Return to Customer Stories

Food & Beverage

Rowing as One: How Vikings Philippines Manages Multiple Brands with One Platform

Since its founding in 2011, Vikings Philippines has expanded to 65 locations with 14 diverse dining brands, employing over 3000 people. The group has mastered operational efficiency and quality consistency across its vast network, even earning accolades such as TripAdvisor's Certificate of Excellence. By implementing Lark, Vikings ensures streamlined and efficient collaboration between headquarters and branches to uphold high standards crucial for its continued growth and success.

Jackson Go

CEO

Lark has been a game-changer for us, particularly in the way we organize and manage the expanding scale of our operations across multiple brands. As a leader, Lark has endowed me with a comprehensive overview of our operations, allowing me to visualize the magnitude of our growth and the intricate web of activities that drive our success.

Company Profile

In 2011, the flagship Vikings Luxury Buffet launched at SM Mall of Asia, setting a new standard for opulent yet affordable dining. Today, the Vikings Group manages an impressive portfolio of established and up-and-coming restaurant brands. Consistently aspiring to blend luxury with affordability, Vikings Group aims to offer not only a lavish feast but an upscale dining experience that remains accessible.

Industry

Food & Beverage

Company Size

3000+

Location

The Philippines

Vikings Philippines started its first branch in 2011, bringing high-end gourmet buffet to Filipinos at affordable prices. As of 2023, it has expanded to collectively manage 14 brands including 7 buffet and 7 ala carte concepts, employing over 3000 Filipinos and running a total of 65 branches (and counting). The Group has consistently won awards such as TripAdvisor's Certificate of Excellence and the Philippines' Retailer Association's Outstanding Filipino Retailer.

Managing multiple dining outlets requires ensuring a uniform quality of food and service across all locations. For example, the Vikings' buffet brand aimed to provide the same high-quality experience in every one of its outlets across the Philippines. This involved setting clear standards, training staff, and guiding managers to maintain these standards daily.

However, the challenge was significantly amplified for Vikings Philippines, which had to maintain this consistently across not just one brand with 12 outlets, but 14 different brands spread over 65 locations. While striving to provide a consistent dining experience across a diverse portfolio, the group also needed to maintain operational efficiency. Managing this balance was crucial to enable further growth without being hampered by the complexities of scaling such a vast operation.

Photo credits: https://www.vikings.ph/

Challenges

In the process of scaling across multiple brands, Vikings Philippines faced 4 key challenges:

  • Maintaining standards: Each of the 65 outlets had its own store opening and closing checklist. The headquarters did not have sufficient oversight to ensure the same standards were complied within each brand.

  • Keeping a pulse on revenue: Knowing how the business was performing every day became time-consuming: audit teams in the headquarters used to spend up to half a day every day just aggregating sales reports from the branches.

  • Creating community: Vikings Philippines was leading an army of employees but they were all disconnected from each other. It was hard to build a sense of community within the tight confines of Viber and WhatsApp group chats.

  • Efficient expansion: Without a proper project management tracker, coordinating new store openings was time-consuming.

Photo credits: https://www.vikings.ph/

Digitalizing Operational Processes: Leveraging Lark Base for Upholding Consistent Standards

To ensure customers experience consistent quality across all outlets, the headquarters establishes standard routines before opening and closing stores. This includes steps to ensure that equipment is functioning, amenities such as toilets are hygienic, and the ambience is consistent. The routines vary by brand concepts such that a buffet restaurant would have different procedures compared with a hotpot.

Before Lark, branch managers would mark against paper and send a photo of the completed checklists to the headquarters. It was time-consuming for the team at the headquarters to sift through photos of completed checklists from the 65 outlets sent to their personal Viber account.


When equipment needed fixing, or some other maintenance issue came up, the branch manager would record the details in a logbook kept at the outlet, send a photo of it to the operations team at the headquarters via Viber. The headquarters team would have to routinely compile information from their personal chats and take further steps such as contacting contractors. They would continue to update the branch through personal chat. Coordinating alone could take up to 30 minutes per issue of the operations team.


With Lark Base, the headquarters centralized store opening and closing checklists that were brand-specific. Now frontliners would submit an online Lark form from their phones, which would get auto-populated on a Lark Base table specific to each brand. The headquarters could see aggregated records of checklists for each brand at one glance, saving time.

But more than that, centralization allowed the headquarters to set standards and monitor its enforcement on the ground. It became simpler to open one more new outlet while ensuring the standards, and consequently, the customer experience were no different from other outlets within the same brand.

Maintenance requests were centralized across brands for efficiency. For instance, if an outlet reported a damaged freezer, the operations team at the headquarters would see it in one place, and designate the right person-in-charge to fix the issue.

Digitalizing the workflows and aggregating data saved up to 70% of the team's time, at both the branch and headquarters. Further, configuring the level of centralization, by brand (for daily checklists) or altogether (for branch maintenance), empowered Vikings Philippines to optimize for their workflows.

"Every brand is different. But it's also the same in that we want to ensure the highest customer service standard for whoever steps into an outlet owned by Vikings Philippines. Lark really helps us to enforce standards across the board, while accommodating the different needs of every brand." - Jackson Go, CEO.


Fast and Transparent Processes: Creating Smart Workflows with Lark Approvals

When a branch needs to purchase materials or any items for an outlet, headquarters typically reviews the request. Approval authority and number of approvers depend on various factors including the brand or outlet making the request, the type of item and the monetary value involved.

Before Lark, branch managers would submit requests in paper forms, take a photo and send it to the audit team at the headquarters. The audit team would sign on the photo and send it back, but also manually enter the request data into Excel for record-keeping.


After Lark, the approval process was in for a digital revolution. With Lark Approvals, Vikings Philippines went to the drawing board and mapped the logic for routing approvals. Based on this, they created a workflow where a branch manager could submit a request for approval on simple form via mobile. Lark Approvals then does the heavy lifting and route the request to the right people in an approval chain, sending automated notifications. Further, the branch manager can now transparently see all the approvers involved in the request and the real-time status of the approval.


Keeping a pulse on Revenue: Streamlining Revenue Reporting with Lark Base

With 65 different outlets, the audit team had to consolidate daily sales reports so that the leadership had a pulse on the revenue and performance of each brand and outlet. Before Lark, the audit team would compile and transcribe data in photos sent by branch managers. The audit team ended up spending up to half a day every day recording manually, double-checking for errors, and reconciling sales figures with bank accounts.


After Lark, the audit team's efficiency doubled.
Branch managers from each outlet would submit an online form that would auto-populate a Base record. The audit team only had to check one interface and look through one record that was already digitized. They only spent a total of 2 hours to reconcile daily sales reports of 60+ outlets across all brands.

Not only this, but Lark Base's granular access control meant that the aggregated sales report could be selectively disclosed by brand and branch. More than that, Vikings Philippines could now generate rich views of sales trends across brands and outlets, making trends visible and allowing them to take action swiftly. By digitalizing their processes, they were able to unlock unprecedented insights.

"Replacing paper with Lark was one of the best decisions. We have doubled our efficiency and save time everyday." - Madam Gee, Audit.


Building Community: Uniting Employees through Lark Moments and Lark Messenger

As the company grew, managing 3000 employees became tedious and unwieldy. Vikings Philippines's workforce was roughly in 3 categories: employees in the headquarters, employees at outlets, and frontline freelancers at outlets. Headquarters and branch managers would use Viber, a personal chat app popular in the Philippines, and Facebook Messenger to communicate with frontliners and freelancers. Employees in the headquarters would use WhatsApp to communicate among themselves.

Vikings Philippines used Lark Messenger to centralize communications among 3000 employees, from outlets to headquarters and across the 14 different brands. Vikings Philippines specifically used Lark Moments, an internal social media feed, as a digital hallway where employees interact. Birthdays are celebrated and achievements are announced, creating an environment where the entire company can participate and share happy moments. This has inculcated a sense of identity and a stronger sense of community.

"Lark is like a digital hallway for Vikings. We have over 3000 employees and freelancers across the country but this is one place where we can come to together to really unite as one team." - Nic Aliwalas, HR Business Partner


Simplifying Expansion: Executing Complex Projects with Lark

Beyond managing its existing outlets, Vikings Philippines was also expanding. Opening new outlets involved several processes that had to be completed within a tight timeframe. Apart from processes, new store opening involved different types of people-in-charge like interior decorators, branch managers, construction teams, handymen, in addition to teams at headquarters such as audit and project managers who had to be swift with decisions and approvals to ensure a timely launch.

Project managers at Vikings would use Excel to record the tasks, and update progress through the course of the project. However, they would have to use messaging apps like Viber and WhatsApp to nudge PICs to reply or notify of status updates. Project Managers could end up spending up to 20 minutes every day just updating the records and trying to get a sense of progress. More than that, it was also difficult to ensure there was visibility for leaders. At one glance, they were not able to see what the project status was, how many tasks were in progress, how much money was already spent.


After Lark, the team used Base to track projects and saved 40% of the time. In one-click they were able to generate Gantt-charts and timeline visualizations. Project managers were able to immediately intuit what was a blocker, a dependency and understand the impact of any delay. Additionally, they were able to set up automations to trigger notifications. Project leaders were also able to plan on a higher level to see patterns in how long tasks typically took to complete.


Conclusion

Vikings Philippines demonstrates the revolutionary impact that technology can have on operations, even among companies that are already trailblazers within their industry. Lark simplified the complexity of operating 65 outlets, managing 14 distinct brands, while engaging 3000+ employees. Lark has not only improved productivity by saving considerable time across various activities, but digitalization has also laid the groundwork for seeing unprecedented insights into operations.

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Lark, bringing it all together

All you need is the Internet and Lark.

Trusted by fast growing companies from 125+ countries

Trusted by fast growing companies from 125+ countries