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Checkers operator hires all the time, reports Multi-Unit Mindset


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I learned from the good leaders, they took the time to have the difficult conversations with me. Those who didn’t care or didn’t want to sit down with a hard-headed 18-year-old aren’t good leaders.” —Carlos Sarria

First, how did you get into franchising?

I was a lifer with Burger King. I basically started as a child labor violation. After 30 years with the brand, I became a franchisee. We ended up buying six restaurants in Florida and we operated for about eight years. We got an offer we couldn’t refuse and we came up for air. That’s how I wound up in the Checkers brand.  

What drew you to Checkers, or away from Burger King?

While I was a Burger King franchisee, we had some tough commodity costs and price wars and the company was in litigation with franchisees. It was almost like they had two different businesses—they were worried about their top line and I was worried about my bottom line. So I joined Checkers because of their dedication to franchisees.

What keeps you excited about Checkers?

Well, AUVs are potentially less than your other competitors. They’re up there, just over $1 million. But when you look at the footprint of them, it’s a smaller box with a lot of efficiencies. Between commodity costs and health care you’ve got all these costs eating away at your profits. So being in a smaller box, your costs are smaller, your investments are smaller. We don’t have dining rooms to clean either.

How do you approach the labor challenge?

We don’t hire out of crisis, we hire all the time. Back to school is coming, so we hire a month before. When I see a sign that says hiring a manager, I wonder what kind of service I’m going to get.

We have two things that work well for us: the typical newspaper, and Checkers has a talent brief that allows you to go through an assessment before an interview.

The other way is we put two or three on each month. We decorate the patios and tables we have outside and a marquee saying something like ‘Saturday from 2-5 we’re doing on-the-spot interviews and hires.’ We set up there and invite three or four managers from different stores, they’re all there interviewing. We call those job fairs.

Nicholas Upton

Staff writer Nicholas Upton asks what makes multi-unit operators tick—and presents their slightly edited answers in this column in each issue. To suggest a subject, email nupton@franchisetimes.com.

And once they’re interested, you have a unique trial period. How does that work?

We invite them into our house, and say, ‘We’re looking for a skill set, timeliness and a polished appearance.’ On the flip side, we leave them alone with a restaurant manager and the crew on a busy day and let them ask our crew members, ‘Do they respect you, do they fix the equipment.’ We allow the candidates to meet our company. At the end of the three days we either say thank you but no thank you, or if we think there is a fit and we make an offer.

And how do you keep those folks around for the long haul?

We’ve got a comprehensive bonus plan, and we don’t talk merit increases until we talk through whether they’re leaving bonus opportunity on the table. The performance review is a one-pager: three things we like and three things that potentially they need to change. But what’s important is that discussion. I learned from the good leaders, they look the time to have the difficult conversations with me. Those who didn’t care or didn’t want to sit down with a hard-headed 18-year-old aren’t good leaders.

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