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Expanding Into Nontraditional Venues

Nontraditional franchise locations enable your customers to visit a familiar brand while on the road or rushing through an airport, an important part of building brand loyalty.

When traditional locations in a market have been saturated, expanding into nontraditional settings will not only help your franchise to grow in size and build brand awareness, but it can also be leveraged as a unique way for franchise owners to boost their portfolios.

arrows-webFinding new venues for locations can help to build brand loyalty among consumers and bolster your entire franchise system. However, straying from the concept’s standard prototypes can offer risks and challenges for a brand. The following best practices come from franchise executives at different stages of nontraditional growth who offer advice on how to find the right fit for your brand outside of a traditional location.

Further Your Brand Presence

As demand grows for a product and traditional avenues have been inundated, as a franchisor, you may have to get creative for new prospective locations. As seasoned veterans, Auntie Anne’s has found new avenues for franchise locations at amusement parks, casinos, military bases, colleges and universities, large retailers, and transportation sites such as airports, train stations and travel plazas. Recently, the soft pretzel franchise recognized an opportunity to capitalize on a nationwide trend and further expand the brand’s presence in locations outside the established mall setting by introducing food trucks.

Nontraditional franchise locations will help to build brand recognition as you will be able to provide your product to a growing consumer base. While your brand’s presence continues to expand, consumers will notice the familiar color scheme and design elements, therefore it is imperative to keep true to the brand no matter where the franchise is located. Be sure new locations are conducive to preparing a product consistent to that found in a traditional setting; guests will expect the same high quality and anticipate fan favorites to be on the menu.

Brian Boycan is the vice president of nontraditional development for Auntie Anne’s

Brian Boycan is the vice president of nontraditional development for Auntie Anne’s

Understanding the nature of a new location and what that means to continue consistent marketing with consumers is essential. In an airport or train station, you may inform travelers of your location by purchasing ad space in a high traffic area. While in the case of a food truck, communication is extremely important for the mobile franchise units. Social media can be an easy and cost-efficient avenue to spread the word of your brand’s whereabouts. To help consumers find the new soft pretzel trucks, Auntie Anne’s created a social media effort around the unique hashtag #IFoundThePretzelTruck.

Take Advantage of Unique Marketing Opportunities

Nontraditional locations can also take the form of event centers, stadiums and arenas that operate only around special events. Bojangles’ has seen that the nature of these locations will generate marketing opportunities for the brand to be exposed to a large cross-section of people, reminding loyal fans of your existence and giving potential everyday customers a chance to taste your fare in hopes of winning them long term.

Also located in NASCAR speedways, collegiate arenas, professional football stadiums and baseball parks, primarily in the Southeast, Bojangles’ aims to create credibility with the sports’ very loyal followings that will reward those associated with their favorite team. Moreover, your brand may benefit significantly from marketing opportunities presented in these locations. It is important to explore all avenues for your brand to become integrated with the venue.

It is imperative to keep true to the brand no matter where the franchise is located.

Tom McCord is the vice president of real estate and franchising for CiCi’s Pizza

Tom McCord is the vice president of real estate and franchising for CiCi’s Pizza

Benefits in these special venues also reside in the fact that real estate and investment risk may be vastly less than the full-size, freestanding traditional locations. A location in an event center may allow a franchise owner to go beyond the existing geographical footprint through reasonable investment and risk, allowing the introduction of the brand to new areas without building a permanent location.

Challenges, of course, can arise from the same context. For example, an airport location outside a brand’s existing geographical distribution network requires affordable distribution perhaps from a faraway source. Because airport units are much smaller in size, but the sales volumes can be huge, “just in time” types of delivery or daily delivery of food and supplies to the airport may be necessary, made more difficult if the location is beyond the brand’s distribution footprint.

Adapting to the Landscape

There will never be a one-size-fits-all prototype for any franchise, but flexibility is increasingly important to take into account when expanding into a nontraditional setting. Many franchise concepts exploring unique locations will discover the challenges that come with entering a new setting such as loss of conveniences, including designated parking, the amount of space you are accustomed to or inconsistent customer traffic. You may even find yourself in a position where it would benefit your brand to offer a limited menu or feature new items, such as breakfast or easy-to-eat snacks.

Recently, a newcomer to this type of expansion, CiCi’s Pizza, introduced opportunities in nontraditional venues with several new restaurant prototypes, including those designed specifically for airports, unveiling new flexible store designs to accommodate the versatile requirements of today’s airports. For the pizza buffet concept to enter this setting, executives needed to accommodate to the landscape by adding grab-and-go locations and a custom-designed kiosk.

Eric Newman is executive vice president and general counsel of Bojangles’ Restaurants, Inc.

Eric Newman is executive vice president and general counsel of Bojangles’ Restaurants, Inc.

Since airports may offer high foot traffic past your locations, your brand may need to adjust to customer demand at an unusual time for the concept. For example, to allow franchise owners to take full advantage of new airport locations, CiCi’s is exploring options to cater to new day-parts by adapting its menu to include breakfast items designed for portability.

As this will hold true with train stations, college campuses, casinos and other nontraditional venues, it is always important to understand the tendencies of the environment and allow your brand to adjust its signature items to provide consumers with a unique product and experience.

Why is it important for franchise brands to expand to nontraditional spaces? As you establish your unique position in a marketplace and build national recognition, nontraditional franchise locations will enable your customers to visit a familiar brand while on the road or rushing through an airport. Those customers will continue to build loyalty to your brand.

Brian Boycan is the vice president of nontraditional development for Auntie Anne’s, Tom McCord is the vice president of real estate and franchising for CiCi’s Pizza and Eric Newman is executive vice president and general counsel of Bojangles’ Restaurants, Inc. Find them at fransocial.franchise.org/Home/ via the directory.

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Rebecca Morris is the content development manager for ADP HR411. Whether it’s human resources, payroll or benefits, ADP provides the services and insights that let you focus on what matters: growing your franchise.
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