“Please stand 6 feet apart.”
“We are seating every other booth and table.”
“We will help you with beverages and condiments.”
“No more 20 persons allowed to dine in at a time.”
“A mask is required for entry.”
Sound familiar? Most of us have seen this when resuming going out to eat with our families, friends, and co-workers.
In the last few months, I have written about how your restaurant can survive during this time, about how to secure market share, how to grow during a downturn, and even trends that are emerging for franchised restaurants. I have been coast to coast speaking with entrepreneurs and franchisors about what they are doing (or not doing) to survive in this current climate.
Now I will share a few restaurant trends that are emerging that I believe are super compatible with franchise opportunities. I want to highlight some of these trends to help you in your search for your next restaurant franchise opportunity.
Trend #1: Full service – Fast Casual
Recently while dining with my family at a well-known chain, we noticed how the service had changed from self-service to full-service.
Our drinks were prepared for us at a station in front of the soda fountain machine where we would normally have made our own beverages. A table was purposefully placed in front and a friendly staff member, masked and gloved, politely asked us what we would like to drink. It didn’t feel forced or temporary. It felt relevant and proactive.
The trend we are seeing is this: environments that are seamlessly transitioning from self-service to full-service are the franchises that are winning right now.
When seeking your next franchise opportunity, seek the ones who are seamlessly transitioning into full-service to self-service in a way that feels evolutionary and not revolutionary. In other words, transitioning in a way that is next-level, not just fighting against the pandemic. This provides a safe and secure experience for guests and lets them know the restaurant is on top of their game.
Trend #2: Socially Distanced Dining Rooms and Patios
Another trend is the swift preparing of dining room environments to accommodate social distancing indoors and outdoors.
Some of the restaurants I have visited felt awkward and out of place. Caution tape draped across every other booth and computer paper marked, “DO NOT USE THIS TABLE” Sharpie-signs. This is what I would label as revolutionary, as I mentioned above; just reacting to the pandemic in a make-shift sort of way.
On the other hand, during this season of precautionary measures and distance, some have truly evolved, making diners feel just as at home with these new arrangements as before they existed. Every other booth has become a serving station and tables have been removed to make the dining experience more welcoming.
And patios. Remember those? Now restaurants with ample outdoor seating are booking reservations and seating guests at every service.
Seek restaurant franchise opportunities where dining experiences have been adapted to accommodate social distancing and that have included a healthy dose of outdoor dining into their location plans.
Trend #3: Online Table/Booth Reservations
I have said this before and I will keep saying it (even for those who have limited seating already): online reservations for a table or booth is critical.
It doesn’t need to be mandatory, but it goes a long way to helping guests recognize that the location is making every effort. Restaurants that give us the opportunity to reserve a table outside for our family at supper time will prevent us from getting there only to find out the patio is full and the inside has reached capacity.
The restaurant franchises that are winning offer this. If you are wanting to become a restaurant franchisee, seek franchisors that are cultivating this type of environment within their model.
Trend #4: Readiness Begins with the Training
Where do staff learn the ropes? Who is teaching this generation of team members how to overcome and win during this season?
Training is by far the most important of all the trends. I have seen franchise systems that have addressed this new normal from the ground up, making it evolutionary. Their training programs, both in store and at HQ have equipped their people to make guests feel welcome and safe.
Like I said, I have seen many restaurants act as if this season will end tomorrow. So they throw a temporary fix on things and it feels forced to the guests. Others have frustratedly adapted to the changes and downsized to a place where our favorite spots feel like a ghost town from an old western movie.
Conversely, there are those franchisors who have said, “This is where we are at. We are going to make certain that our guest’s overall experience doesn’t change. We will change but our services will not. We will adapt in a way that builds customer confidence, not damages it. We will evolve and train our franchisees and their employees on how to thrive now.” These are the ones who are winning.
At the end of the day, “adapt and overcome” is really the trend, isn’t it? Seek out the franchise opportunities that are most determined to adapt and overcome—to be evolutionary instead of revolutionary—because those are the franchises that will best teach you.
And you will win.
Gary Norris is the CEO and founder of Norris Ventures, a firm that helps turn successful restaurant and retail concepts into sustainable, scalable systems; market-ready for either franchising or corporate replication. With over 30 years entrepreneurial experience, Gary and his team at Norris Ventures lock arms with their clients to ensure success and sustainable growth, every step of the journey. Whether you are considering franchising for your business or you need to kick start franchise growth, Gary and the Norris Ventures Team are the true turn-key solution.