Big food franchising trends from 2014

Big food franchising trends from 2014

This was an eventful year for the franchising world. Burger King purchased a Canadian coffee chain, Wendy's released an onslaught of meaty limited-time offers and new customer tastes began to impact menu options across the country. Quick-service and fast-casual franchises alike must continue to evolve to meet changing customer demands and stay profitable. Prospective franchisees and experienced owners alike can learn a thing or two by looking back over some of the big franchising trends that played out over 2014.

Digital marketing making a bigger impact
Franchisees saw lots of progress in 2014 when it came to the use of technology and social media to drive business and connect franchisors with franchisees. For instance, Restaurant Business noted that Dallas franchise Dickey's Barbeque Pit added a franchising link to its Facebook page this year. By expanding its social media presence, the company was able to encourage new visitors to try the chain and generate new leads on likely franchise owners.

Franchise stores have also shown a trend toward through encouraging customers to make online orders. By reducing time spent on customer calls, franchise restaurants are able to handle additional orders and generate more sales. According to Entrepreneur, Papa John's recently announced that the franchise was successful in transitioning 50 percent of the company's business to online orders, demonstrating the positive effect that online marketing and ordering options can have for a food franchise.

More franchises consider fast-casual
Fast-casual restaurants following in the footsteps of Chipotle are a major area for growth for food franchises. The market is so attractive that several major quick-service chains piloted their own fast-casual concepts in 2014, hoping to score a hit with customers and expand into the fastest growing food franchise sector, according to The Daily Meal. Pizza Hut experimented with a by-the-slice concept that also features pasta and salads, while Taco Bell is debuting gourmet twists on standard Mexican fare at the U.S. Taco Co. Strong interest in the fast-casual market by national chains is also important news for investors trying to decide which franchise brand is the best fit.

Customers embrace mobile ordering
QSR explained that mobile ordering was big hit with customers in 2014. Starbucks, for instance, has rolled out a digital loyalty program to encourage customers to make their orders on their smartphones and minimize transactions at the register. By shifting almost 7 million transactions to mobile phones a week in 2014, Starbucks was able to improve the quality of customer service in its stores and make workers' lives a bit less busy.

Apple also made significant inroads in 2014, developing an online ordering platform called Apple Pay. The app already has over a million users and could help to further popularize mobile ordering. Franchises that keep up with these technological shifts will be able to take advantage of the time-saving benefits they provide.

Dunkin' Donuts finally gains ground in California
It's been over two decades since East Coast franchising giant Dunkin' Donuts had a meaningful foothold on the other side of the country, and the donut chain closed its remaining stores in California in the early 2000s. However, Dunkin' Donuts finally made headway in returning to the Golden State in 2014, showing that a smart franchise concept can be successful anywhere in the country. Nation's Restaurant News said that the company has over 60 new franchise agreements in Bakersfield, San Francisco and Palm Springs. In the long term, the donut franchise plans to open up 1,000 new stores across the state.