The cofounder of Toasted Yolk Café on what it takes to separate from the crowded restaurant pack.

Growing an emerging restaurant successfully requires building brand awareness, developing a solid reputation, and establishing a scalable infrastructure.

The restaurant industry is forecast to generate $997 billion in sales in 2023. Yet, seven out of 10 eateries in the United States are single-unit operations, according to the National Restaurant Association. Taking your brand to the next level requires recreating the system you established at your first location and can feel like starting from scratch if you don’t do the work behind the scenes to facilitate growth. 

Many foodservice establishments turn to franchising to help make their eatery a household name. Franchising allows a restaurant brand to expand rapidly without the need for significant capital investment. Having local owners who are invested in the community gives your brand leverage and enables it to gain a foothold in new areas.

We launched the first Toasted Yolk Café in 2010 to provide a breakfast and lunch experience with chef-inspired menu items and fresh ingredients. We’ve come a long way since Matthew DeMott and I had our first conversation about opening a restaurant one evening at church. Today, Toasted Yolk Café has 30 restaurants in seven states and plans to have a total of 50 locations by the end of this year. But we weren’t an overnight success. It took four years of careful planning and trial and error before we added our second location, and then we waited until 2018 to start franchising. We now plan to open an average of 15 to 20 new restaurants annually.

If your existing restaurant is exceeding expectations and you’re willing to put in the time and energy required to grow your emerging brand, take these steps to scale your concept.

Define Your Mission 

Last year, approximately 3,700 quick-service franchise restaurants and 852 table-service franchise units opened in the U.S., reported the International Franchise Association. It’s vital to clearly articulate your brand’s values, mission, and unique selling proposition to help you stand out from the competition and attract customers who resonate with your brand. Finding a niche in the competitive restaurant industry is challenging, but with the right strategy and approach, you can position your brand for growth and success. 

Toasted Yolk Café capitalizes on the booming breakfast and lunch daypart, and we offer a full line-up of cocktails. As workers adopt hybrid schedules, breakfast is becoming one of the most important meals of the day. At least 24 percent of consumers source their breakfast from a restaurant or foodservice venue. Breakfast restaurant traffic grew by 4 percent in August compared to the same period last year.

Write a Playbook 

Creating a scalable business is vital to growing an emerging restaurant brand. Before you begin franchising, you must put pen to paper and establish a playbook for your brand. Create an instruction manual for new owners that outlines your proprietary systems and procedures. Your procedures need to include everything from recipes to customer service protocol. Having a guidebook for your eatery will establish the infrastructure you need to seamlessly add new locations.

Leverage Technology

Relying on technology can help emerging restaurant brands improve consistency, trim inventory costs, and streamline training. Many restaurant brands use cell phone location data and geotargeting to understand customer habits and schedules to determine the best spot to put a location in a new market.

Build a Team

Have the right support team in place to facilitate expansion. Make sure your development team has the bandwidth to add locations. Picking the right franchise partners ensures the integrity of your brand stays intact as you grow. Toasted Yolk Café only selects franchisees who share their passion for the restaurant industry and high-quality cuisine. 

It’s also a best practice to open your first franchise location near your corporate headquarters to make it easy to address any speed bumps the new owner may encounter as they get started. Make sure to get feedback from your first franchisees to improve your processes and procedures as you grow.

Ramp up Marketing

Marketing will play a key role in helping your emerging brand gain a foothold in new communities. Establish an omnichannel marketing strategy to drive traffic to your restaurants. You’ll need both a national and local marketing plan. Start creating buzz about each new location as soon as you have a site selected. Encourage your franchise owners to use their local connections to help their eatery meet its sales goals. Social media is a powerful tool for building brand awareness and engaging with customers. Ask customers to share their experiences on social media by using branded hashtags and offering incentives for social media engagement.

Be a Resource

Establishing yourself as a foodservice authority will enhance your brand’s reputation in the franchise community. Volunteer to serve on panels and attend conferences to solidify your emerging brand’s visibility in the restaurant industry.

Creating a recipe for successful expansion is within reach if you do the hard work and surround yourself with people committed to building a solid brand.

Chris Milton is the cofounder of Toasted Yolk Café, full-service neighborhood eatery featuring reimagined interpretations of traditional breakfast, brunch and lunch classics.

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