What is in this article?:
- Restaurants look further for international growth opportunities
- Best practices for international growth
Moving beyond the BRIC countries, restaurants will need to invest in marketing, menu and human capital when expanding into new territories
Best practices for international growth
The International Symposium was led by People Report-Black Box Intelligence founder Wally Doolin, and included: Phil Crimmins, senior vice president of international for Applebee’s Services Inc.; Lucy Dominguez, vice president of human resources at T.G.I. Friday’s International; Jim Knight, chief executive of Hospitality on Point; Ken Myres, president of Romacorp Inc.; and Claudia Schaefer, vice president of marketing and global strategy at Brinker International, parent to Chili’s.
The executives represented brands that have been well-established in the international markets. Myres said Romacorp’s Tony Roma’s brand now operates in 33 nations, and 90 percent of its revenues come from outside the United States. T.G.I. Friday’s has been in the international markets for more than 25 years.
Crimmins said Applebee’s looks for international markets with high disposable income, economies of scale, a population with an “aspirational view” of U.S. brands, and a reasonable business environment.
“We do best when we adapt the brand” to the local market and “respect the environment we’re in,” Crimmins said, referring to Applebee’s adaptation of signage and physical restaurant layouts, as well as some menu items, depending on the country the casual-dining brand is operating in.
Marketing a U.S. brand to the local populace also offers challenges, said Schaeffer of Brinker. “Partnering with the local marketing experts is key,” she advised.
In addition, Schaeffer warned, brands that are still tweaking their model for the domestic market face larger challenges abroad. “International is going to throw a completely different curve ball at you,” she said.
Doolin, who worked in the international divisions of U.S. restaurant brands before launching Black Box, said the decision to go abroad takes much consideration and a long-term approach.
“You have to decide where best to use your resources,” Doolin said. “If that’s international, you have to have a long-term point of view. And it can’t be a short-term, quarter-by-quarter or even 12-month point of view. It’s going to have to be at least a five-year point of view that this is the best place to make an investment of capital – human capital and financial capital.”
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