Evolve, adapt, change, or risk becoming the next retail flop. This is the message from Auntie Anne’s, a successful catering franchisor which understands how to keep their customers happy.
It’s a tough time to be in retail and even tougher to be ‘a start-up’ company in this particular sector.
News reports are constantly telling us that we have just experienced the ‘worst sales month ever’ and this seems to be borne out by stories of well-known companies, and major retail brands, being in dire financial trouble, with some eventually going out of business.
On the other side of the coin, there appears to be a steady stream of replacements finding their way onto the high streets of the UK, with some even managing to hit the ground the running.
Although it remains a risky time for a start-up to take the plunge into retail, the franchise market is booming and at Auntie Anne’s we believe we have put the correct checks and balances in place, so that anyone attracted to our brand will have a great chance of making a success of it.
There are many reasons why we have remained resilient, allowing us to evolve with the times, rather than get swept away by the stormy retail waters which seem no sign of abating just yet.
So when choosing where to invest your money, and which franchise to open, you need to consider not only how well a particular business is currently performing, but also what precautions they have taken to survive in the topsy-turvy turbulence of the present-day economy.
Every start-up, hoping to take a dip into the franchise market, needs to consider this:
Is the franchise you are researching stuck in their ways and perhaps only have one main concept? If the answer to this question is ‘Yes’, this could mean the business may struggle to evolve, thus restricting the opportunity to capture new customers.
At Auntie Anne’s we began by focusing our attention on shopping centres, but realise that footfall is declining, leaving many vacant units in these retail hubs. Hence, they are not quite the safe bet they used to be.
If I can digress a little, it is worth mentioning that many shopping centres are enjoying huge new investment with the aim of creating experience-led venues that will entice customers well into the next decade.
While we are not going to turn our back on maintaining a major presence in shopping centres, which remains a core part of promoting our brand, we are flexible in our business model and understand the need to look at other options.
We have already moved into numerous airports and tube stations, and feel these transient commuting hubs provide us with the perfect location for developing our brand.
As for expanding into the future, we see ourselves opening café-style outlets, which are larger than our current offering, with more seating, a wider product range, and late-night entertainment – combining our famous pretzel with the option of having a beer.
We are also looking at developing mobile shopping outlets, which will pitch up at events and retail parks.
In other words, we are hoping to extend our franchise still further, giving greater flexibility and enable us to make the most of ever-changing trends.
One of the reasons why some major brands have suffered terribly in recent years is that they have been unable to adapt to change.
Shopping habits fluctuate, so we all need to evolve and adapt. This is something Auntie Anne’s has achieved, and there are two factors to consider when updating your franchise to cope with changing times.
It is vital to be creative when developing new products:
We have created a new range of products to cater for customers at different points during the day. These include breakfast buns, pizzas and sandwiches.
Always keep on top of latest consumer trends, such as veganism. For these customers we sell pretzels which do not contain butter – simples.
For us, it has become second nature to develop new products which appeal to a range of tastes.
Once a product has been made, then easy availability is a must for a company to be successful:
If we know our customers are shopping online more and visiting retail hubs less, then we need to be where they are.
In the UK we have joined forces with Uber Eats, Deliveroo and Just Eat, enabling Auntie Anne’s to reach customers who enjoy our culinary delights.
And we continue to move with the times, by embracing the app which allows customers to pre-order and pre-pay, before collecting their pretzels en route.
Next up is understanding and managing ever-increasing costs
Property and labour is expensive, while the cost of goods is generally increasing.
Being able to properly manage your outlay is key to running a successful business.
When investigating a franchise, find out what processes are already in place to make running the business as streamlined as possible.
Have they implemented any technology recently to make things easier for any budding franchise outlet? At Auntie Anne’s we have brought in a new point of sale (POS) system, as well as one to assist with kitchen management (KMS).
Our POS is state of the art. It provides a full breakdown for each product, so you can easily check on profit margins for each item.
Allergenic or nutritional information can easily be accessed by customers arriving at the till. And we are more than happy to print this information on request.
The KMS informs busy staff what to use when making up an order, which helps to reduce waste and increase productivity.
There is so much to think about when analysing the pros and cons of any franchise.It is crucial you find one which is flexible and ready to tackle an ever-changing world by understanding their strengths, while finding ways on how best to serve the much-valued customer.
This article comes courtesy of Victoria Gale, Franchise Recruitment Manager for Auntie Anne’s UK & Ireland. Find out more about Auntie Anne’s, the world’s largest soft pretzel brand, visit www.auntieannesfranchising.co.uk