Discovery Days Go Virtual as Brands Keep Up Development
LunchboxWax COO Christo Demetriades
Christo Demetriades was already spending five hours a day on video conferencing platforms like Zoom to stay connected with the two LunchboxWax corporate offices in Scottsdale, Arizona, and Boise, Idaho, “so when this hit, it was just a matter of how do we make a discovery day work,” he said.
“This,” of course, being the COVID-19 pandemic, which upended franchise development plans for LunchboxWax, the waxing salon brand where Demetriades is chief operating officer. The brand was on track to open 20 locations this year but had to quickly readjust its schedule to account for innumerable delays. “COVID has cost us 2020, like it has a lot of businesses,” said Demetriades, as instead of 20 salons, LunchboxWax will open “more like three to six” this year.
But while it’s lost some opening momentum, the 50-unit company is still in development mode, quickly adjusting to host a virtual discovery day in April that yielded two multi-unit deals: a five-pack in Detroit and a three-pack in Sacramento, California, both new markets.
“A virtual discovery day actually makes things a little easier, people can stay in their home, plus there’s no travel costs, no accommodation costs,” said Demetriades. “So, it’s more practical and, for the franchisee, it’s more flexible.”
LunchboxWax partnered with Zoom more than a year ago and then in March began redesigning its franchise sales presentations with a focus on balancing the need to provide detailed information with, frankly, said Demetriades, holding people’s interest. “You’ve gotta keep people engaged—you’ve got a six-hour program you want to get through,” he said, plus allowing time for casual conversation in an effort to make up for the in-person contact that’s lost.
That first virtual discovery day featured a whopping 178 slides, a number Demetriades said is being reduced next time around. “We’ll condense, say 18 slides for real estate into four slides. You can talk about those other slides, but with 18, you’re gonna lose your audience,” he explained. The flow and order of presentations “are all things we’ll continue to work on.”
The investment range for LunchboxWax is $340,850 to $469,800 for a single unit, while the range for an area development agreement is $410,850 to $599,800. The brand offered a few incentives to close deals in April, including a discount on the franchise fee and no royalty payments (normally 6 percent of gross sales) for 90 days.
“We’re not a discount brand, we’re not in a position to be needing to give stuff away,” said Demetriades. “But we do recognize the situation.”
To Director of Franchise Recruitment Ursula Lane, the brand appeal of Checkers & Rally’s is especially high right now. The vast majority of its nearly 900 restaurants have drive-thrus, and its modular, closed kitchen design already limits contact points, two attributes Lane said stand out to potential franchisees.
“I can’t stress enough, in this environment, when I say closed kitchens,” Lane said of the setup that minimizes physical interaction. “That model, for a prospective owner, is very attractive.”
Following its version of a virtual discovery day in April, the brand signed four new franchisees to develop up to 12 restaurants in markets ranging from the Gulf Coast to California. A virtual event was “definitely new for us,” said Lane, and the switch involved quick coordination with various departments such as real estate and construction to have information readily available as soon as a candidate was approved, along with shipping other physical materials in advance.
“It’s thinking, from a prospective candidate, what do they really need,” she said, and answering as many questions as possible beforehand.
While candidates would normally travel to the Checkers & Rally’s headquarters in Tampa and then tour restaurants in person, those visits will happen “when things go back to somewhat normal,” said Lane. “This is not the proper time to have someone in the restaurant, going in the kitchens when employees are working.”
A two-way interview with the executive team is still essential to the process, she stressed, but is now done on a secure virtual platform.
The brand operates as Checkers or Rally’s, depending on the market, and while some locations in New York and New Jersey are closed, most of its restaurants have remained open during the pandemic. Though Lane (pictured at right) didn’t share specific numbers, “I can tell you that our sales have stayed very positive.”
“I’m very optimistic about our continued growth as a company,” she continued. “We’ll continue to be nimble, and if we need to tweak our process, we can do this.”
The initial investment range for Checkers & Rally’s is $254,000 to $1,431,000. The franchise fee is $30,000 per location.