Powered by Tech: Inside Balance Grille’s Data-Driven Innovation Strategy
Unbiased decision-making is crucial for both continuous improvement and forward-thinking innovation in business. While data can provide objective insights to help make informed decisions, one of the biggest challenges of data-driven decision-making is proactively collecting the data and ensuring its quality.
Balance Grille co-founders Prakash Karamchandani (PK) and HoChan Jang (CJ) have an operational system with this in mind, putting technology first to obtain the most useful business data for improvement and refinement at every level. Our tech-forward strategies are cohesive, innovative, and integrated into all areas of the pan-Asian, fast-casual business, allowing for the collection of both qualitative and quantitative data necessary to make knowledgeable decisions that customers, employees and franchise partners can benefit from.
Rooted in Efficiency
PK’s early background in technology and software development has uniquely shaped Balance Grille into an innovative disruptor in the fast-casual space. This has allowed for the development of an entire “operating system” predicated on transparency, technology, and continuous improvement, resulting in strong sales performance, minimal labor issues, and great-tasting food. “Our goal has been to incorporate technology into every layer of our business and that comes down to our general viewpoint on operations. We view our training as the ‘software’ and the way that we build out our stores as the ‘hardware’ and focus on a continuous improvement model and iterative updates throughout the year.” says co-founder PK.
Everything about Balance Grille’s structural models is interwoven with an emphasis on data. When customers visit or order at Balance Grille, their entire experience is streamlined and efficiency-based. PK and CJ have strategically woven technology into every aspect of the brand to optimize both customer and employee experiences, as well as automating administration. The brand’s digital-first approach includes ordering and more via an award-winning loyalty app and consumer-facing kiosks. Our tech-integrated back-of-house utilizes iPad-based kitchen operations, proprietary app-based training, and an employee-centered peer management system that streamlines every element of operations.
Digitizing Restaurant Operations
When PK and CJ first opened Balance Grille in Ohio in 2010, they utilized the standard front and back-of-house employment model. As time went on and they began to expand, the duo realized there was a better, more simplified way to manage operations to benefit the business, its customers, and its employees. They began to develop a technology-based plan that simplified training, employee roles, shift structure, and restaurant operations. What started as a classic employment model in the early days of Balance Grille turned into an innovative design for the fast-casual industry, and it’s clear from the wildly-high number of people in line to sign on for employment that their strategy has proven to be efficient.
The system is designed in a way where employees complete virtual training for a baseline role, Brand Advocate, after which they receive a badge certifying training completion that allows them to request shifts within the position. As they continue to work, they are eligible to train for additional entry-level or upper-level roles as they prefer. Compensation goes up with specific positions, and anyone can request to train for any role. Most companies offer paid time off or overtime based on being a part-time or full-time employee, yet we prioritize employee availability as the determinant for benefits. The more badges employees obtain, the more options they have for scheduling availability—leading to higher income and benefit opportunities. With over 60% of its employees trained as Shift Leaders, the “manager” position for any given shift, it’s clear the system has encouraged a positive and healthy employee culture that makes staff excited to come to work. Franchise partners and customers benefit heavily when team members are operating at their happiest and best, as further proven by an average employee tenure of 2.46 years, an astounding rate compared to the industry norm.
The use of data-driven technology has led to maximized efficiency for Balance Grille, with the brand leaning into technology as an extension of how our consumers and employees alike use their phones.
On the consumer side, Balance Grille customers are provided an award-winning loyalty app experience offering integrated online ordering, customization, and curbside check-in. Yet the real power of the Balance Grille app lies in its experiential data collection capabilities, fully integrated into marketing and the point-of-sale, which allow Balance employees to see customer feedback and satisfaction in real-time. Additionally, the app’s complex rewards campaign mechanics and guest segmentation provide the ability to launch targeted campaigns down to the individual, and its reporting capabilities allow for a thorough analysis of campaign performance to make necessary tweaks to boost future results.
While consumers are using their phones to place and pick up orders through our app, employees are utilizing their phones to access our web-based training program, scheduling, and product prep requirements – everything that they need is already in their pocket.
“In our system, everything is completely integrated. Employees use the same app-based technology for training as they do for scheduling shifts, clocking in and out, and tracking the performance time taken to complete tasks within a given shift and role,” says PK.
This system allows leaders to monitor analytics and business data at a high level and use that knowledge to make changes and decisions as needed that might otherwise prove to be challenging. In a mobile-based world, it’s a model that makes sense for employees—optimizing their work planning in an organized, informative way. “Our system for managing employees is completely tied together, simplifying organizational processes and proving that our data-first approach has been truly incredible.” Unbiased transparency is a key value for the founders—one that solidifies the trust and sense of community employees feel working in our stores. The practice of this value has led to phenomenal outcomes for customers and franchise partners, confirming the impact that the use of data to make decisions has had for Balance Grille.
Accolades of Innovation
The data doesn’t lie—Balance Grille’s innovative efforts have earned us a spot on QSR’s 40/40 list for 2022, along with Fast Casual’s Top 100 Movers and Shakers for 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2022. Additionally, the Balance Grille loyalty app was recognized alongside some of the country’s biggest national brands as a 2018 Technology and Trends Silver Award Winner by Loyalty360.
As the founders look toward the future and what’s to come for Balance Grille, one thing is for certain – technology will be at the foundation of every new and exciting advancement for the brand.
To learn more about how the brand is continuing to innovate as it prepares for its next phase of growth, visit our franchise page.