Despite the difficult economy, one of the fastest-growing quick-service master franchise developers in Latin America and the Caribbean has no intention to slow down in 2012. Costa Rica-based QSR International’s plans for the year include opening at least 30 new restaurant units, opening three new countries for Quiznos and seeking additional franchise partners for new countries.
The company currently franchises and supports the operations of a total of 118 Quiznos, KFC and Teriyaki Experience units in 14 countries. These include Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Venezuela. QSR also operates Chef’s Supply, a restaurant supply and equipment company; Chef’s Kitchen, an industrial bakery; and a real estate holding company.
This year will also see the opening of two Smashburger restaurants, the first in Latin America. QSR recently secured the rights to develop Smashburger, which was named “America’s Most Promising Company” by Forbes magazine last year.
The company is actively seeking franchise partners for Quiznos in Peru, Paraguay, Argentina, Chile and Columbia. It has also begun to look for franchise partners for Smashburger in Central America, Venezuela and Dominican Republic.
QSR’s unique structure allows it to offer all new and existing franchisees a variety of support services. QSR’s support services are based out of a 10,000-square-foot facility in Costa Rica. Its restaurant support center employs over 100 people.
“One of our strengths and something that separates us from many of our counterparts in the United States is that we’re totally self-sufficient and require less support from our franchisors,” CEO Richard Eisenberg says. “We have marketing, operations, real estate, construction & design, training, loss prevention, quality assurance, human resources, legal, information technology, and financial services entirely in-house.”
Eisenberg co-founded the company in 2000 after formerly serving as an executive director and general manager for Yum! Brands International, the owners of the KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell brands. While there, he oversaw the opening of 16 new countries and 169 restaurants in a total of 29 different countries.
Relationships formed during his time with Yum! have carried over to QSR, including key vendor relationships. “We’ve grown as our vendors have grown,” he says. “Long-term supply relationships are very important to us, and we view many of our key vendors as family.
“If we’re providing growth and loyalty for them, they’ll go the extra mile for us.”
QSR’s brands differ in many ways from their counterparts in North America. “Our restaurants and our brands operate at much higher levels than their U.S. counterparts,” Eisenberg says. “Our quality levels are higher, our transaction volumes are significantly higher, our menu offerings are broader and the perception of the brands are much better here.”
Quiznos’ menu includes items such as onion rings, waffle type French fries, and mozzarella cheese sticks, requiring the use of hoods and fryer equipment that are not required in Quiznos units in the United States. QSR’s KFC franchises do roughly half of their business during lunch, as opposed to in the United States, where lunch sales make up significantly less of their income, Eisenberg notes.
Eisenberg attributes their KFC’s stronger lunch business to their broader menu, which includes many more sandwiches, snackables, portable products and desserts. “Our product quality is significantly higher and we have a far broader menu,” he adds.
For Teriyaki Experience – an Asian-inspired quick service brand with origins in Canada – the menu differences are most profound. QSR’s Teriyaki Experience franchises offer 14 different sushi items versus just four in the Canadian locations, as well as other items like shrimp tempura, orange chicken, and fried sushi, which are unique to the region.
These menu differences are a result of QSR’s constant research into the culture and tastes of its region. “We really look at consumer insights to see what our consumers want to buy,” Eisenberg says. “We do a lot of consumer research and adjust our menus to customer needs identified in that research.”
QSR’s franchisee training program also differs from similar programs in the United States. The 12-to-16-week training program for Quiznos is more extensive and covers elements such as marketing and advertising that are typically not handled by individual U.S.-based franchises. “We’re teaching our franchisees how to operate not just a restaurant, but a business enterprise,” Eisenberg adds.