My QuickPicks
Register now to activate

Contents At A Glance

Chain LeaderHow to Grow to 100 Units — experts — Ask the Experts

Ask the Experts
The question: What is a rough guideline on how often a district manager needs to visit a site to maintain good operations?

John R. Grady, President, Ninety-Nine Restaurant & Pub

This is probably a question we all still wrestle with and the reason is that there is not a set answer. It all depends on the strength of the management team in place in each restaurant, how much day-to-day direction they need and how much they can be self-directed. Even though we are very tight geographically (of the 109 restaurants, 100 of them are under 2 1/2 hours from our home office), we still have our operations people schedule their visits as if they had to get on a plane to fly there. That way they dedicate a significant amount of time to ensure their visit has impact. How often they need to follow up is based on how comfortable the ops person feels they are in phone follow-up vs. seeing for their own eyes. It really comes down to strength of staff.

Todd Graves, Chairman and CEO, Raising Cane’s

At Raising Cane’s, our district managers supervise four to six stores, depending on the distance between stores, and they strive to visit their stores in person at least twice a week. Then we have remote viewing of cameras placed in our restaurants that can be viewed by our DMs’ laptops. And a lot of phone conversations with their general managers. For stores that are located within close proximity to each other, DMs visit their stores in person over three times a week.

Harry Bond, President, Monical Pizza Corp.

From my experience, the guideline is based not on some predetermined frequency pattern but on the needs and circumstances of individual restaurants and their management. Just as the coach of a sports team directs their attention to the areas most likely to impact a victory, a district manager should be directing their time and attention to the restaurants where they can make the most effective impact on achieving their company’s goals. With a new manager in one location, the DM might spend an entire week in that location observing their skills and leadership style. With an experienced management team or a certified training restaurant, the DM might visit quite infrequently.

Visit frequency and intensity can also be impacted by special events that occur over the course of a year. Is a new menu being introduced? Has a restaurant experienced higher-than-expected turnover rates in hourly team members due to seasonal events like end of the school year? Is this a holiday season where business increases greatly with more requests for time off from employees? This is a great place for a DM to visit more, stay longer and interact to support a crew under stress.

Simply defining a DM visit schedule as one of so many times per restaurant in a month, or each week is no different than the coach of any sports team spending the same amount of time with each player every practice. Not only in practice, but even during the game, the coach will and must shift focus. This is exactly what the DM should be doing in their position as the restaurant coach for the teams in their designated area. It’s a very difficult, complex, yet if done correctly, very rewarding weekly decision.

Aaron Kennedy, Chairman and CEO, Noodles & Co.

It is my expectation that our district managers (those who provide leadership support to five to nine restaurants) would visit them in search of coaching moments, to participate in working a shift and observe/evaluate performance on a weekly basis (one or two times)…in general. More often if a restaurant has a manager in training, is underperforming expectations or has a manager who is on a performance-improvement plan.

Sandee Pritchard, Chief People Officer, Donatos Pizza

It isn’t frequency of visits or quantity as much as it is the quality of coaching while in the store. At Donatos Pizza, we are reducing the span of control of the district supervisor over time to the industry average of seven units. Spending quality time once every 10 days (more or less) is most efficient with seven or more stores.

The drive-by visit or ‘how many of my stores can I visit in a day’ is a strategy of the past. Spending four or more hours in the store helps the supervisor truly see what’s going on in the operation and be able to coach the management team on corrective actions and compliment them on what is going well. Even Jane Abell, Donatos’ COO, spends quality time in each store when touring. She sits down with the management team, while a district supervisor from another district oversees the operation for them.

If you have questions about running and expanding a restaurant chain, Chain Leader will find the experts to answer them. Send your questions to .

Copyright© 1999-2006 Reed Business Information, a division of
The Reed Business logo, Restaurants & Institutions, R&I, Chain Leader, Foodservice Equipment & Supplies and FE&S are registered trademarks. All rights reserved.
Use of this web site is subject to its Terms and Conditions of Use. View our Privacy Policy. .