The Food Bowl Revolution

Posted by Tom Scarda, Certified Franchise Executive on Dec 7, 2020 1:22:28 PM

In franchise consultant, life decisions

If you want to take the pulse on franchised food trends, walk the show floor at any franchise expo in the country - well, before covid when we had trade shows. Still, food purveyors and entrepreneurs are rushing in with anything in a bowl. Have you seen Acai Bowls and Hawaiian Poke Bowls in your town yet?

Food franchise concepts are typically based on simple recipes and limited menu options that make for 'duplicate-able' concepts that anyone can execute, even folks who have never been in the food business in the past or any business for that matter. The bowl concepts today require light cooking or none at all, most of the time. No stoves and ovens make for an uncomplicated, inexpensive business to open and operate. 'Wet space' or buildings designated for restaurants with code-heavy plumbing and electric specs are not required for most brands, making finding real estate a lot easier. Exhaust hoods, fire suppression systems, and grease traps are not necessary. Just a horde of refrigerators and freezers are the backbone to these concepts.

Most Americans are under the impression that food franchises and quick-serve restaurants (QSR) are unhealthy by default. Foods wrapped up in carbs, fried, and covered with sugar has been the trend for a suburban, car culture generation, but that is all changing now. It's no secret that American consumers, especially pre-baby boomers, have an appetite for healthier, organic, locally sourced, and gluten-free options. Older franchises and the new, trendy bowl concepts seem to be answering the call.

Consider that the Acai fruit, grown exclusively in the Amazon rainforest, is chock full of anti-oxidants (a buzz-word these days). When mixed in with bananas, blueberries, and granola, it's healthier than a bagel with cream cheese. "I believe what gives Acai fruit and their bowls legs for the future is that it's not a dessert. It is truly a meal replacement for many of my customers," says Eric Hajdukiewicz, a former electrician and now Franchisee of three Sol-Bowl stores, an Acai Bowl Franchise on Long Island, NY.

If you're trying to cut down on carbs or feel that gluten makes you sluggish, a poke bowl is a great alternative. Poke bowls are pieces of fresh fish and rice or just veggies in a bowl. I think of it as a deconstructed sushi roll but in a bowl instead of a roll wrapped in seaweed.

As a business proposition, investing in the bowl trend makes sense for many entrepreneurs. A Poke Bowl franchise, as an example, is simple to operate. The fish can be purchased pre-cut, flash-frozen, and brought to your store by a national food distributor. You need only to steam some rice and slice up vegetables and other fixings.

The bowls also answer the consumer demand for no chemicals, pesticides, sustainably produced, no hormones or antibiotics in food. There is also a movement to have clear, transparent food labels. Hey, we're talking fruit and sushi-grade fish. These bowl concepts are on point!

Many American, carnivorous consumers are calling for the humane treatment of animals – which should be the norm by now, in my opinion – enter Halal food franchises.

As a matter of definition, Halal is an Arabic word meaning lawful or permitted. In reference to food, it is the dietary standard, as prescribed in the Qur'an (the Muslim scripture). In short, it is considered by Muslims and many others as the most humane method to slaughter an animal.

Gary Occhiogrosso, Founder and Managing Partner at Franchise Growth Solutions, says, "Middle eastern or Halal food is the most underserved market in the country. Halal food is now the fastest-growing segment in food right now. This category also caters to the "better for you" foods that younger folks are insisting on eating. The bowl concepts and Halal establishments make customizable, fresh, and easy to consume food. Think of Chipotle Mexican Grill and the way food is prepared and served in an assembly line method. It's a healthier option for when millennials sit down in their shared-work space or on-line delivery services." Gary explained, "This is food packaged for a generation on the move."

Fresh foods are more expensive to source and serve. Still, many Americans who are health and sustainability-conscious are willing to shell out a few more dollars for better quality food purveyed from a caring supplier. Smart restaurateurs tend to market their organic and fresh foods wisely and curtly. Their messaging is simply stated: You can pay less down the street for carbs, sugar, and salt, or you can take care of your body and the earth by eating here.

With the FDA requirement of having nutritional information on menus, the newer, healthier food concepts can take advantage of this law and use it as marketing against the old dinosaurs and the norm of traditional, unhealthy foods. If franchises and non-franchised units can control costs and market this information to an uneducated or new, untapped consumer, there is no stopping the bowl revolution.

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