Industry News | February 3, 2014 | QSR Exclusive Brief

When to Make the International Leap

Nick Kenner is the CEO of New York–based Just Salad.
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Many upstart quick-service entrepreneurs in the U.S. might soon find themselves in a position to expand into international markets. And Nick Kenner, CEO of New York–based Just Salad, says that if those entrepreneurs wait for the “perfect opportunity” to do so, they might be left waiting forever.

Kenner says a brand’s chances to grow internationally often are dictated by the overseas partners who reach out to the corporate team about a potential franchise relationship.

“Really, internationally, the cities pick us, we don’t pick them,” Kenner says. “We don’t have a franchise sales group, and we don’t go after specific geographic locations. We, in our mind, have ideas of where we want to be and where we think we would do well, but we have to … wait until partners in those areas contact us.”

Of course, Kenner says, it is also crucial to select a suitable partner for an international expansion project. Franchisee candidates in the right city with the money to invest are not always the right person for the job. He says natural communication between parties is a must when seeking out potential partners.

“It’s all about finding the right partner and the right city,” Kenner says. “If you have the right partner and the right city, and your brand is desired there, it will work itself out.”

Before signing international franchise agreements, Kenner says, brand executives should make sure their concept aligns well with the culture of a potential growth city. Kenner attributes Just Salad’s international success to the compatibility of the concept with metropolitan international markets, as well as the fact that it is a healthy concept that is committed to value pricing.

“Across the entire world, in metropolitan areas, people work long hours, and they want to also be able to stay fit and to stay healthy,” Kenner says. “There’s a huge demand for food they can have that is healthy, that is quick. I think Just Salad fills that void.”

Just Salad has 11 locations between New York and Hong Kong, and has plans to open three additional stores this year in Dubai. The quick-serve concept recently inked a franchise agreement to expand throughout the United Arab Emirates in 2015.

By Marlee Murphy