Franchise Gator recently sat down with Richard Simtob of Zoup! to discuss the restaurant industry and the Zoup! franchise opportunity.
How has the restaurant industry changed in the last 10-20 years?
Fast-casual dining is relatively new to the marketplace, with the first reference to it in 1995. Since then, fast-casual dining has grown dramatically, with its current growth outpacing all other restaurant segments. Recent trends include focus on nutritional options, local sourcing and technology.
What trends do you see in the industry over the next 5 or 10 years?
Another positive sign for the sector is the increased consumer willingness to try new flavors and types of cuisine. Consumers are more interested than ever before in modern, authentic cuisine that is affordable for the family.
What is the biggest concern about the fast-casual restaurant industry that a franchisee candidate should be aware of and investigate?
As competition grows, concepts will need to be increasingly innovative. Successful restaurants in all categories will have to continue to evolve their offerings to stay ahead of customer preferences and distinguish themselves in the marketplace. Successful franchisors and franchisees also will have to embrace technology and make the investment to deliver on customer expectations.
Why do you think Zoup! stands out in the industry?
As the creator and leader of the soup-differentiated category of the fast-casual segment, we are the only restaurant serving 12 always-rotating daily soups. With our hundreds of recipes, we have made it our business to stay ahead of customer preferences with flavorful options in various nutritional categories, including low-fat, dairy-free, vegetarian and gluten-free.
How is Zoup! more attractive than your competitors?
- Our franchisees enter the marketplace with unique offerings and do not have to compete against established players in the pizza, sub, burger, etc. categories.
- Our simplified menu requires no cooking and little prep, which allows for a "front of house" focus. No restaurant experience is required.
- Franchisees benefit from our strategic and authentic culture, our underlying personality and a combination of our shared behaviors, values and assumptions. This culture forms a foundation for running the business and attracting team members and customers. Culture is a big part of what has made Zoup! a recognized brand.
- Our web-based POS and Z!Net business management system tracks and drives franchisees productivity and profitability.
Describe your ideal candidate. Do you think Zoup!'s requirements are any different from your competitor's?
Zoup! is a great franchise opportunity for someone who enjoys working with people, is very organized, works well with systems and is computer savvy. Management experience is a must for motivating a team of 12 part-time employees. Restaurant experience is not required, unlike for other restaurants that are more prep- and cuisine-focused.
What is the strongest skill you require in a candidate?
The desire and ability to work with people, whether that's training and recruiting staff, reaching out to customers in the restaurant or getting involved in the community where he/she lives and does business.
Describe the working environment of Zoup! franchisees. Is your environment typical of other companies in your industry?
Zoup! stores are typically located in areas with a high density of white-collar workers. Stores are well-designed, comfortable and casual, with a dining room and small kitchen and office. Some locations have outdoor patios. Our restaurants' environments are similar to other fast-casual concepts, minus the grilling, cooking or frying.
Why has Zoup! been successful?
We created and lead the soup-differentiated category of the fast-casual segment. By being the first concept built around hundreds of proprietary recipes, we have developed strong niche positioning and the ability to stay ahead of consumer preferences for fast, fresh and healthy dining. Also, by pacing ourselves and controlling our growth, we have been able to build a strong company culture and to choose franchise partners who are the right "fit" for the business. And, we have had the time to put in place the infrastructure and systems needed to make franchisees successful.
What advice would you give someone interested in buying a franchise in the restaurant industry?
First, be honest with yourself and clear on what you want from a business. What can you afford? How much time do you want to spend working in your business? Will the business afford you the lifestyle, family time and income you're seeking? Are you comfortable with the company's people and culture? Are you passionate about the brand? Do you have faith in the company's systems and support? We also would recommend visiting several of the company's restaurants and talking to current franchisees.
How much experience in the fast-casual restaurant industry should a franchisee candidate have before they consider buying a Zoup!?
We require no prior restaurant experience, but look for franchisees who enjoy working with people, are very organized, work well with systems and are computer savvy. No restaurant experience is required, however management experience is a must for motivating a team of 12 part-time employees.