Okay, you’re a burger chain. Hearing all this talk about sustainability, obesity, and the locavore movement, you hire a consulting firm to help you deal with the pressure to change. What do you do when the consulting firm comes back to you and says: “Your problem is you make hamburgers”?
For many chains, the answer might be to fire the consultant. But as Harvard Business Review blogger Andrew Winston reports, the Swedish franchise Max Burgers took the news (delivered by sustainability gurus at The Natural Step) to heart, and began to minimize its reliance on the core product. The company adopted a lot of standard-issue sustainability measures–deploying solar panels, planting trees in Africa to offset its carbon footprint–but in addition, Winston reports, the company took the astonishing step of trying “to influence its customers to buy less meat.” Not only its competitors’ meat, but Max Burgers’s own meat, as well.
The chain did this by adding lots of non-beef items, like chicken, fish, and veggie sandwiches, to the menu. They also, writes Winston writes, “prominently display climate footprint data in store (there’s transparency for you), and suggesting customers buy [non-beef] sandwiches periodically (a là Meatless Mondays).” In essence, the chain doesn’t merely tack on healthy and sustainable items to its core menu, but instead re-envisions the entire customer experience in the context of healthy, sustainable eating.
With new data on fast-food labeling, we’ve already seen that honesty and openness in dietary information can bring about healthier choices for diners. If Winston is right, Max Burgers shows how by taking the next step–making healthy, informed dining normative, enjoyable, and evocative–franchises can not only survive, but flourish.