How Covid Has Affected 6 Multi-Brand Restaurant Franchisees
We asked 6 multi-unit franchisees about the impacts of Covid on their business, how they’ve responded, and what changes they think will be permanent.
Ryan Bridgeman, President of Manna, Inc.: 150 Wendy’s, 74 Fazoli’s, and 1 Jimmy John’s
How did Covid-19 affect your business? The biggest impact on our business was how customers interacted with the restaurant. The shift from dining in to drive-thrus, and the exponential growth of off-premise through digital and third-party ordering platforms proved that we could still meet the needs of our guests.
How have you responded? With the support of our franchisors, we have successfully managed the changes to meet our customers’ needs.
What changes do you think will be permanent? I believe Covid-19 has accelerated the acceptance of digital ordering for several businesses that possibly would have had a slower adoption rate. This digital channel within the restaurant industry is here to stay, and operators should embrace the possibilities of reaching their guests in new ways.
Russell Berner, Vice President of Operations at JDK Management: 49 Perkins Restaurant & Bakery and 31 Quaker Steak & Lube (as the franchisor)
How did Covid-19 affect your business? In every way possible: health, safety, people, profit, and product were all affected.
How have you responded? In every way possible. We faced each challenge as calmly and firmly as we could to try to maintain, compromising only where no other option existed.
What changes do you think will be permanent? I don’t believe that anything is truly permanent. But in the foreseeable future, the restaurant service model does have to adapt. Full-service restaurant brands also need to be more flexible to how the consumer expects the products to be delivered. People (internal and external guests) expect a new aspect of convenience, and the industry has to adjust accordingly.
Ron Stokes, President and COO at Roaring Fork Restaurant Group and MR Chicken: 58 Qdoba, 1 Dave’s Hot Chicken
How did Covid-19 affect your business? Delivery and online ordering have become much more of a focus. There is far less in-store dining.
How have you responded? Fortunately, we are with franchisors that made the right moves early to adapt to the changing environment.
What changes do you think will be permanent? Delivery is here to stay in a much bigger way than ever before.
Kaleb Warnock, President and CEO, FloWar: 5 Tropical Smoothie Cafe plus 2 in development, 2 Marco’s Pizza plus 1 in development, 3 Hand & Stone Massage and Facial Spa in development
How did Covid-19 affect your business? Just like everyone else, we had to close our doors and implement restrictive measures. But we approached Covid like we would approach any other business issue. Because whether it’s Covid or a shipment delay, there will always be issues in business. We remain solution-oriented in all we do.
How have you responded? Of course we implemented restrictive measures and offered things like curbside pickup. But what was most important to me was my people. At the beginning of the pandemic there was a lot of fear, so I was just honest with my team and tried to educate the people around me by presenting them with actual numbers so they remained informed. I never made a forceful decision or pressured others into making one. It was about being open and transparent, keeping them informed, and creating a comfortable atmosphere – for both our teams and our customers.
What changes do you think will be permanent? We don’t think there will be any permanent changes on our end.
Amin Dhanani, President, Z&H Foods, HZ Coffee Group, HZ LM Casual Foods: 375 Popeyes, 105 Dunkin’, 42 la Madeleine French Bakery & Cafe
How did Covid-19 affect your business? Covid actually had a great impact on business in 2020 because customers, especially at Popeyes, were ordering large meals to take home for dinner with their families. Delivery driven by social media helped drive customers to all QSRs, and we’ve managed to retain a lot of them. The more negative aspect of the pandemic has been staffing, which has been really challenging the past year. Commodity and price increases between last year and this year have also been an industry-wide concern.
How have you responded? In terms of staffing, we’ve increased pay rates to retain and hire people. With commodities, we’ve had to increase some retail pricing and get smarter and tougher on the controllable costs with food.
What changes do you think will be permanent? I think the newer customers to QSR are definitely here to stay, along with the boost in popularity with third-party delivery and mobile app conveniences. I’m not sure if drive-thru will continue to be as prevalent in the long term, but it’s certainly something we’ll keep with customers not going into dining rooms as much.
Drew Gressett, President, 1788 Chicken: 37 Zaxby’s, 26 Hat Creek Burger
How did Covid-19 affect your business? Thankfully, we are a drive-thru business so we had the opportunity to stay open. This presented an opportunity to become faster and more efficient in the drive-thru.
How have you responded? Our dine-in portion is starting to return, but the positives from the drive-thru will remain.
What changes do you think will be permanent? See above.
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