How to scale a business in the quick service restaurants domain


Every entrepreneur has a dream of building a glorious empire. Everyone wants to make it big and to be remembered for shaping something special. But how many of us really do it? Statistics show that more than 90 percent of startups don’t survive past the first three years. Do the few successful companies that make it big share something in common? Of course, they do. Learning and implementing from these companies does not guarantee you a path to success, but definitely increases the probability.

It is a must for an entrepreneur to possess a non-wavering and strong vision. The motivation to start a business can stem from different streams for different people. For some it is about changing the world and making a difference; for some, it is being remembered for their achievements; for some, it is the thrill of running a business and handling everything which comes with it; and for some, it is a mode of wealth creation. No matter what motivates you, it must drive you. You will never give up if your motivations are stronger than the issues which harm the business. These elementary rules are the constant for every business type, including the quick service restaurant (QSR) model.

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Scaling up a business is never the first step for an entrepreneur. The initial steps are instrumental in setting up the foundation and giving you a better chance to scale up the QSR business. If you were to split the process into steps, they would be:

  1. Creating the business plan.
  2. Starting, sustaining, and streamlining the business (before scaling up).
  3. Scaling up.

The goal of the QSR has to be clear at the start itself – whether it is to have a scalable multi-unit QSR model spread across different geographic locations or to have just one/two or a handful of outlets. The approach is completely different for both the models. For a multi-outlet model, there are a few non-negotiable facets to be taken care of. Assuming you have a quick-service restaurant which you wish to scale up to 100 outlets, this requires focused planning in each of the separate aspects below.

Standardisation of operations at the outlet level

  • Standardization of the product: Every outlet needs to have a standard menu and all the products at all outlets must have a standardized taste.
  • Standardization of service: The staff has to be trained according to the brand processes to maintain consistency during interactions with the customers.
  • Standardization of the look and feel of an outlet: Every outlet should look and feel the same so that the customer feels the familiarity in any outlet they visit, irrespective of the location.

This means the whole business model is built on standardizing the processes and making every activity at the outlet less dependent on employees’ judgment and fully dependent on systems and processes. Creating the standard operating procedures (SOPs) and perfecting them is the key factor in building a scalable QSR model.

Streamlined backend support for all the outlets

  • Central supply of raw materials: Completely separating the outlet operations from the supply and logistics is necessary. The back-end supply team should centrally source and supply the raw materials and other items required at the outlet(s).
  • Central audit team: You must have a centralised team which visits all outlets periodically and checks the following – quality of product and service, cleanliness and hygiene, stock and kitchen maintenance, and overall adherence to SOPs.
  • Central training team: Have a central training team to conduct periodic training for all the staff handling the outlets and help maintain consistency in the service and the product.

These steps are to be planned and implemented at the inception stage. During the course of implementation, you may realize that certain processes might not work, or that there are better ways to implement certain procedures. At this stage, adapting to these learnings and quickly modifying the SOPs to suit the situation is necessary. After testing the SOPs during the live operations of the outlets, they can be finalized and frozen.

Visibility and marketing

No matter how good the product or service is, you will not attract the customers you need unless they know about it. Marketing and visibility of the restaurant and making it a brand is important in order to get the numbers you require to make the revenue needed for the sustenance of the business and profitability. This investment in marketing should go hand-in-hand with the expansion, which will eventually result in generating a healthy cash flow in each of the individual outlets. At the end of the day, it is important to remember that no matter how much passion leads to the making of a product, it needs to reach the end customer in order to realize its value.

All the three aspects mentioned require a substantial amount of effort and funds. It is important that they are factored in during the initial stage of planning. You don’t want to get stuck after a year or two of hard work and come to a standstill due to lack of planning. You also need to understand that even with detailed planning, you will be able to control less than 70 percent of the road map. The remaining depends on how adaptable you are and how quickly you can analyze and come up with solutions for the problems thrown at you. This is where the strength of your vision and the belief in your inner-self comes into play. Most companies fail not because of the idea, but because they give up too early. So stay there and make it work.

Samrat Reddy is the Founder and MD of the brand Drunken Monkey.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)


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