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How Franchise Brands are Preparing for the New Normal

With social distancing protocols and increased health precautions, franchisors across all segments are preparing for a post-quarantine world.

As states across the country are starting to reopen from stay-at-home and shelter-in-place orders, there will undoubtedly be a “new normal” due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As more and more local governments follow this lead and begin to give businesses the go-ahead to once again open their doors, franchisees and franchisors across all segments need to be prepared for the new landscape.


One way franchise brands will need to prepare for the reopening of their businesses is by prepping their brick-and-mortar locations for the return of guests. This has the potential to impact business operations as well — for example, gyms may need to offer more classes to make up for smaller capacity limits.

The boutique fitness franchise, REGYMEN Fitness, is one brand that found itself in an unprecedented position last month when the coronavirus outbreak forced businesses to close its doors. Now, the REGYMEN team is working hard to create a plan for the new normal, with increased sanitation, capacity planning and more.

“Our fitness team is 100% rehauling our whole process on the back end, including how many people can be working out, how far apart then need to be and how that impacts utilization and overall occupancy,” said Tatum Crews, director of sales and marketing for REGYMEN Fitness. “We are also preparing for more workouts on the schedule to accommodate our member bases with social distancing in place. From a sanitary aspect, we’re all pitching in to create different documentation of enhanced cleaning procedures so that our members are aware of the steps we’re taking to ensure that they’re going back to a clean and healthy environment.”


As restaurant brands ease into the new normal, food safety, cleanliness and social distancing strategies will have a dramatic impact on the customer experience. While educating customers and employees on updated procedures will be key to welcoming guests back into dining rooms, operators also need to understand how much dining habits have changed since before the pandemic. To create the most streamlined experience, technology could be used to reduce person-to-person interaction, such as using sanitized mobile ordering and menu tablets and providing contactless payment options.

Even after socially-distanced reopenings, fast casual and quick service franchise brands will likely continue to outperform casual-dining concepts as people avoid dining rooms and prefer delivery. To appeal to this new normal, brands will need to invest heavily in digital ordering and off-premise services, such as third party delivery, voice-enabled ordering, contactless, curbside pickup and more. Mobile user interface, customization and ease of ordering will become just as important as in-house service. Coming out of this crisis, order-ahead and digital-delivery ordering will be the primary drivers of the rebound in restaurant revenue. 

”Delivery and take-out will no longer be a secondary or tertiary focus,” said Eggs Up Grill VP of Operations Jeff McCabe. “Even as the dining room experience returns, guests will continue to order online for home consumption and demand the same high quality and attention to detail as they would dining in. The concepts that embrace this new normal will grow and those that do not adapt quickly and completely will struggle to survive.”

In addition, foodservice brands will need to find new ways to support customers. Buffalo Wings & Rings has rolled out several initiatives including Family Packs, which are intended to provide families with a stress-free and convenient meal option. The brand has also enhanced its digital online ordering platform, added alcohol to off-premise ordering and implemented programs to utilize its employees as delivery drivers to avoid layoffs. In addition, several of the brand’s locations are participating in a happy hour trivia night, hosted live on Facebook in an effort to connect with the community while social distancing.

Health and Wellness

The health-and-wellness segment is positioned for major changes, especially as customers look for safe services that make them feel good coming out of this crisis. There has even been a boost for some hygiene-and health-orientated products thanks to the shift in consumer attention to safety, health and wellness.

To meet this pent-up demand, the health-and-wellness industry is going to have to do more than just update its sanitation protocol. Technological advancement may be the key to bringing in new customers, with online bookings, self-check-ins, automatic payments and many such features eliminating unnecessary touch-interactions, optimizing appointments and minimizing wait time. The spa franchise Hand & Stone, for example, will ensure that customers won’t need to stop at the front counter at any point in their transaction and will complete all forms and payment on their phones. The front desk associates who normally handle those processes will switch to more of an educational role for first-time customers.

Telehealth will also likely be more popular than ever for health providers, with brands like FYZICAL Therapy and Wellness Centers implementing telehealth and e-visits for continuing the momentum with current clients who choose to remain at home during this crisis and after.

As we look to the future, each brand will have its own set of challenges when it comes to easing into this unprecedented business landscape. Although a post-COVID world may be uncomfortable and unknown, there are many ways that franchisors can prepare to ultimately strengthen the value of their business, especially as we emerge from this crisis into a new business landscape.