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Dean Lightfoot, Area Developer and master franchise holder of Nautical Bowls. /Photo provided.

Nautical Bowls explains in six words how it plans to beat the competition

The brand is a newcomer to the superfood scene in Australia.

Make happy customers great products fast.

That six-word mantra is how US-based superfood fast-casual brand Nautical Bowls will differentiate itself from the competition as it opens its first outlet in Australia this December.

Nautical Bowls is a US-based fast-casual franchise offering a menu of healthy superfood bowls. The brand was founded by husband and wife entrepreneurs Bryant and Rachel Amundson. After opening two outlets, both felt that the brand was doing well. 

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The two reached out to Snap Fitness CEO, Peter Taunton. Peter saw the potential for the brand and advised Bryant and Rachel to franchise. Peter then joined the company as one of the co-founders and as the CEO. Nautical Bowls currently has 61 outlets, with 53 more currently being constructed.

Ahead of Nautical Bowl’s launch in Australia, QSR Media spoke with Dean Lightfoot, Area Developer for Nautical Bowls and holder of the master franchise for the brand in the country about their plans.

“We’re not coming to the table to prove a concept. Other brands, even coffee shops, have an Acai bowl. However, the great thing about this is that the concept is already proven and the product is something that consumers want,” Dean explained.

Last October, Brazilian Acai cafe store Oakberry announced plans to expand its reach in Australia, opening new outlets in Cairns, Paradise Point, and Terrigal bringing its outlets to 45 across NSW, QLD, WA, VIC, and SA.

Dean said the growth that other brands are experiencing is further proof of the demand for the food group, which he considers a new category in the QSR industry.

Happy customers and great products

A differentiator for Nautical Bowls is its sorbet base. Dean explained that Acai bowls are runnier or melt very quickly. With a sorbet base, it will be firmer and perfect for deliveries and takeaways.

"We can get an Acai bowl ready in 60 to 90 seconds." /Photo provided.

“We’re working with all the top delivery aggregators for home delivery options for all our stores. We can get an Acai bowl ready in 60 to 90 seconds,” Dean said.

This is a huge differentiator because according to Dean, this food segment typically takes up to three to ten minutes to prepare.

“This is really really fast and to make this happen we made some changes in the Australia operations. Which is something I learned from my background with McDonald’s and Subway. Make happy customers great products fast,” Dean said.

Dean said he was given free rein in Australia to make changes to the menu, store fit-outs, and operations. Typically American brands, when coming to other markets like Australia, cannot change too much to fit the local consumer.

Dean already has made plans to create alternative sorbets for the Australian consumer.

“We’re going to do a protein sorbet and a seasonal fruit sorbet. This means consumers can always come in and get their Acai sorbet or they can have the coconut, mango, chocolate or any others we can think of and try,” Dean explained.

The sorbet itself won’t be imported but made in Australia. He said they were collaborating with one of Australia’s largest wholesalers and manufacturer of sorbets to keep it local.

“The other important thing is if the Acai berry’s fad or popularity tapers off, we can quickly replace it with something else that is coming in the market,” Dean said.

Store formats

Nautical Bowls plans to open three outlets this year.

One of the formats will be an in-line restaurant with both indoor and outdoor dining. This will be opened at Q Super Centre, Gold Coast. 

The brand will also open a kiosk-style walk-up at Hillary’s Boat Harbour in Perth. The other one will be in West Village in Brisbane’s West End. It will be a countertop facing the mall.

“Some other leases that are signing or have signed are in-line stores. There’s also a university location with an outdoor area." /Photo provided.

“Some other leases that are signing or have signed are in-line stores. There’s also a university location with an outdoor area,” Dean said.

Challenges

Dean has had 30 years of experience building brands so he could already pinpoint the trouble points that could arise and has already made plans to mitigate them.

“The point of sale system is critical. I need to have an inventory management system so that my corporate stores and my franchisees can manage their food costs and we can monitor it with them. We have a dashboard that franchisees will have access to and we will be able to see if they encounter any pain points so that we can quickly assist them when needed,” Dean said.

Dean mentioned that they are already working with a technology partner for their POS system that comes with a built-in loyalty program. Nautical Bowls will also be utilising digital technology to ensure franchisees are up to speed with operations.

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For example, they are using what Dean calls a digital checklist where they can access learning modules that teach franchisees all the different operations from creating the food bowls and learning how to do other tasks properly.

“I want to make sure that our franchisees have the tools necessary. There’s already an online training platform with videos and all the processes ready to go. If we have successful franchisees, by the default we will also be successful,” Dean said.

For the future, Dean envisions Nautical Bowls to be a dining experience with a small cover for sit-in customers. But because of all the things Dean and the Nautical Bowls team have readied for the launch of the brand, he believes they won’t be restricted to this format.

“We can go 15 square metres to 100 square metres. One thing I have learned is to say no to locations that don’t work. We are not going to grow for the sake of growing. Sometimes it’s not smart to pay high rents for the sake of being somewhere just to look good. It’s just not worth it.”

Dean said they plan to grow to 80 outlets in the next five years.
 

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