Furthermore, Ron Shaich, Au Bon Pain’s co-founder, felt the company was in the midst of a “cycle of failure”. Attracting and finding new employees was becoming difficult on the staff level of operations. Pleasing and keeping manager qualified and dedicated professionals was becoming an even larger problem. As a result, customer satisfaction was declining and thus sales were decreasing. The owners of Au Bon Pain knew these human resource issues needed to be addressed before this downward spiral took over the entire company’s success.
In response to this threat of failure, Au Bon Pain recruited Len Schlesinger to join their management team. With the addition of Schlesinger’s experience in organizational behavior, Au Bon Pain was hoping to establish a system within the organization to increase sales and at the same time “improve quality throughout Au Bon Pain by increasing employee ownership –both financial and psychological- in the organization”.
With this primary focus in mind, Schlesinger and Shaich developed the Partner/Manager program. They chose to experiment the program on a trial run basis with two of Au Bon Pain’s stores. One store was located in a mall atmosphere outside of Boston and the other was a busy office building location in downtown Hartford, Connecticut. They chose these two different scenarios so they can be confident that the system would work in all types of establishments. The program would last for six months and compensation was primarily based on incentives relating to controllable profits.