Did you know the average profit margin of a restaurant is 3-5%? In fact, most bricks and mortar businesses show smaller margins than their digital counter parts. The key to building wealth with a bricks and mortar venture is in franchising. This is the story of how Verve Pie created a highly profitable brand, through franchising.
Showcase Development had been in the business of purchasing franchises for years, but when it came to the creation of their own custom franchise, they reached out to us. One thing they knew for certain… franchises are the most risk adverse way to create wealth in bricks and mortar industries. Their concept was to open a vegan pizza and ice cream fast casual franchise for shopping centers. Foodies at heart, they had always been disappointed in plant based offerings at most fast casual restaurants and their hope was to bring to market a plant based eatery so delicious, you wouldn’t believe it was vegan.
Although vegan burger joints were popping up everywhere, creating a vegan pizzeria featuring plant based ice cream posed quite a few logistical issues. Pricing and sourcing were the two biggest challenges we faced. Replacing a meat patty with a bean patty was a brilliant move because you could charge more for a product that actually cost you less to make. Because vegan dairy products are more expensive than animal based dairy and both pizza and ice cream require a tremendous amount of diary, we had to get creative when it came to menu planning. Combined with the need to source fresh products in a scalable way, our chef definitely had his work cut out for him. Another challenge we faced was finding a unique position that didn’t rest solely on the replicable elements of the concept. Although vegan pizzeria was a new enough concept today, that wouldn’t be the case for long. We had to create an identity distinct enough to stand the test of time, even as the market gained saturation.
We knew that to create menu distinction, we’d have to create crave-able base ingredients that would be a staple of the brand. Our research uncovered that most pizza connoisseurs typically formed their opinion on the quality of a pizza not so much on the toppings, but on a core element such as the dough, sauce, or cheese. So that’s just where we started. For months, our chefs tested recipe after recipe with focus groups and ownership until we struck gold. Our chefs creating proprietary recipes for all the base ingredients. Namely, creating the cheese in-house solved two problems: the cost of purchasing vegan cheese and the ill reputed texture of most retail vegan cheese. To further maximize profit margins, our signature pizzas were not all traditional red sauce and cheese based – in fact, some had no vegan cheese at all. We also changed the size of the pizzas from standard fast food sharable size pizzas to individual pizza sizes. We included vegetable based sides and shareable appetizers along with a full bar to increase PPA. We also utilized a “4 min” oven to lower ticket times and maximize the small square footage of a retail shopping center space. In addition to a highly distinct menu, Verve Pie also needed a distinct look to achieve true brand success. When we looked at the vegan eatery landscape, many touted a zen look and we wanted to turn that idea on it’s head. Rather than sage and white décor and wheatgrass plants everywhere, we decided to go bold. Our visual strategist created the perfect visual representation for combining the sense of culinary bliss (Verve) with modern pop culture.
We’ve said it before, but we’ll say it again… Restaurants are our jam! The trick to creating phenomenal eateries lies in the experience as much as it does the food. Being able to tap into the atmospheric experience as well as the culinary one to create one cohesive concept is where the magic happens.