Fresh To Order aims to identify with their franchisees in their own unique way.
In order to better understand what their franchisees have to face when they’re opening and running a Fresh To Order restaurant, the company plans to open one corporate store for every franchise they open.
“We plan on growing roughly on a 50/50 basis,” CEO Pierre Panos said in recent interview with Franchising USA. Having roughly the same number of corporate stores as franchises will help the company be a better, more effective franchisor, he added.
When changes to the restaurant market happen — like the price of beef jumping, for example — the company wants to be able to figure out how best to handle these challenges so they can have solutions figured out for franchisees to help them overcome these bumps in the road easier.
Currently, Fresh To Order has 15 locations and another two will be open by the end of the year. Of the current 15, seven stores are corporate and eight are franchises. In total, the company has 30 restaurants under development at various stages.
Fresh To Order has locations in Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, North Carolina, and has commitments to open new locations in Chicago, Philadelphia and Dallas. They are looking to get into markets east of Dallas and southeast of Chicago down to Florida and they especially want to expand further in states where they currently have a presence.
Panos started Fresh To Order nine years ago, the first restaurant of its kind.
“When we opened our first store in 2006, no one was doing very elevated fast casual, which I call Fast Fine,” Panos said.
With Fresh To Order, Panos wanted to bring quality food preparation and freshness to the restaurant market at around the $10 per plate price range. Essentially, he wanted people to enjoy the quality and service of a $25 per plate restaurant, but for a price that he says is just 50 cents to a dollar more than the average fast casual restaurant.
At Fresh To Order, guests can expect to be greeted at the door, see their food being prepared in front of them and having their drinks refilled.
“It’s elevated service experience, elevated food quality preparation methods closer to fine dining than fast casual in a more upscale than typical fast-casual environment,” Panos explained.
With Fresh To Order, Panos wanted to offer flavorful, healthy cuisine where people could be in and out in 30 minutes, and where everything is fresh instead of frozen.
He opened his first Fresh To Order in 2006 and his first franchise in 2012.
At that time, healthy eating had just started to become a trend, but Americans weren’t quite ready to embrace that caliber of flavorful food. Today, fast casual is a big trend, especially among ethnic foods, but Panos considers Fresh To Order to have been far ahead of the current trend.
Now, people want flavorful food and Fresh To Order can attract people who have specific calorie counts in mind, as the restaurant has meals from anywhere between 200 and 600 calories
Growing at the right pace
Panos says the brand is specific about where they award franchises. They receive a healthy number of applications, but want to grow responsibly and methodically and in specific target markets only.
They also only want franchisees who meet specific criteria, one of which is to have been a restaurant operators for at least five years. They also must open the restaurant in the city where they live.
“We like the idea of local knowledge,” Panos said. “Fresh To Order is growing at the right pace with the right franchisees.”
Keeping the Excitement Going
When entering a market, Fresh To Order already has a strategic real estate plan drawn up that shows suitable trade areas. Franchisees identify potential sites within their trade area and the company will visit and evaluate each site and give final approval. They also help franchisees with research on the locations by giving them access to their comprehensive neighborhood profiles of the sites.
Franchisees are always excited to open their restaurant once they’ve been awarded a franchise. But, choosing a location and getting it built takes time. So, to keep that initial excitement going, Fresh To Order sends their franchisees little gifts each month that will keep them engaged with the company as they look for suitable sites and wait for the buildout to finish. These items include books that explain the Fresh To Order culture, hats, t-shirts and branded gifts for the franchisee.
Franchisees, along with their key operators, go through training that lasts for about six weeks. They are trained in all areas of running the business in existing Fresh To Order restaurants.
The company also helps a lot with the opening. For the first week, there can be a team of six to eight people from the company helping with the opening. Over time, as the franchisee gets more established, these corporate representatives will leave one by one until the franchisee is running the restaurant themselves.
Once they’re open, the company will help with franchisees with a step by step marketing plan that is rolled out in stages. The company also inspects the franchises to ensure everything is running smoothly and to liaise with franchisees.
With a comprehensive growth plan that favors quality over quantity, and with a desire to meet the challenges of running a restaurant head on and figure out solutions for their franchisees, Fresh To Order is poised for success at just the right pace.