Finding the right franchise opportunity can pose a challenge if you aren’t sure which industry you want to pursue. After all, there were more than 3,400 franchisors in the U.S. representing over 773,600 individual franchise locations at the end of 2019. Every year, an average of 300 new brands offer a franchise opportunity.
Although the industries represented within the franchise community have diversified significantly over the past decade, the segment most commonly associated with franchising continues to be food. Yet, restaurant franchises come with their fair share of shortcomings – especially when compared to other types of franchise opportunities with similar investment levels. As you research, it’s important to take into account:
- Labor costs needed to successfully run the business
- How the operating hours fit into your lifestyle
- Whether it will yield the return on invested capital you’re looking to achieve
- If it will stand the test of time versus fast-fading trends
- The ability to stand the test of time through a pandemic or economic downturn
Taking these factors into account, the retail optical segment offers a multitude of advantages in comparison to the restaurant sector, which is why it’s growing and more dynamic than ever before.
In High Demand, Adaptable Within any Market
Although retail optical franchises operate in high traffic, high visibility locations similar to most restaurants, they have the ability to easily adapt to any market system and work successfully.
Only 35 percent of the U.S. adult population has 20/20 vision, driving demand for retail optical franchises that can help consumers determine what level of vision correction they need and supply them with affordable, attractive eyewear or contact lenses – all in one convenient location. Eyecare is an essential service that millions of people with vision issues can’t live without, whereas most consumers can live without visiting a restaurant.
Additionally, instead of having to compete with other popular food franchises in the area, a retail optical franchise like My Eyelab can work hand-in-hand with other surrounding businesses – creating a symbiotic relationship that serves both the local business community and consumers.
“Unlike the restaurant industry, we have a lot of white space – several territories where we don’t have stores,” said Mike Wootton, Vice President of Franchise Development. “We have a lot of markets where we can continue to build the business out and do it the right way.”
A Simplified, High-Margin Business Concept
Restaurant franchise owners often seek the simplest business concept possible, but they’ll still face complications that retail optical franchisees won’t face.
- The average staff size at a My Eyelab franchise is roughly four employees. By contrast, a fast-food concept will likely need at least that many people on a single shift – and potentially more during the busiest parts of the day.
- Restaurant owners have to deal with spoilage and supply chain challenges that can eat away at their bottom line. A concept like My Eyelab sells products that don’t have a shelf life and you don’t have to assemble on-site. Meanwhile, 80 percent of our frames are unique, private brands exclusive to My Eyelab, and our direct relationships with frame and lens manufacturers helps us to keep costs down.
- Additionally, it’s important to keep in mind the average sales ticket per transaction. In most quick-service restaurants, the average is less than $10. So, these types of concepts rely on a high volume of customers to achieve profitability. On the flip side, a concept like My Eyelab sees an average sales ticket of more than $200.
As a result, franchisees can generate more revenue with fewer customers and employees than a typical restaurant and at a higher margin due to the private brand mix.
Using Technology for Strong Customer Service and Franchisee Success
Technology has become an essential component to owning a successful business. At My Eyelab, technology is a huge contributor to how our franchisees can capitalize on the site selection process and telehealth-centered business model.
“We have some state-of-the-art modeling programs that allow us to analyze sites in a way we couldn’t before,” explained Mike. “We also looked at what has worked for other brands in the past and where they are – we’ve taken the process a step further and built an analytical model that will allow us to compare not only one site, but multiple sites and trade areas as well – ensuring we’re giving franchisees the best opportunity to pick the best site.”
Among restaurant franchises, the competition for real estate is fierce, particularly for locations with drive-thrus. With a retail concept like My Eyelab, the restrictions for finding a competitive site are far fewer.
Along with site selection, our technology is a key player in exceptional customer experiences. The in-store experience is cutting-edge and tech-forward – making eye care a seamless, stress-free process every step of the way. My Eyelab is the only vision care franchise that has developed a proprietary telehealth system, transforming and simplifying the retail eye care experience. Our customers can walk in to get their eye exam completed without the need for an optometrist to be on-site. An on-site trained technician captures all the pre-test measurements while a built-in network of doctors can remotely assess the results and provide a prescription. Customers are then at liberty to choose from our huge selection of affordable frames or contact lenses.
“We want to make it as enjoyable as possible to come in and buy glasses – we want them to be able to walk out with a great pair of eyeglasses at a good price as quickly as possible,” said Mike.
Staying Resilient in the Face of Economic Crisis
As business owners continue to feel the impact of COVID-19, it’s an ideal time for the entrepreneurial-minded to look into becoming their own boss. Finding a franchise that is recession-resilient and can adapt to challenges should be a key consideration during the research process.
Unlike the majority of restaurant concepts, My Eyelab is an essential business that has been able to operate locations nationwide and serve community members safely. Thanks to our telehealth model, the need for our products and services, franchisees can depend on a successful business model that performs well during even the most challenging economic circumstances.
“We have this forward-facing concept that has the technology and the value-driven products for our customers,” explained Mike. “It’s a fully integrated omnichannel offering that allows a franchisee to see the path to success – it’s not only a business that’s going to work for a year or two, but you can also really see this concept working for the length of the franchise agreement.”
In addition to providing essential products and services to the community, My Eyelab is a sustainable, simple operation compared to owning a restaurant. Restaurants require a large staff and lengthy hours, and they are a high-transaction, low-margin business – meaning a return on investment is much smaller for the franchisee. With a small staff, reasonable hours, fewer headaches and a high margin, My Eyelab has the ability to bring in a strong ROI for franchisees.
Looking ahead, retail optical franchises like My Eyelab are positioned for success – thanks to a forward-thinking model that had already begun implementing tools that proven vital for business growth.