Queues outside a food establishment, phone lines that are constantly ringing with people calling to make reservations are positive signs for an F&B establishment. When the size of your location is unable to accommodate demand or when more people request for your product to be more accessible, it is a good time to consider growing your business. Expansion requires plenty of thought and to keep it sustainable is the greatest challenge for business owners. While there are many roads that lead to expansion, first, you need to get to the groundwork.
IS THERE A ‘RIGHT’ MOMENT?
Perhaps there is no straight answer for business owners usually start with some level of calculated risk and uncertainty. It can be difficult to plan even for the upcoming year but for the purpose of expansion; there are certain parameters that one can look into to help decide on the best time.
• Take your time. It is understandable that success can be a driving force for expansion as you want to ‘strike when it’s hot’. Even if you are racking up the profits, management and systems need time to work smoothly as it involves different dynamics from diverse people. If these are not given sufficient time to prove its benefits; there is a possibility that it will not be sustainable in the expansion effort.
• Scaling down. This might seem counterintuitive for growth but breaking down the business into several units allows for better focus and a specific development plan. Consider segregating units by kitchen/ frontline/ finance/ human resource/ technology/ and listing down required training and number of staff in each segment. When each segment can perform effectively, your operations will function better and give you an edge when expanding as a well-oiled system is in place.
• Be consistent. This is sound advice for anything that you do. Popularity on a new food establishment is not uncommon and often times, initial. Focus on building a good brand and delivering products / services that resonate. Your resources play an important role to maintain the consistency that you desire to sustain your brand therefore you need to do what is necessary (training, incentive, skill development) to ensure uniformity in the daily grind. Create a sense of ownership in them by allowing them responsibility and room for missteps and grow from there. Employees that are conscious of the trust placed upon them will be motivated to give their best and will be excited to be part of something bigger.
WHAT’S YOUR ANGLE?
The thought of expanding is usually attached to penetrating new geographical grounds. However, expansion is not limited to new locations. Bear in mind that even if you run with the same business premise, you need to adjust
product offerings or marketing strategies to adapt to the local culture. Here’s a list of ideas for expanding your brand.
• A new idea. Turn it into something that works for you. The risk is relatively lower as you would most likely have the resources to manufacture your current product or run your service. It is normal for businesses to evolve but positioning this new idea as value-adding or one that resulted from customers’ responses and feedback, shows customers that the company is listening to them.
• Sell more where you are. A straightforward method of expansion with the advantage of having an existing customer base as your foundation. You have the opportunity to try different pricing scales, improve marketing techniques or run from a bigger location.
• Going out of the zone. With the world being more seamless today, going global can pay off and it can be done either through licensing, joint venture, exporting or starting a manufacturing plant in a specific country.
• Tap into a new market. The cost to do this is inevitable as you need to carry out market research, testing and tailor messages to resonate to the new audience. It takes time and although it carries a higher risk; the payoff can be rewarding.
• The chain business. You can consider this and start small by reproducing the business in the next district from the current operations. Start by identifying what was the element for success at the first place - your item, location or service? If customers were driven by the item, you can duplicate it by writing a detailed operations plan and training more staff to maintain the standards at both places.
• Franchising or Licensing. No doubt an easier route for expansion as everything is detailed out by the master franchiser. Yet it is expensive and the franchiser should be versed in communicating effectively to ensure the franchisee is clear on its standard operations and procedures. Choosing licensing is less hassling but you will be giving up some control and allow the licensee to adapt certain elements to suit themselves.
• Joint venture. Collaboration can bring much success as both sides bring a customer base, skills and expertise yet stories on failed partnerships are not uncommon. Finding a partner you are comfortable to communicate all concerns and expectations is vital. There also needs to be written contractual agreements to protect both parties.
BRING THE WORLD TO YOU
Expansion = reaching out to a wider audience. A borderless world is not just a buzzword and the World Wide Web has been instrumental for businesses to promote themselves on a small scale or use it as an engagement tool to constantly be in touch with their customers.
• Wired beyond computers. Websites for businesses was revolutionary in the early days of the Internet. But as the smartphone era moves aggressively, you need to build mobile websites as more than 50% of mobile phone users access the web via their smartphones. You want to reach them at their most convenient state and these sites ought to be simple and provide the important information; save the flash and heavy graphics for the computers.
• Menus go online. A typical scenario of today’s dining out generation; they want to know what is on offer before making the trip and it will help that you post the menu on your website. For a scaled down version, you can consider posting a small selection (to give an idea of the cuisine served) on other websites such as a dining guide site, newspapers or
• Get social. A Facebook page may seem like the ‘in’ thing but it is only effective if managed right. It is a platform that brings together a community and you can keep the engagement going by posting pictures of the food, the ambience, events, or encourage customers to participate by sharing their experience.
• Call them on it. It is not a time to be silent when doing online marketing but do not be overly aggressive as well.
Attract them with limited-time deals or discounts on your business’ page to get them through your doors. You can also look at giving privileges to customers who register - this adds to your database and you can keep them happy by giving out goodies compared to the regular unregistered visitor.
• Use a feedback service. There are many objective rating portals that you can register your restaurant and garner honest feedback from diners who can choose to remain anonymous.
While it is exciting and motivating to see that your labour bore fruit and you see that the only way is UP, taking on expansion is another story. It can be akin to starting afresh and too many people have gone into it too quickly and realise that a good product is not enough to hold up an enterprise. Expansion takes time and it is vital to equip yourself and build the confidence to take that step.