How Matthew Corrin Took Freshii From Startup To Global Phenomenon Fuelled By The Healthy Fast Food Revolution

Freshii’s global franchise operation has grown faster than Starbucks or McDonalds even though its CEO was only 23 when he started up the company – RISING asked him to reveal the secrets to his success…

Have A Mission You Can Believe In ‘We are driven by our mission to help citizens of the world live better by making healthy food convenient and affordable. What has happened over the last decade is that it has become a global, genderless phenomenon that we are eating better more days than not. It’s grains, proteins, good fats; not being afraid of fat with avocados, nuts and oils. Getting flavours from spices, not creams and not salt. That’s what has happened over the last decade – I think we figured that out fairly early in our life.’

Talk is cheap, execution sets you apart – that’s my motto

Anticipate The Product Your Customer Will Want Next ‘Trends in healthy [eating] are changing so quickly that you really need to have a menu innovation strategy that’s ahead of the curve, or else you realise that everybody is doing the same thing and it is no longer relevant to the consumer.’

‘Our menu strategy is very unique – we want to be the Zara of healthy fast food. Zara is the most successful fashion retailer in the world, but they don’t really create any fashion. They go to runway shows in London and Milan, and Paris to see what Gucci and Prada and Dolce Gabanna are doing on the runway. And every 70 days Zara brings that fashion trend to the masses at an affordable price point.’

‘So we go to foodie centres of the world and we look for local concepts that are doing something really interesting around health and wellness. Long lines, lots of local buzz but no scale beyond their local city. And then every 70 days we bring that concept to the masses at an affordable price. Right now we are doing some interesting things with chia seed puddings. Both quinoa and kale were introduced to our menu using that strategy. Low-fat frozen yoghurt – we were the first top three concepts in America to bring frozen yoghurt with berry toppings to the mass consumer.’

Talk Is Cheap – Execution Sets You Apart ‘The amount of people who sit in coffee shops or a boardroom, or a conference, or a meet-up and talk about doing things, versus actually doing? Talk is cheap, execution sets you apart – that’s my motto. While everyone else is working on their LinkedIn account I’m actually just executing. I don’t have a LinkedIn account.’

‘The execution is what’s driving us around the world. We don’t really focus on numbers but when we were taking our company public the banks made us have some side-by-side compare charts. So, we opened our first 100, 200 and 300 shops faster than Starbucks, Subway and McDonalds in our earliest days.’

Harness The Entrepreneurial Spirit ‘As passionate as I am about health and wellness, I am equally as passionate about the entrepreneurial spirit. One could argue that the competition these days is much more fierce within the restaurant arena, so why is it that we have been able to achieve unprecedented, industry-leading growth? I think it’s the entrepreneurial spirit. We are in 18 countries now, 80 cities and growing. We have hundreds of franchise owners who are executing every day. They can add a lot of magic to the industry.’

‘It really takes on a life of its own. I’m the founder and CEO, and largest shareholder but I actually think that this company is built of hundreds of owners and one of the reasons I took the company public was that I wanted every person I work with every day at Freshii HQ to become an owner, and they are now. A number of our franchise owners are owners in the parent company, through the stock, and I love that.’

Do Things Differently ‘I never worked a day in the restaurant business before I opened the first Freshii – I was 23. I did a job in fashion for Oscar De La Renta in New York so I think it’s really interesting to bring to an industry experience from other industries. I was bringing nothing from the restaurant industry so for better or for worse I applied no knowledge of how things should be done based on how they had been done. One of the reasons that we took off so quickly was that we were doing things very differently back then – now a lot of people do it this way. We’re not always right. I subscribe to taking ten steps forward and one step back, in good years and maybe three steps back in bad years.’

Numbers rule – if you can’t measure it you can’t manage it

Build A Company With A Killer Culture ‘Thinking about mobile for any type of business is key. Thinking about technology is key. Building a company with a killer culture, not a culture that kills your company is key. While we are selling healthy food what we are really doing is we’re an employment company of a largely millennial workforce. We tick in other ways to different generations, so how do we make millennials really tick, and what do we do to get them fully engaged because it’s not the paycheque, you can get the same money at Pret. So what do you do with the hourly employee so that they choose Freshii over something else?’

If You Can’t Measure It You Can’t Manage It ‘Numbers rule – if you can’t measure it you can’t manage it so we are obsessed with numbers – even though I failed business class. You can get caught up on the look and the feel of the story, you can get caught up on the design or what people are saying on social media and how the press are reporting, or even the temporary share price. But the numbers that actually drive the business are almost all that really matters – if they are going in the right direction in the long term then everything will work out.’

‘I try to tell my team that the biggest thing that they can do to be successful in 2018 is to understand how to rank order the very best opportunities down. At this stage of our growth there are no bad opportunities, there are just different variations of how good is the opportunity is, and you only have so many hours in the day.’

Hold Onto Your Integrity ‘The customer is really looking to us as the health and wellness experts. Integrity is so important in business – in consumer brands it’s critical. In working relationships with colleagues integrity is almost all you have.’

Remember To Stop And Smell The Roses ‘It’s always interesting when you go over and see different cultures like when I went over to the Middle East and you see the locals, not the expats, lining up for your product – I think that’s a pretty good ‘stop and smell the roses’ moment.

‘My parents invested in my first store and were some of the largest shareholders in the company when we took it public. I paid them 400 times their money – that’s a big deal and I financially made them very wealthy. That’s a good feeling because we are a for profit company and it feels as good if not better to make money for others as it does for yourself. When you get to work alongside people who care so deeply about the business, and you get to see them reach their financial goals through the brand that I founded, it’s an outstanding feeling.’

WHAT NEXT? Watch the highlights of Matthew Corrin speaking about executing and failing fast vs failing slowly…

Follow the writer @mattfitnessray