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Success Story

SuperNova Award Winner 2014

SuperNova Award Category: CoIT & The New C-Suite

Robin Jenkins
Regional Marketing Manager, RMH Franchise Corporation

The Company: 

Headquartered in Lincoln, Nebraska, RMH Franchise Corporation is one of the largest and fastest-growing franchise corporations in the country. RMH acquired its first 45 Applebee’s locations in December 2012 and now - less than two years later - operates more than 130 Applebee’s restaurants throughout the United States. Today, it is the second largest Applebee’s franchise corporation. The company is dedicated to the development of its workforce and provides both tools and opportunities so its 9,000+ employees can reach their full potential.

The Problem:

Hourly employees are notoriously difficult to engage and maintain. That’s especially true in the restaurant/food service industry. Consider this: Turnover for hourly-employed bank tellers is labeled “high” when it reaches 30%. The average turnover for hourly restaurant workers is 125%! At RMH, we know that engaged employees are our most important asset. They’re critical to the customer experience and to our business performance overall. According to research from the Corporate Leadership Council, highly-committed employees try harder (57%), perform better (20%) and are less likely to leave (87%). In addition, Forrester recently concluded that companies with higher employee engagement ratings boast higher profit margins and deliver better customer outcomes, as measured by customer satisfaction, loyalty and likelihood-to-recommend scores. Our internal research tells us that if we can reduce turnover by 10%, we can save well over $1 million in replacement costs in just one year.

The Solution: 

In early 2013, we decided to take a long, hard look into Applebee’s employee retention programs. The system we had in place was over a decade old, and even though we were pouring resources into it, our turnover rates remained sky high. We realized quickly that we needed to update our approach and do a better job of connecting with our hourly employees. Gamification was a natural fit. It uses big data analytics, personalization and transparency to provide goals to accomplish, recognition, real-time feedback on progress and rewards that matter. To get this new system up and running, we identified what data we could pull from current systems and created a set of short- and long-term goals to keep our employees motivated. In December 2013, we launched a pilot of “Bee Block,” a gamified website for Applebee’s hourly employees, at three locations. This initial program was so successful that we have now brought Bee Block to all 138 of our restaurants.

The Results: 

RMH has made impressive strides with “Bee Block.” When logged in, employees can manage their profiles, review their own data and participate in contests –which are automated and broadcast in real-time via “Bee TVs” placed strategically throughout restaurant workstations. Because Bee Block allows us to tap into the motivations of our hourly workforce, we’ve improved both employee engagement and retention. In fact, early results from the pilot show a whopping 20% reduction in turnover. Along with improving employee engagement and retention, we are working on raising the check averages per customer and plan to continue efforts in this area. Ultimately, we’re helping our wait staff and bartenders transform from “order-takers” to sellers –a change that could have a significant impact on revenue overall. Since Bee Block challenges can be updated in real-time and customized for every promotion –and every location –managers can motivate employees to sell more.

Metrics: 

Our Applebee’s restaurants employee more than 8,800 hourly employees. Of these, more than 7, 510 have logged into Bee Block since our test period began on December 18, 2013, activating 73, 900 sessions and 247,866 page views to date. From the launch, we know that 90% of our users are return visitors and that 85% access Bee Block from a mobile device. What’s more, Bunchball’s gamification solution is scalable, adaptable and responsive –and that’s essential because we want our system to always be exciting and adaptable to the wants and needs of employees and management.

The Technology: 

Bunchball’s gamification solution, Nitro.

Disruptive Factor: 

We are one of the first to use gamification in the restaurant industry and are constantly learning from and evolving our program. Over the past year, we've learned the top three things our hourly employees want are: 1) transparency; 2) feedback; and 3) recognition, and it has been extremely gratifying to hear how Bee Block is helping Applebee’s improve in all of those areas. Essentially, we've found that gamification answers the number one question employees want to know, which is “How am I doing?” Employees like that the process is transparent, that they can manage it themselves and that they can see their progress. With our gamified system, we've made progress tracking, often only available to full-time employees across industries via yearly performance reviews etc., easy and accessible for part-time employees too! In addition, managers can use gamification to field better teams and improve the work experience for their employees. Our success with gamification has convinced me that anything can be gamified –as long as it is designed well with a set of goals to be accomplished within a given timeframe. At RMH, we’re already planning for Phase II of Bee Block. We want to add extrinsic rewards (branded merchandise, e.g.), expand user capabilities to enhance social interactions (within and between locations) and incorporate feedback from surveys guests complete after dining with us.

Shining Moment: 

In May, our Bee Block featured a contest centered on “STAR” sales to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation. We used a leaderboard tracking top restaurant locations to motivate employees as a team, and there was a dramatic difference in donations collected. In May 2013, one location raised $25 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation; in May, 2014, that same location raised over $1,500! The only thing we did differently was gamify the experience to incite competition and recognize achievement.

About RMH Franchise Corporation

RMH Franchise Corporation is the second largest franchisee of Applebee’s. RMH acquired its first 45 Applebee’s locations in December 2012 and now operates more than 130 Applebee’s restaurants throughout the United States. The company is dedicated to the development of its workforce and provides tools and opportunities so so its 9,000+ employees can reach their full potential.