How a Philadelphia food cart brand is addressing equity with the franchise funnel

“It just creates a sustainable pathway to empower entrepreneurs in neglected communities because our product is in that one place where customers’ taste preferences, no matter how much they have or are willing to pay for food, all their taste preferences and their health standards have increased,” Foxman says.

Even if customers don’t want to pay $16 for a healthy bowl from a competitor like Sweetgreen, they still want quality ingredients. Wokworks serves that exact customer, with the food they want at the price they want.

While big brands may be hesitant to set up $2 million stores in some of Wokworks’ targeted areas in Philadelphia, Foxman says that’s to his advantage. Wokworks can enable people in these communities to build a sustainable business under the Wokworks brand, a type of franchise model that Foxman says competitors don’t even think about.

Foxman admits that, like many other consumers, he’s changed his eating habits over the past year. Now most of the food he orders is delivered. The variety of unit formats in Wokwork reflects this change. Instead of expecting consumers to come to them, Wokworks brings the product to consumers, often setting up food trucks outside apartment complexes.

“People try to order and access your brand and product in different ways,” Foxman says. “They are no longer just interested in finding a great restaurant around the corner, waiting in line, sitting at a table. We kind of realized that we had to bring our business to the customer and not let the customer drive themselves to our business.

In the first week after Foxman opened Wokworks’ first food cart, the cart made more money than the store. Foxman quickly realized there was an opportunity to scale his food business differently.

Delivery kitchens, food trucks and carts will continue to pave the way for Wokworks’ growth, but the company has also struck a deal with a national grocer to install take-out outlets in stores while creating a retail component for the products. It’s all part of the desire to meet customers where they are, a strategy that fits well with changing consumer trends.

With new locations popping up regularly, Wokworks has proven its appeal, but there are still hurdles to overcome. One being the lack of staff. When COVID-19 hit, Wokworks closed its 10 food carts. To date, only five have reopened due to labor shortages.

“I wouldn’t attribute it to one thing in particular, but I can say there’s no doubt that people left the restaurant industry because of COVID and they decided they weren’t coming back” , says Foxman.

Wokwork’s take on dealing with the hiring shortage is to move away from the well-known corporate mantra of “lots of workers, low pay.” Instead, the company limits the number of operational requirements within units, requiring fewer staff and paying them more.

Many Wokworks employees earn $17 an hour, and food truck operators earn over $50,000 a year.

“What we’ve done is just make the jobs within our company require someone who’s a lot more skilled, who works extremely hard, and who we can pay a lot more,” Foxman says.

Still, COVID was an opportunity to grow the business and explore different channels, like Wokworks’ first ghost delivery concept that opened in April 2020. The ghost kitchen cost around $10,000 to set up, and soon enough , the unit was earning over $10,000 in sales per week.

Instead of focusing on Wokworks’ food carts in downtown shopping areas during weekday lunchtime, the brand has focused on take-out and delivery restaurants in addition to food trucks in resort complexes. apartments where many residents now stayed at home. Wokworks opened locations in three hospitals in an effort to provide employees with high-quality food instead of cafeteria food as the pandemic raged.

In short, Wokworks has proven its resilience, and business has gotten bigger than before, with sales easily doubling from March 2020. Now at 15 units, Foxman says Wokworks is targeting new markets, likely in nearby localities such as New Jersey, New York and Delaware.

Wokworks avoids identifying a specific unit of measurement of growth that it seeks. On the contrary, Foxman says the quality and caliber of franchisees is more important when considering the good neighborhood market.

“We’ve laid the groundwork by making these smart decisions that can mean we go slower, but I’m all for that because I would really like to build a brand and a company that supports and delivers a product. as essential to the people we serve that 30 years from now they want the same thing,” Foxman says.