There’s an old saying: “There isn’t anything new under the sun.” Entrepreneurs are rightfully lauded for coming up with new ideas, but whatever product or service they’re bringing to market, their business models have likely been used over and over again.
When it comes to fast food and fast casual restaurants, emulating the branding strategies of successful chains while pushing one’s conceptual vision makes sense.
But what’s a young Canadian entrepreneur thinking when he says he wants to emulate Starbucks given recent history? An interesting article in Fast Casual profiles Matthew Corrin, an intrepid, hard-working young man of 28 who started up his own fast casual food concept dubbed Freshii.
Starbuck’s? Starbuck’s, the vaunted upscale third place, building an empire on delivering not only quality coffee and beverage concoctions made to order, but a glorified experience? You know, the European coffee shop experience on steroids. Starbuck’s, with too much, too fast expansion and a slow drifting from the very brand essence that had made it a juggernaut, derailing one of the world’s powerhouse brands?
Corrin’s idea: to emulate independently owned fresh food bars found in NYC but brand them into a viable chain a la Starbucks. Freshii was born. Freshii is all about (in Corrin’s words): “fresh food, custom built, fast.” Conceptually, putting units in convenient urban locations provides “fresh, custom, fast” food for more people, so there’s no excuse for “people not eating fresh food because it isn’t convenient,” Corrin stated.
The Freshii environment is environmentally sustainable. The menu can’t be pegged easily since customers order salads, wraps, sandwiches, bowls, and burritos with the ingredients they choose. So far, so good.
The first Freshii location opened in 2005 in Toronto. It was a success, and within two years, Corrin opened eight additional locations. Obviously to be so successful this quickly, Freshii delivered more than great food: It had to deliver a superior, memorable experience. Much like Starbucks did for many years . . .
With this success, the “expansion bug” bit Corrin, and he began to consider more corporate-owned locations in the United States, with the help of investors. He even started to consider franchising, something he had previously avoided.
Corrin deliberately sought out partners that will help create a successful brand. Chicago-based restaurateur David Grossman signed up to open 80 Freshii units within 10 years in the United States, and Corrin expects to open stores across the United States, Middle East, and Austria this year.
Corrin cites 2010 as the “make or break year” for his concept. Can he replicate his success in Toronto successfully across the globe? Stay tuned.
• Can Corrin’s Freshii model be successfully adapted around the globe, or do you think the brand is likely to suffer as it gets further and further from Toronto? As more and more units are opened?
• Do you think Corrin’s franchisees will be able to deliver the Freshii brand promise faithfully—consistently—to their customers?
• Do you think Freshii might face stiff competition from independents and other chains like Panera?
• How integral is a strong Freshii culture and customer service to the success of this model?
I’d love to hear from you.