FRESH Restaurants is an innovator and one of the true leaders in the booming healthy fast-casual food industry. They are perfectly positioned to provide customers with an extraordinary health experience unlike anything they have ever tasted.
FRESH Restaurants opened in 2001 after CEO Jeff Parker noticed other somewhat healthy concepts doing very well and saw a major void in the marketplace for fresh and healthy food. He also envisioned a brand being able to offer much healthier foods in a much better environmentally friendly environment. “I just fell in love with the idea,” he says.
Shortly after opening FRESH Restaurants in Canada, Parker and his team starting receiving many inquiries from potential franchisees that led to the introduction of their brand in the United States and internationally. The brand has only grown since then.
Parker credits the growth of the brand to the integrity of the company and its franchise partners, and the high quality of food they produce, which is 100 percent healthy and made to order – and packaged in eco-friendly materials. Within the health food market, there are not really any true competitors, he explains. “All the other chains now are serving moderately healthy or very unhealthy food and it’s all served in plastic, Styrofoam or paper-packaging products,” he says.
“We’re really looking for the health-conscious consumer that is more in-tune with eating healthy, a healthy lifestyle and conscious of our environment.”
At FRESH Restaurants, they also set themselves apart by approaching customer service with as much interaction as possible, because many will have questions on the health benefits of their products. “There is a lot of one-on-one dialogue going over our menu items and health benefits of it,” Parker says.
FRESH Restaurants’ corporate office is in Vancouver, and they also have regional offices in Cleveland, Ohio, Singapore and India. They operate 39 franchises currently with another 17 in development.
They promote a transparent and open relationship with staff and franchisees. “Our brand has a lot of integrity because we’re serving healthy food in an eco-friendly environment,” Parker says. “All of our franchisees believe in the brand, how we approach business and the direction we’re going in.”
“It’s a great atmosphere because we all believe in those common goals. It’s a more of a family-type of atmosphere around our head office and when you go into our stores amongst the franchisees with their staff,” he adds.
FRESH Restaurants is attractive from a franchise perspective for many reasons, but at the top of that list is their profitability, which is a direct result from a menu that services a healthy lifestyle, which is an untapped category in quick-service restaurants. “Our stores do very well to say the least,” Parker explains. “I think that’s the number 1 driving force of why people buy into our franchise. Of course our franchise partners also love the concept as they are also firm believers of a healthy lifestyle for all ages.”
When they look for a new franchisee, they favour those who incorporate the same qualities of their customers – health conscious and people-friendly, and those who are financially capable. “Those are really our three points we’re looking for, but they really have to be health-conscious or at least leaning in that direction,” Parker says. “The atmosphere in the store is always a reflection of the franchisee – we want all the staff and the franchisees to have a healthy lifestyle and create a high energy atmosphere.”
Phase 1 of their 14-day training program begins at their training centre in Albany, New York. Upon completion, the company remains on-site for an additional 21 days of training when the store opens. Support is conducted in several ways including communication training through e-mail and phone from the head office, a detailed and interactive area of their website to chat with other franchisees and monthly store visits from a support staff member.
Healthy Kids Club
FRESH Restaurants is not only committed to better serving the health of individuals, but also the well-being of their neighbourhoods and communities. One of their numerous school and sports programs is the Healthy Kids Club. Getting involved with schools is important because it is a demographic that suffers from a lack of healthy food options, Parker says. To promote a healthy lifestyle to students, they offer a full kids menu at special pricing in every store for those under 12.
“We want to be able to offer them something that tastes good and is healthy for them. Since we go to the schools, we have major delivery programs,” he says. “We also do the same for large sports functions for all different teams.”
With the company being healthy and green, this is something that has always been a passion for Parker. All ingredients and products are natural, very high quality and many vegetarian options, with no added fillers or substitutions. Additionally, all of their packaging is eco-friendly and 100 percent bio-compostable. “We actually care about our customers and the products we’re selling them. We have a very special brand.”
FRESH Restaurants also utilizes eco-friendly building materials within their stores on items such as counters and lighting to enhance their environmentally-friendly image. In the next five years, at least 75 percent of their building materials will be eco-friendly. “It’s a little more expensive, but everyone has to get on the same page. We want to start the ripple effect as much as possible to protect our precious environment.”
As recent as five years ago, it was a challenge for FRESH Restaurants to convert people to a healthy diet, which leads to a healthy lifestyle. Most of their customers were frequenting their restaurants because the menu items tasted so good. But the trend has changed drastically over the past five years or so and nowadays the masses are leaning more towards healthy and even plant-based diets and less on unhealthy meat products. FRESH Restaurants brand is uniquely positioned to capitalize on that trend. “Getting people to eat healthier on a regular basis used to be a real challenge,” Parker says. “We were dealing with a small demographic before where maybe five percent of the population was eating healthy but now it’s about 85 percent and those 85% are doing it on a regular basis. What’s really exciting is that this is just the start of this massive trend that will continue to grow.”
FRESH Restaurants is currently looking to expand to international markets, with many developments already underway – as much as 30 percent of their new stores will be opening outside North America, Parker says. “We only want to have flagship locations in perfect markets with perfect franchisees.”
The brand will also continue to make their products as healthy as they can be, “as long as we’re not too far ahead of the health curve,” Parker says. “We will be offering more vegetarian options and a lot more locally-grown produce in our stores.”
In the next five years, FRESH Restaurants expects a 50 percent annual growth rate – 35 percent of that international – in terms of new stores, which would put them at close to 200 locations. Their per-unit store sales right now are increasing 20 percent annually, which is an “amazing number,” Parker says. “The big reason for that are people eating healthier, so it’s a rapidly growing trend. And at FRESH Restaurants, we have a winning recipe.”