10 Mistakes To Avoid When Launching a Fast Casual (or any other!) Brand
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10 Mistakes To Avoid When Launching a Fast Casual (or any other!) Brand

10 Mistakes To Avoid When Launching a Fast Casual (or any other!) Brand

Fast casual restaurants are not exactly enjoying peak popularity during the pandemic, but thanks to drive-thrus, takeout, delivery, technology, and innovation driven by necessity, many fast casual brands have figured out ways to survive… at least for now, while others are seeking Chapter 11 protection.

Last week at the Fast Casual Executive Summit, a panel of 3 fast casual leaders spelled out 10 things not to do when launching a fast casual brand. The hard-earned lessons clearly also apply to any brand.

The panel, “Don’t Do Business Like a Rookie,” featured Charlie Guzzetta, president of BurgerFi; Nick Vojnovic, president of Little Greek Franchise Development; and Stacey Kane, founder of Broadtalk Marketing.

Here are the 10 “missteps” – and advice on avoiding them – with brief excerpts from the full article, written by Judy Mottl, which appeared on QSRweb.com.

1) Don’t run out of cash

“You need 20% to 30% more money than you initially estimate in my experience. You also need to watch every penny,” said Vojnovic.

2) Keep a close eye on vendor contracts

Contracts can be the undoing of a business if operators aren’t paying close attention to what’s in the contract before signing the document, said panelists. “Keep an eye on the renewal aspect,” advised Vojnovic.

3) Take site selection extremely seriously

Determining where to open that first location or the 100th location is critical to success, said the panelists. “You may have the best restaurant in the world, but if no one can find you it’s not going to be a success,” said Vojnovic.

4) Join local business groups and network with other operators

One of the great aspects of the fast casual industry, said Vojnovic, is how those in the sector are supportive and willing to help and share. “Get involved and you’ll find great resources,” he said.

5) Take a long look at the lease more than once

One of the biggest decisions for a fast casual operator is signing the location lease – not something to be done in a rush. “If it’s 15 to 20 pages that’s a good sign. If it’s 50 pages that’s a nightmare,” said Vojnovic.

6) Find the right marketing partner

Marketing is key even before a brand launches a store, so finding the right marketing partner is important, said Kane. “Find freelancers who know the market and have connections. The PR person is an extension of your brand and you need a good relationship,” she said.

7) Make good equipment choices

Every brand looks to save money, but sometimes going too far with savings on vital kitchen and operating machinery and appliances can have disastrous consequences. “Identify the most important piece of equipment driving profitability and get the right equipment in place,” said Guzzetta.

8) Be diligent when signing on with services

Everyone wants to be a new brand location’s partner, cautioned Kane, and operators are inundated with offers and sales pitches. “Everyone will try to sell you something but don’t ever sign anything with a long contractual date.”

9) Don’t underestimate the social media commitment

Social media is invaluable to a first location opening or latest store opening, and many operators believe managing the necessary social media isn’t a big time commitment. That’s a big mistake, said Kane.

10) Go big on philanthropy

Establishing a philanthropic strategy is important. A growing number of consumers are proving to be more loyal to those they see as giving back to the community and trying to protect the environment.

Finally, don’t ignore technology

“You need to use technology to enhance the brand, grow the brand, strengthen the profit. Yet don’t let technology run your business for you. If not used properly, it can be costly and cause issues,” advised Guzzetta.

Published: October 31st, 2020

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