Freshii is Zara of healthy fast foods, Corrin tells CSE

By Fiona Briggs

Freshii, the Canadian restaurant brand, is the Zara of healthy, fast foods, according to its founder and CEO Matthew Corrin.

Interviewed by Ashley Dalziel, Freshii’s chief people officer, at CSE 2017, Corrin compared Freshii’s menu innovation - no one category makes up more than 18% of sales - with the global fashion giant.

“Every 70 days, Zara is bringing the latest fashion trends to the masses at affordable price points,” he said. “We go round the world and find local food concepts, that are popular, and then every 70 days bring that to our mass market. It’s done with a scalable supply chain and it keeps guests coming in. People don’t get bored of us because there is always something new.”

Freshii was founded by Corrin in 2005 when he was living in New York City and working for a high end fashion designer. While he ate great food from ‘Mom and Pop’ delis, the service was dull and the branding lack lustre. It spawned the Freshii brand; a Starbucks for the fresh food business

Fast track to today and Freshii, now listed on the Canadian stock exchange, operates over 300 restaurants in 17 countries and boasts one of the highest like-for-like sales growths in its sector. It is planning a further 150 new restaurants in this calendar year.

Corrin credits Freshii’s success and appeal to sitting at the intersection of three global trends: health and wellness; millennials, who are early adopters; and ownership, since its a franchise business model.

“It’s that intersection that’s fueling our growth,” he says. Growth, which will also see the brand open its first UK outlets in London later this year.

But it will be a Freshii format tailored to the UK market, as Corrin explains.

“When we open later this year in London, we will look different. It’s not a cookie cutter approach but about bringing health and wellness to the masses - we are not sending cucumbers and quinoa around the world.”

Millennials shy away from cookie cutter, he maintains. Instead they prefer customisation. “We deliberately try to make each store a little different and really do adapt our footprint to really localise and stay relevant,” Corrin says.

Corrin shared Freshii’s five founding principles with delegates in London:

It’s those principles and Freshii’s compelling offer that have seen the brand invited, yes invited, to operate in high schools, colleges, universities, at arenas and in stadia.

“But it’s a people business first and we never lose sight of that,” Corrin asserts.

It’s a trait that’s enabled rapid expansion of the chain. “We opened up faster than our competitors - nine shops in the first two years. And we’ve done a lot with very little initial capital.”

But could [forecourt] convenience stores take a slice of Freshii action? Corrin is not convinced.

“Big companies recognise the importance of health and wellness but the challenge is becoming credible, especially with same [oil] brand. I’d argue that’s incompatible.”

But while growth is on the cards for Freshii, sticking to its principles and continuing to innovate, in that Zara like fashion, are key driving forces.

“Ten years ago, selling spinach and brown rice was innovative,” Corrin says. “Then it was smoothies and now it’s juices. It’s not about what you are building for today, it’s about what you are building for the next 10 years - you can’t become stale.”

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Fiona BriggsFiona Briggs Freelance retail business journalist

Fiona is an experienced journalist and editor, writing exclusive content for GCSF. She is founder of retailtimes.co.uk. She contributes regularly to NACS Magazine and writes articles on omnichannel shopper trends for Radial. Fiona is available for commissions at fionalbriggs@gmail.com

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