05/09/2022

Recap from Food On Demand 2022: Focus Brands

Angela Diffly
Co-Founder, RTN
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In a session entitled, Operations & Strategy: Big Questions for Big Brands at the Food On Demand show May 4-6 in Las Vegas, we heard from Kristen Hartman, President, Specialty Category for Focus Brands, the franchisor and operator of more than 6,000 restaurants, cafes, ice cream shoppes, and bakeries in the US, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and over 50 foreign countries, with beloved brands like Auntie Anne’s, Carvel, Cinnabon, Jamba, Moe’s Southwest Grill, McAlister’s Deli, and Schlotzsky’s, as well as some Seattle’s Best Coffee on select military bases and international markets. 

Here are my quick takeaways from Hartman’s insightful panel commentary:

  • Hartman refers to streetside and mall-based brands, noting they are leaning into third-party delivery for the mall-based brands and leaning into first-party delivery for streetside brands. She stressed that being accessible to customers is critical, regardless of format or location.

  • To maximize accessibility to brands, Focus is bringing traditional mall-based brands, streetside by co-branding them with existing locations. For example, they're bringing Auntie Anne’s inside Jamba locations as a dual-branded opportunity to maximize physical footprint, while creating more access to beloved traditional mall-based brands. Hartman hinted at a new concept with Cinnabon + Carvel, which she called the ultimate treat destination.

  • In the past, Focus built technology brand by brand, but they’re now creating common platforms across all brands. The challenge: To do more, faster, creating a seamless digital experience without losing sight of what’s going on in-store throughout 6,000 locations. 

  • They’ve created channel P&Ls that help to understand the profitability of each line of business, how that comes together for the operator, as well as the impact of first- versus third-party delivery.

  • Focus has also cracked an important code with delivery models, optimizing menu architecture to match consumer demand in that channel. She gave an example that half of delivery orders come from multi-serve CinnaPacks, since consumers ordering at home are sharing, which drives more profitability for operators. 

  • Focus is testing robotics with Jamba to make smoothies in a self-contained kiosk located outside stores, with potential to bring them inside, alleviating workloads for staff. 

  • While they have expanded the Cinnabon brand into ghost kitchens, mostly in Canada, to provide more access to that brand, the ghost kitchen space in general is not a high priority.

  • Focus is looking at opportunities to grow brick-and-mortar locations. They plan to accelerate these plans, while exploring and testing with ghost kitchens.