Exclusive: Q&A with Pinkberry's Global Head on Expansion, Strategy and Finding the Right Partner
Pinkberry has been on an international expansion tear, opening up operations in dozens of countries in the last few years alone. And VP of global development Ryan Patel has traveled far and wide, from Venezuela to India, to help lead the charge. As part of Bisnow’s official media partnership with MAPIC, the retail conference at the Palais des Festivals in Cannes, France, Ryan spoke with us as part of a series of exclusive interviews leading up to the event Nov. 18-20.
Bisnow: Pinkberry has over the last couple of years expanded to a number of new markets. What's the company's international expansion strategy?
Ryan Patel: It's been all about the idea of finding the best partners in the world, starting with Alshaya in the Middle East. They now have more than 50 stores from Kuwait to the UAE and Turkey. When we saw success, we thought we should keep building off that. Again, it wasn’t about us saying we have to be in a certain country, but about finding the right partners to help build the brand and grow. When I started with the company four and a half years ago, we had 95 stores in two or three countries. We're now in 23 countries.
Bisnow: How do demographic differences impact the business from country to country?
Ryan: The customer profile internationally has been very sophisticated. People know brands and like experience. We’re an impulse piece and our core consumer is looking for something light and refreshing. And our partners want consistency. The design, the feel, the service and the product are the same. It’s a big and very important deal to us. Of course we locally source, but the aesthetic being consistent is part of the plan.
Bisnow: What about in terms of real estate and site selection?
Ryan: You can say Los Angeles real estate is really tight, but you talk about rents in Japan or the Middle East, and it's really tight. The real estate site characteristics are very much the same, but it's all about being in the right place. It’s not just cost that changes size—it’s also site availability. We want to be with the retail where there is the most foot-fall. We don’t want to be in the food court. We have to be flexible with size to get the best places. So we often have to go smaller not to be priced out.
Bisnow: How does MAPIC help the company stay abreast of international trends in retail?
Ryan: You’ve got some of the top developers in the world, and it’s incredible to be able to connect with them and get them to think of you. Some of the larger franchisees are there as well and you can talk business. It’s incredibly useful to see the trends in countries you may already be in as well, so you can see what’s going on and being able to tie that in to future plans as more stores open.
Bisnow: What other advantages does attendance bring?
Ryan: With MAPIC focusing on multiple continents, it's made it THE conference to be at for global expansion. Especially for those that want to be in front of retailers—you can’t beat it. The thing I took away last year (the first year Pinkberry attended) is that the networking events are very meaningful. It’s much more than, “hey, how are you doing?” You’re creating a bond and talking about really qualitative stuff.
Bisnow: What's next for Pinkberry in terms of international expansion?
Ryan: The UK will be next. We’ve got partners signed there. As for other regions, we are focused on finding the right franchise operators and helping the franchisees we have grow.