Proper site selection is one of the primary ways franchisors can help franchisees succeed, according to Stevi B's president Matt Loney and Director of Brand Excellence for CiCi's pizza, Geoff Goodman. Their session focused on leveraging the right-priced tools to help pizza chains of any size pinpoint the right locations.
Site selection, they reminded, should always start with defining specific real estate criteria, which involves being honest about a concept's true demographic. Is the chain family oriented? Does it have a Hispanic contingency in certain parts of America ? Can the stores thrive with higher-end neighborhoods and demographics? Loney and Goodman said this assessment is not always the easiest. "Go with what you are, not what you think you are -- not what your heart says," they said.
After defining those variables, larger chains such as CiCi's often use costly but cutting-edge site selection software that will take many variables into consideration. For example, GeoVue geographic information systems has gotten a lot of press recently for its help placing fast food chains across the spectrum. The programs offer elaborately mapped rankings, models and projections for site selection and expansion, but can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.
Concepts looking to conserve money have other options at their disposal. Goodman said another option is to "hire" a director of real estate. Instead of paying him $100,000-plus at the corporate level, change the franchisee agreement to make them use him as their broker. His direction then somewhat pays for itself.
Of course, monitoring other retailers' placement can help with real estate selection, especially for stores targeting a similar demographic. Loney suggested looking where major companies such as Publix or even Wal-Mart are putting their stores.
Finally, the other side of the site selection battle is determining where your traffic is coming from and going. This can help direct future store placement and help leverage traffic trends. Goodman and Loney suggested using push pins on a map to aggregate guests' descriptions of their immediate previous locations.