Is a Flexible Footprint the Right Move for Your Restaurant?

it’s no secret that about 70 percent of transactions at a Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) come from its drive-thru. The continued popularity of the drive-thru, along with the increase of third-party delivery solutions such as Uber Eats and DoorDash, raises a question regarding the future of standalone QSR:”Do restaurants really need all that space?” 1 answer to this query is a rising trend with QSRs — flexible footprint places.

Several aspects push QSR operators towards the elastic footprint variation. Knowing how they work and what benefits they provide is your first step towards deciding if one may work for you.

Here’s what you’ll have to know about flexible footprints for QSRs.

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What is a Flexible Footprint?

If you’re opening a quick service restaurant franchise location, most franchisers will need certain square footage for every location and specific offerings on the menu. In picking your potential location you may be limited by requirements such as:

  • The Quantity of seats in the dining room
  • The size of the kitchen
  • A mandatory number of restrooms required
  • The need for additional space for a play area

The idea of a flexible footprint abandons the one-size-fits-all edition. As flexible footprint places reveal, it’s not essential that each and every area fits the specific same mould. Furthermore, conformity does not guarantee a place will succeed.

A flexible footprint enables franchisees to ascertain how big or small their location is. Furthermore, it provides them an option to run from a reduced menu. This approach opens up opportunities for more people and loosens specific, stringent guidelines. Furthermore, it provides options to individuals who can only increase a limited amount of money for start up costs.

If you’re looking for examples of this in action, Nature’s Table was an early adopter of the elastic footprint. After discovering their food court locations were attracting a massive crowd of office workers, they decided to start a location in a office building. From that point, they’ve gone on to add unique locations in regions like airports, museums, and gyms.

When Choosing a location for your quick service restaurant, there are several things that come into play along with questions you need to think about:

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Who is your target customer? Are they plentiful in the area you are considering for your QSR? Opening a QSR that’s popular with children and parents may not work also in a neighborhood where residents traditionally skew older.

Estimated foot traffic

If you go for a place in a spot that is heavy on foot traffic, is that a constant or does it spike up and down? If you choose to begin a QSR is a business district, how thick is foot traffic from traditional working hours?


Is the place readily accessible by foot and other modes of transit? A QSR that’s in a transit hub could be simple for bus or train riders to get to, but what is the likelihood someone not using transit could stop by the place?

A flexible footprint layout opens up many more options for QSR locations. By means of example, fast-food giant Wendy’s has moved towards a flexible footprint variation. In this model, franchisees can pick from 55, 40 or 30 seat restaurants or options in between.

The backbone of Wendy’s flexible footprint version is based on market research. The research looks at metrics like the drive-thru versus dining room pickups, and breaks down the number of transactions in 30-minute increments. Using this data, they’ve been able to produce a good case for franchisees to redesign existing spaces as opposed to building new ones.

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Wendy’s understands that great sales aren’t determined by distance in the dining room. The stronger sales driver is providing the most acceptable customer experience possible.

Benefits of a Flexible Footprint

A flexible footprint for your QSR can seem like the ideal solution. Consider the following benefits of this approach:

You may have decreased startup and operational costs.

A flexible footprint place can be an excellent option for a smaller initial investment and reduced operational costs.

In the short term, there is less money being spent on construction costs, labor, and fittings. On the long term spending on rent, utilities and staffing will also be reduced.

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There is a higher chance for market growth.

As opposed to only three or four huge scale places in 1 town, with elastic footprints you could possibly run a larger number of places.

Additionally, by opting to go with smaller variations, you may be able to get into locations that were previously unsuitable.

It takes a smaller footprint.

In urban areas, space is limited and the cost of property is large, particularly in prime locations. A flexible footprint provides the opportunity to open a location which might otherwise be unfeasible financially.

Kitchen footprints are also getting smaller as technology evolves. With a limited menu, you can use less equipment, or equipment that’s multifunctional. Tackle it by altering grills outside for a griddle. Or, use smokers as opposed to roasters. Save space and improve efficiency with vertical instead of horizontal toasters and combination ovens.

By means of example, Five Guys and In-N-Out Burger have made the shift to griddles. These can be used to cook a bigger choice of foods. They also cook more evenly, and the overall cook time is shorter.

you might work within an existing infrastructure.

Choosing a flexible footprint could be cost-effective when opening an area in a spot with an existing structure, such as a mall kiosk, storefront or even in an airport.

It can also allow you to use an unconventional or unusual space for a more memorable guest experience. When it is an old factory loft or a converted historic place, people enjoy experiencing a room which has personality. Choose an unexpected space to add a destination factor and help attract additional customers.

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More opportunity to provide a tailored customer experience.

Understand where your target customers spend their time. Then, create an environment that meets their requirements and provides a terrific customer experience. A flexible footprint can make this more feasible.

By means of example, someplace like a health club may not have the space for a whole service restaurant, but a smaller-scale version could be possible. A QSR that offers smoothies or health bowls are a natural match. These discretionary also benefit in the grab-and-go behavior of consumers entering or leaving a gym.

Is This Style Right for Your Quick Service Restaurant?

When determining whether to begin a full-sized speedy service restaurant or one using a footprint that’s flexible, there are 3 important aspects to consider — finances, location, and efficiency.

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Is your budget limited?

According to a poll, startup costs begin at $175,000 for a 65-seat restaurant.

New restaurants often overspend in areas like equipment, technology, and decorating. By going with a smaller, flexible footprint where space is limited, it could be easier to keep the budget in check as there’s a limited amount of room. A smaller location might become profitable more quickly thanks to decreased initial start up costs.

Are you trying to find a space in a favorite location where competition is high?

Trying to find the ideal location in a coveted area won’t only be a budget issue, but may also lead to space limitations. When inventory is limited, being open to a flexible footprint provides more possible options. Plus, being ready to do a remodel versus a new build may also open up possibilities if you’re checking at a very urban area.

Do you must streamline operations?

Physical designs are changing because of clients’ evolving needs — ordering ahead for pickup or state lines are becoming more in demand. Because of this, flexible footprint QSRs are more focused on speed and efficiency versus offering a massive dining area.

Ordering kiosks and mobile POS are gaining popularity and will help increase the speed of support while also reducing staffing costs and increasing revenue. These innovations enable QSRs to have a smaller footprint because they do not need as much traditional counter area for clients to buy.

With technology integrated into your operations, you’re ready to free up workers to function better in the places which can’t be substituted by technology like food preparation and guest experience.

Making the Perfect Choice for Your Quick Service Restaurant

Flexible footprints provide QSRs the opportunity to expand in new and unforeseen ways. By understanding the benefits, from increased operational efficiency to decrease operating costs, QSRs looking for new locations have the ability to make an educated decision if a flexible footprint is your ideal alternative for their organization.

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