Multiunit managers can execute high-impact unit visits by playing coach, not quarterback

Multiunit managers can execute high-impact unit visits by playing coach, not quarterback

What you spend your time on is who you are.

Last year we interviewed more than 500 high-performing multiunit managers, or MUMs, across 28 different chains. While each one approached his or her business differently, they all had three things in common: a clear sense of which units needed their attention and why; daily coaching phone calls with each general manager; and focused and purpose-driven restaurant visits every week at every unit, with no exceptions.

Unfortunately, “average” MUMs are much less focused. They habitually drop in to their units with no plan, purpose or passion, bringing little more than a clipboard and a checklist, and then call it “leadership.”

Those misguided MUMs merely inspect, correct and direct “their” GMs during store visits in the name of efficiency. But what has really been accomplished? Time saved at the expense of time served? They overlook the fact that they are visiting people, not “stores.” They overvalue direction at the expense of development. There’s a better way. Here’s how the best MUMs plan and execute high-impact restaurant visits.

Before the visit

The key to high-impact visits is preparation. A written quarterly business plan, assessing relevant financial reports, along with daily GM phone calls, should give you clear insights into which restaurants need your attention first.

Review the written report and results of your last visit. What was covered then? What were the managers supposed to be working on in the meantime? Any outstanding issues? Review previous key learnings.

Assess how the unit currently ranks, in terms of performance, in your territory. Based on the unit’s performance, what should the focus of your visit be? Sales? Service? Training? Retention? Cleanliness? Marketing?

What are the GMs top three concerns? What are your top three concerns?

Present the purpose of the visit to your GM and how it differs from previous visits.

Ask yourself: What specifically do I intend to accomplish? What does the manager need from me? What should the team be doing differently as a result of my visit?

Set aside time for a one-on-one coaching session with the GM after the visit with no interruptions. The focus of every visit is not the “condition of the unit” but the development of the managers and team members.

During the visit

Once your planning is complete and you know what you need to accomplish, you’re ready to conduct a high-impact visit. MUMs know that the key to effective store visits is to first understand cause and effect. In other words, your awareness should not center merely on what the operation “looks like” but what actions or inactions of the team and managers are causing it.

You are in charge of developing problem-solvers, not just pointing problems out. Spend your time teaching your managers how to think instead of merely “what to do.” Here are some basic dos and don’ts that will ensure a maximum-impact visit:

Store visit dos:

Thoroughly plan. See the restaurant from the guest’s perspective first, then the MUM’s perspective.

Assess the exterior and interior of the restaurant, first by yourself and then later with the GM or manager on duty.

Use a checklist to assess facilities, people and operations, but don’t be merely an “inspector.”

Look for what’s being done right, not just what’s wrong.

Assess staffing and schedule. Are aces in their places? Is staffing appropriate to the level of business? Are appearances and behaviors up to brand standards?

Focus on what you came there to do. Don’t get sucked into working a position as a “quick fix.” You’re there to coach, not quarterback.

Move from an “inspect-direct-correct” role to the coach approach: Observe, inquire, develop. Observe what’s going on with the people, product and facility, then patiently inquire with careful questioning to determine if the GM or manager on duty has the appropriate awareness. Then develop their ability to see what you see, through coaching and guidance.

Spread energy, don’t siphon it.

Store visit don’ts:

Don’t rush through the store visit. Be patient, teach and spread energy, don’t hurry and act like a clipboard cop.

Don’t just tell managers what’s “wrong.” Do ask questions to determine if they truly understand what the problem is, if they know how to fix it and, most important, whether they know how to prevent it from happening again.

Don’t go to your “happy place” and start working a favorite old line position to show the crew you’ve “still got it.” Train, rather than do.

Don’t compete with managers for team member affection. When you visit the unit, treat the managers like the stars and refrain from the “when I was a GM” stories as much as possible.

Teach everyone, not just the GM, something new on each visit, especially the junior managers. Spread energy and knowledge, and you’ll reduce turnover.

Don’t overlook the importance of great hiring and scheduling. Teach your GMs how to manage the schedule so they manage success. Make certain they have their aces in their places and are hiring tough to manage easy.

For more strategies, visit to download the free High Impact Restaurant Visit Quik Checklist.