There are more than 35 111 franchise outlets in South Africa. As the business landscape continues to evolve, it presents entrepreneurs with a new set of challenges and opportunities.
Franchisors and franchisees who stay ahead of industry developments will continue to grow and remain a step ahead of their competitors. Those who don’t could easily get left behind as consumers tighten their belts, and competition increases from global brands. Ultimately, though, you need to cater to customers who believe that convenience is a non-compromise.
Why consumers want more for less
One of the franchising industry’s biggest threats is the above-inflation cost of living increase that consumers face. Shrinking disposable incomes make them more selective about where and how they spend their money.
“Consumers are spending less and will have to make bigger trade-offs in their decision making,” says Louise Hefer, Media Strategist at The MediaShop.
Solution: Increases in fuel and electricity prices, further unemployment and ongoing drought mean consumer spend is going to get leaner. They are becoming more discerning in their purchases. But, it’s not just about price, as Vera Valasis, Executive Director of FASA (Franchising Association of South Africa), points out: “When times are tough consumers don’t stop spending. In my opinion the spending continues, but it is just different,” she says. “It’s even more imperative to ensure service is top notch together with quality and a market related price.” So up your service game, and you can keep customers coming back for more.
The playing field is getting larger
Your Vida e Caffé, Steers or Romans could be doing incredibly well – up until the Starbucks, Burger King or Pizza Hut opens down the road from you. How do you compete with international giants showing up at your doorstep, enticing your customers with worldwide popular appeal?
“Competition can push you to be better,” explains FASA chairman Naas du Preez. “While this has a positive economic impact, and gives consumers more choice, it significantly increases competition and puts more pressure on the performance of established brands.”
Solution: The arrival of global brands in your territories could lead to an expanded customer base in your arena, creating an opportunity for you to improve on your product, service and brand as a whole. “Competition helps you to focus and to improve the quality of your products and service. Competition will highlight your weaknesses for you,” says Du Preez. So, identify what the international brands are doing to attract spenders and see if you can deliver what they’re offering – more competitively.
Adapt to the consumer’s needs
If you rely on the same practices that have gotten you this far in your business, to get you through the next 10 years, think again. According to SA Franchise Warehouse, following a tried and tested model is no longer a guarantee for success in the franchising sector. “Convenience and innovation in technology is increasingly becoming important to customers,” says Liza Mijburgh.
“Consumers now want the option of ordering meals online and getting them delivered to their homes.”
Solution: The surge in South African smartphone users has seen 17.7 million of the 37.2 million adult population make use of mobile apps or access the Internet via their smartphones, according to MMAS (Mobile Marketing Association of South Africa). This means creating a delivery app and finding other ways to communicate with your customers using technology could be advantageous in catering to your current clientele as well as broadening your target audience.
Consumers aren’t just spending less, but are more selective in their purchasing decisions. This means value and quality trump price, and convenience gives you an edge over your competitors – local or international.
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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