Finding the best the location of your food franchise is probably one of the biggest decision you will make as a new franchise owner. Where you lay down roots in the community can really make you or break you, so it is not a decision to take lightly. If you live in a big college town, then it has probably crossed your mind the idea of setting up shop on a college campus, but is that the smart choice? Are food franchises and college campuses a perfect match?
There is definitely a certain appeal to partnering with a college campus. Hungry college students who are looking for quick and affordable meals make ideal customers for quick-serve food franchises. And if your food franchise is a recognizable regional or national brand, the students will appreciate seeing recognizable food options on their campus. In such a brand new environment which can be daunting as they transition to a new phase of their life, they will appreciate a sense of familiarity and comfort.
Food franchises also have an easier time on college campus because compared to a brand new restaurant, it has more streamlined operations and store buildouts which are necessary in the tighter quarters usually found on college campuses. Also from the college campus point of view, your food franchise is more appealing because you have a team of support that has the experience to handle any issues that might come up.
Another benefit you probably have not thought of is how a partnership with college campuses can help you create a long term loyal customer base. Start them young and hopefully they will be your customer for life.
Not All Matches Are Equal
While the appeal is certainly there, it doesn’t mean that any food franchise and college campus will make the perfect partnership. There are a lot of issues that need to be considered before any signatures are put on the dotted line.
The biggest question of course is whether this particular student population will want the type of menu you will be offering. Fast food staples like burgers, pizza and fries are typically a big part of college students’ diet, but this isn’t across the board of course. Healthier foods and more vegan and vegetarian dishes have become more popular with millennials as well as more global cuisine. It is important to understand the tastes of the students at the school so you know if your particular franchise will do well there.
Another thing to consider is whether your menu will be in direct competition with what is offered at the student dining hall as part of the meal plan. If the residential dining hall is offering something similar to what you are offering, you need to ask yourself, what is the incentive for the students to choose to pay extra for the same food at your establishment? You need to make sure the quality of your food and service stands out from “cafeteria food”.
Another factor that you should consider is how quick will you be able to be up and running. Colleges and universities have their own process for deciding on what restaurants and franchises to invite to become a part of their campus and it can take a while, usually at least several months just for the approval process to take place. Typically the process will include input from students and faculty from surveys and town hall-style meetings and from extensive discussions with the university dining services department.
During the whole vetting process, you as the franchisor and the university need to also make sure that your overall values and goals align. For example, a sense of social and environmental responsibility are usually very popular on college campuses so if your franchise practices good sustainability practices and regularly gives back to the community, that will probably be attractive to college students.
Another thing to keep in mind also is that unless the university is offering up a brand new space on campus, they are probably looking for a franchise that can fit into pre-specified spaces that might have limitations with space and power usage.
Other unique challenges to setting up shop on a college campus include that often times you will need to work with a unique business partner arrangement. In many cases you are not just dealing with the school directly but also a third-party foodservice contractor like Aramark or an existing franchisee who already owns the rights to the school’s territory. Another one is that you usually need to do all construction and getting up and operating in a very narrow window of time. Most colleges like to do construction in the slower summer months which doesn’t give you a whole of time to get ready for the start of the school year.
College stores and restaurants also need to factor in school breaks and holidays and the quieter summer months when creating their business plan. You should make sure you can earn enough during prime school time so you are not hurt by the slower seasons.
Overall, partnering with a college campus can be a real boon for a food franchise, but like in all aspects of business, you need to do your due diligence to make sure that what you offer will be a good fit for that particular institution. Food franchises and college campuses can be a perfect match when all important criteria line up accordingly. A franchise consultant like MBB Management can help you take a really good look at the needs of your franchise and help you form the best partnerships for the health and growth of your business. MBB Management is a business leader in the food franchise industry and can really offer you the insight and connections you need to run a successful food franchise.
Contact MBB Management today for more information about how they can help grow your franchise. Set up an initial consultation and get one step closer to making your dreams a reality.