While a number of franchising companies offer dual and tri-branding, a Blimpie franchisee in Richmond, Va., is pioneering quadri-branding.
Franchisees Ritesh and Zeel Patel have brought together four brands of Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Kahala Management’s franchising portfolio — Blimpie sub shop, Cereality Cereal Bar & Café, NRgize Lifestyle Café and Samurai Sam’s Teriyaki Grill — into a food-court-style area in the Chippenham Hospital of the CJW Medical Center in Richmond.
The Patels’ Richmond-based Elite Retail Group was already a Blimpie franchisee when the medical center was looking to replace a McDonald’s unit that had occupied the 3,000-square-foot hospital-campus space for 15 years.
Ritesh Patel, Elite Retail’s director of operations, said the new quadri-brand food court opened on June 1, 2011, and traffic has been growing steadily since.
The Patels, who received what a spokesman called “a large discount on initial franchise fees” for the additional concepts, are looking for other sites to replicate the combination offerings in other business complexes and hospitals.
Chippenham Hospital Food Court
Ritesh Patel spoke with Nation’s Restaurant News about the four-concept package.
How did this deal come about?
We started working about a year before opening. We basically wanted to produce more nutritionally valuable foods and more options and menu items for the captive audience, which is here nearly every single day. The hospital was looking to replace the McDonald’s that was here. We proposed the idea in the bid process. They were originally looking for a sandwich shop, but they thought this idea would take it to another level.
What is your own interest in the project?
I come from a nutritional background. I graduated from Virginia Tech where I studied nutrition, food and exercise. I have a lot of personal interest in this.
How has traffic trended?
We have a captive audience. On top that, we do have the visitors who come into the hospital. Among the advantages that we have is that the cafeteria is only open at selected times for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Through gaps in cafeteria service, we are pretty much the only vendor open.
Do you offer all four brands all day long?
All except for the Samurai Sam’s Teriyaki Grill. We open that at 11 a.m., and it closes around 10:30 p.m. We do freshly grilled meats, so we want to make sure it’s all fresh. Everything else is offered throughout the entire day, from 8:30 a.m. until late evening.
Chippenham Hospital Food Court
How many seats do you have?
We have close to 40 seats in the food court area, and we have a large outdoor patio area that’s another 3,000 square feet for seating.
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How did you decided on which brands to include?
We had the Blimpie’s brand already. [It was decided] between us, the hospital administrative staff and director of nutritional and Kahala. NRgize Lifestyle Café was a great concept because of its low-calorie smoothies, which are good for the hospital. And Cereality fit for breakfast, and of course our Blimpie throughout the day. Samurai Sam’s was a curve ball, and it diversified the offerings and had good nutritional options on the menu.
Were there operational challenges?
The flow of traffic has provided some challenges. We are in separate sections, but we use one kitchen. From the front, it looks like four different restaurants but from our view it is one kitchen. We do have to educate our consumer periodically.
Have you noticed changes in traffic?
Every day we are seeing new faces from both campuses, which have more than 3,000 employees. We are affected some days by the census [occupancy] of the hospital, but we are in a location for the business complexes around us. Customers will walk over from them as well.
What are the marketing advantages?
Kahala has helped with the marketing outside the four walls with couponing and newspaper ads. We also sent out newsletters throughout the hospital on our own to educate the staff and nurses about special promotions and new products. We try to market as much inside as we can.
How about training?
That is a challenge. Kahala has brought in top team members from each of its brands. They still come in about two times a month to update. I was familiar with Blimpie, but there’s a learning curve for me with the other three brands.
What have you learned from the project?
I love variety. If I was a customer and just had one vendor here every day, I’d probably get tired of it. We have that variety. There are opportunities to create more menu items. For example, we took oatmeal from our Cereality cereal bar and created an oatmeal smoothie for NRgize. Kahala has now marketed that throughout the chain.
CJW Medical Center is part of the HCA Virginia Health System.
Kahala Corp. franchises 14 brands, including Cold Stone Creamery, Frullati Café & Bakery, Great Steak, Johnnie’s, Pizza Fresh Take N’ Bake, Ranch 1, Rollerz, Surf City Squeeze, TacoTime and Wafflo.