Case Study
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COOKING UP A PLAN TO CONNECT EMPLOYEES: THE FIVE GUYS APP

To overcome difficulties in communication with its workforce, restaurant chain Five Guys introduced Chatty Patty – a mobile app with all the information teams need at the click of a button.

WORDS: ISABEL OVERTON

4th April 2022

In the past, sharing comms and campaigns in the field was something of a challenge for Five Guys. The nature of its workforce – onsite and spread across the UK – meant it was a constant struggle to get key information to every team member.

The operations department – through which comms is delivered – relied heavily on stores’ general managers to disseminate information, sending it via email to then be trickled down to crew members.

Because of Five Guys’ fast-growing business model, changes are frequent. This made it easy for messages to get lost or confused. Also, crew members couldn’t access training without going through general managers, which meant they weren’t able to take control of their professional development – something the company is big on.

Bastian Bauermeister, communications manager at Five Guys, says: “We have a system for crew members called ‘The more you learn the more you earn’, which rewards our people financially for learning new skills.

“It’s a popular initiative and lots of people take advantage of it, but feedback from both general managers and crew made it clear development was being impeded by the inaccessibility of this information.”

To address this, operations ran focus groups with teams, and it quickly became clear there was a need for an easy-to-use tool that everyone could access. An app was the most popular choice suggested, so Bastian and his colleagues set to work interviewing third-party suppliers.

“We knew an app would work because the majority of our workforce are aged between 18 and 30,” says Bastian. “It’s important to look at your workforce and get a good idea of their preferred communication methods before jumping in.”


At employees’ service

The team had three priorities when it came to the app: it had to be easy to download, easy to use and reflect Five Guys’ brand identity.

“We wanted people to recognise Five Guys in the app,” says Bastian. “We also wanted people’s input when it came to building it. The name of the app – Chatty Patty – was the result of a team competition.”

The team chose enterprise collaboration software developer Oak Engage as their supplier, working together to set up the mobile app based on what colleagues said they needed and wanted to see.

“When launching an employee app, start small, and over time build it up,” advises Bastian. “Initially, I envisaged every department having a page with all their information there, but it didn’t work like that. The simpler the better.”

Key for Five Guys was a page to update everyone in the business – the first thing people see when they open the app is the latest updates from across the business. From this page, the operations team shares a weekly update every Monday, giving people the information they need to run the restaurants successfully.

The app also has a timeline where everyone can post whatever they like – topics range from marathons people have run to celebrating dogs’ birthdays. It’s interactive, so there’s lots of tagging, sharing, commenting and liking.

“We got people to start sharing achievements by leading the way,” explains Bastian. “I advised managers that we needed to be the first to post content and interact with others in order to encourage this.

It worked, and now all our timeline content is organic.

“People also need a reason to want to log in and check the app regularly. We do cultural, promotional and fun pieces, and we also have regular competitions that the teams enjoy.”


When the chips are down

Five Guys was in the process of testing Chatty Patty in each district when the Covid-19 pandemic hit. Government guidance meant that most restaurants had to close, creating even more distance between operations and the teams. The decision was therefore made to launch the app with 48 hours’ notice. As the only place teams could get frequent updates, there was an impressive 96 per cent adoption rate.

“Chatty Patty became a lifeline during the pandemic,” says Bastian. “We used it to reassure our teams, check in with them and keep them posted on how the business was managing. I strongly believe that our ability to stay connected with our workforce during this time is a large part of why our retention rates remained strong – 90 per cent of our people came back to our stores.”


Food for thought

Following the app’s success, the operations team has begun looking at how it can use Chatty Patty to champion employee recognition.

“Oak Engage has rolled out a feature that lets us give stars to deserving individuals,” says Bastian. “We’re keen on making recognition more public so people can share their support and pride for the company.”

Scheduled reviews of the app take place every six months, offering a chance to tweak issues and analyse activity. The findings have been positive, and the team has been able to track the busiest times on the app and the busiest areas.

“We have lots of activity between 7pm and 10pm, so we’re mindful of this when scheduling content,” says Bastian. “We can also see spikes in traffic when people try to search for the weekly Monday updates, which is encouraging.

“When I think back to how we used to communicate, it feels archaic. Having an app gives us instant access to our people – and them instant access to us.

“It’s been really enjoyable to see people engage with the app. ‘Chatty Patty’ is now a recognised term in the business, and it’s become fully ingrained in our culture.”
 

Five Guys employees share their thoughts on the new app

Jarrod Brown, general manager
“The ability to share information and best practices has made my job so much easier. It’s a really good database, housing all the documents and information we need, but it’s also good for connecting with colleagues. You can set up group chats and get quick answers or advice. I’m really impressed with how well maintained the app is. All the information there is relevant. I know every time I check the app, I’ll see something that’s new and actually useful – that’s what makes it stand out for me.”

Jess Fraser, shift manager
“At our store we use Chatty Patty a lot for reward and recognition. If our crew passes any certifications or has done a particularly good job that day, we post about it. It’s great to share good news with others and share in that joy. We also have lots of competitions across restaurants, and the app is a great way to track sites’ progress and share your own – it builds a sense of pride that we didn’t have before. Because of the app I feel much more included in the business.”

 

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