How retail franchisees can use data to survive our current crisis, and then thrive

Unprecedented' is a word we've heard bandied about countless times in 2020. The hospitality and retail sectors have never experienced anything like the impact of Covid-19.

How retail franchisees can use data to survive our current crisis

‘Unprecedented’ is a word we’ve heard bandied about countless times in 2020. The hospitality and retail sectors have never experienced anything like the impact of Covid-19. Very difficult decisions have had to be made concerning staffing and, in the worst cases, whether to keep trading.

The high street was already struggling to adapt to a new omnichannel world, and how it emerges following this global crisis remains to be seen. The current view is that demand will return, and do so with a bang.

Fuelled by pent up boredom and the availability of spare cash from being at home, the belief is there will be some kind of celebration when it’s over – akin to Black Friday, Cyber Monday or even something of greater magnitude. The counterpoint to that is people will have adjusted to a lower level of consumption and new behaviours will emerge.  

When many are struggling with the here and now however, it can be dangerous to focus too much on what opportunities will exist when things get better. Businesses are, first and foremost, having to focus on staying afloat – and how they can adapt to this new reality. Only once that’s been achieved can we think about how we can thrive in the new world that emerges.


Everyone has had to face up to the stark realities of this crisis. Many will have needed to furlough staff and scale back their operations, cutting costs to a minimum.

These are decisions that can jeopardise a business’s very survival. Careful consideration of all the factors likely to impact current and future performance need to be reviewed. 

The ability to analyse a vast array of key data is vital in these situations. When we can layer this information on top of each other, it provides a holistic view of an operation’s prospects – enabling franchisees to make a genuinely informed decision on whether to keep certain sites going, or not.

When difficult decisions must be made, high-quality geospatial data, and analytical tools, allow us to act with confidence. It’s the data that informs businesses whether to tactically pull back and how to keep the right size store network in place to meet the new demand.

The ability to run real-time calculations and review the impact of several scenarios, also allows companies to restructure their field resources wherever the demand profile has changed or staff capacity has reduced – possibly due to people being off sick.


Data is also helping businesses to adapt quickly. One clear observation during the coronavirus crisis is that many businesses have had to change the way they sell. Companies have been rapidly re-directing resources to delivery services to ‘stay in the game’ – with many adopting geospatial planning tools, such as delivery route optimisation systems, to support this transition.

While demand for home delivery has spiked in the short term, due to the restrictions on our daily lives, we should also expect this trend to extend to the longer term. Home deliveries have been rising for many years now, and what this crisis has done is accelerate an existing trend. Consumers will continue to take advantage of these more sophisticated service options when the crisis is over. 

Franchisees may well want to consider this in any new investment. Delivery options are not about adding value to customers any more, they are a necessity in the short-term and will be needed to meet heightened expectations in the long-term.


When consumer demand does eventuality return to something approaching normal, it may do so with a bang or be of a different nature. Either way, the businesses that survive this crisis could be asked to meet heightened demand, when others cannot.

It may not be easy to think about the franchise opportunities that will exist right now, but they will be there for ambitious businesses – be that a single store or a multi-country operation.

Where this is the case, the ability to evaluate the landscape and analyse those countless overlapping sources of geospatial data will be crucial. By building a profile of each potential site using key information, such as local demographics and competitor presence, businesses can create a rich picture from which to judge a site’s feasibility and projected ROI.

It may be, however, that in this new landscape more businesses choose to operate virtually and we see a continuation of trends such as ‘dark kitchens’ – where restaurant owners eschew a high street location altogether. These, often unbranded and low-rent locations, are outposts which are opened in areas where the data suggests there is enough demand for delivery, but not enough to warrant the overheads of the hight street.

Informed decisions 

In challenging economic times, now, perhaps more than ever before, it is vital for franchisees to look at the data in order to protect their investments.

Despite the unsettling period we’re living through, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Yes, businesses will have to adapt to survive – and the potential of home delivery will doubtlessly reshape the hospitality industry. But people will also be chomping at the bit to consume outside again when they can.

There will be opportunities to thrive again, if we look at the data and make informed decisions.  

John Taylor
John Taylor