Starting a business is an enormous task for someone to go through. Market research needs to be conducted, finances need to be sorted out, buildout, permitting, and hiring all needs to get done before one person steps through the door. With this amount of work, there are always going to be hurdles to jump over and setbacks that can derail a business, which is why it is paramount to work towards solidifying your process before looking to grow.
Why did we wait and how did we build our brand?
I founded The Salad House in 2011 after having worked at my family’s restaurant my whole life. For six years, my business partners, employees and I worked every single day to make our concept more efficient and easier to run. We did so because we knew that we would want to share our diverse lifestyle menu with communities throughout New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and eventually, the rest of the United States. What we found when we started looking into franchising is that too often franchisors are eager to launch their franchising opportunity and spend time working out kinks and irregularities at the expense of the first few franchisees. We didn’t want to encounter this problem because it wasn’t fair to our new partners who were helping us grow our brand. To help us become more efficient, we acquired and implemented a new POS system that allowed us to utilize specific metrics to make data-driven decisions. By using data as a factor in decision-making, we were able to see what worked and what didn’t. Ultimately, we ended up reducing the number of menu items, decreasing cost of goods sold and worked on making it easier for customers to order through our website. We worked hard to streamline our operational efficiencies and unit level economics before launching The Salad House franchising opportunity so that we could provide our franchisees with the best concept on the market.
By waiting to franchise, businesses can give themselves time to develop their brand and understand their customers’ needs and wants. At The Salad House, we utilized this time to personify what our concept was, which made it easier for us to look at our brand through the lens of our target market. Through this process, we were able to branch out to focus on community outreach/involvement with our brand, develop the proper uniforms for our employees as well as the ideal colors and fonts for marketing materials.
Another key focus of ours was to design and implement packaging with the proper logos and brand messaging. We also were able to build our brand on social media channels, specifically focusing on interacting and establishing a connection with our followers and customers. After building our social presence, we developed a brand ambassador program and held influencer events to further our social channel engagement and growth. Brands that wait to launch their franchise opportunity are allowing themselves time to establish a foundation to grow from. It is far easier for franchises to grow from a strong base, than to try and expand from the ground up while continuing to perfect your systems. Balance your growth by bringing a strong concept to market. This way, as you continue to grow, you have the infrastructure in place to keep moving forward and don’t have to waste resources trying to manage small problems or inefficiencies.
Tips for other restauranteurs
When developing your brand, it is absolutely vital to prioritize communication from the corporate team to employees and franchisees. By keeping an open line of communication, corporate can hear about new ideas from employees about menu items they think might do well, or learn about new protocols a store manager thinks would help improve efficiency. These stakeholders can help provide important insight that corporate can utilize to help strengthen your brand and concept.
Use data as much as possible. At The Salad House, we utilize data to help us with everything from developing target markets to deciding which menu items should stay or be removed. Having the ability to review data and analyze what is working for your brand and what needs to be changed is crucial and can help you prioritize your efforts towards what needs the most improvement.
When growing, work to bolster your relationship with your vendors. This will benefit you down the road as you continue to grow. Your vendors may be flexible and willing to work on things like pricing if you have a strong relationship, so be sure to keep an open dialogue and create a mutually beneficial partnership.
In order to successfully grow your business, you will need a sturdy base to grow from. Before setting your sights on becoming one of the fastest growing concepts in the country, take the time to analyze your system, implement the necessary infrastructure, work on your brand, foster key relationships, and review the data. The more solid you make your foundation, the easier it will be for you to grow your system and attract prospective franchisees and partners to your concept. After establishing a base to grow from with the necessary systems in place, you are ready to begin focusing your attention on growing your network. By following this path, The Salad House will have grown to five locations by the end of 2020, and is currently targeting New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and Pennsylvania for expansion.
Joey Cioffi is a veteran restauranteur with over 10 years of experience in the industry. He is the founder and CEO of The Salad House, a rapidly expanding salad franchise concept based in New Jersey that is currently seeking new partners throughout New Jersey, Connecticut, New York, and Pennsylvania.