We discussed the virtual restaurant trend a couple of months ago. In that article, we explored the link between the virtual restaurant trend and the COVID-19 pandemic, and we noted that many new franchise concepts were popping up—apparently in direct response to the rising consumer demand for takeaway and delivery restaurant-quality meals. Now, as national franchisee lawyer Jeffrey M. Goldstein notes, some big brands are stepping into the virtual restaurant franchise realm.
Chick-fil-A Introduces Little Blue Menu Virtual Restaurant Concept
For example, as reported by the Franchise Times, Chick-fil-A is introducing a spinoff brand for a new virtual restaurant concept. Little Blue Menu (which “takes its name from Chick-fil-A founder S. Truett Cathy’s original restaurant, Harper Dwarf House, and its original blue menu”) will be the virtual counterpart to Chick-fil-A’s sit-down fast-food restaurants.
According to the Franchise Times, Little Blue Menu will expand on Chick-fil-A’s traditional restaurant menu and offer delivery. The magazine quotes a company press release as saying that Little Blue Menu will offer “salads, roasted chicken, wings and more—all made under one roof, arriving in one bundled order.” The Franchise Times also writes that “the brand will pivot from one trendy delivery item to the next.”
The fact that a major brand like Chick-fil-A is investing in the virtual restaurant space arguably suggests that the trend could be here to stay. But, even if this is the case, prospective franchisees who are considering virtual restaurant opportunities must still carefully assess the market (and legal) risks—and they must make informed decisions based on an assessment of their personal ability to succeed.
Evaluating Virtual Restaurant Franchise Opportunities
Whether you are considering a startup virtual restaurant concept or a spinoff from a well-known brand like Little Blue Menu, there are several important issues to consider. From a legal perspective, when pursuing a franchise opportunity in a developing industry, some of the key issues include:
- Franchisor Support – How much support will you receive from the franchisor as an active franchisee? Is the franchisor devoting personnel and resources to franchisee support, or is it focused primarily on signing new franchisees?
- System Standards, Modifications and Deviations – Are the franchisor’s system standards sound? Is there a risk that you will be forced to adapt to frequent modifications as the franchisor explores the virtual restaurant model? If you aren’t able to succeed with a particular food item, supplier or delivery model, how much flexibility will you have to deviate from the franchisor’s standards?
- Term, Termination and Renewal – How long will you be locked into the franchise? When can the franchisor terminate your franchise, and what conditions will you need to satisfy in order to renew your franchise if it is successful?
For some more important considerations, you can read: Thinking about Buying a Franchise in 2021? Here’s What You Need to Know.
Contact National Franchisee Lawyer Jeffrey M. Goldstein
Jeffrey M. Goldstein is a national franchisee lawyer who has been exclusively representing franchisees and dealers for more than 30 years. He provides four tiers of fixed-fee franchise business review programs for prospective franchisees. If you are considering a virtual restaurant franchise, we encourage you to call 202-293-3947 or contact us online to learn more.