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Businesses Are Pivoting Due to COVID-19: What Changes Are Here for Good?

The systemwide changes that franchisors are making now will likely remain on the other side of the pandemic.

Businesses across the globe have spent the past months figuring out how to shift their operations to not only keep the lights on during the coronavirus crisis, but come out on the other side of the pandemic stronger than ever before. From finding new ways to engage customers while doors are temporarily closed to introducing new products or services, franchise brands are making system wide changes at a rapid rate. Moving forward, it’s likely that those changes will be here to stay after the crisis ends.

A recent article in the Chicago Tribune notes, “From dining to medicine to music lessons to selling beer, coronavirus has created new business models that have hurtled consumers into a technological future they likely won’t leave even after the pandemic passes.”

Brands that were already investing in technology before COVID-19 have recently found themselves at an advantage. Wing Zone, for example, is seeing sales spike at a time when other restaurants are struggling because delivery is already embedded in its model.

“For us, direct delivery is a more profitable customer for us,” Wing Zone co-founder and CEO Matt Friedman said in an interview with 1851 Franchise. “We want to control the profit, and let’s not pull any punches, these third-party delivery services are charging 30 percent off the top and it’s a huge hit for restaurants.”

It’s not just the restaurant industry that’s adapting to technology because of COVID-19. Fitness brands that were solely focused on getting members in their clubs are now finding ways to engage people from the comfort of their own homes. Fitness franchise Workout Anytime, for example, sped up the delivery of its mobile app to give members access to hundreds of at-home workouts and exercises. The brand also rolled out video on demand workouts in addition to a “Workout of the Day” on YouTube. 

On the other side of this crisis, it’s likely that consumers will demand that virtual access even when gyms are back open for business. That’s why it’s critical for franchisors to introduce changes now that have staying power — only providing short-term solutions won’t help brands succeed in the long run.

Another way that franchisors and their franchisees can connect with consumers right now is by giving back. Philanthropic efforts have always been recognized as positive for business, but now more than ever before, there’s a narrative that brands, their customers and those in need are all in this together.

Michael McNeal, a franchisee with Eggs Up Grill in Albany, New York, made the decision to stay open throughout the crisis in order to partner with organizations and provide thousands of meals to health care workers at the local hospital. “The donated meals not only provided a way for me to remain open, but also allowed me to serve these workers on the frontline of this crisis,” McNeal told 1851.

Franchisors looking to emerge on the other side of COVID-19 stronger than when the pandemic began need to utilize this down time to reevaluate their business models. The choices that they’re making now will become a part of their DNA moving forward, which will in turn determine whether or not new franchisees want to sign agreements.

“During this down time, we have the opportunity to take our strategic plan, tear it up and make every element of our business fight its way back in,” said Justin Waltz, vice president of operations for Big Blue Swim School. “Now is the time to look for places where we can make cuts and evaluate areas of the business that aren’t functioning. This is also an opportunity to bring back old customers while taking a look at customers who may not be worthy of our business. The same goes for vendor partners — we have the opportunity to be more efficient. Instead of looking for ways to cut costs, look at the business itself and find ways to get better.”