Faster delivery times, nixed franchise fees: why accessibility is a key strategy for Ben & Jerry’s

Retail head Bruce Lambert shares further details about its recent franchising initiative and why they are taking their off-premise channels more seriously.

Expect accessibility to be a key strategy for Ben & Jerry’s this year, pushing for post-lockdown growth with exploring faster delivery times, waiving its one-time franchise fees for a given period, and strategic improvements in showcasing its ice cream cakes.

Retail head Bruce Lambert reveals the brand has upwards of 70% market share on the delivery aggregators for desserts, and intends to grow that channel — including finding new ways to “surprise and delight” the consumer.

“We're looking at ways to make the operations that much simpler,” he told QSR Media in an exclusive interview. “Having, for example, tablets integrated and orders automatically injected into POS systems means that you don't get rejected orders, you get faster delivery, and you get greater accuracy on the order. There's huge operational wins, just by simplifying things in store, which would be a great win.”

Lambert referenced Sydney-based instant delivery grocery service Milkrun and its value proposition of delivering goods in merely ten minutes as a model of how they could potentially cut delivery times.

“I'm sure at some point we'd love to explore if that's possible,” he said. “Anything over 30 minutes is a bad experience, in my view, unless you're in a super regional area and it's a brand like a local chicken shop and they're doing the delivery themselves. I think there's an expectation for all metro areas now that the sub-30 is [the] bare minimum and sub-20 is what we're targeting.”

Growing its 600-plus pickup points is also an option to explore if there would be existing trade zones that need more coverage.

Its catering arm, meanwhile, is also the chain’s fastest growing channel at the moment, with Lambert saying it is “bigger” compared to some stores’ in-premise performance.

“We're out there doing weddings, bar mitzvahs – you name it, we're doing it,” he quipped.

The business is also looking to expand its click-and-collect offering launched last year, partly aiming to further understand its consumers.

“The one slight challenge you have when you use aggregator delivery is the ability to integrate your own reward systems. To kind of get CRM (Customer relationship management) from those orders is quite challenging; the data is owned by the aggregator. The order goes through them so you don't get the opportunity to really learn about your customer and to be able to reward them for coming back frequently,” he said.

“We're not just here to take anybody who's got money”
The brand is planning to open its brick-and-mortar Scoop Shops in Brisbane, Adelaide, Cronulla, Coogee, Circular Quay and Canberra with a price range between $250,000 and $450,000. It recently waived their one-time franchise fee as part of an exclusive deal in Australia, available for all new franchisees who sign up before 30 September.

“We want to make it as easy as possible to grow our network this year and give us another really good differentiation factor,” Lambert explained, also observing an increase in bank guarantee requirements that would require potential franchisees to have more capital upfront.

Lambert, expecting thousands to apply for the promotion, hopes to get up to three candidates on board.

“We've got quite a strict vetting process. We're not just here to take anybody who's got money, who wants to get into the brand. For us, it's about finding someone that's fully aligned to our social mission.”

On promoting its ice cream cakes, Lambert said the business is seriously looking at store augmentations following the performance of its Burwood Brickworks Shopping Centre outlet.

“We're going to look at how we can display these [cakes] better and also build and design our stores in a different way,” he said. “I wouldn't be surprised if in a store that we build this year we do something different around cakes and really try what we can get behind.”

"Bruce Lambert with the co-founders of Ben & Jerrys."

Lambert with Ben & Jerry's co-founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield. Photo: Supplied

Positive outlook despite pressures
Despite not being immune to inflationary pressures, Lambert is ruling out passing price increases to franchisees at this stage.

“We're trying to avoid that, take a longer term view and get out of this pandemic…allow our franchisees to get some positive, strong cash flow and get things looking a bit healthier before we review our prices because it just doesn't feel appropriate right now,” he said.

The brand recently released its Over the Topped creation, featuring brownies and ice cream topped with cookie dough, chocolate chips and a chocolate drizzle. Lambert teased a future launch centered around biscuits and a “social mission activation” happening in August.

He remains optimistic for the brand this year, referring to the 9% growth last year reported by parent company Unilever.

“​​The health of the brand is really good. People like the product so we've got a really positive outlook and we feel that when people are allowed back out again, you feel comfortable being back out in public and visiting other countries, we're going to see that bounce back really well.”

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