In search of individuality and personalization, are customers more receptive to small home-grown concepts, wherever that “home” may be? And, in answering that customer need, are the small players taking over?
More and more small restaurant operators all over the world are franchising their concepts. This is especially true for European and Australian single-store operators as they get exposure to investors in the Middle East. Even the Neapolitan Antica Pizzeria da Michele, which once prided itself on being unique and not franchising, can now be found in over 20 cities worldwide.
A greater number of investors, especially newcomers to the market, have developed a taste for truly innovative, thought provoking concepts. And as these investors come across a concept that resonates with them and answers a need within the market in which they operate, they seek to import it.
Let’s take a look at three examples.
Wild and the Moon, Dubai, UAE
The first Wild and the Moon opened in Dubai in 2016, offering quick, functional and nutritional solutions to be ordered as a detox cure.
New York-born, Parisian-raised Emmanuelle Sawko had previously opened Comptoir 102 in Jumeirah, Dubai, as a concept store selling jewelry, fashion items and healthy food in one unique space. Customers’ response to the healthy food on offer, their request for recipes and repeat business made Sawko think of a dedicated plant-based food outlet, so Wild and the Moon was born.
Currently, there are six stores in Paris, three in Dubai, one in Abu Dhabi and one opening soon in Amsterdam, with others in the pipeline. The brand’s website offers franchise opportunities across the globe.
Sawko had identified a market segment in Dubai which, up until that point, had been uncatered to and was successful in answering the need.
Fratelli La Bufala, Naples, Italy
After the death of their cheesemaker father, three Neapolitan brothers went their separate ways. Years later, each of them opened their own independent pizzerias where they had settled: Madrid, New York and Milan.
The pizzerias were all successful and, in 2003, the siblings decided to reunite, buy back the old Mozzarella-making facility they had previously sold and create the brand Fratelli La Bufala, the nickname they had as children.
Today, Fratelli La Bufala has over 70 franchised stores across the globe, from Tokyo to Uzbekistan and New York, as well as Dubai.
L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele, Naples, Italy
Up until recently, this humble yet extremely busy pizzeria only operated from a single store in Naples. Founded in 1870, L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele was made world famous thanks to a scene that was shot there in the Hollywood blockbuster “Eat, Pray, Love.” While today, the brand has franchised stores in 21 major cities across the globe, for years the Naples flagship had a sign that said: “unica sede” (sole location).
So, what is the common denominator of these three brands-turned-franchises? Do they represent a trend in franchising terms? I argue that they do, that the individual investor looking to establish a new food and beverage unit is looking for creative concepts not yet available in the market where they operate. They look for successful concepts that answer to existing market needs and, while doing so, they also relate to them.
Many of the new single-store-turned franchises see investors approaching the concept owner and offering to take the brand elsewhere. However, single-store operators are often not set to franchise; they have no written brand standards or fit out and operating guidelines. Interestingly, the investor wishing to take the brand elsewhere often becomes a partner in the brand’s company to help with its development.
In parallel, we regularly see creative people who are not necessarily from the F&B world but strong in brand creation and marketing, creating their stores with the help of chefs and industry consultants with the aim of franchising later on. I have even come across franchise opportunities of concepts that didn’t even have a single store.
So, what is this trend? Individuality. In a world overwhelmed by copy-pasted, cookie-cutter F&B concepts, the creative concept that offers new options in terms of experience, food, nutrition or other terms stands out and shines among the crowd. Our role as F&B operators and foodies is to identify them, help them grow and bring them into our own realm of action. The world can only be better with greater individuality that’s represented by tailor-made concepts catering to specific needs of, (and possible niches within), our own operating markets.
Principal and management director
Thomas Klein International