ZAK Family Foods LLC uses Envysion to increase same-store sales up to 20% and create a culture of accountability

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All in the family

For Jason Zakaras, quick-serve restaurants (QSRs) have always been a family affair. The CEO and President of ZAK Family Foods got his start in the business partnering with his father to purchase two franchise locations. Today, he oversees a growing empire of 29 YUM! Brand restaurants, spanning four states.

As his family’s business steadily grew, Zakaras knew that implementing standard loss prevention practices would become increasingly important to sustaining success. However, as a Midwestern native with strong values and sensibilities about treating people well, he wanted to make sure that those practices aligned with his company’s family-oriented philosophy and trust in his employees. “There’s more to loss prevention and business success than simply preventing theft or waste,” he says. “We want to leverage technology in a way that combines the best industry approaches to loss prevention operations with the employee development practices that have become a pillar of our company culture.”

Simple surveillance vs. Intelligent video

Leading an organization with an expansive geographical footprint creates a number of challenges for Zakaras and his leadership team. With sustained growth over more than a decade–highlighted by the 2016 acquisition of 23 more locations to arrive at the current 29–the geographic distribution of stores across a four-state territory made it difficult to monitor each store’s performance and standardize employee development programs.

As a long-time Envysion customer, Zakaras has always been a strong advocate of using technology to create transparency in his business and promote accountability among his staff. Prior to partnering with Envysion, Zakaras set up a 16-channel video surveillance system to remotely monitor customer interactions, general store activities, and transactions in a few stores from his home office.

However, he quickly found the on-premises system to be unreliable in cases of power outages, time changes, or inclement weather. Furthermore, the system maintenance became increasingly more time-consuming as both technologies and the company’s business demands continued to evolve. Even worse, the system’s timestamps were frequently inaccurate, significantly limiting the value of the video footage as a loss prevention and employee development tool.

“Having a video system is great for getting a snapshot of a store’s operations, but without precise time stamps and the ability to compare the video with other system reports to get a clear understanding of what’s actually happening, there’s little value to the business,” he says. “We wanted a system that could help get the most accurate information to the right people, at the right time without requiring a ton of time or effort managing it.”

Being anywhere, any time

Zakaras turned to Envysion for a hosted video solution that could alleviate the burden of managing and maintaining a system on his own, while providing a reliable and easily scalable way to keep apprised of the health of his business. “One of the biggest drivers for finding a hosted video solution was to free my staff and I from dealing with the super technical stuff,” he says. “Having a partner as established as Envysion in our corner to handle it so we could focus on our daily operations made the decision pretty easy.”

Working with systems integrator Security Solutions, ZAK Family Foods deployed Envysion hardware in its 23 remaining locations, a process that took less than a month according to Zakaras. With the Envysion Video Management platform in place, Zakaras and his team have complete visibility and transparency around the flow of business in each of the company’s locations.

Specifically, Envysion’s loss prevention audits (LPAs) help Zakaras nip potential employee issues in the bud by streamlining investigations into possible coaching or termination opportunities for an unprecedented level of insight and accountability at the restaurant level. At the same time, the mobile app provides instant access to live and recorded video from each store location on any device that Zakaras or other designates can compare against the LPA reports for a 360-degree view of the business or even share with employees side-by-side as a live training tool.

Maintaining a corporate culture of trust

Zakaras maintains that the “people side” of the business is what drives him and that Envysion has made that part of his job a breeze, despite some initial concerns.

“When we first launched Envysion, I was a bit apprehensive about how it would be received and worried that team members might feel as though we didn’t trust them,” he says. “As it turns out, everyone is excited about having a system in place to keep people honest, accountable, and productive–especially managers in stores that didn’t have one in the past.”

However, the video system is more than just a watchful eye on the business; it’s an essential tool for creating and maintaining a culture of positivity and accountability across the organization. Despite the common misconception that video surveillance undermines the relationship between managers and their employees, Zakaras says it’s been the complete opposite experience in his organization.

In addition to supporting the company’s efforts to build a strong, positive culture, Envysion’s video solution also empowers ZAK Family Foods managers to execute their responsibilities with greater efficiency, accuracy, and kindness toward their team members.

According to Zakaras, having the support of a robust video platform and actionable insights delivers all the information managers need to do their jobs more effectively and efficiently–a key part of bolstering the company’s culture of growth and accountability, while significantly boosting the bottom line.

“A great example of our transformation is when we identified a $20 loss incident in a store with consistently flat sales,” he explains. “Envysion helped us isolate the occurrence and made everyone in the store aware of how we uncovered it. From that point on, we not only saw lifts in daily sales as high as 20%, but also won complete buy-in from the entire store staff.”

Blazing a path forward

For nearly a decade, ZAK Family Foods has relied on Envysion to keep its expanding business operating at peak efficiency. Zakaras has enjoyed watching the evolution of the Envysion platform, taking advantage of each upgrade to the system and new product rollouts as they’re released. He says that one of the biggest advantages to working with Envysion and its partners like exception reporting provider Delaget is that the tools are incredibly easy to use and provide crucial support for the most important aspects of his business.

“While many companies try to be everything to everyone and water down their offerings, Envysion and its partners focus on continually delivering robust and powerful products that anyone of any age can start using immediately,” Zakaras says. “Now we can concentrate on using technology more effectively to move our business in the right direction instead of relying on adding headcount and more complexity.”

In addition to new features and functions, Zakaras is especially thankful for the ongoing training and support Envysion offers around all its products and services because effective use of technology is paramount to remaining competitive in a saturated market. He says that with each lesson or interaction with an Envysion expert, every member of his team becomes more comfortable using the system to its fullest potential, greatly improving its–and their–value to the business. But perhaps the most beneficial facet of the relationship with Envysion is that the wait for new features or capabilities is never too long, giving Zakaras the confidence that ZAK Family Foods can always remain one step ahead of the competition.

“I’ve been able to watch for nearly ten years as Envysion has remained consistently ahead of what the market is going to demand,” he says. “They’ve maintained a clear position as an innovator and leader with new products like the mobile app and collaboration with other leaders like Delaget, which has been hugely beneficial to us as part of their family.”