Best Technology and Innovation – VFA 2021
We’re excited and honoured to have been awarded the ‘Best Technology and Innovation’ Silver Award at the Virtual Franchising Awards 2021.
Sure enough all franchisors (ourselves included) would like to think that they deserve some recognition for their efforts. In this article, we hope to explain what we have done throughout 2020 and into 2021 to adapt our business model and support our franchisees via some clever marketing and the use of new and adapted technologies, and how we have helped a large portion of our franchise network to perform better during these strange and challenging times than they did before.
Our franchisees operate mobile cafés, traditionally visiting around 30 different business premises on a daily basis to serve gourmet coffees and lunch items to their staff. The majority of our “coffee stops” had been white collar businesses… although this has recently changed!
COVID-19 – how we adapted our system and supported our network:
It’s fair to say that over the years Really Awesome Coffee had settled into a nice, structured, safe (and successful) routine. Then everything changed on 23rd March 2020 when the country went into lockdown.
COVID-19 gave us a jolt that forced us to revisit our trading style and make changes and improvements that will benefit our network for years to come.
As an industry, the mobile catering sector has been lucky. As a network of mobile food and drink delivery vehicles, we were able to continue to trade… in theory. In reality, over 90% of our franchisee’s daily customers disappeared overnight – furloughed or working from home.
Some franchisees immediately focused their efforts helping out the NHS and other key-worker sites, providing invaluable services for those having to travel into work each day (with Andy Baxter, our Norwich franchisee, even presented with an NHS award for this; an award usually only awarded internally). However, this was not enough trade to keep the franchisees afloat.
We had to find other sources of income, and in the first week of lockdown a small group of franchisees shared their experiences of trading during that time. We arranged group ZOOM sessions, set up a new online “Coronavirus Trading Forum” for the franchisees to share ideas and experiences, and over the next week or so we were able to put together a new way of operating – our “home delivery” service.
The idea was simple – whilst no-one could get out of the house, we would bring the café experience to people at their homes, in a safe and approved way.
In practice, there were a few challenges to overcome, the greatest of which being how to generate immediate demand for the service. This was the challenge that we and the trading franchisees all got our teeth stuck into.
We needed a coordinated marketing campaign across all our trading franchisees to let people know the service was available.
Firstly, we used our existing marketing database to promote the service, and drew up templates for “app notifications” that franchisees could use to let their regular customers know that the service was available. Our customer app has been an invaluable method for our franchisees to communicate with their customers and maintain customer relationships during these strange times.
Our in-house digital marketing specialist started managing targeted social media ads across the country to promote the service. We saw HUGE growth in reach and engagement across both our, and our franchisees, social media channels – to date we have had growth of over 700% across the network.
We also designed, developed and launched a new home delivery website (delivery.reallyawesomecoffee.co.uk) at which all the new enquiries were targeted. This website included web-pages for all the franchisees offering the service, along with embedded order forms that allowed them to manage their enquiries and bookings through a single channel.
A core handful of franchisees that worked with us to develop this new way of trading over the first few weeks after lockdown deserve huge credit. With their commitment, their hard work, and the Head Office team’s dedication to helping them succeed, the home delivery process became established and demand took off!
Over the weeks that followed the start of the first lockdown, the majority of our network was back out trading, and we are extremely pleased to report that a large portion of them actually made more profit during this time than they ever had before. New records were set and regularly broken for daily, and average weekly, turnover and profitability.
As a franchisor, we’re continuously improving and adapting to the new norm we find ourselves in.
Thank you VFA for this awesome award and recognition. Well done to our entire franchise network, and thank you to our customers.
If you want to find out more about franchising with Really Awesome Coffee and enquire about our exciting franchise opportunity, call us on 0800 043 0271, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or book onto one of our upcoming virtual Discovery Days here.