One could say the thrust of enterprise began in the 1400s with the search to discover the “New World”. Explorers came in droves to amass great wealth and plant the flag for the mother country – a motivation that continues to this day with international operators populating the American landscape, driving globalization, commerce and ethnic appreciation. The United States has become a gateway to success for the foodservice sector, with the National Restaurant Association projecting total restaurant industry sales for 2017 reaching $798.7 billion. Within that number is the presence of global entry and participation.

Over the last two decades, with the rise of Millennials expressing not only their buying power but also their tastes and preferences, this diverse population has spurred the demand for more global and ethnic flavors, opening the door to more international brands wanting to grow in the United States. These brands have come from far and wide: Europe, Asia, South Africa, the Nordic countries and the Middle East, to name a few. Oftentimes, The Elliot Group will learn of a company’s interest in coming to our shores through a referral from a private equity group or the brand itself having researched a reliable resource to jump-start the acquisition of sophisticated, strategic leadership to pilot the brand’s maiden voyage.

What the companies learn quickly is there are immediate challenges to consider: the American consumer has certain flavor and service preferences; they must critically define their consumer demographic and the geography where they can be found; what is the complement of product and the price point that defines it; and, most opportunistically, can they be the impetus to create a trend. Some of the early brands such as Pret A Manger and Le Pain Quotidien, with its iconic communal table, led the way for Nando’s Portuguese flavor profile and Peri-Peri chicken to break into the U.S. by way of Washington, D.C. There is also Giraffas from Brazil that underwent a “Fast-Casual” makeover to its upscale menu, serving Picanha burgers, a special cut of beef familiar to the brand’s first U.S. market: Miami, Florida.

Not only does The Elliot Group assist in identifying talent, Elliot Advantage is the consulting arm that provides advice and counsel to companies considering entering/operating in the U.S. market. The team’s breadth of experience and knowledge support every project with first hand data regarding consumer and market trends, the value between company owned vs. franchise operations, as well as how to avoid pitfalls with construction, required entitlements and legal parameters.

While Americans have been spreading brands across the globe for many years, it seems only natural for the wave to have turned. Travel has had a huge impact on the U.S. food landscape as every airport reminds us we live in a global universe with choices that introduce us to new ethnic options – a very clever way for a country to penetrate international commerce. We also are reminded that these ambitious concepts provide opportunities for jobs and careers thus stimulating our economy. While America is known as the land of opportunity, those adventuresome and entrepreneurial concepts that come face a myriad of pressures and challenges, but if they are consistent and tenacious they can join the ranks of Pret A Manger, Nando’s, Le Pain Quotidien and Maoz. In the famous words of Neil Diamond, “They’re Coming to America, Today”.

While Americans have been spreading brands across the globe for many years, it seems only natural for the wave to have turned.
Paula Renick, Senior Vice President