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How Has Foodservice Franchising Changed?

The world has become more digital. A pandemic has launched further change. Franchise models have followed – and the restaurant landscape could be forever altered.

By 1851 Staff1851 Staff Contributions
Updated 8:08AM 03/22/22

The early days of McDonald’s looked nothing like the current operation. The now-global burger brand opened as a humble drive-in stand slowly expanding throughout California – some even without indoor seating.

Foodservice franchising has definitely changed. Take one look at a modern McDonald’s, with its ordering kiosks and double drive-thru lanes, and it bears little resemblance to the late 1940s, when McDonald’s first took off. Virtually all restaurants have changed in some form – but an ongoing pandemic may have changed the industry more than ever.

Customer preference has shifted, causing delivery providers to experience success like never before. The restaurant industry as a whole has been forced to incorporate some sort of delivery or pickup service, or risk being left behind.

Quicker service has reigned supreme for this very reason, and with staffing and supply chain issues making it tougher than ever, the latest developments of foodservice franchising are unlike any other.

Remote Orders and Remote Cooking

The bigger picture of restaurant franchising will suggest that small-footprint, low overhead brands are geared to succeed in the modern landscape of foodservice. It costs less money to take up less space, and when customers are ordering out more often, it appears that more brands are investing in how they can come to the customer, as opposed to how customers can come to them.

This is exactly what brands like Domino’s have done – the pizza chain has even pursued autonomous delivery service with tech company Nuro in its latest development. Starship is another robotic delivery brand that works on a smaller scale than Nuro, but is also furthering the delivery landscape for franchises to follow. This cuts the need for delivery staffing, which is another issue that modern restaurants have been forced to navigate.

Further advances have been made possible through ghost kitchen models. This operation service allows brands to prepare food without the need for an in-house kitchen, as it all works outside of a brick-and-mortar shop. Brands like REEF Technology have led this charge into a more remote preparation service, and when delivery providers don’t need to pick up orders from a more convenient location, delivery times can be cut significantly.

Optimizing a Tough Supply Chain 

Pamela McMorrow is Oath Pizza’s director of supply chain and product innovation, a job title specifically crafted for the very issues that are hurting restaurant brands to this day. Oath Pizza, a Northeastern-based feel-good pizza franchise, has crafted a “hub and spoke” distribution model to help work around supply chain challenges. A centralized distribution hub can serve as the supplier for multiple brand locations, acting as the “spokes” that receive shipments from the distribution center instead of an outside service.

“We know when [shipments] are coming,” McMorrow said, “and we know how the supply system can adapt if any challenges arise.” Oath Pizza has been able to develop a personal emergency reserve of sorts, and the brand can operate with a lot more peace of mind knowing it won’t run out of certain products.

New Technology in New Fields

“I think the circumstances around the pandemic led people to really start thinking about eating healthier and making better choices for themselves,” said Robert Campos, the vice president of franchising for Robeks, a rapidly growing quick-service smoothie and juice franchise.

“We’ve seen a big shift in consumer preference – a lot of customers are more comfortable placing an order through a delivery service,” Campos said. This has prompted the Robeks team to launch its own mobile app, which is just part of the latest wave in foodservice technology.

Robeks’ small real estate footprint has allowed the brand to save money in places that are going largely unused since 2020: actual in-house tables. Campos said the brand was motivated to develop its mobile app even further as the restaurant industry began to shift away from in-person dining, and the brand’s investment appeal has grown as it markets this new service to prospective franchisees.

Robeks’ mobile app allows customers to place orders from their phone and arrange pickup, and it even comes with a rewards program. Restaurants will have a tougher time retaining customers through traditional in-house service, so a mobile app like the one Robeks has launched is one way that brands are turning first-time buyers into lifelong believers.