The Simple Greek: Franchising Today

The Simple Greek is a fast-growing company that’s leveraging technology to grow its brand even further.
By Kat Zeman, Knighthouse Media

Combining quality ingredients, open kitchens and Mediterranean food in a fast-casual setting, The Simple Greek is taking the country by storm and redefining the traditional concept of a Greek restaurant.

A fast-growing restaurant concept, the Blue Bell, Pa.-based chain started with one restaurant in 2016. Today, it has 33 locations and another 17 set to open in the next 6 months throughout the United States.

“We believe there’s a demand in the market for Mediterranean food concepts,” President Brian Carlisle says. “People are looking for healthier options and the Mediterranean Diet has been ranked as the No. 1 Best Diet in 2019. It’s food that people understand.” Simple info box1

In an effort to better serve its growing number of franchisees, The Simple Greek is leveraging technology to increase efficiency and reduce operational costs. Some of these efforts include a new ordering and loyalty app, social media initiatives, third-party delivery and online training.

Media Mavens

In October, The Simple Greek plans to launch a new mobile ordering and loyalty app powered by LevelUp, a truly omni-channel, personalized guest experience that allows customers to pay with their phone and receive loyalty benefits.

In addition, the company has started using technology in other forms. Roughly 95 percent of its franchise owners are engaged on social media. They are driving their own social media platforms, specifically, on Facebook and Instagram.

“This level of activity has helped us to become more aware of how our customers are experiencing The Simple Greek and it has helped us to greatly improve our day-to-day store operations,” says Lynn Hoban, vice president of marketing and brand development.

Although it only launched earlier this year, about 50 percent of its franchisees are also actively engaged with BirdEye on a daily basis.

“BirdEye is an online feedback aggregator for social media platforms,” Hoban says. “Our franchise owners use it to monitor and respond to online guest input.”

A social listening and responding platform, BirdEye’s all-in-one software includes customer review monitoring, review generation, review marketing, customer surveys, social media, support ticketing, online listings, webchat, business insights and competitive benchmarking.

Responding to growing consumer demands for delivery options, The Simple Greek started to engage with a number of third-party delivery providers this year. They include Grubhub, Doordash, UberEATS and EZ Cater.

“There’s a change in the industry,” Carlisle says. “Now you’re taking the food to your customer instead of the customer coming into your restaurant.”

Underdeveloped Sector

Entrepreneurs wishing to open a franchise with The Simple Greek must have a net worth of $300,000. The company charges a franchise fee of $30,000 per location.

It also collects an ongoing royalty fee of 5 percent and a 2 percent marketing charge. The initial investment, including build-out cost and franchising fee, ranges between $316,000 and $586,000 depending on location. An average The Simple Greek restaurant ranges between 1,800 and 2,400 square feet.

The Simple Greek was mentioned as a high growth, emerging concept to watch at the 2019 National Restaurant Show by Technomic, Inc., the nation’s leading strategic research and analytics firm for the food industry. It was also ranked as No. 4 on the “Future 50” list of emerging brands this year by Restaurant Business Online.

“We are fast-growing, fast-casual restaurant in an underdeveloped sector,” Carlisle says. “There are a million burger, pizza and fried chicken places out there. Our concept is in a relatively new category. I think that helps make the brand appealing. We feel like we have the right food and right process in place.”

When considering franchisees, The Simple Greek seeks entrepreneurs with a business or restaurant background who have a passion for the brand and what it represents.

“Veterans tend to be extremely good operators,” Carlisle says, adding that veterans receive a 50 percent discount on the company’s $30,000 franchising fee.

To help assist its franchisees, The Simple Greek opened a new online university this year. TSG University, powered by Schoox, is an online training tool that helps the company improve its high level of operational standards and enable faster training times and a higher number of in-store employees who are properly trained.

Authentic and Fresh

Founded in 2015 by Marcus Lemonis, The Simple Greek has earned itself a reputation for authentic flavors and an affordable and quality menu. Its restaurants feature foods inspired by Greece and the Mediterranean seaboard. Its menu offers a variety of dishes such as build your own bowls, salads, pitas and Greek yogurt with a variety of proteins, toppings and sides.

“The food is the star of the show,” Carlisle says.

When visiting The Simple Greek, customers experience an interactive ordering process that allows them to watch their handmade dishes being prepared and ask questions.

Although the company started catering from the onset, it’s a growing part of the business. “Catering is also a huge opportunity for our brand and is rapidly growing,” Hoban says. “Currently, catering accounts for approximately 15 percent of our total sales.”

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