Summer 2010 Cup It: New Approach to Snacks on the Go
New franchise offers snack alternatives for the health and budget conscious foodie.
Until recently, Metehan Oguz’s background was in the industrial equipment import business. A few years ago, the Turkey-born entrepreneur decided it was time to try something new. A friend introduced him to the concept of corn served in a cup. Oguz was attracted to it because of its uniqueness and simplicity.
The result is the Cup It franchise, taking off in the United States. The concept behind Cup It is to offer healthy snacks in a cup so customers can eat on the go.
Cup It serves a variety of foods in a cup: potato, corn, meatballs, grilled cheese sandwiches and even waffles. Menu items are priced between $2.80—$5.00.
The Corn-in-a-Cup is a best seller. Notably so given the many unhealthy food options otherwise available at the malls, Oguz says that customers like the fact that an 8-ounce serving of the Corn-in-a-Cup has only 140 calories. Corn lovers can choose from eight flavors: The Original, Southern, Mumbai, East/West, Roma, Moroccan, West Indies and Parisienne. Oguz says the company uses Malaysian corn, which is sweet and has huge kernels. Malaysian corn has gained popularity over the past few years and is now served in kiosks and carts in 20 different countries.
Oguz is very excited about the new Grilled Cheese-in-a-Cup. “Grilled cheese is a very well known product, but you can’t get it as a snack while you are walking in a mall. We are adding it to the menu so that our customers can easily eat it. The cup is designed so you can pack the sandwich to heat it up again later,” says Oguz. The Grilled Cheese is made to order using American, Swiss, or Cheddar cheese. A Turkish cheese called Kasar is also offered, which is used in a popular Turkish snack called Kasarli Toast. All-natural bread is used for the sandwiches, which are made in a panini press eliminating the need for butter. Customers can request butter if they choose to.
Oguz says Cup It pays special attention to freshness. “All of the food is being served in front of the eyes of the customer, mostly in kiosks. We have open kitchens, and hide nothing from the customer,” he adds.
Uniquely American challenges
Americanizing the Cup It concept has had its challenges. Corn is considered a side dish in the U.S., but in certain countries like Turkey it is considered a meal. Another hurdle was adapting to the stringent health and building codes in American malls. “The American standards are much stricter and cost a lot more money—health codes, fire codes are very hard. You can get those standards, and satisfy all codes, but it takes a long time to get the permits. If we need 4-6 months, most of the time is going to be 10-16 weeks of procedure. If there were no permits needed, it would only take 2 weeks to open up such a small space,” says Oguz.
Cup It offers kiosk, cart, and license options. “The initial cost to set up a Cup It kiosk is between $50K-$80K, depending on the size, location, and landlord criteria. To open a location from scratch takes 4-6 months,” Oguz reports. The carts require a $30k-$50k dollar investment.
Oguz says that Cup It supports prospective franchisees from the application process through a new store’s opening day and beyond. The company evaluates franchisees to make sure they are the right fit. Oguz says individuals or families who have time to devote long hours to a business would be a better fit instead of multi-franchise holders who may be spread too thin.
Growth and marketing
In 2008, the first Cup It location opened at Garden State Parkway Mall in Paramus, NJ. Today there are many more franchise locations around New Jersey, Connecticut and New York. The business is based in North Bergen, NJ.
The franchise would like to see up to 12 locations by the end of 2010 and 10 more for 2011, focusing mostly in the northeast and Florida. Cup It plans on expanding to other states in 2012.
Cup It promotes its menu items by giving free samplings at franchise locations. The company uses social networking tools like Facebook and Twitter as the main branding strategy says Oguz. Oguz explains that by building connections with fans in new cities, it gives new franchisees an added marketing tool. “Much like giant brands, we can build a footprint prior to entering a market and establish a presence,” Oguz points out. For more information about Cup It, visit cupitfood.com.
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