Advice for Franchisor CMOs When Dealing With Digital Marketing Vendors

This post is to simply inform and alert any franchise CMO who inherits one of these troubling vendor relationships. If you don’t own control of your online assets, you’re going to have unfriendly challenges ahead of you. We’re currently on boarding several clients that are experiencing these challenges. Here are a few results that we’re seeing with brands that are transitioning from this arrangement.

Digital Marketing Advice for Franchisor CMOs

By Andrew Beckman
Chairman, Founder Local Marketing Expert

The franchising community is complicated. With thousands of franchisees operating under thousands of corporate brands, breakdowns in communication are inevitable. As partners of these brands and franchisees, the franchise marketing community should be working to build trust and stability throughout the franchising network, not actively adding to the confusion.

Unfortunately, many franchise marketing vendors are misleading the franchising community. As some vendors put franchise websites on custom content management systems, they’re neglecting to tell these brands the consequences of this arrangement. Mainly, that franchise brands are unknowingly relinquishing ownership of their site and other web assets.

This arrangement might not seem like a big deal at the outset of an engagement. But when these brands decide to change course, it’s the brands that are left with the complicated transition — a transition that threatens long-term damage to not only their online presence, but the brand itself.

This post is to simply inform and alert any franchise CMO who inherits one of these troubling vendor relationships. If you don’t own control of your online assets, you’re going to have unfriendly challenges ahead of you. We’re currently on boarding several clients that are experiencing these challenges. Here are a few results that we’re seeing with brands that are transitioning from this arrangement.

* It’s your logo. They’re your words. But they aren’t your pages. Your site pages are being hosted and managed by a third-party business.

* When transitioning off the vendor-owned pages, if you don’t own your content (images, videos, etc.), you will be starting from scratch.

* Some vendors are including proprietary tracking code within your site structure. If not identified properly, this can cause significant issues during site transition.

* If you’re using a subdomain hosted on a separate IP address, you will not get the same SEO benefit, and will need to spend time pointing links to new subdirectory location pages.

* Lack of custom Content Management System (CMS) build out.

* Limitations with Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) strategies.

Whether these imbalanced vendor-client relationships stem from a genuine misunderstanding or an unethical approach, it’s imperative that all franchise brands are aware of the potential pitfalls of the arrangement. I’d love to continue the discussion.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Andrew Beckman
As Chairman of Location3,
Andrew Beckman oversees strategic direction and business development initiatives in conjunction with the agency’s Executive Board. Andrew founded Location3 Media in 1999 as a direct response digital partner with a portfolio of services that included PPC management, SEO, local search marketing, display marketing, social media marketing, content strategy, website design & development, web analytics management and more. Since 1999, Location3 has evolved into a full service digital marketing agency that delivers enterprise-level strategy with local market activation.

Prior to founding Location3, Andrew was an international sales manager for DoubleClick, Inc. where he was charged with opening new sales offices, as well as training teams on U.S. search marketing strategies for the original AltaVista Search Engine. Andrew is an expert in local search marketing strategy and is a frequent presenter at industry conferences including SES, SMX, StreetFight Summit, ClickZ Live, PubCon, BIA Kelsey and more. Follow him on Twitter.

is a digital marketing agency that delivers enterprise-level strategy with local market activation.
As the premier digital marketing partner for franchise brands and multi-location businesses, we operate under the belief that Everything Is Local. That means using our digital expertise and proprietary technology to connect businesses with the customers who are searching for their solutions.

Fulfill Your Dream of Business Ownership – Here are 5 Tips For A Business Loan

The U.S. Census Bureau’s 2012 Survey of Small Business Owners found that 2.52 million businesses in the United States (or 9.1%) are majority-owned by veterans. There are many resources available for veterans interested in starting or growing their business, including those from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Dreaming of starting a new business? Remember these 5 things

(BPT) – If you’re dreaming about starting a business, or if you’re already a business owner looking to grow your business, chances are that you’ll need a loan at some point to help your vision become reality. And if you’re a veteran or active-duty servicemember, you already possess the skills and vital experience needed to make your business a success.

“From resourcefulness and determination to the ability to take smart risks, military experience teaches skills that translate well for business ownership,” said Tony Pica, vice president of business services at Navy Federal Credit Union.

The U.S. Census Bureau’s 2012 Survey of Small Business Owners found that 2.52 million businesses in the United States (or 9.1%) are majority-owned by veterans. There are many resources available for veterans interested in starting or growing their business, including those from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

What are lenders looking for? Here are five considerations to keep in mind before securing a loan for your business:

1. Do your market research and prepare a solid business plan.

Doing research on the industry and preparing a solid business plan is an important step to take when seeking financing for your company. If you can demonstrate to lenders that you’ve done your due diligence — created a detailed business plan, have a trusted team, know the demand for your product or service, and developed a sales strategy to show the viability of your business — you’ll be much more likely to convince them to take a chance on you and your company.

2. Review your overall financial profile.

“Your complete financial health demonstrates your creditworthiness to lenders, so it’s best to review your credit history before applying for a business loan,” Pica said. “You’ll also want to know the amount of money you need to borrow and what exactly it will be used for.”

Presenting your complete background, such as your education and experience, including whether you’ve worked at or managed a similar business in the past, can also make a big difference.

3. Be willing to invest some of your personal money.

Depending on the lending request, you might need to provide a cash injection or collateral. This may include your home, a vehicle, marketable securities or tangible inventory. The lender wants to make sure that you’re willing to put your own skin in the game. In many cases, a certain amount of capital may be required by law.

4. Expanding an existing business? Demonstrate evidence of continued success.

Lenders will want to see evidence of your past and projected cash flow as a result of expanding your existing company. If the loan is for a new business, you’ll need to show lenders your ability to repay it by providing a detailed explanation that includes projected expenses and income, based on solid research.

5. Partner with your trusted financial institution.

Once you’ve done your market research and developed a concrete business plan, talk to your trusted bank or credit union about the business lending products and services available to you.

For example, Navy Federal Credit Union Business Services provides more than just loans for equipment, vehicles and commercial real estate for its members. It provides a whole suite of options, such as business checking and savings accounts and business credit cards, as well as assistance with bill pay, payroll processing, insurance policies and retirement coverage for employees.

Financing your budding business can be a smooth process with these considerations in mind.


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Small business: How ethics can help your bottom line

Often, leaders at small businesses with few employees feel protected from or less susceptible to fraud or unethical conduct because of the close-knit nature of their teams. But research shows unethical behavior is more widespread than they realize, and not confined to one type of business.

Small business: How ethics can help your bottom line

(BPT) – The last thing any company wants is a misstep that hurts the trust it has built with customers. This is especially true for smaller businesses, which may not have the resources to recover from a reputation setback. To prevent mistakes, bad decisions and wrongdoing, smaller businesses can take a proactive approach to developing ethical business leaders and business cultures. Experts say when businesses do that they can achieve benefits for their bottom line, their employees and the common good.

It can happen anywhere

Often, leaders at small businesses with few employees feel protected from or less susceptible to fraud or unethical conduct because of the close-knit nature of their teams. But research shows unethical behavior is more widespread than they realize, and not confined to one type of business. According to a 2017 Ethics and Compliance Initiative survey, nearly 47% of U.S. employees at companies of all sizes said they personally observed workplace conduct that “either violated organizational standards or the law.”

A 2018 Better Business Bureau survey found that 84% of consumers trust small businesses the most. That’s important for business owners to recognize, because the more trust a consumer puts in your company, the greater the ramifications when that trust is broken. This means business leaders have every incentive to develop strong ethical standards and cultures.

Empowering businesses

One university is looking to empower smaller businesses through a new open-access website. The University of St. Thomas recently launched the Business Ethics Resource Center (BERC), with U.S. Bank as the founding sponsor. The BERC is part of the university’s Center for Ethics in Practice in the Opus College of Business and provides resources for small and midsized businesses, focusing on ways they can develop ethical leaders and cultures.

Resources include videos, articles, toolkits, example plans and other multimedia assets that can help companies promote ethical conduct as part of their core mission. The BERC is designed to help time-strapped business leaders develop and sustain a strong ethical culture within their organizations and realize the inherent benefits that come along with that.

The benefits of ethics

While it’s difficult to determine the true cost of developing an ethical culture within your organization, it’s clear there are several tangible benefits. For starters, practicing ethics can help you avoid costly legal issues while enhancing your company’s reputation. It will also help you build customer loyalty, with 80% of customers saying they are more loyal to a company with good ethics, according to a recent survey from Salesforce. The same qualities that attract customers will also increase your ability to attract and retain outstanding employees. When you’re able to establish ethical standards as the foundation of your company values, you foster a more positive, meaningful work culture for your employees.

Promoting ethical conduct and compliance doesn’t have to be expensive. By utilizing the resources available and cementing strong ethical standards as a critical part of company values, businesses can establish an ethical company culture that benefits everyone involved.


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Veterans – What’s Your Next Mission? – Franchise Opportunities for Veterans.

Photo by Yeo Khee on Unsplash

Many Veterans find their transition to be very challenging because they’re used to either preparing for a mission or executing one. They return home only to find that they no longer have that focus or a team around them.
Franchise opportunities for Veterans abound.

What’s Your Next Mission?
By Rich Vaill
VP, Business Banker | Marine Corps Veteran | Veterans employment advocate

I used to meet with my Platoon Sergeant on a regular basis to ensure we were on the same page and to discuss any challenges. One morning, we sat down to talk about a young Marine who continually got into trouble. Although I thought the Marine was intelligent and had potential, his mistakes and poor judgement left me unsure as to how to approach the problem.

My Platoon Sergeant suggested that we place him in charge of our publications and resource section. Puzzled, I asked, “You want to reward his mistakes with a new responsibility?” He explained that while he was also troubled by the Marine’s decisions, he recognized the young man’s potential and wanted to provide him with this new challenge.

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It was a great decision, as the Marine embraced the role, improved the overall effectiveness of the section and became a top performer. We promoted him to Corporal a few months later.

Many Veterans find their transition to be very challenging because they’re used to either preparing for a mission or executing one. They return home only to find that they no longer have that focus or a team around them. It can make for a tough time, so it’s important that Veterans find another mission to embrace. I was lucky enough to discover my passion for helping my fellow Veterans find employment on which to focus my attention.

I was chatting about this with a friend, and we came to the conclusion that everyone needs a “next” mission. It’s certainly not just for those who have served in the military. Everyone can benefit from having a daily and/or long-term purpose.

It might be something as simple as helping your kids through Algebra, more extensive like becoming involved in a local charity or assuming a new role within your company. Either way, it’s something that demands your attention and, hopefully, yields a positive result.

Whether it’s a personal objective like helping a family member, a new challenge in your career or starting a business, a new mission gives you renewed focus and a chance to thrive.

“When you discover your mission, you will feel its demand. It will fill you with enthusiasm and a burning desire to get to work on it.” – W. Clement Stone

About the Author

Rich Vaill works with Professional Service businesses and Veteran entrepreneurs who are:
* Worried about rising costs and decreasing cash flow
* Unsure about how much working capital they should have on hand
* Frustrated with the amount of time it takes to perform simple banking operations

At my core, I’m a Marine. As a Marine in Business Banking, I focus on what’s important to my clients and I get it done.
Escrow | 1031 Exchanges | Cash Flow Optimization | Credit Solutions | SBA Loans
Founder of LinkedIn group, “Jobs for Veterans”
President – New Jersey Chapter of the National Marine Corps Business Network
I may be contacted at 973 699-5616 (c)

Franchise Opportunities for Veterans

Franchises Need To Protect Themselves From Increased Sexual Harassment And Cyber Security Claims

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Our friend and franchise expert Ed Teixeira interviews Peter R. Taffae, MLIS, CFE and Managing Director Executive Perils, Inc. on the topic of Cyber Security Claims and Sexual Harassment claim that all employers need to protect themselves against.This important topic has faded from the mainstream ews media but remains a real problem that employers need to focus on…

Franchises Need To Protect Themselves From Increased Sexual Harassment And Cyber Security Claims

By Ed Teixeira – Chief Operating Officer of Franchise Grade

After hitting a two-decade low in 2017, sexual harassment complaints to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission increased by more than 12 percent from last year. The federal agency has also been aggressive with litigation this year, filing 41 sexual harassment lawsuits so far, up from 33 in 2017. At the same time, cyber-crimes which involve the theft of personal information has cost some companies millions of dollars in damages to its reputation and from monetary claims.

Employer Liability Claims Increase

Over the course of this year, stories of sexual harassment have dominated the headlines. In what USA Today dubbed the “Weinstein Effect,” various sized companies have witnessed employees take part in the #Me To movement. This increased focus on sexual harassment has created a surge in protests, discrimination lawsuits, and government investigations, with almost no industry being immune, including a recent demonstration against McDonald’s franchise locations. Regardless of whether a sexual harassment allegation has merit, these claims can cause a company significant damage to its brand and sales. Seven in 10 human resource professionals said they believe sexual harassment complaints at their workplaces will likely be “higher” or “much higher” in 2018 compared to previous years.

A poll by the Human Resource Certification Institute found that “63 percent of HR professionals said that acts of sexual harassment “occasionally” or “sometimes” occur in their workplaces and 30 percent said that such acts “frequently” occur. Only seven percent said that such acts “almost never” or “never” occur.” The trend toward more sexual harassment lawsuits appears to continue as the EEOC increases efforts to crack down on sexual harassment. The EEOC has launched online access for employees to file harassment charges from their homes, with the EEOC.

Employment-related risks can represent the most damaging exposure to a franchiser. Claims involving sexual harassment, wrongful termination or discrimination, from a current or former employee can potentially cause irreparable damage to a franchise brand and reputation resulting in significant financial cost.

To gain more insight into employer liability and especially sexual harassment claims I spoke with Peter R. Taffae, MLIS, CFE and Managing Director Executive Perils, Inc. In 2014 they introduced a management liability policy, FranchisorSuite®, designed for the unique needs of Franchisors.

Q. How extensive are employer liability claims?

A. Companies of all sizes and industries have been affected by a surge in employment-related litigation and rising legal damage awards.

Q. What can be done to mitigate those risks?

A. Be sure that franchisers, franchisees and their employees are properly trained to understand the risks of sexual harassment, unlawful terminations, and discrimination claims. Have the proper procedures and protocols in place and have financial protection.

Q.What does the future hold for sexual harassment claims?

A. The threshold has been raised for what is appropriate in the workplace. This means that the expectation for proper employment practices is higher. Some experts believe that it will take 10 to 15 years to reverse the trend as current middle age retirees are replaced by today’s younger generation.

Q. Any other threats that franchises face?

A. One area related to the franchise industry that doesn’t receive a lot of coverage is cybersecurity. Every state has primary notification laws, which that when there is a breach of a customer’s personal data, the company or franchiser must notify every customer. In addition, there is no statute of limitations regarding these crimes. For example, if I purchased a meal at a franchise location 10 years ago and their system was hacked, and my personal information was stolen, that franchise is liable.

Franchise restaurants process so many credit cards and have the extensive point-of-sale equipment, that they are vulnerable to data theft. Websites, Wi-Fi and digital kiosks represent additional threats. Any franchise which does any of the following is at risk for a cyber-attack; Accepts credit cards, handles or views private information of employees or customers electronically, has Wi-Fi or conducts a portion of their business online.

It’s important that each component of the franchise industry be prepared to protect themselves from the threat of employer liability and cybersecurity claims.

About the Author:
Ed Teixeira is Chief Operating Officer of Franchise Grade and was the founder and President of FranchiseKnowHow, L.L.C. a franchise consulting firm. Ed has over 35 years’ experience as a Senior Executive for franchisors in the retail, healthcare, manufacturing and software industries and was also a franchisee. Ed has consulted clients to franchise their existing business and those seeking strategic solutions to operational, marketing and franchise relations issues. He has transacted international licensing in Europe, Asia, and South America. Ed is the author of Franchising from the Inside Out and The Franchise Buyers Manual and has spoken at a number of venues including the International Franchise Expo and the Chinese Franchise Association in Shanghai, China. He has conducted seminars, written numerous articles on the subject of franchising and has been interviewed on TV and radio and has testified as an expert witness on franchising. He is a franchise valuation expert by the Business Brokerage Press. Ed can be contacted at [email protected]

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Virtual Food Halls – The Next Big Thing?

PHOTO BY: unsplash-logoElevate

Today the changing landscape in the restaurant business is not only a food driven event. It’s also being moved by all the other elements connected to the overall restaurant experience, such as convenience, payment method, dine-in options and delivery options. The way Baby Boomers steered America into fast food Drive Thru lanes, Millenials are swiping, tapping, and clicking the food service industry into a mash-up of digital convenience and real life communal eating experiences that are now addressed by the Virtual Food Hall.

An Innovation In Urban Dining – A Closer Look At The Virtual Food Hall
By Gary Occhiogrosso
Originally published in

As a New Yorker, I’ve come to realize we are privy to numerous changes in the restaurant and franchise business long before people in many other parts of the country. One such change is the innovation of the  “Virtual Food Hall”. With the advent of online ordering, third party order and delivery platforms such as Grub Hub, Seamless and Door Dash as well as the need to optimize occupancy cost in cities like New York, the Virtual Food Hall  is taking a position in the already vigorous fight for the dining dollar.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Brian Berger on the topic of Virtual Food Halls.  Mr. Berger is a founding partner of New York City based JBH Advisory, a firm that supports restaurateurs and retail brand owners with concept development, start-up planning, processes, and training. Mr. Berger and his team launched the first Virtual Food Hall in New York, Sous Vide Kitchen in 2017. I asked Brian to give us his insights into the Virtual Food Hall business model. He was gracious enough to explain the concept and answer my questions.

What is a Sous Vide Kitchen – Virtual Food Hall? 
We coined the term Virtual Food Hall to represent the style of service and ordering offered at Sous Vide Kitchen. In a Virtual Food Hall guests order from our multiple brands using our self-order kiosk, pay in one single transaction, and receive their meal all in less than six minutes. 

How is a Virtual Food Hall different from a Urban Food Hall or Food Court?
A traditional urban food hall has  large open spaces where guests can enjoy a variety of cuisines in a hip atmosphere. Traditional urban food halls have a long history of success in Europe and metropolitan areas, with a recent explosion in U.S. cities. Traditional food halls have been gaining momentum for years. They present advantages and disadvantages for both guests and operators. On the plus side, guests can try multiple restaurants in one location, and operators can reduce their overhead cost by utilizing the shared physical infrastructure. However, this experience can be challenging for those looking to try multiple options or order and pay for a group with different tastes, as that would require each guest to wait in a separate line, pay and receive their meal at a different time. The Traditional Food Hall model is not ideal for groups wishing to dine together. We wanted to create an experience that would allow guests a more convenient way to enjoy items from multiple concepts and dine with others. 

Another term I hear is “Ghost Kitchen.” What is a Ghost Kitchen, and how are they different from Virtual Food Halls?
A Ghost Kitchen is a foodservice operation meant for delivery only. In other words, these businesses have no dining room or storefront. In many cases, you cannot even carry out from these businesses. One major disadvantage from a guest perspective is that they do not have any visibility as to the location or condition of the restaurant. While we enjoy the operational efficiencies of a ghost kitchen, we offer guests the ability to come to the food hall, if they choose. We offer diners the ability to order delivery, or pick up, or enjoy their meal in a spacious seating area where guests can relax and enjoy. 

When and why did you first come up with the idea of a Virtual Food Hall ? 
We launched our first fast-casual restaurant, BONMi (Vietnamese Inspired Baguettes & Bowls), in 2011 in Washington, DC. Our goal was to create an innovative model for production which centered on the Sous Vide cooking method to overcome the increasing challenges the industry faces (labor, food safety, consistency, capital expenses) and produce consistent, healthy, safe and delicious food. We tested the concept in various formats: standalone restaurant, campuses/food court, high-end supermarkets, and food trucks. We learned from these tests and evolved our processes to cement operations prior to scaling. Our eight years of fast-casual operations experience blended with our advisory firm’s client work made us acutely aware of several trends that were developing.  The first was an increased awareness of the origin of food, food safety, and reduction of waste. Through the utilization of proteins prepared using the sous vide method of cooking, we can offer our guests the safest food possible while maintaining the nutritional integrity of each item. The use of ready to serve pre-cut vegetables allows us to operate in a zero-waste environment since we obtain 100% yield on every product that we purchase and allow our produce vendor to repurpose the parts of the product that we may not utilize. 

Can the Virtual Food Hall compete in the fast-growing Third-Party Delivery business?
Yes. We noticed an increase in meals consumed outside of the restaurant. In years past, delivery was a small arm of the business typically accounting for no more than ten percent of total sales; however, in recent years, the demand to enjoy meals outside of the restaurant has continued to grow. Acting as the sales arm of a brand, companies like Seamless/GrubHub, Meal Pal, Ritual, Fooda, Cater 2 Me, and Zero Cater continue to change the way guests order and receive meals. The expectation is that guests will receive the same quality of food and level of service that one would receive in the restaurant; as a result we have evolved our menus, processes, and strategies to ensure that we serve our meals in a variety of platforms; In-Store, Delivery, Catering, Off-Site Catering/Pop-ups, and third party pick up. 
When we opened our BONMi in New York in April of 2017, we selected a larger sized store (2,500 Square Feet). Our strategy was based on our ability to utilize the store for testing our delivery only, virtual concepts and provide a New York City hub for catering, pop-ups, and delivery. With the success of our operational model, combined with the realization that a high proportion of guests dollars are spent outside of the brick and mortar store, we began to develop and launch additional concepts through third-party delivery services and catering, one step at a time. The first concept operating out of the BONMi kitchen is Pulled & Chopped BBQ. This concept immediately received excellent reviews, and we were able to increase sales without adding any additional overhead expenses. After seeing this success, we continued to create concepts and offer them through delivery and catering channels. The next concept to launch was SVK Greens & Grains followed by Mediterranean Pure Foods, then Eso Latin. At this point, we were operating four delivery, only concepts out of the kitchen, while the storefront remained BONMi. 

Why did you marry the Virtual Food Hall idea to the Ghost Kitchen Concept?
We knew we had to find a way to offer the same variety of concepts to our guests in the store while maintaining the efficient production model that we were operating for our delivery-only concepts.  That’s where the idea to utilize the self-order kiosk came into play. We determined that the growing popularity of this trend would be the best way to showcase our brands and allow our guests to order from multiple concepts easily. We had each ingredient and all the signature dishes photographed to present a glorious high-resolution display. Guests are now able to browse through the offerings within each menu easily, see the allergen and ingredients of each dish, put everything in one cart, pay at the kiosk and receive a text when their order is completed. Since opening our food hall, we have continued to increase our collection of brands and have added Vindy Indian Inspired Eats to our current offering. We have other concepts currently in development and can see this model featuring eight to ten various menus. 
The concept could certainly live online only – however, our brick and mortar food halls are a great space where guests can enjoy their meal, socialize, or work remotely. 

What are the advantages to the guest using a Virtual Food Hall?
Guests love having many options at their fingertips. Order, pay and enjoy the experience. The ability to easily identify ingredients or allergens within each dish is a significant advantage.  With thousands of possible combinations, guests are inclined to visit multiple times per week without the risk of menu fatigue. We have noticed a bit of a trend with our SVK Greens and Grains as our highest volume concept at the beginning of the week and Pulled & Chopped BBQ as the most popular concept at the week’s end. Since there is something for everyone to enjoy, and multiple dietary constraints are satisfied, it is an excellent option for groups with a variety of preferences. Utilizing the sous vide method of cooking as the thread to bind our concepts together gives guests the peace of mind that items that we serve within our food hall are carefully selected contain clean ingredients with minimal processing.
For some guests, the idea of ordering through a kiosk without any human interaction can be intimidating. We eliminate that fear by staffing our food hall with a “kiosk concierge,” one employee who helps to oversee the dining room and as well as assist guest who may be apprehensive through their ordering process. We are in the business of creating repeat guests, so we find that spending a few moments with a guest the first time they come in will give them the confidence to return and order without assistance again and again. We consider Sous Vide Kitchen to be High Tech & High Touch. 

 What are the advantages and disadvantages to the Operator? 
From an operator’s perspective, there are only advantages:
* Reduction of Labor
Operators love serving several concepts within one shared production line, utilizing the same staffing levels that they would for one brand. Through our menu engineering and production processes, we have created an innovative system, which allows less staff to produce a consistent, high-quality menu. Additionally, we do not need highly skilled culinarians – our process enables us to hire based on hospitality attitude. 
* Platform Flexibility
We can accommodate what the market is requesting; food when you want it, how you want it, delivered through a variety of platforms (in-store, delivery, pop-ups, catering & delivery). Retail concepts can easily be rotated with minimal challenges. 
* Lower Cost of Entry
We do not require ventilation and have minimal equipment requirements, making it a perfect concept for host environments such as transportation hubs, business & industry, campuses, healthcare facilities, and more. Costs can vary greatly depending on the area of the country, and the size of the food hall; however, we have found that buildout costs are fifty percent less than that of a traditional restaurant. Our concept’s space requirements are as small as 300 Square Feet and may go to over 2,500 Square Feet. 

Are Virtual Food Halls unique to urban centers with a concentration of daytime workers?
In general, Fast Casual restaurants do peak business during lunch hours; however, we do see guests picking up meals on their way home from work. Since our menu offering is very diverse, including a half chicken, ribs, and salmon, there is a great demand for delivery in the evening as well. There is potential to increase the take-out offerings and allow guests the option to pick up items to heat at home, allowing for the “semi home-cooked” experience. We are confident that this concept will thrive in any market from the inner city to suburban markets where other fast-casual options may be limited. 

Do Virtual Food Halls offer delivery? If so, do Operators handle that on their own or use a third-party ordering platform?
Currently, we see that approximately sixty percent of our sales are consumed outside of the restaurant, including take-out, delivery, and catering. Our delivery method is a bit of a hybrid model as we do employ a team of delivery personnel, but also utilize delivery from third-party vendors to help during times of peak volume. We use third-party ordering platforms as the marketing arm of our brands; they help to introduce our concepts to diners – which we then will convert to repeat guests who order directly through our channels. 

Where do you see this going in the next five years, and why?
We see this model as the future of foodservice as it addresses every major challenge facing the restaurant business, including rising wage costs, concern about food safety, the demand for customizable meals that cater to a variety of eating preferences, as well as the ability to serve guests through a variety of channels including dine-in, delivery, catering, or pick up. 
External factors such as rising minimum wage and increased paid sick and vacation time for hourly employees cause us to believe that the traditional restaurant model is not sustainable. Rising wage costs will continue to force restaurants to make difficult decisions regarding staffing; in many cases, a reduction in staffing can lead to a decrease in quality. However, as a result of the production model developed by Sous Vide Kitchen, we can produce consistent quality and deliver guests the offering of six restaurants with the staff that would typically serve one brand. Our model revolutionizes operations to meet modern demands. The precision temperature control of sous-vide cooking means it safer than traditional cooking methods, as we can bring food to precise temperatures while maintaining the nutritional integrity of each item. 
Our self-order kiosk allows guest the ability to select from a signature dish or select each ingredient to building their bowl, allowing for the ultimate customizable experience. Our streamlined and inexpensive buildout makes this an ideal offering not only as a standalone food hall but especially desirable within a host environment where space may be limited. The quality and flexibility of our offerings offer limitless opportunities for growth within stadiums, arenas, office buildings, higher education, and healthcare facilities.

Closing Thoughts
 To summarize my interview with Brian and after touring Sous Vide Kitchen; my takeaway is that the Virtual Food Hall model delivers many unique benefits not found in a brick and mortar restaurant, traditional urban food halls, or simple ghost kitchens. Virtual Food Halls enhance the guest experience with more choice, accuracy of ordering, speed of service and a dine -in option. For the restaurant operator it translates to lower buildout costs, more channels for distribution, and the ability to quickly address  lagging menu items. If a particular concept or menu isn’t producing enough sales and profits, the operator can change the menu and pivot concepts. By creating a single kitchen that operates multiple concepts and sharing ingredients, restaurant operators can quickly benefit from economies of scale from one single location.

Mr. Berger is a founding partner of JBH.  He is an industry expert with extensive knowledge in food service management, healthcare support services, concept development, contractual agreements and negotiations, operational and financial analysis.

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If you own a business, franchised or otherwise, succession planning is key!

If you own a business, franchised or otherwise, succession planning is key. What happens to your business when you’re gone, or disabled or decide it’s time to exit the business and retire….These very important questions are often overlooked by the business owner only to create difficult situations for family members, partners and other stakeholders.
Our article today is presented by Neel Shah or Shah & Associates, P.C. Please free free to contact Neel directly after you read the article and have questions regarding a succession plan for your business

What Are the Key Aspects of Business Succession Planning?
By Neel ShahFounder Shah & Associates, P.C.

Look at all the Pieces
Having an estate plan for your business is just as important as having an estate plan for your individual purposes. There are many different components that go into a business estate plan including a will, a living trust, a financial durable power of attorney, a succession plan, a buy/sell agreement, and life insurance.

All of these can be discussed directly with an experienced attorney. Your will and your living trust are the cornerstones of your business estate plan.

A will enables you to name who you wish to receive your assets, including your company, if you wish upon your death. A living trust is similar to a will in that it allows you to decide who will receive your assets when you pass away, but this is a private document that has benefits when compared with a will. A financial durable power of attorney enables you to authorize an agent to act on your behalf if you are unable to do so for yourself.

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Avoid Mistakes
Your succession plan which might also include considerations of a buy/sell agreement and life insurance is your opportunity to outline what will happen to your company in the future if you were to leave. Many people anticipate that they will continue working in their business forever. However, it can be a big mistake to assume that you will always be able or interested in working on your business. Scheduling a consultation with an estate planning attorney who has familiarity with adapting and creating business succession plans should be the cornerstone of the next steps that you take in planning your company’s future.


Meet the Author: Neel Shah

My law practice is focused on helping individuals, families & business owners to protect their wealth & their legacy for current & future generations. Estate taxes, lawsuits, poor/inadequate planning, the escalating costs of nursing homes/long-term care are such sources of attack.

My past & present clients include parents, grandparents, children, established corporations, LLCs, individual entrepreneurs, and start-up ventures.

Clients value my diverse training & expertise across the Wealth-planning, Business Law & Real Estate Law disciplines.

I use my skill set to foresee, analyze & implement business-succession techniques for my corporate and individual clients as they initiate different stages of their lives & business ventures. I provide relevant, actionable advice for Estate Planning & Asset Protection strategies for families, business owners & real estate investors so their business actions do not jeopardize their family’s wealth.

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What Does It Take to Launch a Successful Restaurant?

It could be a Wine Bar with small plates, or a BBQ theme or a Create Your Plate concept. Whatever you decide, it is critical that the environment and “vibe” within the restaurant places the guest firmly inside the experience you’re attempting to create. Don’t confuse the guest with a concept that’s disconnected. As I often remind my clients, “everything touches everything else.”

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Tripwires to avoid – Desire and passion will only get you so far. Create your business plan as a road map.

For many people, opening a restaurant is a dream. One of the many things I find so interesting about the restaurant business is the blend of creative artistry and the detailed and challenging business aspects necessary to be successful. As an Adjunct Instructor at NYU’s School of Professional Studies, I teach restaurant concept development and business planning. On several occasions, I have been asked by my students to summarize the top issues that one must consider when planning to open a restaurant. Generally, regardless of the type of restaurant, the planning and considerations are the same. I’ll cover a few of the top line elements here.

At the beginning of the process, you should write a simple business plan. It would help if you thought about the many pieces of the puzzle connected to a successful outcome. Many novice restaurateurs, very often chefs, only consider the food component, but there is so much more. A well thought out business plan will include creating a unique concept, a competitive analysis, site selection, financial projections, equipment needs, staffing, and of course, the menu.

Let’s start with a concept

It’s essential that your restaurant offers a unique experience. It could be a Wine Bar with small plates, or a BBQ theme or a Create Your Plate concept. Whatever you decide, it is critical that the environment and “vibe” within the restaurant places the guest firmly inside the experience you’re attempting to create. Don’t confuse the guest with a concept that’s disconnected. As I often remind my clients, “everything touches everything else.” For instance, you wouldn’t use elegant tableware in a fried chicken restaurant or disposable plates in an upscale steakhouse. As obvious as this may seem on the broader elements, it’s essential to take that idea to every detail of the restaurant concept, no matter how small. Everything from the paint color to the music to the tabletops to the wall hanging must work together. The decor elements, the menu, and the service level need to provide the guests with a seamless experience that, when done well, goes almost unnoticed because it’s natural and authentic.

If You Build It, Will They Come?

Building a clientele is never as easy as hanging a sign over the door. It takes smart planning, execution of marketing, and living up to the promise in your mission and brand position statement. You should never assume, “if you build it, they will come.” Questions to ask yourself are; how will my restaurant connect with people? Why does my restaurant exist? What type of people am I looking to attract? What do they read or watch? How do they spend their spare time? What is the best way to reach them? Your concept should appeal to a particular, selected audience. There is no such thing as “everyone is my customer.” Knowing why and for whom your restaurant exists is crucial to success. Your marketing plan should offer compelling reasons why that guest base should frequent your establishment regularly. Is the concept created for health-conscious people? Is it aimed at Millennials or Baby Boomers? It is a full menu or dessert brand or a convenient, fast food, value-based concept. Your social media, print ads, and community outreach should focus on one single audience with one single message. Once you’ve built a loyal base of customers and repeat business, then you should consider expanding your base by marketing to others in the area with a proposition that appeals to them.

Your People Plan is Key

A great team will help you win everyday. Hiring great people is the first step in delivering service excellence and a consistent product to your guests. Your mission statement “the why” along with a corporate culture that emphasizes respect for employees, commitment to your guests, service to the community, and concern for the environment will guide you when selecting your staff. It’s not enough to hire people with restaurant experience; they should also understand and be excited about the mission of the restaurant. If not, they will go through the motions with an inauthentic approach and often fail at exceeding guest expectations. Examine your corporate core values and hire people that match it. Next, supply your staff with comprehensive, ongoing training and the proper tools so can they carry out the day to day tasks flawlessly. Hire for qualities, train for skills.

The Market and Competition

Understanding the market area where you’d like to open your restaurant is a crucial element to the plan. Carefully research the demographics to ensure there are enough people in the area that match whom you believe will embrace your concept. When looking for your location, work with an experienced commercial broker that can supply you with data to help you choose the area and the site correctly.

A full competitive analysis is also essential. For example, check the pricing of your competition. Be sure you’re not over or underpriced for the market. Check other services they offer, such as delivery and online ordering. Spend time in the market area, dine several times at as many competitors as possible, and position your restaurant to address the missing needs in the market. Having a unique value and selling proposition will keep you ahead of the game. Remember, everyone is vying for the same consumer dollars, so you need to create points of differentiation that will help your establishment stand out from the competition.

Consistently Great Food

Your menu must not only be relevant to the concept and the market but should be prepared and served perfectly every time. Restaurant guests expect dishes they grown to love to have the same flavor and high quality each time they visit. Inconsistent products can lead to disappointed guests, bad reviews, and slumping business. Your menu should be not only delicious but also simple to execute. The more straightforward the menu, the less chance of mistakes in preparation. Consistency increases guest satisfaction. Some chefs and “foodies” create menu items that are too complicated and require a highly skilled professional in the kitchen. This approach is fine if you intend to open a high-end restaurant staffed with high price personnel, but not in a fast-casual or family restaurant setting. A winning menu is simple, fresh, relevant, and great tasting. A competent chef can assist in developing dishes that are unique and great tasting that are also simple to produce with less skilled labor. If you have aspirations of owning more than one location, then simple execution, and consistent products are a must to achieve the goal of operating multiple restaurants.

Cash Is King

There are many reasons why restaurants fold. It could be the wrong concept, poor choice of location, not correctly researching the competition, poor service, an uninspiring menu, or bad food, to name a few. That said, the negative impact of undercapitalization may be the most frequent cause of restaurant failures. Knowing how much money you need to launch the restaurant is only the tip of the iceberg. You must assess ongoing cash needs while the restaurant is newly opened and gaining momentum. It may take many months for a restaurant to break even and then eventually become profitable. Being able to support the financial needs during this phase is often the “make or break” challenge that many new restaurateurs cannot overcome. A well thought out projection model that you create with the help of a professional financial advisor can save you from the frustration, negative financial impact and heartbreak of a failed restaurant. Considering capital needs for the first twelve to fifteen months is not only prudent but essential to the success of any new restaurant. You must be prepared to cover the operational costs and expenses as the restaurant “ramps up.” Carefully consider your cash needs and how much working capital you must have on hand, ready to deploy.

Have A Plan And Follow Your Dream

Owning a restaurant can be personally rewarding and profitable. Many people have built great restaurant companies following these simple guidelines. Desire and passion will only get you so far. Create your business plan as a road map. Your plan will help you stay on track when dealing with the many moving parts of launching and successfully operating a new restaurant.

For information on hiring the right restaurant consultant to help you get started visit:


RIKO’S THIN CRUST PIZZA…Franchise opportunities abound in every business category, but entrepreneurs interested in the fast-casual space, and pizza, in particular, should have Riko’s Pizza on their radar as a brand poised for growth and success with ground floor opportunities for franchisees.

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1. Pizza is a $50.7 billion dollar*1 American passion
The pizza industry was designated as the fastest-growing segment of fast-casual restaurants in 2017.*2 A Riko’s franchisee buys into a growth business with high consumer demand and a track record of solid growth year-after-year. The opportunity to bring America’s favorite comfort food to a franchisee’s local market ranks high among Riko’s attributes as a new franchisor in this extremely, profitable business category.

2. A proven business concept
The Riko’s business model has been refined over a 7-year period prior to expanding into franchise offerings. Riko’s founders have continually tried and revised products, systems, and operations as they evolved into a turnkey operation. Those hard-earned systems are passed to franchisees as easy-to-follow, foolproof guidelines for consistent results. The simplicity and ease of operations hold opportunity for owners with or without previous restaurant business experience.

3. Flexibility for Franchisees
Franchisees can choose from a flexible footprint that suits urban or suburban venues. The flexible business model is designed to work and succeed in any space. Riko’s fast-casual operation features take-out, dine in and delivery. Riko’s full-service casual restaurant features a family dining experience with a full bar and table service. Owners can purchase single units or multi-unit options that are commensurate with their experience and finances.

4. Multiple revenue streams
Diverse revenue streams including lunch, dinner, and late-night business with takeout, delivery, and fast casual dine in and full-service restaurant and bar options, gift cards and rewards programs offer multiple growth opportunities within a franchise.

5. Quality, quality, quality
Attention to details has made quality a hallmark of Riko’s brand. High-quality ingredients — nothing artificial — proven recipes, simplified menu, first-rate equipment, comfortable, contemporary venue design, staff training ensure business growth and a consistent brand image. Entrepreneurs are buying into a brand associated with quality at every level.

6. Streamlined, state-of-the-art business operating model
Riko’s has set standards and developed systems that are easy to follow and easy to replicate over and over. Pizza franchisees can produce consistent, great results. Both franchisees and their future customers are assured of the quality food and service that launched Riko ’s original success in three Connecticut locations. Pizza franchisees are armed with the tools and knowledge to produce consistent, great results. Riko’s is a turn-key business model that works across all processes. The goal: keep things simple and do them the best they can be done.

7. Traditional family values that resonate with consumers
Riko’s core philosophy: respecting family, serving great simple food with a family-friendly ambiance, offers an appealing alternative in an ultra-fast food world. The Riko’s guest experience is warm and casual, fast without being harried. It’s a comforting experience that engenders customer loyalty and on-going, multi-generational business.

8. Comprehensive training & support
A good franchise offering includes support and training . That’s why Riko’s consulted and hired industry experts to develop a first-class training program. A five to six-week long training program — with modules at the company modern training center and owner’s location — takes franchise owners through all phases of the business; covering all the components necessary to effectively and efficiently manage a Riko’s Franchise business. A full suite of manuals provides on-going reference and instruction for owners.

9. Owners with passion
As a franchisor with a passion for growth and quality, Riko’s future is guided by passionate, involved owners with a hands-on approach to day-to-day business as well as an eye on long-term growth strategies. The active 360º business outlook ensures Riko’s is prepared to adapt, adjust, and seize new opportunities as they arise. The formula is set, but it’s constantly fine-tuned for success.

10. Community-centric focus
The success of the Riko’s original locations is grounded in community involvement. Riko’s mission in all franchise venues is to be part of local family life. Franchisees are trained to be local in their location and engage in sponsoring local youth sports teams, supporting school events, donating pizza to community events and more as a means to building relationships and thanking customers for their loyalty.

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Creating Sensible Employee Policies When Building Your Company

WHEN BUILDING A COMPANY, YOUR CORPORATE POLICIES… will mold and shape the culture and mission of your brand. In addition, your team members performance and the aspect of becoming an “employer of choice” to attract the “best and the brightest” are directly connected to the polices you create for your organization. Warren Cook,President & CEO of SymbianceHR offers his thoughts on best practices when developing policies for your company.

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Development of Policies that Make Sense
– By Warren Cook, President & CEO

In my experience, small businesses owners care tremendously about their staff, so much so, that at times they develop practices that can later place them at risk and expose them to liability for discrimination. For example, paying an employee for a “few weeks” when they are out sick or taking care of a family member but then when a new employee wants time off since they are not friends, they are told use their paid time off or the absence is unpaid.

Maternity leave is another great example, as I have observed everything from 100% pay the entire absence without a policy written to working from home during the maternity leave, all while trying to provide FMLA coverage (job protection) when the company only had 8 employees. At the same time, when a male employee decided they wanted time off to be with their spouse and newborn, they were denied the request.

In another situation, an employee was in an auto accident, and the owner felt bad, so they continued their compensation at 100% for several months. Yet another employee, later in the year, requested time off because they heard about the other employee getting paid, and wham, problem for the employer because they didn’t want to pay this employee.

Inconsistency in practices is the road to discrimination, even if unintended. These employers and many other examples I could share, also neglected other means to provide the support to their employee they desired, without breaking the bank and destroying company cash flow. For example, implementing a Short Term Disability program, employer or employee paid, could allow for an offset of the cost in your current practice. Why? You pay an insurance premium instead of the full cost of the employee compensation. Let us not forget benefit premiums during an employee absence, that also can become a double hit on the employer with poor leave policies in place.

I encourage you to strategically plan for the various situations that can occur with your workforce, and then determine what is the most cost effective and beneficial method to provide the desired support to your workforce. It may be insurance, it may be time off, it may be alternative work schedules, it may be remote work, or it may be another solution all together. Remember, setting precedence using a discriminatory approach can expose your business to tremendous risk and liability even though your have great intentions. Seek the right advisor to help guide you through the development of legally compliant and non-discriminatory solutions to take care of your workforce with policies and programs that make sense. Visit:

About the Author: Warren Cook
Warren is a conscientious human capital management leader dedicated to providing coaching and guidance to business owners and leaders in support of their continued success. With over two decades of practical industry experience across the public and private sector, and various industries from pharmaceutical to financial to telecommunications, Warren enjoys applying his depth and breadth of industry and academic (BS/MBA/MS) experience to solving the workforce management challenges of today. With a proven track record of implementing successful solutions to business challenges by effectively orchestrating change initiatives, strategic planning & execution, system and process engineering, people development, and modeling leadership behaviors to motivate the workforce, Warren is uniquely competent and capable of driving continued business success for your organization.

Warren enjoys giving back to the community, and accomplishes this passion through his workshops and training to non-profit organizations and industry associations across the region and across the country. To further this ambition Warren served the Delaware HR & Business Community by presenting at the DE SHRM 2017 & 2018 Annual Conferences and was the lead presenter at the July 2018 DE SHRM Diversity & Inclusion conference.

Warren authored the book “Applicant Interview Preparation – Practical Coaching for Today” and provides training and coaching on this topic in the local community at schools and non-profit organizations to support the development of the next generation of professionals.

If you want to benefit from the experience and capabilities Warren has to offer, you can reach him by email at [email protected] or by phone at 302-276-3302. Visit: