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Pool Scouts, Salata, share ways data can improve operations


Data, when understood and effectively scrutinized, can help identify opportunities to boost sales, reduce expenses and market more effectively. Capturing it can give franchisors and their franchisees a competitive edge.

The concept of big data isn’t new, but many franchises still don’t know what to do with the information they collect. Smart brands are making investments in the analytics side of the equation to ensure all that data doesn’t languish in a spreadsheet but instead gets put to work, be it to improve the route scheduling for a service franchise or to glean customer insights for a restaurant concept looking to up the usefulness of its loyalty program.

They’re also educating franchisees in the process. Data can be used to demonstrate sound decision-making to operators, who may be wary of a change to the system without the analytics to back it up. Using a business intelligence dashboard, franchisees can also benefit from better reporting metrics and take action accordingly, especially helpful when it boosts customer retention and sales in the process.

Kevin Wilson

‘Peeling the onion’

Calling himself a “junkie with the data,” Kevin Wilson brings analytical rigor to the decision-making process at Buzz Franchise Brands, where he’s CEO and franchisor of cleaning and maintenance company Pool Scouts, residential cleaning service Home Clean Heroes and swim lesson provider British Swim School. (Buzz also franchised Mosquito Joe until 2018, when it was sold to what’s now Neighborly.)

Wilson began his business career at management consultancy Bain & Company, which he said is “all about the data,” and drew on that experience when he launched Pool Scouts in 2016 within the Buzz portfolio. The company uses Tableau, “probably the best business intelligence tool out there,” he said, to inform operations across Pool Scouts’ 30 territories.

“Pool Scouts is light on materials, high on labor dollars,” explained Wilson. “We have targets of gross dollars in sales to cover costs and make a good profit,” with franchisees coached to respond if those numbers get out of whack. Sometimes a franchisee is underpricing services or needs to address the efficiency of a worker by analyzing how much time is spent at each pool.

“We call it peeling the onion—what are the root causes,” said Wilson.

Of particular importance is minimizing what Wilson called “dead time,” the time Pool Scouts technicians spend driving from one job to the next. A review of routing data helps franchisees continuously refine their job schedules.

A weekly performance dashboard, run through Tableau, is another tool, and ties into the sales goals Wilson highlighted. Franchisees can see how they’re performing relative to the rest of the system.

“It becomes somewhat competitive as well and that gets to be kind of fun—no one wants to be at the bottom,” said Wilson.

Customer data, meanwhile, helps inform marketing campaigns, including data as basic as the number of homeowners with in-ground pools in a given geographic area. “We’re almost exclusively residential,” said Wilson, so Pool Scouts uses demographic information and purchased lists to target potential customers.

“I don’t know how else you could run a business successfully without data,” he said.

Alex Atwell

Invest in the POS

For a franchise to fully benefit from analytical tools and resulting insights, a data culture needs to be set up in the home office, said Alex Atwell, director of marketing at Houston-based Salata. Since joining the 89-unit brand in 2018 after working on the agency side of the marketing and advertising equation, Atwell has helped to instill that culture with a focus on education, starting with founders Berge Simonian and Tony Kyoumjian—who she says were open to change.

“I did a presentation to the owners and said, you basically need to blow up your entire POS system and do this,” said Atwell, with “this” being the implementation of a new all-in-one, cloud-based point-of-sale system, which Salata finished last year. “And they were so open to it.”

While just one part of a full tech suite upgrade that included online ordering, catering and delivery, the Toast POS system is the linchpin and can unlock data that ultimately drives sales.

“We, frankly, had a cash register before this,” said Atwell. The system from Toast “allows us to track consumer and sales data in a way we couldn’t before.”  

Salata takes a three-pronged approach to helping franchisees digest data and apply that information to operational decisions. Business intelligence dashboards provide breakdowns of sales and labor data, and coaches review the reports with franchisees. Meetings with the franchise advisory council to review quarterly data also include discussions of how that data informs everything from marketing initiatives to menu mix.

Salata’s Tastemaker Rewards loyalty program serves to collect consumer data, incentivize return visits and increase check average through tailored email offers customers actually use, Atwell said. “We never want to be a restaurant brand that just inundates customers with messages that they don’t want to hear,” she said.

Offering advice to emerging brands, Atwell said an investment early on in a POS system with robust reporting capabilities is worth the cost. “That’s the core of where your opportunities really open up,” she said.

“It’s also worthwhile to have a loyalty program early on. It’s actually a way to increase check average and increase repeat visits,” she continued. “Especially at times like this, you see brands reemphasizing their loyalty programs. People are returning to brands they’re familiar with.”

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