WHEN Byron Smith, his father John and brother Rowan took over the Perth-headquartered MYO - Make Your Own lunch bar/cafe franchise in June 2007, it had been operating for 14 years and had a footprint around Australia and abroad.
Up against tough competition from Subway, Aroma Café and Croissant Express, former owner Nicholas Bird had developed an innovative and successful business operating 18 franchises throughout Australia, including eight in Western Australia.
But disenchantment from franchisees that deemed the brand and corporate structure stale thwarted the continued growth of the sandwich business.
"We recognised that the business had tremendous potential with the added benefit of having been established for more than 10 years," Byron Smith told WA Business News.
"From that perspective it was very attractive to us because we had something very tangible to work with, but none of the start-up issues.
"We saw a great product, a great business and a strong brand with room for improvement in a number of key areas."
One of the major issues the franchise faced was overall positioning and understanding of what the MYO brand and system offered to the market.
"This was restricting our ability to grow, so we undertook national market research which demonstrated to us that the customer experience was at the centre of what we are and what we offer," Mr Smith said.
"In the words of one participant in our focus groups, she was loyal because we offered her the ability to 'make my dream sandwich every day'."
The research revealed that between 65 and 70 per cent of customers were very loyal and eating at MYO more than twice a week. However, the franchise group was not growing to the level the Smiths expected, and the market was becoming increasingly crowded.
"The issues were two-fold. Firstly, the brand focus on the process of making meals; and secondly, the store image which had not been updated since inception," Mr Smith said.
"The combined effect was that our new customers couldn't see our offer as something fresh, fun and enjoyable with the ability to give absolute choice.
"If we did not address this issue quickly the franchise was going to stagnate as this would have majorly affected the MYO group's profitability."
Mr Smith analysed the market research and undertook an internal franchisee review of the business and their perception of the market.
"The messages from the market were that MYO's significant point of difference lies in our choice," he said. "Freshness and hygiene are fundamental to our business; the issue of value through our pricing needs to be addressed and current inconsistency between stores in the user experience is a major issue.
"From here, with our agency Block Branding, the new brand vision and strategy was created and implemented through a brand identity process, a new brand blueprint document and a new MYO store guide.
"These answered critical issues in our business that came out of our research to overcome the question of growth."
Mr Smith said the franchises to have embraced the new brand design and store refitting were seeing impressive growth year on year.
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