Are Mobile Ordering Apps a New QSR Necessity?

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, mobile ordering was a becoming a top priority for quick-service restaurants. Giving customers the power to place their own orders before leaving home can substantially increase operational throughput. With the pandemic and public safety concerns in play, mobile ordering has taken on new importance as a way to limit interaction and potential exposure.
Large, nationwide brands that the Dhanani Group franchises with, such as Burger King and Popeyes, already have mobile ordering apps available for download. Smaller, less drive-through-focused brands such as La Madeleine do not have one currently. But as the pandemic drags on, mobile ordering app usage is exploding—a trend which could very well continue long after the crisis recedes.
There are a number of reasons why quick service restaurants are experiencing success with mobile ordering apps:
  • Mobile ordering brings in more customers (namely, those that value the convenience and speed these apps provide).
  • Ordering ahead via mobile app reduces bottlenecks in the drive-thru lane or at the counter, allowing greater throughput.
  • Mobile ordering reduces bottlenecks in the kitchen, as orders are typically received well in advance of customer pickup, giving staff time to prep and fulfill orders without holding up the entire operation.
  • Mobile ordering reduces the need for face-to-face conversations between staff and customers, keeping everyone safer during the pandemic. (This can also facilitate contactless delivery or curbside pickup).
  • Mobile ordering apps can encourage customers to order more frequently and/or try new menu items with features such as loyalty/rewards programs, push notifications, and gamification elements such as achievements, leveling up, and more.
There’s another good reason why so many QSRs are implementing mobile ordering apps: Slowing the rise and proliferation of aggregators likeUber Eats, DoorDash, Postmates, and GrubHub.
These companies offer many of the same conveniences of branded mobile ordering apps that customers love, such as easy ordering from anywhere and contactless delivery. However, they eliminate many of the benefits for restaurants, including brand loyalty programs, menu item highlighting, and more. Most importantly, these third-party ordering apps cut into QSR profit margins with their outrageous commission fees.
Utilizing a proprietary mobile ordering app is a smart solution for both established or fast-growing QSRs that is popular with customers and can help insulatea brand fromthe (profit-killing) meal aggregator game.What’s more is that larger and larger numbers of customers are coming to rely upon and expect these apps from all of their favorite restaurant brands during the pandemic. That preference is not likely to fade away soon, even after the pandemic is over.
If you’re interested in building one of the world’s largest QSR empires as the Dhanani Group has done, you’d be wise to factor app functionality into your calculus on which franchises to invest with. It’s an important brand asset that’s currently growing more critical by the day.

How the Pandemic Fuels Drive-thru Business

The COVID-19 pandemic hit the American restaurant industry hard in 2020, forcing a dining-room shutdown almost everywhere, instilling fear and uncertainty over customer and employee safety, and generally changing the way restaurant businesses must operate in order to safely serve guests. For most businesses, it has been a difficult crisis to successfully navigate.

Not all restaurant concepts suffered equally, however. In a recent story from QSR Magazine, the periodical reported that location technology company Bluedot’s second “State of What Feeds Us” report found that 74 percent of people have visited a drive thru the same amount or more often than usual since COVID-19 landed. That’s a 43-percent jump in growth from April.

The report only confirms what we in the QSR sector have already seen with our own eyes: Consumers are leaning on drive thrus to avoid crowds and contact during the coronavirus crisis. It’s no secret why, either: In addition to their natural convenience, drive-thru lanes reduce human contact, and therefor the risk of viral transmission. They have also not been affected by dining-room shutdowns. For these reasons, QSR concepts with drive-thrus have enjoyed a critical lifeline and advantage over restaurants that do not.

No one really knows exactly how long this pandemic will last, or how it will affect QSR consumer trends afterwards. But in our new age of social distancing, the shift of focus away from the on-premise dining room is likely to alter customer preferences well beyond the current period. For QSR businesses to flourish in both normal and uncertain conditions, they must be technology-enabled, efficient, and safe for customers.

As one of the world’s largest and most successful QSR franchise owners, the Dhanani Group is helping to lead the way in restoring consumer confidence in dining safety. This requires extreme flexibility and learning on the fly as our restaurants across the United States pivot to contactless ordering, pickup, and transactions. These options will all be critical design considerations moving forward as we work to expand our business, along with tech-based sanitation solutions.

Many QSR franchises have already experimented with order-ahead pickup lanes inside their restaurants. Permanent drive-thru pickup lanes may follow. The more convenient we make the experience for guests, the safer they will feel and the more satisfied they will be. But as we continue to adapt to new challenges, we know we can continue to rely on the drive-thru lane to be our greatest asset in attracting business during the pandemic.

What is a QSR Franchise Owner?

What is a QSR franchise—and why would I want to own one? That’s a common question from people outside our industry, and we certainly understand why! After all, not everyone is an expert on franchising, or the food service industry, for that matter. To explain, then, let’s start with the basics: “QSR” stands for “quick service restaurant.”

What is a quick service restaurant? Well, a quick service restaurant is any kind of food service business that serves its food quickly. Some may have a drive-through window; some may have counter service. Almost none of them, however, have a wait staff. In other words, a QSR is not what we typically think of as a “sit-down restaurant.”

To many people, QSRs are known as “fast food” restaurants. We don’t use that term for a couple of reasons. First, “fast food” has a negative connotation to some people and we don’t think negatively about our franchises. Second, “fast food” doesn’t quite capture all the different types of quick service restaurant franchises that we own and operate.

A QSR franchise restaurant like the ones the Dhanani Group, Inc. operates is an individual restaurant location that’s part of a larger, franchised chain of restaurants. Some QSR franchises are part of national or even international brands; others are smaller, more regional chains. But each franchise location is independently owned.

A QSR franchise owner like the Dhanani Group, Inc. contracts with a restaurant business to sell that company’s food products. After paying an initial fee and agreeing to pay the company a certain percentage of revenue, a franchise owner can use the company’s name, logo, and guidance to create a successful business.

The Dhanani Group, Inc. is one of the largest and most successful QSR franchise owners in the world. We own and operate hundreds of QSR franchises across the United States. Our first franchise was a co-branded Burger King restaurant in Houston, Texas that we purchased in 1994. We haven’t stopped growing since. The reason why is simple: Everybody needs to eat, so there is a market for QSR franchises!

If you would like to know more about our family of dynamic QSR companies or join our winning team, contact us today. We are always interested in partnering with smart, driven individuals who are willing to put in the time and effort necessary to succeed at this level.

La Madeleine completes first refranchising phase

Bakery-café chain sells 26 restaurants to HZ LM Casual Foods

La Madeleine French Bakery & Café completed the first phase of its refranchising program last week with the sale of 26 restaurants to Sugar Land, Texas-based HZ LM Casual Foods, the company said.

The Dallas-based bakery-café chain, owned by Le Duff America Inc., said HZ LM Casual Foods is owned by Amin Dhanani, a general partner in multi-concept franchisee The Dhanani Group, and purchased La Madeleine bakeries in the Texas markets of Houston and Austin, and in Louisiana.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

In March, La Madeleine said it would refranchise more than half of its company-owned locations.

With Dhanani’s purchase, the 80-unit La Madeleine brand now has 43 franchised units and 37 corporate-owned locations, a spokesperson said.

Olivier Poirot, CEO of Le Duff America, said in a statement: “The Groupe Le Duff model for success is through franchising. This closing represents the first step in our growth initiative, and with partners like Amin, La Madeleine will double in size within the next five years.”

Dhanani and The Dhanani Group operate more than 800 restaurants throughout the United States, including the Burger King and Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen brands.

Dhanani said he had long patronized La Madeleine and was impressed with the concept’s average unit volumes, which were an estimated $2.1 million in Nation’s Restaurant News’ Top 200 census.

“There’s no doubt La Madeleine is ripe for expansion, and we look forward to growing with them,” Dhanani said in a statement.

In the NRN 2017 Top 200 census, La Madeleine ranked No. 195 in U.S. systemwide sales, posting an estimated $174.6 million, up from $167.9 million in the preceding year.

La Madeleine said it will continue to own and operate its bakery-cafés in Dallas, the company said.

La Madeleine’s parent company, Le Duff America Inc., is the Dallas-based subsidiary of Groupe Le Duff. The subsidiary also operates French-themed brands Mimi’s Cafe and Brioche Doree North America.

The Dhanani Group thrives in the QSR market with its Burger King and Popeyes franchises.

By Alan Dorich

Published June 2017

Since its start in the gas and convenience store business in 1976, The Dhanani Group has come a long way. Today, the Sugar Land, Texas-based company is one of the country’s largest franchisees for Burger King Corp. and Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen Inc.

The Dhanani Group achieved this status by being hands-on in its operations, CEO Shoukat Dhanani says.

“We are out more in the field than in the office,” he says, noting that he personally spends two weeks of each month at the company’s locations on the East Coast and in the Midwest. “That’s really and truly the main reason we can be successful.”

The company largely focused on gas and convenience stores until 1994, when it became a franchisee for Burger King. “We did the first co-branded unit in Houston,” he recalls, noting that The Dhanani Group initially saw the QSR industry as a side business.

But when The Dhanani Group saw its business surge after opening its second Burger King, it re-evaluated its focus. “We thought, ‘This is a good business and we should continue growing into this,’” Dhanani recalls, noting that it added more locations, including freestanding restaurants.

“Up until about 2009, we had about 45 Burger Kings in Houston,” he says, explaining that The Dhanani Group began acquiring more locations, including 20 units from a franchisee. In the following year, it acquired 65 more.

Doubling Up

In 2011, The Dhanani Group became a franchisee for Popeyes.   Led by Amin Dhanani, it continued its streak of acquisitions. “By December 2012, we had about 85 Burger Kings,” Dhanani recalls, noting that the company set its sights outside of Texas.

This included acquiring 101 locations in the New England region from Burger King Corp., and 255 more from Heartland Foods in 2014. “We doubled our size overnight,” he says, adding that the company also made acquisitions in Minnesota.

“Right now, our unit count on Burger King is right around 500,” Dhanani says. “That makes us the second largest franchisee in the Burger King system.”

Although The Dhanani Group made some acquisitions of Popeyes franchises, Amin developed more units from the ground up in cities such as Phoenix, Denver, Salt Lake City and Austin, Texas. “Today, we are the largest franchisee for Popeye’s and have over 200 units,” Dhanani says, noting that the company enjoyed sales last year of $1 billion.

Healthy Turnarounds

The Dhanani Group largely focused on the acquisition of “sick” organizations, Dhanani says. This usually found the company buying companies that were not operating well, under-capitalized and not keeping up with the times.

“We’ve been able to turn them all around very quickly,” he says, noting that the company often re-staffed them. “We had to clean up from the senior management all the way down to the store managers.

“At the same time, we remodeled the stores and got the CAPEX needed to bring the restaurants up-to-date,” he says, noting that The Dhanani Group saw strong returns on its investments. “In one of the acquisitions that we made, we were able to double the EBITDA in 12 months.

“Obviously, it doesn’t happen overnight, but we were able to do it in good time,” he says, noting that The Dhanani Group plans to keep growing. “We are in the process of making more acquisitions on the Popeye’s side.”

The company also plans to continue updating its locations. “We are remodeling about 25 Burger Kings and building about 10 Burger Kings every year,” Dhanani says.

Staffing Avenues

The Dhanani Group is thriving in the current economic climate. “We are in pretty good shape,” Dhanani says. “We are comping positive year over year.”

The company also is coping with staffing challenges. “The wages are going up, but at the same time, the availability of staff is getting [lower],” he says. “It’s getting harder and harder to find and fill out the positions.”

The Dhanani Group copes by actively recruiting, Dhanani says. “We have to do a lot more recruiting than we have ever done before so we can have enough staff that we can keep the doors open,” he says.

This includes the use of internship programs through colleges. “We [also use] social media and every other avenue that’s available for recruiting today,” he says.

Looking Ahead

The Dhanani Group has been recognized for its work, which included a profile of Dhanani in Forbes and being named to Nation’s Restaurant News’ Power List. The company also has been very fortunate in its acquisitions.

“All of our acquisitions have worked out as projected or better,” he says. “There’s nothing more satisfying than that. That makes me proud of our group.”

But the company has not lost sight of the values that brought it this success, he asserts. “We’re still working hard as we ever did,” he says, adding that he sees a strong future for the company in the QSR industry.

“That segment is doing okay and is going to do fine in the future,” he predicts. “People need food and need it quick, and there will always be a demand for that.”

The Dhanani Group also plans to grow its reach. “We are looking into other brands to branch out into,” he says, noting that the company also is considering entering other industry segments. “We’re not only limited to Burger Kings and Popeye’s, and we’re looking into the casual and fine dining markets.”

The company also has established a succession plan so the younger members of the Dhanani family can step in and take over. “Obviously, it’ll take time, but they are on their way to moving into that leadership role,” he says.