5th Annual Franchise Innovation Awards: Products & Services: 2023 Winners Leverage Tech to Create Unique Solutions
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5th Annual Franchise Innovation Awards: Products & Services: 2023 Winners Leverage Tech to Create Unique Solutions

5th Annual Franchise Innovation Awards: Products & Services: 2023 Winners Leverage Tech to Create Unique Solutions

5th Annual Franchise Innovation Awards: 2023 winners leverage tech to create unique solutions

This year's Franchise Update Media Innovation Award winners were selected from a long list of entrants about franchise brands turning technological innovations and strategies into cost-cutting and time-saving efficiencies. This year saw more than 100 entries from franchise brands large and small, legacy and emerging. A choice few grabbed the top spots to earn the prestigious awards and recognition.

The contest recognized two overall winners: Denny's took home the Franchise Marketing Leadership Award, and Dickey's Barbecue Pit won the Operations & Technology Leadership Award.

A panel of expert judges evaluated each entry's objective, the problem it solved, and the innovations required to achieve the stated goals. Winners in each of the four main categories and 22 subcategories are highlighted in the following pages. The four major categories are Marketing & Branding, Operations & Technology, Products & Services, and Human Resources.

  • Marketing & Branding: This category asked brands what innovative solutions they employed to grow consumer awareness, engagement, and loyalty--everything from traditional advertising and PR campaigns to social media, rewards programs, new product launches, and local store marketing campaigns.
  • Operations & Technology: Systems and processes, along with replicability and scalability, are essential for franchising success. And who could do all that without advanced technology. Judges reviewed the most forward-thinking operations teams and how they improved and streamlined their processes and practices through innovation in the aftermath of the pandemic.
  • Products & Services: To meet the needs of today's consumers, franchise systems must evolve along with what customers want in products and services--and in how they want them delivered. For many entrants, technology played a huge role in adapting to how customers ordered, paid for, and received their products or services in 2022.
  • Human Resources: Growing a great brand requires the best people at every level. This category examined how brands employed unique, innovative strategies and tactics to attract, hire, train, and retain the employees who best suited their vision and culture.


Most Innovative Product Introduction
Hand & Stone Massage and Facial Spa

Objective: To continue providing customers with innovative luxury treatments at affordable prices while remaining competitive throughout the spa and wellness industry by adding new, non-invasive skincare treatments.

Overview: Hand & Stone's is commited to enhancing guests' lives through affordable, luxurious, and innovative services and treatments. Most recently, this is exemplified by its partnership with Dermalogica. Hand & Stone worked with Dermalogica to expand its menu offerings to include its newly developed skincare treatments--LuminFusion and NanoInfusion--using the Pro Pen, a nano- and micro-needling tool that offers different levels of penetration and precision. The NanoInfusion treatment delivers advanced professional results for skin texture and signs of aging. LuminFusion uses the NanoInfusion technology to deeply infuse active ingredients, and is combined with a targeted retinol peel to resurface and renew. LED red light therapy visibly restores skin luminosity with no downtime. All skin therapists who perform these services are Dermalogica-trained experts licensed in accordance with state regulations.

Results: The Dermalogica Pro Pen and LuminFusion and NanoInfusion treatments are already well on their way to becoming one of the brand's most successful offerings, with nearly 50% of locations adopting the technology since November 2022. And the two new treatments are quickly nearing $1 million in sales since their debut.

Most Innovative Service Introduction
Assisted Living Locators

Objective: Our objective was to become the first nationwide senior placement service to achieve systemwide certification for dementia care. We wanted to ensure that our franchisees had the knowledge and expertise to provide top-quality care for seniors with dementia.

Overview: All 140 of our Assisted Living Locators franchisees completed comprehensive training and became certified in dementia care. This systemwide certification ensures that our franchisees have the skills and knowledge to provide compassionate and effective care for seniors with dementia. We also provide ongoing support and education to our franchisees to ensure that they remain up to date on the latest advancements and best practices in dementia care.

Results: Our commitment to providing high-quality dementia care has resulted in improved outcomes for seniors with dementia and their families. We have received positive feedback from our clients and their families, who appreciate the level of expertise and care provided by our franchisees. Assisted Living Locators is the first and only senior placement and referral franchisor to achieve systemwide certification for dementia care, setting us apart as a leader in the senior care industry.

Most Innovative Use of Customer-Facing Digital Tools
Twin Peaks

Objective: During the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent shutdown, we turned to a quick, touch-free digital menu solution using a QR code sticker on all our tables. It was a simple solution just to get us through the shutdown. Once things started to open up, we made the strategic decision to stick with digital menus and take the experience to the next level. We found the perfect partner and spent several months moving from a static PDF menu to a fully interactive digital menu that allowed our guests to truly experience our food through food photography, interactive video content, and engaging ads that featured our news, promotions, and in-store events.

Overview: Our digital menu gives us insights into what our guests are interested in and how often they are accessing our digital menu. We now can tie sales results directly to ads we featured on the digital menu, proving the mantra: "If you show it, it sells." The ads we feature on the menu are just one more touch point, such as social media and email marketing, where we can interact with guests and drive them in our desired direction. We're also able to dive into culinary innovation like never before using the digital menu to target specific messages and imagery and drive trials of new test items. It's all localized by location in any time frame we choose. The fully digital menu also allows us the flexibility needed in an ever-changing marketplace. We have eliminated the cost of printing menus and the cost of not being able to pivot as the market requires.

Results: As a fully-digital menu brand, we are able to save more than $1 million each year on print costs. We review results on a "per 100" guest count and consider any item above 1 per 100 a "star menu" item. Here are two examples of sales boosts directly resulting from featured menu promos. (These items were not discounted, simply featured.) 1) Street Tacos: During the 4 weeks this menu item was featured on the digital menu, the per-100 was as high as 3.24. The week before it ran, the per-100 was 1.62, and a week after it ran, it was 1.98. 2) Spicy Meatball Parmesan Sub: During the 4 weeks this menu item was featured on the digital menu, the per-100 was as high as 1.53. The week before, the per 100 was 1.24, and a week after, it was 1.30.

Most Innovative Use of Data
BrightStar Care

Objective: BrightStar Care partnered with Avalere Health to conduct an analysis of its client outcomes and cost benefits. Avalere compared BrightStar clients to a matched control group of Medicare beneficiaries and assessed the relative usage of Medicare services between the two populations for different healthcare conditions. The average age of the population was 80.

Overview: BrightStar partnered with Avalere to analyze its clinical outcomes and cost benefits for clients diagnosed with certain chronic conditions.

Results: Avalere's analysis revealed that the change (baseline vs. follow-up) in the total cost of care was up to $29,902 less for patients who received BrightStar services compared with a control group of Medicare beneficiaries across numerous healthcare conditions. Individuals who received homecare services from BrightStar experienced lower rates of hospitalizations, emergency department visits, and skilled nursing facility usage across 30 different healthcare conditions, delivering lower costs for payers.

Most Innovative Use of Technology: Products
Cruise Planners

Objective: Cruise Planners' LivePlanner program is the first interactive vacation planning tool of its kind in the travel industry and a game changer for advisors. Hosted within our proprietary business management software, CP Maxx, LivePlanner gives franchises the opportunity to complete a live walk-through of vacation options with their clients, including cruise itineraries with all major cruise lines, all-inclusive resorts, custom vacation packages, and more.

Overview: Franchise owners and associates, or their clients, can simply schedule a LivePlanner consultation and complete their planning session on a laptop, desktop, or tablet. Video allows franchises and clients to conduct meetings virtually and with a custom curated experience and complete the reservation.

Results: In the first few months since LivePlanner was launched, our franchises have completed hundreds of sessions with their clients. When it is used by franchises, we are seeing trends of higher reservation conversion rates and higher dollar amounts per reservation compared with traditional bookings that were not facilitated through the tool. We also have found that clients who would like to participate in a LivePlanner session with their Cruise Planners agent are the hottest leads, meaning their conversion rates are more than double when compared with a standard presentation by a travel advisor.

Most Innovative Use of Technology: Services

Objective: Proactively fill open appointments with customers most likely to book, based on open appointment characteristics.

Overview: In 2022, MassageLuXe rolled out a new feature within the brand's custom POS software that proactively notifies clients and members of open appointments twice per week using its CRM system. Through these notifications, clients can easily select an open time slot and book the opening online themselves. In addition, the software allows spa owners to click on an open appointment and select a feature to find customers. The technology pulls a list of clients most likely to book with the specific therapist at the specific time of day the opening is. Spa employees can then easily reach out by email, text, or phone to notify the client of the opening with their therapist of choice during the day of the week and time they typically come into the spa.

Results: More than 50% of open appointments are booked each week directly as a result of this CRM feature. The emails sent as part of this work have more than a 45% open rate.

Published: September 18th, 2023

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