Weathering the Economic Storm With Branded Fast Food

Given the economic climate, when many businesses are trying to boost, or even maintain, their revenue streams, now may be a good time to reconsider your foodservice offerings. These days, consumers are increasingly looking for value and familiarity, especially when doom and gloom are constantly forecast for the financial horizon.

Q: We're considering revamping the food options available to our guests. Why should we consider branded fast food?

A: Any revamp of food offerings should consider adding a branded quick service concept. A branded concept offers your visitors, guests and even employees snack and meal options from trusted sources. With so many concepts available, it is important that you determine what will work best for you. Are you looking to make a positive impact on your bottom line? Are patrons turning their noses up at the rows of rotating hot dogs and machine-dispensed nacho cheese? Are they clamoring for healthier options? If you answered yes to any of those questions, a branded fast-food concept may be exactly what is needed.

Q: What should we look for when considering a branded concept?

A: The brands on anyone's short list should be trusted, with a proven track record. Do your homework. Not only should you speak with representatives from the brands that you are considering, but also speak with the individuals who run their locations. Find out if the franchisees are happy with their decision to be part of that brand. Is there dissention among the ranks? Is the corporate office responsive to their needs and how much say do the franchisees have? What types of support, training and communications systems do the brands have in place? Also, does one always have to deal with the head office or is there local representation available to help when needed or to speed things along?

Also, give extra points to any brand that is able to successfully balance nutritious offerings with great-tasting products. Your guests should not have to choose between healthy considerations and flavor—they should be able to have both.

Q: Why do consumers seem to flock to branded fast food?

A: Customers have become especially sensitive to the value they are getting for the dollar and expect to receive exceptional service as well. It should be relatively easy to tell which brands are excelling in those areas.

Nutrition is another aspect of branded fast food that is increasingly important to consumers. With obesity at alarming rates and outcries from consumer groups and government officials, a brand that would make any A-list is one that has a reputation for providing healthier options.

One big reason for bringing in branded fast food is that it is quite often considered to be comfort food by a large segment of the population, including those who are part of your prime demographic target audience.

Q: What are some of the business and operational advantages?

A: The appeal of a branded concept is that it comes with built-in name and product recognition, customer base, consumer loyalty, existing menus, recipes, operational systems, suppliers and advertising programs. You don't have to reinvent the wheel. Also, with rising costs just about everywhere, it's good to know that many favorite quick service brands are seeing upticks in business while customers in general are cutting back from more indulgent purchases.

Q: Isn't it expensive and complicated to work with the big chains?

A: Many brands have quite reasonable startup costs and are very good at what they do. Look for a brand with minimal space and equipment requirements that allow them to fit just about anywhere. One that can be custom-designed to fit into just about any space and be incorporated into a facility's current foodservice operation will work best if your facility is already operating. It can be run by the staff on hand, or space can be leased out to an established local franchisee who would handle all of the business details of the restaurant, essentially transforming you into a landlord. It all depends on what's right for you and how much time and effort you want to devote to your foodservice operations.

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