Revamping Your Food Options


f you're considering revamping your food options, you should consider branded fast food, as opposed to a proprietary program. You could do it yourself, but why reinvent the wheel? Branded concepts are already established, with the most successful being widely recognized and offering the ability to provide snack and meal options from recognized, trusted sources. And, branded chains have experience in menu development and marketing that allow you to concentrate on what you do best.

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

A: With so many concepts available, it is important to determine what will work best for you. Are you trying to boost your bottom line? Provide more appealing or healthier menu options? A branded concept may be exactly what you need.

The brands on anyone's short list should be trusted, with a proven track record. Look for one that has plenty of locations and that is continuing to perform well. Many retailers have experienced difficulties in the past couple of years.

Do your homework. Speak with representatives from the brands you are considering, as well as the individuals who run their locations. Are the franchisees happy with their decision to be part of that brand? Is the corporate office responsive to their needs? How much say do the franchisees have? What types of support, training and communications systems are in place? What are the startup costs? Does the brand have local representation to help when needed?

Also, give extra points to any brand that is able to successfully balance nutritious offerings with great-tasting products and good value. Your guests should not have to choose between healthy considerations and flavor—they should be able to have both, and it shouldn't cost them, or you, an arm and a leg.

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

A: One big reason is the taste. It is often considered to be comfort food by a large segment of the population, including many of those who are part of your prime demographic target audience.

And along with taste, nutrition is another aspect of the branded fast food experience that is important to parents and health-conscious consumers. With outcries from consumer groups and government officials about increasing obesity rates, a brand that should make any A-list is one that has a reputation for providing healthier options. Consider looking for menus developed to fit into health guidelines, like the American Heart Association's approach to a healthy lifestyle.

Still feeling the sting of economic instability, customers have become especially sensitive to the value they are getting for their dollar, and expect to receive exceptional service. It should be relatively easy to tell which brands are excelling in those areas.

Q: I understand that branded fast food is popular, but 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, customer loyalty, existing menus, recipes, operational systems, suppliers and advertising programs. These companies have been running their businesses for many years and are good at what they do. With that comes the expertise of the headquarters staff who have figured out the nuances of their industry so you don't have to.

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

A: Not all brands are created equally. However, many have reasonable startup costs and are very good at what they do. Look for a partner with minimal space and equipment requirements that allow them to fit just about anywhere. You also should consider a partner who will adapt their concept to fit into your space. They may even be able to fit into your facility's current foodservice operation.

Some brands will allow you to be as involved as you'd like to be, with staff you already have on hand running the operation or with space leased out to one of their established local franchisees. 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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