Where's that franchise?
Published in USA Today
by Nancy Rathbun Scott

Batteries Plus prides itself on being the company that offers one-stop shopping for any battery under the sun. Not only does every Batteries Plus store stock the most obscure batteries imaginable, the super accessible storefront design allows customers to easily hop from car, to store, and back again. Until now, this level of accessability demanded free-standing locations, built to suit. Lately, though, the price of real estate sometimes has pushed Batteries Plus into strip malls, away from the lone units the company prefers. Even so, this franchisor won't compromise further by opening a store in a hard-to-reach mall. That's because a Batteries Plus location thrives on the all-important accessibility and name recognition that works so well for customers on the run, says Ron Rezetko, CEO and founder. "When we are in our own building, we can control the appearance. Our customers recognize our façade-the eyebrows over the front of the building. That's why we go out of our way to find the right area."
In short, franchising-as is true with any successful business enterprises-relies on precisely matching store location to product or service.

Demographics drive location

Finding just the right location is important to Fred Addington, also. As director of franchising for Frulatti, he takes special care in selecting locations for franchise development. The company sells fresh fruit drinks, deli sandwiches, soups and salads. "For the most part, we're in hospitals and airports, but our primary development is as a food vendor in shopping mall food courts," he says.
Mall demographics influence Frulatti's decision to seek out the shopping centers as a primary location. "If you stand in any food court in America and look at the food selections, this 85 percent female audience is being offered fried chicken, pizza and corn dogs," says Addington. He would be the first to admit that there is nothing unique on his menu, but he finds the lighter fare tends to play better with this audience.
Frulatti targets another audience with deliberate selection-mall employees. For instance, larger malls usually have more than 2,000 employees at any meal time, and most usually stay inside to eat. "If I serve them a $4 sandwich and a $2 drink, I've done a lot of business before I ever get to a mall customer," he says.
To attract mall customers, Addington says the company hoisted a 30-inch picture of a croissant sandwich where they would normally put the menu board. "From the middle of the mall, you can see that big picture and know we've got sandwiches," he says. Next to the sandwich is a picture of a salad and other pictures of a smoothie and yogurt. With just those minor remodeling features, Frulatti managed to turn location into a marketing ploy.
Free standing and co-branding
Malls aren't for every food franchise. Bruce J. Major, vice president of franchise development with Sandella's, a gourmet fast-food store, says his company tends to shy away from establishing locations in shopping malls because it doesn't fit their profile. "We build free-standing units," says Major.
The philosophy developed over time. When the company saw the value in offering deli services, they targeted New York City for expansion. Choosing that location paid off, and eventually Sandella's opened six stores in New York City.
Hospitals offer another opportunity for Sandella to explore locations. "We are concentrating on a healthy lifestyle, so the products we provide are really welcome there," says Major.
Sandella also is working on strategic alliances with companies like Marriott. The franchisor also is exploring the possibility of co-branding- sharing space with another company that offers complementing products.
Batteries Plus, too, opened it's first co-brand last year-a partnership in an Indiana convenience store with a petroleum distributor. Rezetko believes that a franchisor's ability to read the market and move quickly on a good location, is vital to success."If you're a defensive football player and you're going where the ball is, you're always going to be too late. You've got to be concerned with where that ball is going to be in a split second and go there. It's the same in business. Don't go where everything is already...anticipate."

® copyright 1999 Nancy Rathbun Scott
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