Most people consider a fast-food job a short-term gig, but the partners of Franchise Management Inc. are hungry to change that.
“That’s a perception that a lot of people have,” says Dwight Fraser, founding partner of the company. “Even in our last leadership meeting, a large part of our discussion was how to change it. We want people to recognize that there are opportunities in our organization that will take them from team members to possibly managers.”
FMI started in 1991 with one Subway restaurant in Woodstock, N.B. Today, the franchise operator owns and runs more than 300 quick-service restaurants across 12 provinces and states, with a staff of 6,000. It’s Canada’s largest Pizza Hut franchise operator and the third-largest for KFC (it acquired 24 KFC franchises in 2018, and will build 12 more by 2020). Add to that a 70-employee support centre in Woodstock and you have the ingredients for plenty of career growth.
“We’ve consciously surrounded ourselves with people who are growth-hungry, who crave to learn and do more,” says Greg Walton, operating partner at FMI. “We work on building the bench so there’s a backup person within a store ready for an opportunity when the openings come up.”
During annual employee reviews and quarterly career days, senior leaders ask each employee—from head office staffers to sandwich artists—where they see themselves in five to 10 years. Some see FMI as a stepping stone during college, but others are keen to build a career. The latter group are extremely valuable, says Walton: “We’re constantly building for the future, training and developing people for positions within the company that don’t yet exist, because we know they eventually will come with our growth.”
During the one-on-one meetings, employees learn about job descriptions for the different levels within the company, choose one to focus on and discuss how they’ll reach that goal. The employee and leader create a development plan—given the breadth of FMI’s operations and the experience of senior staffers, the company is able to offer robust in-house training programs—and schedule regular check-ins to monitor progress.
Promoting and mining talent from within is part of FMI’s retention strategy, says Walton. But he also knows that people need to see others’ progress to believe it’s possible. With that in mind, the company newsletter spotlights employees who have advanced within the company and details the specific steps they took to get there. In addition, regular posts on the company’s Facebook page list employees who advance from one position to the next. In a January post, FMI congratulated 240 people on making the jump in the prior six months.
“As we promote people and offer opportunities, we’re very quick to publicize it,” says Walton. “It helps the people in the restaurants understand they can have a career with us. It’s our job to ensure they see that growth.”