In a crowded market full of copycats, here’s how five franchises stand out.
FRANCHISING is a me-too kind of business. When one brand hits big, competitors follow. Look at how Massage Envy’s success spawned an industry of massage franchises, or how Five Guys Burgers set off a stampede of “better burger” concepts. But the scrum doesn’t last: Some brands flame out, and others rise to the top. So what makes one better than the next? There’s no single answer—but by examining five of the brands that sit atop their categories in our Franchise 500, you can see what it takes to truly stand out.
AMERICA WAS HIT by a tidal wave of frozen yogurt. Hundreds of independent stores and dozens of chains offer the same basic service: Fill a cup from your pick of fro-yo flavors. How can one brand stand out? Oklahoma City–based Orange Leaf, which has 300 locations and 150 franchisees in 38 states, has done it by continually rethinking its product.
There is, of course, the yogurt: “We worked with partners to find just the right balance of taste and creaminess,” says president Geoff Goodman. “They are these intangible properties that consumers can’t identify, exactly, but fall in love with.” He’s now exploring ways to make the product even creamier and will be adding a line of smoothies, energy bars, a bakery case and other snacks. “If we focus on getting better, customers will demand we get bigger,” says Goodman. “And if the quality of our yogurt and our new products connect with guests as well, we have the opportunity to insulate ourselves from the problems other brands may face.”
But Orange Leaf is also rethinking its business model. Today’s self-serve-yogurt world is measured by the ounce: Customers fill a paper cup, then discover how much it costs when a cashier weighs it. Orange Leaf is challenging that model with a fixed-price cup, the first by any large yogurt chain. “What happens today is that kids put a cup on the scale, and it’s a big number,” says Goodman. “That’s not good. Parents don’t like that. We don’t want kids to lose their empowerment. We want parents to give them a cup and say, ‘Go to town.’ So we’re flipping the value equation— instead of customers saying, ‘Wow, Orange Leaf got one over on me,’ they’ll say, ‘Look at all this yogurt! I got one over on them!’”
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