Dec 21, 2023

Adapting Your Restaurant Franchise's Menu for Global Success: Why It's Essential

Written by FranConnect

If you want to expand your restaurant franchise and reach a global audience, you must adapt your menu accordingly. Updating your menu items when you open locations in other countries is essential for your restaurant's long-term stability and success. With the right strategy and tools, you will boost your revenue and brand familiarity. 

Considerations for Changing Your Menu When Going International

Adapting your international menu to different cultures is crucial. By changing your restaurant menu and remaining sensitive to the needs of customers around the globe, you make a positive statement about your company. When making global menu changes, here are some important considerations for connecting to your new customers. 

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Recognize Cultural Sensitivities When Adapting Your Menu 

You want customers to identify with your brand and welcome it into their lives. When adapting your menu for different countries, you must be respectful of cultures and religious beliefs. Some cultures and religions do not eat specific foods, or they don't eat particular food items during specific times of year. For example, Islamic law considers some foods "halal" (lawful) and others "haram" (forbidden). If you're opening a franchise restaurant location in a country where Islam is the predominant religion, you have to be sure your menu items are certified halal. 

As another example, people of the Hindu faith consider cows holy, and most avoid eating beef. Hinduism is the predominant religion in India, so if you're opening a restaurant location in India, you can respect the Hindu culture by leaving beef products off the menu or at least offering lots of alternatives. 

When you're researching where to open locations, do thorough market research to ensure you're being respectful of cultures as you create a new menu. This is essential for including new customers and ensuring they feel welcome at your restaurant. 

Evaluate Profit Margins and Cost Considerations 

What's expensive in one country may be relatively inexpensive in another. Different groups have different standards regarding food, fast food, what they are willing to pay for restaurant food and how that ties in with their beliefs around money. You may have to adjust the prices of your items when opening locations outside of your home country. 

The costs involved in expanding your franchise menu also need to be considered, from market research and development to marketing and advertising. Additionally, you may have to source new ingredients, pay more for specific ingredients or cut menu items that wouldn't be profitable in certain countries. 

You can also examine your competitors and be aware of what they're selling and how they're selling it, as well as how their prices compare to yours. If you have similar menu items, but your planned prices are much higher — or much lower — than theirs, you might be missing out on sales or underselling your products. 

Retain Brand Consistency While Adapting Your Restaurant's Menu 

You don't need to completely change your brand identity when creating an international franchise menu. After all, you don't want your restaurant to be completely unrecognizable from one country to another. Instead, you can adapt your menu while remaining true to what makes your restaurant your restaurant. 

To maintain brand consistency, use the power of your logo. Your logo is familiar and recognizable — just think about the iconic Taco Bell bell, the McDonald's golden arches or the Arby's cowboy hat. Using your logo ensures you remain recognizable as you expand. You can also keep some classic signature items on the menu to remain true to what brought your business success in its early days. However, be sure these offerings are culturally appropriate. 

When creating international restaurant menu items, be sure the new additions are consistent with your brand. For example, if you run a fast food burger joint in the United States and are looking to open a new location in Canada, you may not want to add out-of-the-box items like intricate pasta dishes that will take a long time to make. A more fitting choice would be something that fits your brand while catering to the tastes of your new audience. Gravy- and cheese-covered fries may make a great menu addition since poutine is a French-Canadian classic

The message here is to be innovative when adapting your menu while also retaining the hallmarks of your brand. 

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Steps to Customize Your Restaurant's Menu for a New Country

Customizing your menu to fit a new location doesn't have to be laborious. Here are three steps for customizing your menu for a new country. 

1. Conduct Thorough Market Research

Adapting your menu for a new region is easier when you know who you're adapting it for. Market research is a powerful tool for any business, especially when you launch global menu items. Through market research about the local culture, you can: 

  • Identify potential international menu ideas: These are signature items you can include in your menu that would speak to your client base and drive revenue for your restaurant. For example, if your research shows that the region prefers pork over beef, you can change your menu to include more pork-based items. If there are a lot of vegetarians in the area, you can create some plant-based dishes. 
  • Understand customer preferences: The key to adapting your restaurant's menu for international success is showing people you know what they like. Researching your customers' flavor preferences and items that are already popular in your new location proves that you are eager to offer items they'll love. 
  • Analyzing competitor menus: When planning your international menu changes, be aware of what the competition has on their menus and update your menus accordingly. You can offer lower prices for similar menu items or raised prices on unique dishes. 

2. Adapt Your Menu

Adapting your restaurant's franchise for global success takes a lot of creativity. As you adapt your menu, keep these tips in mind: 

  • Incorporate local ingredients: A unique approach to updating your restaurant's menu during international expansion is to add ingredients that people in the region love. This approach also means you won't need to import food items, which can help you save costs.
  • Change franchise menu items based on trends: The food and global restaurant markets constantly evolve. Keeping your finger on the pulse of new trends in local cuisine ensures you stay a step ahead. Understanding your international clients is essential here.
  • Adapt portion sizes: A critical aspect of modifying your franchise's menu for international markets is being aware of portion sizes. Every region has a standard restaurant meal size. As an example, portion sizes in the U.S. are generally larger than they are in the United Kingdom. 

3. Make Sure to Comply With International Standards

It's essential to remember that your restaurant's menu must adhere to health and safety standards. Rules and regulations change per location, and keeping abreast of these variations ensures your establishment remains compliant. For example, some food additives are banned in Europe but allowed in the U.S., so if you're adapting your United States menu to England, you may have to make some changes. In any case, it's best to research before you update your menu with new food items. 

Successful Menu Changes in International Restaurant Franchises

A few well-known cases exist where restaurants have successfully changed their menu items while maintaining loyalty to their brand and name. You can gain much of the same results by following in their footsteps. 

Kentucky Fried Chicken

An excellent example of a business adding global menu ideas is Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC). This company still uses its well-known Colonel Sanders on all its packaging. Yet, it is flexible enough to adapt its menus to different global culinary tastes and preferences. For example, to celebrate Chinese New Year, KFC Singapore introduced Truffle Parmesan Chicken, which is a twist on their traditional fried chicken recipe that hoped to appeal to a younger crowd. 

McDonald's

One of the reasons for McDonald's success is its ability to modify its fast food menu items for an international audience. Using localization methods to adapt and change its menu according to specific regions, McDonald's is a business chameleon. 

Another reason for the giant's success is that it offers exclusive items in each region. This differentiates McDonald's from competitors and also attracts international tourists who want to explore how McDonald's in a country they're visiting is different from their home location.  

Even more impressive is the franchise's revenue statistics. In the U.S. alone, McDonald's generated a revenue of $9.42 billion in 2022. Sales outside of the U.S. topped $11.16 billion in the same year. These numbers are clear and convincing: Your restaurant can benefit from an updated global menu.

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Strategies for Effectively Marketing Your New Menu

If this is your first foray into international markets, it's advisable to market both your name and your menu to potential customers. These elements set you apart from your competitors. Leveraging your uniqueness is a great strategy to gain new clientele. 

As you market your new menu, use the following strategies:

  • Post on social media: People love seeing photos of the food before ordering, and social media is a great place to share them. Add some colorful, exciting images of your cultural menu items and your new storefront. The pictures should capture the buzz and unique ambiance of your business. 
  • Update customers regularly: Updating your menu with new items is exciting, and keeping your customers informed about these changes is crucial. When you introduce more items after your initial opening, update your website, social media profiles and in-store signage. 
  • Make use of traditional advertising: While digital advertising is still essential for a complete marketing strategy, many marketers are returning to traditional methods of advertising, like direct mail and print media. Consumers tend to trust traditional advertising, and traditional advertising methods cut through digital clutter. 
  • Take advantage of TV advertising: Likewise, TV advertising remains an effective strategy. Similar to traditional advertising, consumers tend to trust products they see on TV, and TV has an unmatched reach
  • Understand how Google Search works: Google crawls and indexes webpages to show users the most relevant results for their search. When you understand this process, you can begin to understand how to get your online menu to show up in relevant search results — more on Google and SEO below!

The Power of SEO in Marketing

Search engine optimization (SEO) deserves its own special mention as it's a powerful tool for marketing your new menu. SEO involves the strategies you use to rank high on search engine results pages (SERPs). Some of these strategies include using relevant headings, keywords and tags on your website. When your SEO strategy is successful, your website will show up toward the top of relevant search results. 

A quick rundown of SEO strategies can give you some marketing ideas:

  • Local SEO: Local SEO enables searchers to find you when they search things like "fast food restaurant near me" or "place to get burgers now." Updating your physical address and telephone number and typing out your menu will help people near you find your business.
  • Keywords: You can use relevant and popular keywords and place them on your social media accounts, websites and other business directories. Using keywords will ensure that searchers always find your franchise. You'll want to use food keywords that people will search for when they're hungry and that your restaurant trades in. For example, if your new items include chicken salads, you can use keywords like "delicious chicken salad" or "best chicken salad."
  • Use an analytics tool: These tools are helpful for gaining insight into the behavior of your website visitors. When you use a quality analytics tool, you can see what makes someone click on your site, how long they stay on your site before leaving, and if they make any decisions like calling or placing an online order. Remember: Visitors don't equal a sale. When you understand why a website visitor leaves, you can take steps to keep them on your site.  
  • Backlinks: Backlinks are created when one website links to another. When other sites — such as directories like Yelp — link to your site, this increases your authority in the eyes of Google, which is helpful for SEO. The more websites that contain your menu, the more people will find you. 
  • Make your menu mobile-friendly: Besides your website, your newly adapted menu should be easy to read and searchable on a mobile device, as most people search for restaurants while on the go. 
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Enjoy Seamless Integration for International Success With FranConnect

Restaurant growth is incredibly exciting, especially when it means it's time to expand internationally. Many factors play a vital role in the success of your business as you open global locations, and one of the most important is changing your franchise menu items for a global audience. 

FranConnect provides a comprehensive platform for your franchising needs. We provide your business with an ecosystem wherein it will thrive, grow, and improve as you expand internationally. We have an answer to every concern you may have. Our pre-packaged applications are rapidly deployable, meaning you can start growing your franchise as soon as possible. Leverage FranConnect's platform for your business growth by connecting with us and joining an industry-leading management platform. For more information, contact us today.

About the author

FranConnect

FranConnect is the leading franchise management software provider. Based on an analytics approach, only its award-winning, unified FranConnect platform engages stakeholders to grow, scale and optimize franchise systems through a connected and complete view of the business from sales to multi-unit and multi-brand performance. Over 800 brands — including 40 of the Entrepreneur’s Top 100 Global Franchises — in 18 countries count on FranConnect to successfully grow their franchise systems. FranConnect customers span all sizes, growth phases, and industries and have grown 44% faster than the broader franchising market. Backed by private-equity investor Serent Capital, FranConnect is headquartered in Herndon, Virginia, with global follow-the-sun operations.