Exclusive ContentPrevious IssuesSeptember/October 2023

Online Exclusive: Special Stores Spicing Up the Grocery Game

Between gourmet goods, unstaffed stores, and digital developments, these specialty grocers are disrupting the shopping experience

By Raavya Bhattacharyya 

When it comes to grocery shopping, some things never change—but perhaps they should. Grocery stores balancing the reality of retail management with customers’ changing tastes, makes a sector that can provide the best of both worlds for prospective franchisees. For a handful of franchises, that means pushing the grocery store model forward through technological innovation, niche offerings, and more accessible locations. Aisle 24 and M&M Food Market franchises elevate the shopping experience and allow shoppers to get unique products tailored to their tastes, at convenient times, with rare and exclusive flavours.

Find More Forward-Thinking Franchises in the September/October 2023 Issue of Franchise Canada!

Aisle 24

In the ever-growing landscape of Canadian grocery stores, Aisle 24 stands out for its unique product offerings and commitment to sustainability. Aisle 24’s unstaffed, 24-hour grocery stores offer a space for discovery and convenience like no other. 

At the heart of Aisle 24’s success is its dedication to curating a diverse selection of products, which helps it stand out from other grocers. Aisle 24 takes pride in collaborating with local Canadian companies that offer distinct and exceptional products. John Douang, who co-founded the brand in 2015, says the stores focus on a “better-for-you product offering where you find unique brands that are not found in other major grocery stores.” Whether it’s the everyday essentials or delightful indulgences, Aisle 24 offers a wide variety of options to cater to every shopper’s needs. 

To enhance the grocery shopping experience, Aisle 24 relies on automated approaches and grocery vending technology. “We use digital price labels and a simplified self-checkout process to help customers get in, get what they need, and get on with their day—as it should be,” says Douang. When entering a store, customers are greeted by a seamless and secure process, with the Aisle 24 mobile app serving as a passcode to the location, allowing customers to access the store, quickly grab their goods, and go. 

Our goals are to be the gold standard in convenience and grocery across all markets in Canada, with eventual expansion into international markets.

John Douang, co-founder, Aisle 24

With additional features like Camera Vision and in-app live agents, Aisle 24 delivers unparalleled support and convenience. 

Aisle 24 is committed to minimizing its environmental impact. By partnering with technology and hardware providers and product vendors who have similar sustainability practices, the brand ensures that its operations align with eco-friendly practices. Sustainability is not just a buzzword for Aisle 24; it’s an integral part of the brand’s mission to create a greener future. 

For those aspiring to be part of Aisle 24’s success, the brand seeks franchisees who are adaptable, coachable, and excited by change. “On top of ensuring that our franchisees meet the requirements financially,” says Douang, “our franchisees go through an interview process with myself and our franchise development team to ensure they have the right attitude, personality, and grit to be an Aisle 24 franchisee.” 

Franchisees undergo a comprehensive training course to familiarize themselves with the brand’s operating system. Ongoing training and continuous support ensure that franchisees stay up to date with the latest technology and processes, enabling them to deliver exceptional service. 

As a unique concept in the grocery space, Aisle 24 offers entrepreneurs an opportunity to be part of a growing system. Regular check-ins, assessments, and communication with franchisees are key in maintaining a high standard of service, and franchisee input is always welcome in improving systems and enhancing the customer experience. 

Looking towards the future, Aisle 24 has an ambitious plan to open stores across all provinces in Canada over the next few years. Douang says, “Our goals are to be the gold standard in convenience and grocery across all markets in Canada, with eventual expansion into international markets.”

M&M Food Market

For more than four decades, M&M Food Market has offered exceptional culinary experiences, setting itself apart from other grocery stores with an unwavering commitment to personalized customer service and an innovative approach that blends technology with a passion for food. 

M&M Food Market’s success is fueled by the brand’s team of knowledgeable meal advisors who go above and beyond to provide customers with meal ideas and product suggestions tailored to their individual preferences. 

The brand boasts a diverse product portfolio of over 450 premium-quality, innovative items designed to cater to the diverse lifestyles of Canadian families. With over 40 gluten-free options available, M&M Food Market ensures that everyone can find something delicious to enjoy. What truly sets them apart is their unwavering promise to Canadians—all their products are free from artificial flavors, colors, and sweeteners. 

But M&M Food Market doesn’t stop at exceptional customer service and high-quality products, according to Andrew Macdonald, director of corporate communications and public relations. They leverage innovative approaches and cutting-edge technologies to enhance the grocery shopping experience. The M&M Food Market Rewards program uses an industry-leading AI platform that analyzes shopping patterns and product preferences to serve up personalized offers to customers.

In addition to their loyalty program, M&M Food Market has embraced the world of e-commerce in reaching its target customers. The online platform offers convenient shopping options, including in-store pick-up, curbside pick-up, and delivery through platforms like Instacart, Uber Eats, and DoorDash. By expanding their reach through these marketplaces, M&M Food Market makes its products as accessible as possible. 

As for their franchise teams, M&M Food Market invests heavily in training and development to ensure every member has experience with up-to-date training. Their industry-leading training platform, known as The Menu uses adaptive microlearning to provide relevant and timely information to their front-line staff. Through personalized daily training questions and learning modules, M&M Food Market equips each team member with the knowledge and tools to deliver the exceptional in-store service customers have come to expect. 

Sustainability is also at the forefront of M&M Food Market’s operations. “We have been continually evaluating and improving our products and ingredients in the development of new and existing products while encouraging our supplier partners in the continuous improvement of sustainable fishery and aquaculture practices,” says Macdonald. 

M&M Food Market’s success lies not only in their brand but also in the passionate franchise partners who embody their values. Ideal franchisees must have a love for food, strong communication skills, business acumen, and a track record of successful team management. The brand offers comprehensive training and on-site support to franchisees, ensuring they have the knowledge and tools to operate their businesses effectively. 

To foster a collaborative and supportive franchise community, M&M Food Market prioritizes open and transparent communication. They facilitate collaboration through various channels, including internal training and communications platforms, webcasts, breakfast meetings, regional gatherings, and national conventions. 

Looking to the future, M&M Food Market aims to expand their footprint in Canada by opening new stores in new markets and revisiting communities they previously served. The brand’s Express program remains strong, providing new touchpoints for reaching customers. Consistency across franchise locations is of utmost importance to the brand.