Understand your target market and develop a niche proposition.
As a franchise owner, you will soon come to understand why branding forms the foundation of marketing, and in fact, has the power to foster preference and loyalty, leading to repeat purchases and increased profit margins.
So what do consumers take into consideration when choosing one brand over another and what can you do to ensure that your franchise brand remains ‘top-of-mind’?
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1. The importance of brand reputation and brand personality
Brand reputation really comes down to how individual consumers have experienced the brand.
A positive or negative experience can fundamentally alter a purchasing decision and it goes even further in that the consumer’s experience of the brand will see them recommending the brand to their peers.
Word-of-mouth marketing via brand reputation has the potential to transform consumer perceptions around a brand.
With the rise of social media over recent years, peer group influence has become a critical factor when it comes to branding. It is therefore essential that you ensure consistent quality and service in the delivery of your product or service.
Generally speaking, consumers also tend to opt for brands that have been around for a while and are tried and tested. Newer brands on the other hand have not yet proved themselves conclusively, and are regarded as higher risk.
From a franchise perspective, the longer a brand has been in existence, the more streamlined its systems are likely to be and most of the bugs or areas requiring improvement have probably been attended to, whilst newer brands have a much longer learning curve to go through.
The longer a brand has been in existence, the more stable it is and the chances of failure are minimised.
How the prospective franchisee relates to the brand personality, brand identity, brand values and brand vision and objectives of the franchisor’s brand is another critical factor that influences consumers’ purchasing decisions.
It is therefore very important to understand your target market and what your customers value and how they perceive your brand personality. This will assist you in finding a niche proposition that differentiates your brand.
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2. Branding pitfalls to avoid
Many new and inexperienced franchise owners often question franchise branding initiatives out of ignorance and do not follow the franchise guidelines when it comes to marketing and branding. In my experience, this can be detrimental.
It is therefore essential that franchisees follow marketing guidelines and utilise the brand-strength elements in all their public relations, emails, social media, advertising and client correspondence.
Business owners need to ensure that their brand is well and consistently displayed on all posters, signage, flyers, special offers, email correspondence, social media, staff clothing, packaging and advertising.
Other cost-effective brand awareness initiatives franchisees could consider include participating in sponsorships, PR breakfasts, dinners, lunches, cocktail parties, exhibitions and expos.
Here again franchisees need to ensure that the brand is well and consistently displayed.
However, just as important is being a positive, enthusiastic and passionate franchisee who actively seeks opportunities to promote the brand. In other words as a franchisee you need to ensure you live the life of a loyal brand ambassador.
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So when weighing up what franchise brand to invest in, remember that while the best brands normally cost more than others, in most cases they can command a higher resale selling price at a later stage.
However, here potential franchisees will also need to keep in mind that the joining fees, royalties and marketing can often be higher than other, lesser-known brands with the value-added benefits not always evident.
So, in other words, you will need to do your research and carefully weigh-up what best suits your individual business goals and pocket.
How Your Fast Food Franchise Can Attract Quality-Conscious Consumers
In a world where customers are becoming increasingly picky about where they dine and what they pick from a menu, it can be challenging to meet demands.
“Major foodborne illness incidents and outbreaks seem to be increasing. Even innocent or careless mistakes can sicken guests and ruin a restaurant’s reputation,” says Francine Shaw, President of Food Safety Training Solutions Inc. “Foodborne illnesses are 100% preventable and could be avoided if food service organisations adopted a food safety culture.”
Following a listeriosis scare in South Africa early in 2018, consumers have become more conscious about the foods they eat. Today’s customer is more concerned about the cleanliness of the food they buy over its taste.
“How food is sourced, prepared and served is uppermost with many diners demanding transparency when it comes to where they spend their hard-earned money.” – Franchise Association of South Africa (FASA)
The addition of more nutritious choices to your menu may be attracting health-conscious consumers, but it’s the quality of the regular – and perhaps popular – menu items that may win over consumers concerned with quality and not just calorie content.
Here’s how you can ensure your customers are at ease with having their next meal at any of your franchises nationwide:
1. Ensure everyone knows why and how it’s done
Even with buy-in from the top-tier, your food safety efforts will be futile if not incorporated into every training touch point and may appear to be optional, when they should be a priority, says Chris Boyles, vice president for The Steritech Institute. When you have well-trained workers who understand the ‘why’ behind food-quality policies, momentum is built and a culture of food safety is created.
“Through encouraging genuine, comprehensive behavioural shifts, your franchise will protect the brand, safeguard employees and sustain a reduction in risk,” Boyles adds.
2. Build food-quality impetus across the network
As a company that serves food to the public you’re in a position of great responsibility. It’s important to pass this message down to your franchisees too. “Co-operation between the franchisee and their employees in this regard cannot be stressed enough,” says Marcel Strauss, Managing Executive of The Fish & Chip Co. – which was voted the top fish brand in 2012.
To get your franchisees on board with tightened food safety regulations, ensure they’re aware of the looming food-quality changes you’re planning on implementing and the ROI for your brand. This enables them to make budgetary allowance for certain credentials and technology you may require to meet certain standards of food safety.
3. Tell your customers every chance you get
Give consumers a glimpse into your production process by including your quality mission statement on customer-facing materials such as your website, social media pages, profiles on external review sites and menus. “Use stories, images and videos to show your practices in action,” Katy Jones, Chief Marketing Officer at FoodLogiQ explains. “Take customers behind the scenes into internal discussions. Practice is the way you demonstrate your commitment.”
To incorporate quality and safety messaging into customer relations, you need collaboration between your food safety managers and marketing managers.
The Future Of Franchising Looks Smaller (And Fancier)
Franchises are adding smaller locations and reduced menu options, as niche markets emerge, to attract the customer of the future.
As the owner of a thriving franchise, you’re well aware of the fact that fluctuations in the world economy has both negative and positive effects on business. When it comes to your successful franchise, tough times could mean adopting new trends or seizing gaps, potentially resulting in a new franchise concept you wouldn’t have otherwise thought of.
“The buzz word in global franchising is ‘flexibility and adaptability’,” according to the Franchise Association of South Africa (FASA). “Whether a result of a need to inject some life into stagnant franchise brands or as a result of the new world order brought about by the recession, franchising is embracing alternative and options in a big way.”
You can do this by either devising innovative areas to franchise or allowing more flexible ways for franchisees to operate to help with their bottom line. FASA has earmarked these as some of the biggest franchising trends in 2018 and beyond:
Smaller, more cost-effective franchise models
When franchisees don’t have high franchise fees and start-up costs to worry about, they can focus more on what customers want, and deliver. The added benefit of smaller spaces include having fewer employees and reasonable rental.
Among the new frontiers in franchising are the food court losing its legacy as the preferred setting for food franchises, as service stations increase in popularity in the industry. A number of brands – like Steers, Debonairs and Mugg & Bean On-the-Go outlets – are co-locating with major fuel retailers to create fully-integrated accessible centres.
Niche markets are offering one-of-a-kind franchises
“The opportunity to get in on the ground floor of a new franchise trend is also on the rise,” notes FASA. This could be offering a unique gourmet food experience in your outlets or a ‘green’ space of energy saving technology in your operations.
“Consumers have gained control of what they want,” says Morné Cronjé, head of franchising at FNB Business. “It is no longer about what you have on the menu, but how your product or service can be tailor-made to what a customer really wants.”
Founded just five years ago (2013), RocoMamas boasts over 60 franchise outlets, clearly responding to the essence of this trend –allowing consumers to build their own burgers without having to pay for items they’d rather leave out.
Stay ahead of the game
For long-term success, franchisors who want to expand their business should start exploring beyond present circumstances and current predictions.
“2018 will no doubt bring its challenges, however for every challenge there is a window of opportunity to explore. We are advising franchisors to scrutinise these trends carefully, it can definitely give them a boost for 2018,” says Cronjé.
As Consumers’ Tastes Change Can Your Franchise Keep Up?
More of your customers are eating in, and if you’re not packaging, portioning and pricing your food accordingly, they’re heading to a retailer that does.
It’s generally believed that it’s cheaper to cook your own breakfast, lunch or supper than to go out and pay a much higher price for the same food in your fridge at home. But today’s consumer’s live fast-paced lifestyles – so food is becoming more about convenience.
31% of 6 022 middle-to-high income South African earners surveyed by BusinessTech, put eating out and entertainment at the top of their list of things they’re most willing to cut their spending on in 2018 to save money. Research by supermarket giant Pick n Pay correlates, reporting an increase in customers buying quality convenience food, not just to entertain at home, but for dining at home.
Consumers are empowered by variety
You’ve heard about the ‘fast casual generation’, aka Millennials? They are demanding healthy, affordable eating experiences. But do you know how this affects the future of the food industry, and your business in particular – because they’re not the only ones adapting their lifestyles.
An increasing number of food brands and chefs are compelled to create complete ranges of new, convenient meal options that are not only packaged, portioned and precooked attractively, but affordable too.
The fastest growing sector of retail foodservice for the past four years has been the convenience store sector. Non-traditional avenues of distribution are growing, gobbling market share while establishing new patterns of consumption, price points, and customer loyalty.
Shoppers are becoming value-focused
A savvy franchise would acknowledge that although pre-packaged and pre-cooked convenience food isn’t a new trend among consumers and supermarkets, it is gaining popularity. “Some of the most notable trends in 2017 were an increasing shift to convenience foods as customers looked for both value and convenience,” says Pick ‘n Pay’s Head of Marketing, John Bradshaw.
Value for money and healthier food choices will continue to be top of the convenience food list for consumer in 2018, as more shoppers cut down on luxuries.
“We’ve seen significant growth in the number of customers looking for an easy way to enjoy a good meal without the cost of eating out,” says Bradshaw.
But he cautions that South African shoppers have always been value-focused, and while the most significant shift Pick ‘n Pay has seen is how all its shoppers, no matter what their income levels, are watching their budgets.
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