Tin Drum got a little lost in the shuffle after a private equity purchase, but now it's on track to grow with a new market and renewed franchise push—again.
"There were so many prospects who wanted to open around the world, finally the company was ready to take off," said CMO Amisha Popatiya. "It took a couple years, we joined in 2018 and it took a few years to build the foundation."
As Franchises Times covered in 2020, the Atlanta-based pan-Asian concept went through some ownership changes in the last few years prior to Popatiya, her husband and founder Steven Chan coming back into the brand.
A new development deal was inked in 2020, and then came the pandemic. The past few years have shown how difficult it has been for smaller franchise brands, especially those without a drive-thru or massive resources to power through the various pandemic difficulties. Sill, Popatiya said the brand has weathered the hits and is ready to push franchise development again, this time with Raintree, a franchise development firm.
The first Houston restaurant, part of the five-unit deal inked in 2020, is also set to open "early in 2022." That will mark the first location outside the Atlanta area, and No. 11 for the brand.
While it hasn't been an easy period, Popatiya said the existing restaurants have done pretty well.
"Our product travels really, really well. Through the pandemic, we realized that we're pandemic resistant, we made it and we're proud—and we came out positive" said Popatiya. "I'll take some credit, we worked so hard, endlessly around the clock to examine what consumers wanted at the time. We didn't have a plan to get us through the year, it was evolving every single day."
Popatiya said she and the team were also enhancing the company further. She highlighted two key projects that will propel the concept further: better technology and a new beverage program.
On the technology front, Tin Drum has always been pretty tech savvy for the size of the brand. Popatiya said they pushed that further to the "brink" for consumers and franchisees. At the consumer end, it's the apps, the ease and efficiency they want. Inside the concept, she said technology is a way to support restaurants and franchisees without a massive support staff.
At the core, the Tin Drum operator is most important, and "we're relying on a combination of technology and the people," said Popatiya. "We have two systems that we use a lot: Jolt and MeazureUp. Jolt provides everything from recipes to daily checklists and label printing, basic things that an operator needs to run the show smoothly and very efficiently. MeazureUp is an auditing system to make sure franchisees are living up to the standard."
Both help do all the typical things a support staff would do and helps franchisees find information in their own system.
One of the most impactful updates has been the new beverage program.
"Toward the end of 2020, I realized that sometimes you reach a max capacity when you look at sales, there's only so much capacity," said Popatiya. "I wanted to create a new source of revenue in Tin Drum. My team, which is myself and my assistant, we create this new beverage program."
She said it was a matter of carving out about 100 square feet of the restaurant and turning it into a beverage station for bubble teas, milk teas and slushes. The program clicked and it rocketed to 20 percent of company sales.
"We started with our prototype store in Decatur," said Popatiya. "Instantly, we were selling 100 teas a day, that's when I knew it was a hit."
She said all the new updates and polish were examined through the lens of franchisees, which is how she and her husband got started with the brand initially. She said she especially wanted to make the concept work for non-restaurant people coming into the brand, a target demographic that she wants to bring into the concept, though she won't say no to a great multi-unit operator.