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Rebekah Avis became a KFC general manager in 1997 and that year became one of the top 1% of managers in the system.

Rebekah Avis has been recognized as a top KFC GM for eight years

Avis was planning to attend college but fell in love with the GM role at KFC and has never looked back, tripling sales at her restaurant in 10 years.

Rebekah Avis was planning to go to college and earn an accounting degree after high school. However, during the summer after graduation, she was working part-time at a KFC restaurant in Bakersfield, Calif., when two of her supervisors went on leave at the same time. She was abruptly tasked with running the store — and fell in love with the work.  

“I just loved being in charge of something,” Avis said. “So I ended up staying. I’ve not looked back since.”

Avis eventually became a general manager in 1997 and was recognized that same year by KFC for being one of the top 1% of managers in the system. She’s since been recognized eight times, including in 2021 and 2022.

Avis runs her store methodically. About 20 years ago, she started a “goal board,” illustrating what her team is tasked with measuring every month, from cost of labor to sales to how many cakes are sold during a shift.

“It’s not just something we do here and there; it’s every single day, everybody who comes in has a different role and we track it. If you’re tracking everything and everyone’s involved, we have a good time with it,” Avis said. “Seeing the team members hit goals — they’re all involved. They all have a role to play in the success of our store.”

This approach has helped yield a material uptick in sales. When Avis joined her current store in Bakersfield nearly 10 years ago, it was generating about $1.1 million in sales. Now it’s running about $3.8 million.

“We tripled the sales in less than 10 years and it’s a pretty cool thing to see,” Avis said.

Avis said she consistently communicates the importance of having high standards with her team and uses the metrics to recruit and retain employees.

“Be proud that you work here and be proud that you’re joining our team. I think that gets them excited, because they’re coming into something special,” she said.

Of course, even special places have their challenges, and Avis notes that the workforce is among one of the biggest to manage. She said younger employees don’t work for the money as much as they used to, for instance, but rather because they want to, so she is constantly making sure they’re enjoying their job. There is also a persistent shortage, but Avis said she’s been able to keep many of her employees because her core team members — including assistant managers and shift supervisors — have stayed. She focuses on the culture to ensure such retention, rewarding them every day, hosting movie nights, showing them tangible outcomes, “giving them little things like T-shirts.”

“When the core is happy, they help me to get the others involved and stick around,” she said.

Karen Ancira, KFC’s chief people officer, said Avis emulates what the company is looking for in a GM because she is a “true people grower.”

“Of course, GMs run multimillion-dollar businesses, but they are growing people and building the leaders of tomorrow,” Ancira said. “They’re the first contact a lot of people in this workforce have and it’s a big responsibility, and Rebekah does an amazing job.”

Ancira added that Avis’ focus on the KFC Foundation also makes her a standout within the company. Her restaurant is in the top 5% of units that participate in the company’s Round Up Campaign, for example, with donations supporting the foundation. She also encourages her team to further their education through the KFC Foundation scholarship program; one of her team members received $3,000 from the program last year.

“When our team members feel like they’re contributing with our customers but also the link to the foundation, it adds another layer of making a difference and connecting to a purpose,” Ancira said. “Not only has Rebekah been best of the best, but her contributions to our KFC Foundation are phenomenal.”

Avis’ motivation — to challenge her team to meet high expectations, to make sure her restaurant is contributing to a bigger company-wide purpose through the KFC Foundation and to stick enthusiastically with this career for three decades — comes from taking ownership in the work. Her mom told her if she was going to do something, to do it to the best of her ability, and she plans to continue doing just that for the foreseeable future.

“I take ownership in every aspect of this store, including my crew, and I couldn’t do it without them,” she said. “I’ll probably be at my store for quite a bit longer. My store is my baby and I love being a GM.”

Contact Alicia Kelso at [email protected]

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