Why are you expanding internationally and how is the expansion progressing?
Originally we were Poland focused but that has changed because our mission cannot have borders. The mission of meeting the needs of people who cannot, or who do not want to, eat desserts with sugar and who want to lead healthier lives. Fit Cake finds that people are going across borders to buy our products so it makes sense to expand to bring these products closer to them. We now have two outlets in Malta and one in Spain. We also have a master franchise in Romania. The franchise is also engaged in talks with potential franchisees in Germany, Belgium, UK and Denmark and we expect to sign the contracts for the first outlets in these countries by the end of the year. We are confident that we’re going to grow fast because of how good our offer is. However, we remain a Polish company and have found that many of our franchisees abroad are Poles who have emigrated to these countries.
What problems are you having with the expansion?
The challenges focus mainly around the issue of regulatory regimes. Different countries have varying sanitary standards. That means that we have to do things a little differently in each place, even with regard to the technologies we use. We also have to ensure we can source locally for the ingredients we need, a policy the company is committed to.
What makes you stand out from your competitors in the market niche you are operating in?
Frankly we do not see any other company offering the wide range of products we offer in the sugar-free market. Moreover, other offers on the market simply do not have the transparency we offer in terms of the number of calories in their products. We value integrity. Just because a product does not have sugar does not mean it does not have calories, it's important to be very open and honest about that. Moreover we really do see our mission as being one which educates through consumption and which sets out to help those who have to avoid sugar, such as diabetics or who must follow a gluten-free or lactose-free diet because of their health conditions. That is why we have a 100% guarantee that our products are sugar-free. This is not easy to do and is the reason why we cannot engage in price dumping, nor would we wish to. We prefer to maintain high standards and the integrity of our name.
Is having so many differently branded products not a problem?
No. The fact we have different lines of products with different brands is actually a strength. It means that should a brand prove itself to be out of date or totally unprofitable it will not taint other brands or the company’s overall brand. Innovating and developing different recipes is a key for us and we are prepared sometimes for the fact that some lines may not be profitable, yet they offer a service or meet a need that will otherwise not be met on the market. We accept that sometimes our mission is more important than the bottom line.
What makes your offer stand out for potential franchisees?
Flexibility. Our franchisee has a menu of options they can choose from. They do not have to take on all the brands. Equally as important is our offer of a flat rate franchise fee regardless of turnover or profitability. This means that if our franchisee increases turnover and profitability they keep the proceeds. Why do we do it this way? Simple. If our franchisee succeeds they are likely to take on more outlets and thereby grow the business which means the company and the brand are strengthened.
What else do you offer your franchisees?
An important though sometimes underrated element is legal assistance. Our contracts are fully transparent and we even give our franchises vouchers to have them check the legal veracity of the contracts they are to sign. We also provide free of additional charges our complex marketing system. This generates customs for them and helps to protect their reputation.
What are your expectations of your franchisees?
We are not against people beginning their journey in business but we have to admit that people who already have had some business experience are often better positioned to succeed. We prefer to be teaching people how to operate in the gastronomy business than have to teach how to do business. Our policy is that we have to see the potential of our franchisee before offering master franchises for which there is a need to develop a development plan. This is in line with our philosophy of seeing business development more akin to ascending a staircase than going up in a lift. We feel you have to go through the different stages and steps to succeed.
How do you maintain the high quality you demand to protect the integrity of your brand without reducing the propensity for innovation?
Part of the secret is getting the selection of franchisees right. But of course we have to verify. That is why we select testers who anonymously visit our outlets and report back, all at our expense. This gives us discrete feedback which is useful for us and eventually the franchisee too. And we use the fact that we are part of the gluten free menu which means we have them testing the products in their labs. This is important because we believe in marketing based on quality of outcome which in turn depends on consumer perceptions. Only when the consumer is satisfied can we meet our goal of the promise of the brand being met in the outcome. Innovation is not a goal in itself but it is something we are investing in heavily. We have already conducted a pilot scheme operating delivery robots and are in the process of testing an eye payment system. This is a company that wants to stay ahead of the curve on technological innovation as well as client and franchisee satisfaction.
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