CEO Q&A: How Has Covid-19 Affected Your Brand?
As part of our ongoing special coverage of Covid-19 and its impact on franchising, we’re asking franchise leaders how they’re responding to the effects of Covid-19 at all levels of their business. Below we offer an overview from 7 franchise brand leaders on how the pandemic is affecting them. If you have a story to tell about what you’re doing to support your brand, franchisees, customers, or suppliers please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Christine Specht, CEO, Cousins Subs
We started paying more attention to the news in early March with the shutdowns of the NBA, NCAA, and schools. On March 14, we started tracking daily sales and saw a significant shift in our business. We were having a great year, tending positive up to 7%. Sales began to drop: 17%... 20%... then suddenly 30% and 40% or more. They’re trending down at about 30% now. We have 99 locations, primarily in Wisconsin, with a group in Chicago and one in Indiana, and municipalities are taking their own approach to shelter in place protocols. All stores are affected differently. About one-third of our restaurants are drive-thrus, a direction we’d been moving in before Covid-19.
Stores are dealing with operational changes, and people are just hammering out their work. We went from no curbside pickup and within 3 days rolled it out. It was unprecedented, but we don’t have the luxury of time right now. We also have an easy pickup option for customers to prepay and grab their order off a shelf and go. From a corporate perspective, we’re looking where we can relocate our own restaurants to more freestanding sites so we can have drive-thrus. In terms of innovation, Covid-19 could have lasting benefits, such as curbside pickup, which we may roll out as a permanent thing.
Wade Brannon, President and CEO, Pigtails & Crewcuts
Covid-19 has affected our brand tremendously. We were caught off-guard and didn’t realize the true severity of what it was going to do to small-business owners. We are a children’s hair salon. We interact with people daily. Because of this pandemic, our salons are closed to protect our customers and employees. Right now our salons have pivoted from robust sales growth to survival mode. The franchise headquarters deferred royalties for March sales because no revenue would be generated in our salons in April. We need to make sure the financial burdens of our franchisees can be met during the shutdown. Without revenue many owners are seeing cash reserves being tapped rather quickly. We are assisting our franchisees daily for the brand to survive.
Susan Boresow, President, Title Boxing Club
We have been able to reevaluate every aspect of our business and collectively think about our brand in a different way as we focus on our consumer and their needs. We had launched Title on Demand 15 months ago, and our members are very engaged with it during this time. We have live streaming and are evaluating different membership options that the consumer will want. Our franchisees, partners, and team have truly come together at this time.
Todd Madlener, President, Coolgreens
Covid-19 has definitely had an impact on our business, resulting in the temporary closure of three Oklahoma City locations located near college campuses and the downtown core. We have also engaged in some positive and uplifting projects and programs. We launched Family Fuel, a line of family-sized salads perfect for a family of four or any other small group. Our team in Oklahoma launched Salads of Hope, a program to provide healthy meals to healthcare professionals who are working on the frontlines in Oklahoma City and Tulsa. Our teams are finding joy in providing a place for everyone to get a freshly prepared meal when so many other restaurants have decided to close completely.
Carl Howard, CEO, Fazoli’s
The Covid-19 virus has severely affected our brand, along with several other restaurant organizations. Because we offer our food through several off-premise channels, including drive-thru, carryout, online ordering, mobile app, and delivery, we hope to maintain at least 60% of our sales. While the Covid-19 virus has broken our positive momentum, it will not break our soul. We will be a stronger brand on the other side of this crisis.
Michael Browning Jr., CEO and Co-Founder, Urban Air Adventure Parks
The most severe impact from a business perspective is that our parks are closed. At first, like most brands, we had been working closely with our franchise owners, as well as with local and state authorities to take appropriate actions within each of our communities on a regional basis. However, as the spread of Covid-19 continued, I felt that it was our responsibility to do our part in preventing community spread. The safety and health of our Urban Air family is our top priority, and this is the most important factor that we, as a company, can control. As a result, we closed all parks nationwide on March 17.
Jonathan Barnett, CEO and Founder, Oxi Fresh Carpet Cleaning
Until about mid-March, we were actually up around 20% as a brand. We were seeing really great growth. Following the outbreak of Covid-19, we’ve seen a drop in jobs. We’re still moving forward and continuing to innovate and adapt. I’m certain we’ll come out on the other side even stronger than we were before. That said, this time has been hard on our franchisees, but the majority of our locations are still open and operating. Many are now moving their focus to serving commercial clients. As a home office, it’s been challenging, but we built our brand to be flexible. We’ve been able to provide the same level of support during these times despite a shelter-in-place order that affects our home office and scheduling center. We have been able to do this because all of our programs are Internet-based. Our team is able to do the same quality of work at home as they were doing in the office. Our scheduling center uses a VOIP phone system, so our customer service representatives were able to take the phones home, plug them into their Internet connection, and continue to provide support to our customers.
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