything on a daily basis makes it easy to go back and see where an error was made, especially in cash handling.”
Getting the Memo, Every Time with The Manager’s Red Book
Like many companies with multiple locations, Loaf ‘N Jug management deals with an ever-changing roster of employees as well employees and managers who may work in more than one location. That’s where The Manager’s Red Book® excels by keeping all employees and all locations on the same page.
“The Manager’s Red Book® has made us absolutely more efficient in all areas of operations,” Warden says. If we borrow employees or if we lose a manager—which we do—or if I have to go in and complete the book because something happens, everything is in one place. You don’t have to know where to go looking for something at each store. It’s all going to be there inside
The Manager’s Red Book® no matter which store you come from or which district you come from. It’s always there no matter where you go with Loaf ‘N Jug.” Having the same logbook in each convenience store location also alleviates an overly busy messaging system by streamlining communications into one avenue, something that Warden sees as a huge benefit both at the store and management levels.
“The Manager’s Red Book® has made us absolutely more efficient in all areas of operations”
“Communication is probably the weakest area in a good 90 percent of the stores,” she says. “People say, ‘Why should I write it down if I’m going to talk to the person face to face?’ We really have to sell the communication portion of it. But people like seeing their name in print, so every week when we do a weekly recap to the stores, I ask the managers to print the reports because I write out ‘good jobs’ if a person got a 100 percent mystery shop or other kudos. They staple those reports to the first day of The Manager’s Red Book®, so even though I’m not there on a daily basis, the associates know it’s not just the manager recognizing the good performance. It’s the manager’s manager and the supervisor’s supervisor.”
Lately, Warden has been toying with the idea of adding more playful features to The Manager’s Red Book®, things that are more fun and engaging for Loaf ‘N Jug employees.
“We have a good, solid operational tool so now we want to add fun things so it’s not just ‘Did you do this?’ or ‘Are you going to do this?’” she says. “The fun part is where we’ve struggled because all of us are pretty much task-oriented, but we’re hoping in the next rollout to come up with things like a word search for whoever’s working on the second shift on Wednesdays or something using QR codes where you scan them with a cell phone and win a prize.”
Warden sees the communication with The Manager’s Red Book® team at HotSchedules as a bonus. The two teams are true partners in making the books as useful as possible—even if that’s working in a few of those fun additions.
“I just love The Manager’s Red Book® team,” she says. “Aimee Ferris is awesome. She’s a pleasure to work with and bends over backward to be part of the team. It makes it so much easier on our end to have the person on HotSchedules’ end be just as passionate about what we’re doing as we are.”