23/07/2008 - 22:00

Healthy options weigh in

23/07/2008 - 22:00

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With almost half of the top 50 fastest growing franchises in Australia food businesses, there is no reason to go hungry.

Healthy options weigh in

With almost half of the top 50 fastest growing franchises in Australia food businesses, there is no reason to go hungry.

And while some of the brands are different, the trend appears in line with the WA experience.

"Western Australians are money rich but time poor", says Sumo Salad managing director, Luke Baylis.

"The populace has embraced the growth of shopping malls, and more food courts mean more food."

Health-conscious consumers are also increasingly getting wary of being served up a coronary bypass.

"The menus and the quality of food of many fast food outlets offer a poor option to customers who are increasingly on the lookout for the high-quality, high-taste nutritional choice", says Mr Baylis, who is the director of the country's second fastest growing franchise.

With eight stores opened in WA in the past two years, Sumo Salad has chosen to be highly selective in its locations.

"Rather than just expanding aggressively, we want to open stores that will perform. All our WA ventures so far have been exceptional and we are looking to open three more in the coming year".

Mr Baylis said operating in the WA market does present its own unique problems, particularly with the high costs of running a business and economies of scale.

"The lack of well-developed or populated areas makes doing business here a challenge", said Mr Baylis.

"We are looking to open stores in connected towns of at least 50,000 people, which is proving hard."

The company is now looking to open three stores in Auckland, New Zealand, which Mr Baylis hopes will be an easier market than WA.

But fellow fast-growing franchise Healthy Habits founder Katherine Sampson has a different view of the WA market.

"We are extremely optimistic about our prospects in the state and are sourcing an experienced franchise licensee-come-business-partner, who will look after the west coast arm of the business," she said.

"The right person will have an intimate knowledge of the local market and look after operations without the company draining our resources at our Victoria base".

And it isn't just food courts that are on the menu, with Healthy Habits entering offices, schools and hospitals, making for a flexible business model.

Should adopting the flexible business model prove successful, Ms Sampson hopes to have about 30 franchises in WA.

But, Ms Sampson does foresee a potential shortage of staff that may limit the company's progress in WA.

She said a food retail background certainly doesn't appear essential.

"Among our franchisee backgrounds are ex-personal trainers, hairdressers, casino croupiers and bank managers".

The one requirement seems to be "passionate about healthy lifestyles and quality of life".

The Carillion Arcade Perth Sumo Salad owner, Raymond Wabjaja, agrees, saying the future of food retailing is with healthy options.

"Having dealt in food retail before, I'm convinced the future lies in going healthy. People see their nutrition as part of their overall quality of life and the counter is always buzzing," he said.

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