Introducing The Urbane Franchisor
Everyone who knows me is well aware of my urban obsession. Now with the upcoming March issue of Franchise Times, everyone in franchising will know, too, with the start of my new column: The Urbane Franchisor.
I truly can’t get enough city time, whether I’m stealing away on a business trip in a new city, planning vacations in places I’ve yet to explore, reading about global trends in urban forums or walking my own fair city, Minneapolis, with a camera in hand. The grittier the better.
In more than a year in the franchise industry, I’ve noticed a trend that speaks to my inner geek: franchises adapting their business models in response to the resurgence of city centers. It’s not just the United States, either, as city living is becoming more popular every year in cities across the globe.
According to the United Nations, 64 percent of the developing world and 86 percent of the developed world will be urbanized by 2050. It makes perfect sense. As a woods-loving guy raised in a town of 3,000 people in Wisconsin, cities are where it’s at.
Every year, more people are trading in their car-based lifestyle of endless parking lots and stoplights for a more compact, urban, walkable lifestyle where everything you need and want is within a quick stroll or a short bike, train or bus ride. These trends aren’t reversing themselves anytime soon.
In franchising, a great example is Taco Bell’s new Cantina concept. The franchisor ditched the drive-through, added alcohol (where allowed by law) and tweaked the menu for more of a tapas-style approach to allow the brand to better fit in tighter downtown districts. I can’t wait to check one out the next time I’m in Chicago or San Francisco, and am definitely ordering a drink.
There are other examples, such as Primrose Schools building a large percentage of its new schools in downtown neighborhoods that lack quality early-childhood education. Parents like it, because it saves them a drive to the ‘burbs just to bring the kids to school.
It makes me wonder what other basic wants/needs aren’t yet being served as more people move back into revitalized city centers. It also makes me wonder if enough major franchisors are paying attention to these trends.
Throughout my ongoing reporting, I hope to share urban knowledge I’ve picked up, talk to downtown dwellers about what they’re yearning for, learn what developers and brokers are seeking, and learn what franchises are directing their growth to where the excitement is at—it’s all downtown. Cue up the song!
For those of you in the biz, please get in touch to share any tidbits along this line, questions you may have or great city places you think I need to check out. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.