The dawn of the mobile franchise industry
Ten years ago, coffee and food from a van was a mediocre experience at best. Mobile food was limited to hot chips and a questionable pie, or a soft serve ice cream for the kids.
In the past few years a bevvy of mobile food outlets have exploded nation wide, from gourmet catering companies serving up food at weddings in brightly coloured vans, to your every day morning tea and coffee needs, met by your local mobile barista. A whole new style of franchising has opened up for those considering owning their own business.
As people become increasingly time poor, an expectation has grown that products and services will be bought to them. From hailing a cab on your smartphone, to shopping online, we no longer need to go and seek out products and service in the way we once did.
With the demand, comes a staggering increase in quality. Award winning chefs and baristas operate from their mobile workshops, serving up food and drink on par with any local café or restaurant.
For a franchisee there are obvious benefits and disadvantages to going mobile. As a plus you have no typical overhead costs like rent, water and electricity. The job is more varied with the opportunity to get out and about and enjoy a change of scenery. There is also more scope to set your own timetable, working non-traditional hours, and a little or as much as you like.
On the downside, you lack the ongoing visibility of a stationary shop front and the foot traffic that comes with it. As a result, quality marketing and a good territory to cover are integral to the franchisee.
Back in 2005, a small one-van company by the name of Cafe2U had already cottoned on to the mobile train of thought. The concept was simple. Café quality coffee for people on the go – and repeat. Helping to change the face of the mobile coffee industry we know today, Cafe2U now serves up 32,000 espresso coffees every day, across seven countries.
As the first mobile baristas in Sydney, their simple idea spread like wildfire. A decade later the fully-fledged global franchise has a turnover of nearly $50 million annually, with franchises in seven countries including Australia, New Zealand, America, the UK, South Africa and the United States, proving that mobile service is the way of the future.
“Time poor office workers are no longer afforded the latitude of venturing to the nearest café for a leisurely coffee. Cafe2U’s state of the art equipment housed in a Mercedes Benz van has played a key part in the rise of the ‘mobile barista’ with franchisees producing café standard coffee for the new age, ultra critical Australian coffee connoisseur,” explained Cafe2U managing director, Derek Black.
“In the past ten years the Australian consumer has changed a lot. For example, the most common coffee order used to be a cappuccino; we’ve seen consumers tastes developed in a most sophisticated matter. Whatever you’re serving, they expect a range of variety, not to mention quality. As a company we’ve had to develop and change our product to ensure our survival.”
Consumer research has indicated that despite the ease of online shopping, and technologically aided shopping; consumers prefer a face-to-face human experience.
“A pleasant customer service experience and quality goods and services comes second none when it comes to maintaining happy customers,” stated Mr Black.
Once the underdog, mobile food and drink services are now serious competition to bricks and mortar stores. No longer the ‘inferior’ option, they are popping at local food markets, festivals, football games and even red carpet events.
As for the future of mobile service in the hospitality, this is only the beginning.
If you’re thinking about buying a mobile franchise, consider the following questions:
· Do you take initiative? Having a mobile business means getting out and about, map prospective routes and be proactively approaching potential customers.
· Do you enjoy a constant change of scenery? If you relish office life and being in front of a computer, this may not be the job for you. While there are sure to be moments you’ll be in front of your computer, ensuring the business is healthy, you’ll need to enjoy varied locations, and being behind the wheel.
· Are you flexible with your hours? If you want to work strictly 9-5, this may not be the job for you. On the plus side, many mobile franchisees start early and finish early afternoon, which is particularly perfect for young families. Weekends are often a lucrative time to work.
· Do you have a business plan that fits with your franchisor’s long-term business plan? While you are your own boss, and you may be a small business, you still need to align yourself with the franchisor’s view long term, to ensure you the healthiest business possible. A sound understanding between the franchisee and franchisor means no ugly surprises down the line.