Walking the Streets of NYC at IFE '17
Those of us on the “show circuit” know the various expos can blend together, with a lot of the same usual suspects. This year’s International Franchise Expo in New York City last week was an exception, with many new concepts, cool new startup companies and a diversity that highlights all that’s great in franchising.
Aside from walking the floors of the Javits Center in the exploding Chelsea/Hudson Yards neighborhood, my time in the big city included eating delicious street-cart gyros, eating at a vinyl-themed fried chicken restaurant in Koreatown, watching a pop-up opera performance in Central Park, hanging out at the new Arby’s in the Flatiron District, sharing a cab with IFA Chairman Robert Cresanti, sharing tourist stories with the founder of R Taco and, according to my expense report, nearly 20 cab rides from one side of Manhattan to the other.
All in all, it was a great show and a lot of fun for this reporter. Here are a few things that stood out to me along the way:
New Franchised Concepts
I can’t tell you how many new franchised concept pitches come across my desk in a given week, but the IFE show floor had a fantastic, interesting array of new companies. Three Philadelphia-based concepts really stood out, including Orange Cryo (cold therapy), Enliven Planters (landscape subscription service) and Centertec (virtual reality). Each of those concepts had great people explaining the business, wonderful demonstrations that attracted the crowds and a unique business idea that seems like a glimpse of the future.
Working the Franchise Times booth, walking the floor and participating in a panel discussion about franchisee-franchisor relationships, I can’t tell you how many people I met over four days in New York, but several stood out to me.
I’ve known the IFA’s Robert Cresanti since he took the leadership post atop the industry, and we spent some quality time together, both at the show and out on the town. Admitting that he’s an introvert, which can be challenging at marathon networking events such as IFE, Cresanti is a fabulous industry advocate whose personality really matches the friendly, smart and approachable qualities I enjoy so much about the franchise industry.
Having been a fan of R Taco from back in its Rusty days, I sincerely enjoyed meeting Denise Fenton, who founded the brand with her late husband (the brand’s namesake), through industry friend Eric Brown, who now sells franchises for R Taco. Both happily exploring the city between shifts at the show, Fenton and I had fun sharing our urban discoveries each day, while also laying the groundwork for a future story on the concept. I’m still surprised more brands haven’t popped up in the authentic taco space.
What can be said about New York that hasn’t been said, texted or written a million times over? There are too many snakes! While I saw many great things happening in Central Park over a couple-hour stroll—lots of turtles, beautiful artwork, interesting people, and a strong deployment of selfie sticks—I was not prepared to see a group of people casually passing around a python like it was a … Well, whatever something people pass around. No snakes, anywhere, ever. Please.
That said, and discussed with my therapist, there’s something wonderful about the combination of the world’s greatest city and an industry that’s based on so many immigrants, people who came from nothing, those willing to sacrifice the present for future gains, an industry that still lifts “normal people” out of a paycheck-to-paycheck existence.
As I shared with Cresanti, there’s still so much I want to explore in New York, so let’s hope the industry’s best event settles in and stays put until I get my fill. But be forewarned, barring anymore snake encounters, that might take a while.