Creating a Legacy: What Growth-Minded Brands Can Learn From Key Players in Franchising
Creating a Legacy: What Growth-Minded Brands Can Learn From Key Players in Franchising

Food, fitness and retail brand leaders share insight on what it takes to become a legacy brand.

With more than 759,000 franchise establishments across just about every segment of business you can imagine, the franchise industry is incredibly crowded. For many brands, it can be difficult to reach the 100-unit mark, but for those standout brands that have achieved legacy status, there are key learnings to share with emerging franchises and longtime brands looking to kickstart growth.

For Pet Supplies Plus, one of the main factors that has driven the retail brand’s growth to 450 units and counting is its focus on creating a neighborhood feel in its stores. In fact, Pet Supplies Plus refers to its customers as “neighbors,” a feel-good approach for a brand that caters to passionate animal lovers, which sets it apart from other stores selling similar products.

“We know we’re carrying dog food or pet supplies that are found everywhere else, so what we do is bring it to life in a very, very personal way,” said Pet Supplies Plus President Chris Rowland. “Customer engagement, neighbor engagement has always been our No. 1 focus and something that we protect, quite frankly. Whether it’s a corporate store or a franchise store, we hold them to a very, very high standard in terms of neighbor experience.”

For Hungry Howie’s, a pizza chain with more than 500 units, innovation has been a key factor in its impressive growth. Its proximity to Little Caesars and Domino’s forced the brand to find ways to stand out in the marketplace. What came from this pressure was what became the brand’s signature offering: flavor-crust pizza.

“In the early ’80s, we found our niche with flavor-crust pizza,” Hungry Howie’s CEO Steve Jackson said. “We developed eight flavors, tested them in the Detroit market, then the Florida market where [brand founder] Jim Hearn was based. These tests were successful, so we made the decision to hang our hat on flavor-crust pizza, which quickly became an incredibly important thing to identify and separate ourselves with.”

Keith Dziki, Executive Director of Development for Wireless Zone®, echoes Jackson’s sentiment about innovation being the foundation of a legacy brand. Of the brand’s 30 year-history, Dziki points to the brand’s continued evolution as a driver of growth in the industry.

“We’ve adapted our model, image, offering, and more over the last 30 years,” Dziki said. “We had to make sure that we were still a good fit for individuals looking to adopt a wireless business, while at the same time, deliver an end-product that produced results for the franchise owners that have invested in our brand,” he continued, adding that brands don’t need to “reinvent the wheel” in order to grow. Listen to your franchisees and understand their needs and wants to grow and perform at higher levels. They are the individuals that are out on the front lines working with consumers day in and day out, and they very well may have the exact idea that takes your brand to the next level and on to legacy level.”

For many brands, adapting the consumer and franchise value proposition along with rapidly evolving technology has been key to success.

Geovannie Concepcion, Chief Operating Officer of barbeque mainstay Famous Dave’s, said that one factor in its growth and innovation is its “...rapid embrace of the digital shift happening in the restaurant industry. Our ability to harness technology and increase our digital sales has been key to realizing several quarters of sales growth in our company-operated restaurants. Outside of to-go and technology, we also had to focus on revitalizing the guest experience with new design, décor and branding.”

Some brands have slow and steady growth, others leverage changing consumer trends to spur growth, while others become legacy brands almost overnight. By leveraging a trifecta of technology, science and coaching, Orangetheory has grown in just five years to more than 1,100 studios in 49 U.S. states and 22 countries, with a pipeline of 500 additional studios.

“From the beginning, Orangetheory has blazed its own trail, taking a different path from standard-fare workout facilities,” said Orangetheory Fitness PR Specialist Marissa Fattore. “This year, we amped up our use of technology to further enhance the workout experience in ways no other companies can touch. We will continue to constantly innovate and improve our workout, science, technology, operations and systems to deliver a best-in-class member experience.”

As franchise brands plan their future growth, studying the footprints of legacy brands can provide valuable lessons and a blueprint for success. By focusing on developing key brand differentiators, evolving the brand to meet consumer demand and thinking big, franchise brands are properly armed to take the next step in their growth trajectory.