COMMENTARY

How one sub shop is beating the 'restaurant recession'

Aug. 15, 2017

By Scott Ford, president of Goodcents Franchise Systems

One of the most important aspects of building and running a successful business is learning the art of agility. The slow and stubborn simply can't survive in today's world.

The key is being aware, thinking proactively, and knowing how and when to take action. And just when you think you're comfortable, it's time to get uncomfortable again.

Scott Ford, president of Goodcents Franchise Systems

Some brands can easily lose themselves in this process. It's a fine balance of staying true to your brand and your products, while finding the right ways to change and adapt to consumer demands and industry trends.

Having worked in the restaurant industry for more than 25 years now, it's never been more apparent to me. The current 'restaurant recession', as it has been coined, has many scrambling.

With new restaurants, food delivery services and large-scale grocery stores popping up almost every day and more and more people eating at home, the competition is more fierce and diverse than ever. This makes it very difficult to manage from a national marketing standpoint.

Fortunately, we saw the writing on the wall long before any of the analyst reports or media began talking about the forthcoming recession. We knew we needed to make a shift and that the future of our business lied in the hands of our individual franchisees.

I addressed our team of franchisees at our annual conference that year about the anticipated recession with the following analogy:

"Two hikers see a bear coming toward them. One hiker bends down to tie his shoe and the other hiker says there's no way you're going to out run that bear. He says, 'I know. I just need to outrun you.'"

With the research indicating that total restaurant occasions are on the decline, I said “survival of the fittest has never been more relevant. Stealing share from your competitors is the only way to win. We must do it better, faster and cheaper than our competition or we'll be the ones who parish.

From that point on they were sold.

We jumped right in and spent the better part of a year working together to develop customized field marketing plans for each franchisee and the communities they serve. This included the hiring of dedicated Store Trade Area Representatives across the country to help manage the execution.

From defining specific ways to drive the average check total, to increasing delivery traffic, to making personalized phone calls to follow-up on catering orders, to partnering with local schools and businesses, we knew that a targeted grassroots approach was our way to win. And it was.

While the industry may show comp sales growth of 1.3 percent, most of that is driven by check. Our top 25 percent of restaurants are currently 7.6 percent positive, and the top 10 restaurants are at 11.5 percent from last year.

This is the definition of agility to me.  The operators that have embraced the approach are far outpacing the industry. It's not about being the smartest or the fastest, but rather the ability to think proactively, develop a plan of action and implement in a timely and efficient manner.

It was also a good lesson that even in today's crazy world of technology, social media and endless other marketing tools, sometimes it's about getting back to the basics. It's about understanding your customers and the communities you serve at a deeper level. And it's about educating and empowering others to help you in that journey.

Cover photo: iStock


 

 

 


Topics: Franchising & Growth


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