As a company that values great culture, the Potbelly team is always on the lookout for ways to make working in their stores easier and more efficient. The introduction of The Manager’s Red Book® has delivered a better way for managers to collect and disseminate information in a consistent manner across shifts and locations with restaurant checklists and other content customized specifically for their brand.
- Lack of consolidation of important information.
- Disorganized, disparate communication and task management tools, such as clipboards and loose papers.
- Different systems at each location.
- Customized solution specifically for Potbelly that can be updated as needed.
- Consistent communications and task management across locations.
- Eliminated the need to duplicate data entry.
- Assists with manager training by consolidating and simplifying task management.
What a difference a year makes. As Potbelly Sandwich Shops wraps up its’ first year using The Manager’s Red Book®, higher-ups in the company ranked the restaurant management tool as one of the top three strengths in an internal SWOT analysis conducted about Potbelly’s operations. And for a company as large and long-lived as Potbelly, that’s definitely saying something.
Founded in 1977 with its’ first outpost on Lincoln Avenue in Chicago, Potbelly now boasts approximately 415 locations across the country. Of those, 30 are franchise shops, and the rest are company-owned. “Next year is our 40th birthday, which we’re really excited about,” says Lori Haughey, Vice President for Operations Support and Culinary with Potbelly. “The culture of Potbelly is very genuine. It’s a comfortable hangout and the kind of neighborhood place that makes you feel good. It always has such a great vibe.” That great vibe is cultivated through Potbelly’s adherence to the nine different values that comprise the company’s corporate culture. “We really focus on the culture of the company,” says Haughey, who has been with the company for seven years and in her current role for the past two. “It’s what we talk about day in and day out. It’s part of hiring, part of the training process and part of our performance reviews. At the end of the year, we look at our values and we’re given a score on how well we represent our culture. You get a score for how well you did throughout the year and how you can better represent the company in a stronger light.”
Enhancing the Potbelly Advantage—in-company speak for that carefully curated culture—was one of the driving forces behind the implementation of The Manager’s Red Book®. The purpose of the tool was consolidation, so managers in the shops could have everything in one place, ultimately helping each shift run better and more efficiently. When asked how Potbelly managed this prior to The Manager’s Red Book®, Haughey answers, “Who knows? Clipboards were everywhere. This was over here, and that was over there. It was confusing and a little bit messy. There may have been great tools, but they were in so many different places that they weren’t executed at a high level.” Enter the Manager’s Red Book. Haughey had previous experience with the book from past work in the full-service world and was eager to see how it could work for Potbelly. After testing it and giving it high marks, the Manager’s Red Book was officially launched at the company’s annual managers conference in January 2016.
A Customized Manager’s Red Book
Since adopting the solution, the Potbelly Red Book has continued to evolve. “The beauty of the Manager’s Red Book is we have managers sending us emails all the time saying, ‘Can we do this?’ or ‘Have you ever thought of this?'” Haughey says. “So it’s a compilation of so many people’s ideas. It’s brilliant. Every quarter we have so many updates, and we love that we can make those adjustments as we go.” For those customizations, Haughey works with HotSchedules’ Red Book Solutions Customer Success Manager Doreen Talarico, whose praises she will readily sing.
“Doreen is a gem,” Haughey says. “She’s so supportive and so helpful. She keeps us on track. She’s an absolute doll to work with.” Because Potbelly is so proud of its culture, it’s only natural that the language of the Manager’s Red Book would reflect it. “There a lot of Potbelly Advantages throughout the entire book,” Haughey says.
The Key to Consistent Potbelly Operations
With so many locations, consistency remains an important factor in success, and the Manager’s Red Book helps managers build that steadiness in each shop. “They’ve learned to be systematic about it,” Haughey says of the managers who use the Red Books. “They say, ‘I want to do this because I know this helps me have a better shift, and I’m much more prepared.'” As an example, Haughey refers to the Best Place for Lunch audit, which used to be a piece of paper that had to be filled out and then entered into the computer so the district manager could see it. That report, which covers information like how many people were in line, times and sales, took a half-hour to create. Now that report has a home in the Red Book, along with all the other reports. “Before the book, that report was almost a double entry, and now it’s sitting right here in my book,” she says. “We’ve given managers a half-hour back in their day.” The book also includes temperature logs and a food safety audit, which fills three or four pages. “We love having those in the book because we know when the health inspectors come in that we won’t be scrambling looking for them,” Haughey says.
“That saves a lot of pain and agony. We have an outside food safety company that comes in a couple times a year, in addition to the city inspectors. We have the exact same audit in this book that we do ourselves, so we know every month we’re going to check what they check.”
Easy Does It
Having consistency in all locations via the consolidation of information in the Red Book greatly simplifies the process of training new managers too. “It’s a one-stop shop for newer managers to get the routines down,” Haughey says. “If you break it down for someone new, you can get your head around it. For example, the closing manager can focus on the closing checklist. It’s not overwhelming that way, which makes a new manager feel much more confident with what they’re supposed to do. The Manager’s Red Book® also creates coaching conversations where you can hold people accountable.” The Manager’s Red Book® also eases the transitions between shifts to keep the day running as smoothly as possible. “It’s a handoff of ‘Here’s the book. You got this,'” she explains. “It shows how to transition, and as a manager, I’m not going to transition until I know I’ve set you up for success.”
Looking Toward the Future
After the successful implementation of the Manager’s Red Book into all Potbelly locations, the next step will be adding a second Red Book for the catering side of Potbelly’s business.
“We’re in the proofing stage of the process of creating a second Red Book for our catering managers, who will use it for our backline catering business,” Haughey says. “These are younger managers, or not even quite managers, who are responsible for a healthy percent of our business when they are making a bunch of sandwiches for people to go. It will be very similar in terms of tracking results, with checklists and following up with customers by calling them back after the order has been delivered to make sure everything was good and done right. There are a lot of parts and pieces so this will allow us to consolidate everything into one place.”
Like many of us near the end of the year, our attention inevitably turns toward planning for the future. For Potbelly higher-ups, that attention includes reviewing goals and strategies for 2017 by doing a SWOT (Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities, Threats) analysis for each part of the business.
“One of our strengths that we identified this year was the execution of The Manager’s Red Book. We only identified three strengths, so that the Red Book® was one of them is quite commendable, especially since we only started using it in January. And for our CEO and senior vice president to identify that as a strength really shows what a great partnership it is.”