What are food franchising’s next frontiers?
By Centre Contributor
The food franchising battleground appears to be moving beyond its traditional food court setting into a diverse range of innovative new environments, driven by the ever growing appetite from consumers for convenience, accessibility and speed of service.
In what has been dubbed the “now economy”, as in ‘I want it and I want it now’, the desire for instant gratification is increasingly driving the consumption habits of modern customers. This is most evident in the rise and rise of e-commerce and mobile technology, while the impact is also being felt strongly at the bricks and mortar retail level.
For food franchises, long at the forefront of mass consumerism, standing still is not an option. They have to be flexible to go to where the customers are and service them in the convenient format and style they demand.
These winds of change are already blowing across the food franchise sector, where more companies are experimenting with innovative new store settings.
This poses the question – what are the next frontiers in the food franchising battleground?
Some interesting developments in this area are worth noting and provide a pointer to the kind of locations that food franchises are increasingly seeking out, away from their traditional homes.
Firstly, there are signs that the food court is losing some of its long-held power as the setting of choice for food franchises.
This was highlighted by the recent announcement by Sumo Salad that it is undertaking a strategic move away from food courts into innovative new settings. The franchise plans to close a number of its food court outlets across Australia and establish new stores in non-traditional locations such as hospitals, universities and transport hubs.
Boost Juice, another mainstay of food courts, has also announced that is actively seeking out new store settings, forming a partnership with fuel retailer Caltex and exploring more stores in transport locations such as airports and train stations. In announcing the new strategic direction, Boost Juice said customers are busier than ever and constantly on the move, so it is up to franchises to “think outside the box” to make sure they are keeping up.
We have previously examined how service stations are becoming a major focus for food franchises, with a number of brands co-locating with major fuel retailers to create fully-integrated convenience hubs.
What is interesting is that this trend now appears to be extending into a whole range of new settings for food franchises such as hospitals, university campuses, airports and train stations, all outside of the traditional shopping centre-food court environment.
Where this trend will lead into the future is anyone’s guess but there are sure to be new ‘outside the box’ settings that many would never have envisaged that franchises could be located. The way that modern service stations look and the range of food options on offer, compared to how they looked 30-40 years ago when all they sold was fuel, is proof of that.
What are the future blue sky opportunities for food franchises? In the US, food franchises have set up inside military bases and in Australia, there has been talk of a coffee franchise seeking to one day open an on-sand store on the beaches of the Gold Coast.
The possibilities are endless and those franchises that are brave and innovative enough to lead the way will be rewarded with first mover advantage over their competitors.
Adding to the potential for food franchises to break out into ever more interesting locations is the growing trend to be mobile, which provides even greater flexibility in going to where the customers are.
This is distinct from delivery, and is more about putting the franchise on wheels and taking it to the streets in a food truck style. One franchise seeking to capitalise on this is Pizza Capers, which recently announced it would be launching new mobile truck franchises.
Pizza Capers explained that this new mobile concept means it will be able to more easily cater for demand that its fixed stores cannot, for instance at food truck events, music festivals and outer-city industrial parks.
The message for franchises is to be flexible, so they can translate their concept into any geographic location and store formats that future consumer trends demand.
The only certainty is that there will be many future franchise settings that look very different from those of today.