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Key Takeaways from 2021 IFA

IFA 2021 - Ignite, the Virtual annual conference

The 2021 IFA Convention, Ignite, took on a whole new look this year with a virtual event that spanned over two weeks and included top talent from inside and outside of the industry. While we didn’t get to meet and physically see one another, the event was packed with great content and takeaways to grow business in 2021. The Dishers’ favorite moments: our very own President, Jen Campbell, sharing best practices on franchisee profiles on a panel with other industry experts, and the well-attended business solution roundtables. What a hit! Here are just a few noteworthy takeaways from the Hot Dish team:

Resilience and Grit Propel Brands Forward

There were so many stories of franchisors showing the true spirit of the industry through resilience and innovation. The constant pursuit and grit shown by brands helped propel them through the darkest days of COVID-19.

As usual, the mystery case study was a hit and featured one of our favorite brands: Tropical Smoothie Cafe. Charles Watson, CEO, shared the brand story and the growth they have experienced over the years. Today, the business is centered around its core values and business pillars to ignite success. “If you want to be the most beloved brand, we feel like the way to get there is to inspire better,” Watson said. “There is no better way to rally your franchisees, your customers and your employees.” Well played, Tropical Smoothie Cafe.

Ghost/Host Kitchens Find Their Place

COVID-19 propelled consumer buying into a virtual world, and it has forced innovation for the restaurant industry to gain market share. Whether it is a vehicle to test out a concept in a new market or simply provide variety to an area that can’t support multiple brick and mortar locations, host kitchens have found their place. Host kitchens popped up in hotels and family dining restaurants that no longer had the sales to support their closed dining rooms. Brands are expanding coast to coast based solely on the ghost kitchen model and they are thriving. And third-party delivery providers are the ones delivering the product to consumers, and consumers are responding with their wallet.

Delivering the Customer Promise Drives Profitability

Founder of Jimmy Johns, Jimmy John Liautaud, told his story of success when he didn’t want to join the military like his father hoped. Instead, his father invested in the business with him. Talk about a business that found its niche and owned it. And how did they do it? They delivered on a customer promise that they cannot afford to break – deliver a great product to your door fast. They know their business and they kept innovating to deliver on that promise, and it ultimately has attracted franchisees in droves. The franchisees appreciate the relentless pursuit of franchisee profitability. Now in the Inspire Brands portfolio, the brand lives on under the founder’s name, and he is happy to sit back and relax and let them do the work. A true American success story.

Until Next Year

While this year’s annual convention was anything but normal, it was certainly still an educational and inspirational experience for all those who attended, spoke and sponsored. We hope to see you all in-person next year, for what will sure to be one of the biggest and best reunions in the franchise community. To learn more about the IFA, visit

Can’t wait to speak to us at the next IFA? Contact us today to see how we can ignite success for your brand!

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