District Managers or Checklists?

You need to check brand standards across your retail or hospitality business, for all franchisees and locations. How do you do that?

Do you rely on district managers, their experience and personal touch or do you deploy checklists for all to fill-out?

Checklists largely consist of yes/no answers to standard questions. When a district manager fills-out a checklist, they are collecting structured data. Yet this district manager has the benefit of experience and the ability to have two-way unstructured communication with the franchisee.

To drive performance, you need both. Let’s dive in.

Checklists let you know what works, where and when.

Successful operators are execution minded. They run on checklists and structured data. Structured data lets us know what works, where and when.

The checklist sets shared expectations between the brand, the district manager and the franchisee so that everyone knows what is required. These insights are easy to follow.

Structured data goes further: it allows the business to spot trends and opportunities. Since you can’t manage what you can’t measure, checklists support management decisions and corporate strategy.

District manager retail audit in a store with a tablet

experience is the Glue

For all its merits, structured data collected by checklists mostly tells us what the problem is, not necessarily what the solution should be. This is where experience comes in.

Successful operators take advantage of the district manager’s experience and understanding of each location. Sometime “human touch” is needed to facilitate problem solving. It requires the district manager and franchisee to have an honest, open and collaborative two-way conversation. This approach shines where the path to the corrective action is unclear and/or heavily dependent on the franchisee’s specific situation.

Checklists Need Experienced District Managers (and Vice Versa)

For all the benefits of experience, leaning on experience alone can be dangerous. Experience is hard to scale, hard to measure and hard to manage.

How are your stores actually performing? Are all district managers interacting with stores at the same level?  Are your stores consistently getting the help they need? Where are you strong, weak or trending down? Can you even tell?

Without the structured data collected by checklists to guide the experience of the District Manager, a retail business is putting its reputation at stake and has no way of ensuring the consistent execution of brand standards across the chain.

To drive performance and brand standards across your business, use checklists coupled with the experience of your district managers.


Refer to the Brand Standards category for how-tos and best practices for brand standards in retail and hospitality.

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