Freshii, a Canadian-based ‘health casual’ restaurant chain, was founded in 2005 with the simple mission of making it convenient for people to eat healthy food. Today, they’re bringing that mission to life across the globe, with over 300 locations in over 20 countries.
We had a chance to speak with Melissa Gallagher, their VP of Marketing, about how they have built a consistent brand and guest experience while going through explosive growth. How quickly have they grown? To put it in perspective, Freshii opened their first 200 restaurants faster than global brands like McDonald’s, Subway, and Domino’s – and they plan on continuing that momentum.
When we asked Gallagher the secret to their success, her answer was clear: “we’re executing faster than anyone. At Freshii we launch fast, we fail fast, then we iterate faster. I think that’s really important to the success of any high growth brand,” she added.
To view the full interview, listen to the podcast below or read on!
Establishing a brand full of energy
Since being founded, Freshii has grown from being a go-to spot for quick, healthy meals, to a truly wholesome health and wellness brand – extending far beyond the physical restaurant. Their brand has been built on serving fresh ingredients, offering great service, and helping guests build towards a healthier lifestyle. They’ve even taken to nutritionists, rather than chefs, to develop their menu offering around the world. “Rather than working with in-house chefs to develop menu items, our in-house nutritionist scours the globe to find health and wellness trends that we can bring to the market quickly and at an affordable price,” explained Gallagher.
In order to grow its offering and keep in line with consumer tastes and preferences, Freshii constantly works on staying on top of emerging health and wellness trends. As Gallagher put it, “We consider ourselves the Zara of the health casual restaurant industry. We’re able to take a trend and bring it to the market quite quickly, versus some of the other large players.” By offering bold, diverse, and customizable meals – from a Teriyaki Twist bowl to Spicy Lemongrass soup – they’ve been able to continuously entice and excite their customer base.
As Gallagher reflected on how they’ve built their brand, she noted that “We’re always inspired by the way in which our product resonates all over the globe.” Part of that success, she added, can be attributed to the passion of their employee base. ”We’ve got team members who started as frontline workers, who are now multi-unit owners of some of the highest volume locations in North America.”
Growing a strong franchise network
One of the keys to Freshii’s success has been building on their brand values and identity with the direct involvement of key stakeholders, such as guests, employees, and franchise partners. As they’ve grown their franchise network, they’ve made an effort to scale with like-minded individuals who are energized by their brand. As Gallagher put it, “a lot of people join the Freshii brand out of passion – for health and wellness, and for entrepreneurship.”
They’re really taking a fresh look at building franchise networks—seeking out motivated entrepreneurs who will take ownership and pride of their restaurants. “We’re inspired by the entrepreneurial spirit, so being able to award citizens to help bring our mission to their regions has been something that’s driven our passion and helped us scale so quickly,” Gallagher added.
While some restaurant brands provide a lot of flexibility to their franchise partners in customizing the product and marketing strategy, Freshii is taking a more focused approach. As Gallagher explained, they focus on getting feedback from all internal stakeholders on the brand, their values, and menu items, then work hard at headquarters to produce products and campaigns that really resonate with their customer base.
By centralizing marketing and product development in-office, Freshii has been able to keep a truly consistent brand during its rapid growth. The key element they look for in franchise partners is a dedication to operational excellence and a passion for service. “We look for strong operations within our franchise partners, and then provide them with all of the resources they need to market and bring the brand to life within their region,” said Gallagher.
Working out future growth
While maintaining focus on brand consistency, building a solid franchise network and engaging employees will be critical to the future success of Freshii, Gallagher acknowledges the importance of ongoing innovation: “From my past experiences, I learned not to spend too long celebrating successes and to constantly look for ways to innovate and iterate.”
What’s next? Over the next couple of years, the company’s goal is to expand to 800 locations. Fulfilling their core brand mission also means looking at new ways to make healthy food more convenient, including making Freshii meals available on airline menus. As Gallagher concluded, “5 years ago, we were a salad chain bringing health and wellness to our guests in many different ways—but even a year ago we wouldn’t have imagined we’d be serving avocados in the air.”
Next up, avocados on the moon? Only time will tell.