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GoToFoods-conference-Jim-Holthouser.JPG GoTo Foods
Jim Holthouser gives the keynote at the 2024 Focus Brands conference in Las Vegas.

Jamba and Cinnabon parent company GoTo Foods announces opportunities for growth and acquisitions

The company formerly known as Focus Brands rebranded to GoTo Foods Tuesday, announcing global growth, brand collaboration, and future acquisitions

After the Atlanta-based restaurant company formerly known as Focus Brands announced its rebranding to GoTo Foods on Tuesday during the company’s annual conference in Las Vegas, CEO Jim Holthouser offered some details on exactly what to expect in the days and years ahead.

Although daily operations won’t change much for franchisees and employees as the company moves to a more platform-based business model, more brand collaboration will be on the table. The goal is to eventually break down most silos between the seven restaurant brands — including Jamba, Cinnabon, Auntie Anne’s and Moe’s Southwest Grill — and commonly share resources, personnel and technology. For example, the company is in the midst of moving all seven brands to a single POS platform, Qu, to promote synchronicity among the brands.

 “The difference between Focus and GoTo Foods is one name was designed to be more of a legal name, and the other is consumer-facing,” Holthouser said. “We’re not going to create a brand that the whole world understands in two months. It’s going to be a long journey, but we can do some things immediately to bring the different brands together and take them to market.”

There will also be more opportunities for growth, both stateside and international, as GoTo Foods looks to create more of a nationally recognized name for its brands, many of which are currently hyper-regionalized, like Carvel. Crucially, Holthouser sees a massive opportunity for GoTo Foods to acquire more brands moving forward in categories the company does not currently have a stake in.

“Four years ago, our seven brands were operating almost as independent businesses, and not that it was wrong, but it was very costly to do so,” Holthouser told Nation’s Restaurant News. “Today, what we're learning is that we can build things one time and make them work for seven brands, or even one day 14 or 21 brands, and we can do it for less money. We have real experts [at this company] with deep history in whatever we’re doing that can just run it for all brands. We’ve done it for everything from supply chain to our digital platform.”

The transformation from Focus Brands to GoTo Foods did not just happen overnight, as the brand synergy has been building for several years now, starting with gift card integrations starting in 2020 as the company moved toward gift cards that can be utilized at any of the seven brands.

In addition to moving to a common POS system, Holthouser said they will begin standardizing multiple aspects of the business, including catering and digital loyalty. During Tuesday’s keynote presentation, Holthouser said that the company is $60 million in loyalty programs, and that loyalty memberships across the company have already been up 18%. The first guinea pig of the company’s new approach to loyalty is Moe’s Southwest Grill, which is the first brand in the GoTo Foods portfolio to unveil a new app on the app store with new modernized, data-driven capabilities and personalized experiences for guests. Eventually, all seven brands will use the same technology for their loyalty apps, and one day further into the future, the company may even operate digitally under a singular umbrella.

“With a common digital platform of brands, apps and websites, we can better serve guests, while delivering differentiated brand experiences,” Holthouser said during Tuesday’s presentation. “In just a few short years, we expect about half our revenue to come from loyalty and digital… so it's imperative to build and optimize these tools today, so we can nurture and monetize these customer relationships in the future.”

Growth is another crucial aspect to long-term plan for GoTo Foods. Currently, most of the GoTo Foods customer base is only familiar with a few of these brands, because so many of them are hyper-regionalized to a few states or a specific region of the United States. That is going to change in the future.

“Our job is to take regional brands and turn them into national or even international players,” Holthouser said. “We have plans for every brand, where we will intentionally expand their footprint to two or three states a year. There’s currently not a ton of overlap with our brands….at a national level, you have so many more customers, everyone knows who you are, and the brand works harder.”

But GoTo Foods won’t just be expanding its current portfolio of brands: the executive team at the company believes there is plenty of room for new brands in the portfolio. While the company formerly known as Focus Brands became well-known for its investment in the snacks and so-called “mall brands” segment, CFO Mike Dixon said the company is open to many different types of acquisitions.

“We're interested in complementary brands,” Dixon said. “we’ve said in the past that we'd love a chicken brand or a pizza brand, but we don’t need another pretzel brand or another ice cream brand. That's not going to help us grow the way we want to.”

Contact Joanna at [email protected]

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