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A Shout-Out to Operators from Checkers & Rally's New Boss


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Frances Allen, the new CEO at Checkers & Rally's.

Local curfews are the latest problem torpedoing Checkers & Rally's late-night business, the most recent one imposed April 13 in its headquarters county in Tampa, said Frances Allen, new CEO.

An Amber Alert for Hillsborough County went out Monday afternoon, and by 9 p.m. that night it was in effect, she said. She's appointed a "news czar" who constantly combs the media for information on the fast-moving crisis. 

"The crisis team on the executive team has a daily call seven days a week, and we run through the news, we determine things that we need to plan for, things we need to react to, things we need to communicate," she said. That info is then pulled together and sent to the entire system. 

The chain has 900 stores, a third company-owned and two-thirds franchised. "I'm pleased to say that we're doing well during the day," with many drive-thru locations and a strong delivery program. "We are very, very fortunate and the more I talk to colleagues and the more I read, the more fortunate I feel. We're not quite pizza fortunate, but we certainly are able to lean into drive-thru locations," she said. 

"We don't have a breakfast business, and breakfast is really suffering in the QSR market" as people's routines change. "We're doing better than the QSR average, and the majority of our losses are at late night, especially in the markets with curfews."

Reached Tuesday, Allen was sitting amid boxes in her Colorado home as a moving crew was working to get her transferred to Tampa. She left her former role, CEO of Boston Market, on February 1 and started at Checkers & Rally's February 17. "As you can imagine, I had a whole 100-day plan lined up, as you would as a new CEO coming into a business," she said.

By her second week on the job, she sent her first email saying, "I think we need a crisis task force and I think we need to develop a coronavirus response plan." Since then, it's been COVID-19 24/7.

"One of the things that crisis does is it brings the team together. We're responding to it together; we're in the trenches on this together," she said, and the challenge is not all bad.

"As a new leader it's given me a great opportunity to see what the organization as a whole is made of. We've got employees who show up every single day in our restaurants to keep them open. I am inspired by them. They do such an amazing job."

Like most organizations, regular Zoom calls are helping to keep the team connected, including when they share stories about their new way of life. One story that stands out to her: "The lengths that our operators have to go through to keep their families healthy," she said. 

"Our head of company operations, shared how he re-enters his households every night after being out with the restaurants. He stands just inside the door, takes all his clothes off, they go straight into the wash. He showers, hand-sanitizes and everything," she said. "Of course, it's just a reminder how much we owe our operators who are literally out there keeping our restaurants open every day."

 

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The latest news, opinions and commentary on what's happening in the franchise arena that could affect your business.

Laura MichaelsLaura Michaels is editor of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3210, or send story ideas to lmichaels@franchisetimes.com.
 
Beth EwenBeth Ewen is senior editor of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3212, or send story ideas to bewen@franchisetimes.com.
 
Nicholas UptonNicholas Upton is restaurants editor at Franchise Times. He can be reached at 612.767.3226, or send story ideas to nupton@franchisetimes.com.
 
Mary Jo LarsonMary Jo Larson is the publisher of Franchise Times Magazine and the Restaurant Finance Monitor.  You can find her on Twitter at
 twitter.com/mlarson1011.
 

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