Zunzi’s, the 16-year-old popular fast casual takeout shop known for its award-winning South African-inspired sandwiches, announces the launch of a regional franchise program aimed at expanding the Savannah, Georgia-based brand—and Zunzibar, its beach-bar sister concept—in select markets across the Southeast.
“The restaurant business sucks, and we are here to change it!” says Chris Smith, Zunzi’s co-founder. “As a former multi-unit Five Guys franchisee, I saw how demanding a fast-growing franchise can be. We want our franchisees to not only be successful in the restaurant business but also in life. Achievement without fulfillment is the ultimate failure. We want them to wake up every day with a sense of purpose bigger than themselves."
The company will recruit franchisees and develop locations through Zunzi’s Franchising LLC, a newly formed subsidiary. The program’s focus is centered on a 10-state area encompassing Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.
“I love this business, but it is not for the faint of heart,” adds Smith. “We want franchisees that choose to be in this business, understand how difficult it can be, and join our vision to make positive change by solving problems together. When we do this, we create value for our six stakeholders—Team, Franchisees, Fans, Community, Vendors and Investors—and that is good business."
Franchisee recruitment is overseen by COO Ryan Harrison, who will work closely with Smith. Harrison helped launch Gusto!’s catering program, eventually becoming its director of B2B and community development before joining Zunzi’s. Harrison says his number-one role is to find franchise partners who not only meet the general financial requirements but who also are a fit for Zunzi’s company culture.
“The one thing we preach over and over at Zunzi’s is culture,” says Harrison. “We’re not looking for a franchisee just with deep pockets—we’re looking for someone who embraces our vision, mission and promise."
The franchise program follows the blueprint of the inaugural Zunzi’s + Zunzibar hybrid location that opened earlier this year in Savannah. Zunzibar, which features a beach theme and live music, serves a selection of handcrafted cocktails, frozen drinks, wine, draft and canned beers, and a variety of spiked seltzers. Guests can order Zunzi’s menu favorites from a convenient kiosk or on their phones with QR codes. Zunzi’s also boasts a convenient walk-up window for street traffic and a separate window for online and delivery orders.
“Full service, [quick-service restaurant] and fast casual are facing pressures from every direction,” says Smith. “Diners, especially Gen Z and millennials, look for two different things: convenience or experience. Zunzi’s is a takeout, delivery and catering model at its core that checks the ‘Netflix & Chill’ box.”
Zunzi’s food was made for takeout and delivery, not the other way around. With the addition of Zunzibar, guests can enjoy Zunzi’s award-winning food while having a unique and elevated bar experience.
“Nothing makes me happier than seeing a guest eat out of a takeout box while sipping on one of our handcrafted cocktails like our Capetown Tea,” Smith adds. “We have taken the best parts of [quick-service restaurant], fast casual and full service and created a business model that will give our franchisees every opportunity possible to be successful while giving our fans what they want, whether it be takeout, delivery or a fun and laid-back in-store experience.”
For Smith, success is all summed up in a simple philosophy “#GrowToGive—The more we grow, the more we can give.” That’s baked into the core concept of Zunzi’s + Zunzibar. This is realized through a monthly store-level experience called Zunzifest! where each of Zunzi’s stakeholders is engaged in a unique way. On the 26th of each month, Zunzi’s provides free sandwiches to its fans while partnering with a different non-profit organization to donate 26% of sales for the day.
“It’s such an amazing and exciting experience,” says Smith. “Our vendors get involved by donating or discounting the food and paper products, we close the store early and have a team party to allow our team a chance to connect, our fans love the free sandwiches, and it creates this incredible buzz. When our team, fans, community and vendors are happy, we find our franchisees and investors are happy, too.”
For years, Smith has been asked how big he thinks he can take Zunzi’s. “It was always a hard question to answer. After some soul searching, it became crystal clear that a defined number of units or sales was the wrong answer,” he says “The bigger you grow your umbrella, the more people you can fit under it. To maximize our growth, we will keep opening locations as long as there are stakeholders that we can give to."