Gaining brand fans around the world doesn’t happen by accident. A strategic approach and due diligence are key, as is a commitment to growing internationally.
Since launching P.F. Chang’s in 1993 and opening our first two international locations in Mexico City and Kuwait City in 2009, P.F. Chang’s has doubled down on our commitment to expand our global footprint – we now operate in 100 international locations in 22 countries outside the U.S. Growing around the world is no easy feat.
Each international location provides its own opportunities and challenges, and the process takes time – sometimes years. It’s crucial to understand everything from geography and demographics to politics and business climate.
Success starts with leadership. A laser focus from the top, infused throughout the organization, provides a clearly defined mission and strategy. It allows the team at home and abroad to understand what matters and what’s a distraction. It allows a brand to be successful, desirable to guests and the team, and fosters growth.
As our company has expanded into new countries, we’ve found four tips that can help businesses lay the groundwork for success to growing their international presence.
1. Identify the white space
When entering a new market, it’s important to do your homework to understand the opportunity in that market, as well as prioritize growth areas the business can capitalize on.
Understanding a country, including customs, supply chain, human resources, resources, construction, operations, and the landscape of other brands in the market is the first step to knowing whether your brand can be successful in this new area.
Historically, we’ve commissioned a market analysis to fully understand the challenges we may face and opportunities we can take advantage of.
2. Understand the market and where you’ll fit in
Once you’ve determined a country or location has the opportunity for guest needs to be met, go deeper with some more probing questions.
Is the market mature enough to handle my brand? Who are my competitors here? Are we focusing on the right branding and messaging for this market? These are all important considerations as you seek to build brand loyalty in a new market – a process that can take two years or more.
In the beginning, a significant investment of time, resources, and focus is required to ensure a successful launch and consumer reception in a new market.
3. Find the right partner
Strong in-country partners are necessary to secure a sturdy foundation for growth. To ensure your own brand’s success, look for partners that have achieved prior success in growing a brand, regardless of the industry. Demonstration of successful growth is key and provides insight into what may be achievable in a future business partnership.
Making sure your partner’s culture matches that of your brand is also important – in order to have long-term success, this alignment is a must. Does the partner have the financial ability to not only successfully launch your brand in a new location, but grow it over the next decade? Do they have the infrastructure in place to be successful? Figuring out the answers to those questions is crucial. Once a shared culture is in place, then the real work begins.
As a protector of your brand, cultivating and maintaining the relationship with your partner is necessary to ensure joint success. It requires an investment of time and resources. It’s critical to stay engaged, making regular visits to meet with in-market teams, to understand their challenges and opportunities. Additionally, supporting your partners and giving them the tools to grow – anything from marketing materials and branding refreshes to technology developments – will help you innovate together.
Understand that tactics that work in one location might not translate, or be available, in another area. Prepare to source backup solutions. For instance, if a certain system or technology isn’t an option in a certain country, find something similar that translates as a solution or local substitute.
Sometimes, partnerships need to change if they’re not working out. If your partner stops growing your brand or shifts their focus, it may be time to make a change. Ensure you’re learning and growing from that relationship.
“Gaining brand fans around the world doesn’t happen by accident. A strategic approach and due diligence are key, as is a commitment to growing internationally”
4. Find the right real estate
Securing the right location is an obvious, but underrated part of success to grow international markets. Finding iconic locations that have high foot traffic and are in prominent areas drive the international success of a brand.
Capital cities are a great place to start. For many brands, COVID has created an unexpected disruption in real estate – with creative opportunities becoming available for those who are seeking growth opportunities.
With these steps in place, you’ll establish a solid foundation. The rest of the work is day in and day out to ensure you’re channel agnostic – answering customer needs and allowing guests to meet and interact with your brand how, when and where they want to. With that, you’ll soon find yourself not only entering a new market, but accelerating growth on a global scale.
The global growth of franchising is an audacious goal. To ensure success, we must hold ourselves to high standards. With innovation and evolution at the heart of all we do, brand fans will follow and become ambassadors. The results will be growth for all.
Rafik Farouk is the senior director of global business development for P.F. Chang’s. In his role with the international Asian culinary brand, he helps guide international growth strategy and oversees expansion of the company