Custom-burger franchise The Counter® has established itself as a force to be reckoned with in the gourmet burger segment by providing customers with quality, variety and top-tier service. The 39-unit brand has been able to consistently deliver this unmatched guest experience by placing great emphasis on franchisee education. The Counter leveraged the backing of parent company Kahala Brands to provide comprehensive training and ongoing support to its franchisees in a classroom setting at the Kahala Training & Education Center (KTEC), where unit owners learn more than just the nuances of the brand’s operational model.
“The KTEC Classroom Training program is designed to change the way our franchisees think,” said Kerri Kudla, VP of Training and Customer Service for The Counter. “Of course, we train on brand standards, but understanding how much thinking and decision making shapes behaviors that have huge repercussions in a franchise system has led us to an increased focus on cognitive skills.”
The Counter’s training approach helps evolve franchisees into resilient problem solvers who think on their feet and make quick decisions in their daily operations that support not only their growth, but the growth and strength of the brand. To hone in on these essential skill sets, the brand focuses on a few time-tested business precepts in addition to critical statements about culture. Franchisees are taught to view each challenge and action in their daily operations through the lens of these core precepts to more successfully prioritize and make decisions that support long-term growth.
“Things move fast in the restaurant industry,” Kudla said. “Our training helps franchisees execute brand standards reflexively, but it is our cognitive shaping that helps them avoid impulsive, knee-jerk reactive decisions in their daily operations that can come back to hurt them and the brand,” she added.
KTEC Classroom Training is held once per month for new franchisees of all of Kahala’s brands, creating maximum possible exposure by giving The Counter franchisees the chance to spend time with and generate ideas and best practices from franchisees of other brands.
“Having many brands under the Kahala Brands umbrella creates the opportunity to scale one brands’ learnings and resources across the others,” Kudla said. “Franchisees are educated on components designed to support the critical skills and knowledge of their specific brand, while drawing from the strengths, experiences and lessons learned from all brands.”
“We consistently get positive feedback about our KTEC Classroom Training,” said John Wuycheck, Senior VP of Franchise Development for The Counter. “Even our operators who sign on with previous franchise experience, who we still require to attend, admit that they learned something new. Everyone comes out of the program energized, stronger and better prepared as franchisees and business owners,” he said, adding that many franchisees pick up additional units or add other brands to their business enterprise as a result of their positive KTEC Classroom Training experience.
The Counter franchisees receive continual hands-on support throughout the entire ownership experience. Beyond a three-week in-store training that outlines systems used in each restaurant and KTEC Classroom Training, members of The Counter’s operations team conduct on-site training in the week leading up to (and after) opening. Every location is also supported by a Regional Director of Operations, who holds regular brand meetings and is always available to provide on-site support.
Once franchisees understand the ins and outs, it’s easy for them to identify how to build from the ground up, Kudla said, from being more profitable, to learning how to grow the business, to marketing, to staff recruitment and training. The brand has also created an online resource hub that franchisees and their teams can access to see or review procedures, receive the latest brand news, or learn more about topics covered in The Counter’s general resource library.
“We’re always creating micro training modules called ‘Here’s Hows’ that cover a range of skills, from calculating food cost, to safe knife handling, to managing conflict,” Kudla said. “This library is just one of the resources available to our franchisee communities for ongoing training,” she added.
The initial and ongoing support provided by Kahala Brands and The Counter provides franchisees with a thorough knowledge base on which to grow their business. This structured, comprehensive education is a key differentiator for The Counter and indicates the brand’s commitment to facilitating the best opportunities for success for each and every person involved with the brand.
“I am confident that future The Counter franchisees that go through our complete training program will have access to the tools, skills and knowledge to support their growth—and from that we’ll see continued growth in the brand,” Kudla said.
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