Quick and Casual Delivers Profitability in Food Service

chris_conner_high_res_2_4.jpgIn the world of ecommerce and the digitization of everything, people want speed, they want quick, they want high quality and they want it right now.  The food service segment of franchising is no different when we look at trends and brands that have that “it” factor both in and out of franchising.  The reality is that Fast Casual is where the growth is because that’s what today’s consumer wants. 

According to Technomic, the Fast Casual Dining segment will expand by 7.5% in 2018 which is incredible growth, while Quick Serve is projected at 3.5% growth and fine dining is only at 2.7%.  People want good food, they want it quick and they want an experience from a brand that stands for more than just chucking burgers out the window at people.  If we look out at the franchise landscape at brands that have scaled effectively in recent years, most match up with these trends.  Concepts like the “Better Burger Space” have done exceedingly well with brands like Five Guys, Burger-Fi and newcomer Buddy’s Burgers which are high quality products in a faced paced, upscale environment.  (Think Chipotle, but Burgers). 

 So if you are a budding entrepreneur and you’re considering starting your own restaurant, what are the key items you should incorporate into your business plan? 

First, think cool, trendy, edgy and fun.  Whatever you do, do not design your image, logo, store or anything else to look like something a 40+ year old would like; that will be certain death for your brand. 

Second, think “Off Premise”.  This is the second buzzword of the day and is the leading trend for all food service businesses across the universe.  Today’s consumer is ordering food online; they are ordering takeout and they are eating your product just about anywhere that is NOT your restaurant.  Design your business to be focused on this segment, not as an afterthought and odds are your bottom line will thank you.  Zunzi’s, a cool Savannah-based brand has this concept nailed down and focuses on carry out and delivery business. 

Third, you need to be health conscious and focused on organic/vegan/keto or some other kind of diet that is trending today.  If you are like me, it’s hard to comprehend all of these diets, but your customers (millennials and other young people), will notice and will spend accordingly if you don’t have menu options that match up with their eating preferences. 

Finally, think 1,200 – 1,700 square feet in size. You want to keep your location compact, simple and highly visible.  Today’s food service business will be simple and easy to locate real estate for and can be placed next to a Starbucks and still make the business model work. 

Now on the other hand, if you are investigating franchises, the same type of characteristics should be in place with a potential franchise brand you might consider investing with.  All of the food service trends that play into the consumer market are taking hold in the franchise market as well. 

Blaze Pizza is the perfect example, fast casual, simple, fun and cool branding mixed with a customer-centric pizza product that is fast and convenient.  Duck Donuts has brought the same winning traits from food service trends to the retail donut market segment with a high quality product, quick, fun and full of selections for every customer….and yes donuts are $5 a piece. 

At the core of any strong franchise investment, start with the financials; make sure the ROI is there to justify not only the initial investment, but also the fees the franchisor is asking for in the terms of the franchise relationship.  But then I would dig further and interview customers at existing locations of the franchises you are considering buying from.  Get to know why people buy from a certain franchise brand and then cross check to verify that your market has these types of customers and offers similar opportunity.  Check the franchise brand against the trends to make sure that the franchisor has “checked the boxes” and offers systems which address each of these key market drivers.

Christopher Conner is the President of Franchise Marketing Systems and has spent the last decade in the franchise industry working with several hundred different franchise systems in management, franchise sales and franchise development work. His experience ranges across all fields of franchise expertise with a focus in franchise marketing and franchise sales but includes work in franchise strategic planning, franchise research and franchise operations consulting. For more information on how to choose the right food service franchise, contact Chris Conner at Chris.Conner@FMSFranchise.co.m

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