After watching the Freshii staff and myself on Undercover Boss Canada, I was stricken by how unbelievably hard some people work and how much they are willing to sacrifice for a business owned by someone they’ve never met.
Aside from the enlightening experience the show gave me, in terms of how the business operates, going undercover in my own company also gave me the opportunity to meet some astoundingly admirable people within the Freshii family. It reinforced not only one of the brand’s mantras, but one of mine as an entrepreneur: just as important as what you’re serving, is who is serving it. This is something every business should remember.
On one segment of the show, I was working at our Yonge and College franchise in Toronto — one of the first locations in our brand’s history. That day my alter ego, Ethan, was testing the manager Afzal’s patience while ripping wraps and soiling salads. But, instead of getting angry, Afzal calmly offered a reminder, saying, “I don’t want it fast first, I want it slow so you can learn first.” This is someone who clearly understands how people respond to criticism and who cares about his employees and the brand. Not only was he trying to calm my nerves, but his principle is one of thousands that have to go right every day for a business to make money. It’s next to impossible for restaurants to turn a profit feeding fresh food to the garbage.
So, it’s no surprise that our first customer, a blind gentleman who is the first customer every day, was greeted, not like a regular, but like Afzal’s very good friend. If every Freshii customer left feeling the way Afzal makes some of his customers feel, we could put honey-lime vinaigrette on a bed of soil and people would line up for the ego boost.
The experience also opened my eyes to the great ideas Freshii staff conceive while working on the ground level and hearing customer feedback all day. One of the best ideas came from Ori, an assistant manager at one of our Vancouver stores, who suggested Freshii stores start taking advantage of regional ingredients and offer local items at each location. Ori noticed the diverse and fresh vegetation growing in the city’s backyard, and now it’s on our menu.
Freshii is a growing brand, and, like anything else, its strength is dependent upon the people behind it. If you don’t listen to your employees’ criticisms, if you’re not adapting to your customers’ complaints, and if you don’t get up every single morning thinking about ways to make your brand better, you don’t really run a business; you just own one that’s destined to fail. Listen to your staff — they might say something worth hearing.