America is the great melting pot of cuisines. Across the country, the food is getting more flavorful and the number of franchises is growing.
Did you know? The International Franchise Association expects to see 1.6-percent growth this year in the number of U.S. franchise establishments. Source: International Franchise Association
People have to eat, and they’re choosing to do so in style. Here are three of the top franchised restaurants trends for 2015.
1. Premium Fast Casual Restaurant Chains
Why have a regular cheeseburger when you can order a cheeseburger with fried onion strings and sautéed mushrooms? Fast-casual chains have premium offerings with a level of customization that makes it difficult for fast-food competitors to compete.
Example: The options we listed above are from Mooyah Burger, a fast-growing, fast-casual restaurant chain that will open locations in six U.S. markets this year. While healthy is still a trend, the recent success of burgers-and-fries chains like Shake Shack is proof that restaurants don’t need to serve chai lattes and salads with bleu cheese crumbles to be considered “premium.”
2. Ethnic, Fresh and Flavorful Cuisines
An amazing thing happened this week when Chipotle told shareholders that sales jumped more than 16 percent in 2014. Analysts basically said, “We thought you’d do better!” In response, CEO Steve Ells cited the number of chains that are now copying Chipotle’s flair for big flavor, fresh ingredients and customization.
Example: While Mexican quick-service restaurants are increasingly popular, Italian food is becoming increasingly customizable. Take, for instance, Uncle Maddio’s Pizza Joint, which allows customers to build their own pizzas from scratch. The chain has plans to add 200 franchisees in the next year.
3. Quick Service Restaurants Copying Style of Fast Casual Restaurant Chains
It’s not just about upscaling food choices, like putting guacamole on a McDonald’s burger. It’s about changing the décor and atmosphere to create a different customer experience. We’ll see more and more chains following this trend in 2015.
Example: “Edgy, Dark and Scary. The decor is a combination of black, silver and red with videos and paint job with flames to make it look like you are in hell.” No, it’s not a rock concert description. It’s a Yelp description of Burger King’s Whopper Bar in Midtown West.
When Burger King introduced its Whopper Bar concept in 2009, the intention was to take the competition right to fast-casual chains. Some locations even offered beer. However, the chain experienced execution problems, as evidenced when its flagship location in Times Square was shut down for health code violations twice in one month.
Perhaps Taco Bell will have more success with its high-end concept, U.S. Taco Co., which debuted in Huntington Beach, Calif., in August.
The Secret Sauce
The fact remains that people like to eat at franchised restaurants because they trust the brand. The most successful franchises know who they are and never lose sight of franchising fundamentals. They know that regularly inspecting franchised locations and maintaining a consistent brand message is key to success.
Do you aspire to be the next Chipotle or Shake Shack? Conduct internal audits, hold your employees to a high standard of customer service and use the right tools that will improve your operations.