In the aftermath of Chipotle’s link to foodborne illnesses in 12 states, the fast casual announced an unprecedented chainwide closure for an all-hands-on-deck food safety meeting on Feb. 8. The four-hour, live satellite broadcast took place over lunch, and included nearly 60,000 staffers nationwide.
When the plan was announced, Moe’s Southwestern Grill scrambled to hold its own special meeting (albeit on a smaller scale) of owners to discuss how to take advantage of the opportunity.
“In light of what has been happening in our competitive space, our owners encouraged us to take bolder action,” says Bruce Schroder, Moe’s president. “Based on their feedback, we were able to quickly shift gears and come up with an entire campaign within mere weeks.” The result was its BOGO “Rebound Burrito” campaign, held the day of Chipotle’s shutdown.
Systemwide meetings can serve many purposes—damage control, ideation, recognition, training—but do you need a meeting? Is your message being understood? “We look for a mix of different ways to communicate with people. It’s all about two-way communications, regular touch points and making sure everybody understands the direction you’re going,” says Stacie Barrett, manager of internal communications and events for Domino’s.
That can be done in a number of ways; there’s no right answer, she says. But there are some strategies that work.
1. Find the right format for the size
Interactive roundtables and panel discussions work best for less than 100 people, says Heather Neary, president of Auntie Anne’s. But larger groups may not allow for Q&A. “We’ll ask tables to write down their questions that are collected by a moderator. We’ll answer the top few in the room, then post the remaining answers to our intranet,” she says.
2. Big initiative? Invest in face time
Tech is handy for big group meetings, but when Domino’s launched its self-deprecating New and Inspired campaign, it went the in-person route. “It allowed franchisees to taste the product, understand what the advertising was going to be and understand the pricing,” says Barrett. “We were there to talk them through training their team members and reassure them in how we were going to assist them.”
4. Take the pulse of attendees
Since announcing that his Union Square Hospitality Group would phase out tipping, Danny Meyer has held nine town halls for his 1,800 employees in New York City. The meetings are about communicating the hows and whys, but he follows up weekly with snap polls, asking if employees are “in,” have questions or are not into the new policy. Auntie Anne’s surveys franchisees after meetings to see how they could be run better. Feedback included a need to loosen up the structure and allow for interaction and ideation.