[Worksheet] Foodservice SWOT Analysis 101

When you are embarking on any kind of change for your foodservice brand, regardless of the degree, it is critical to get a good understanding of where your brand fits into the industry landscape. One of the most recognized tools to create this view is the SWOT analysis. However, we often get asked questions about how to properly conduct the process, and to that end we have provided a detailed description and a worksheet. We hope this helps to clarify the process and welcome your feedback and questions.

The ThinkBlink™ SWOT Process

Our SWOT analysis takes an in-depth look at the current playing field within the category and maps out a focused path to ensure success. To begin, we introduce the SWOT method and the reason for it. A good question to start with is: “Where are we, and where can we go?” The first step consists of a 360-degree review in which it is important to explore everything that is known, tried, tested, researched and true. Knowing your competition and identifying your strengths and weaknesses can be your best advantage. It is important not to rule out any ideas. In order to generate one good idea, it is essential to have lots of ideas and put them in multiple categories to provoke thought – refinement can come later. In this way, the SWOT analysis supports a valuable examination once you begin to honestly assess.

Audit and Information Gathering

We conduct management and staff interviews designed to identify the various challenges and opportunities as part of a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis. We recommend that you include franchisees, kitchen staff and frontline staff in your interviews, and if you are a large network they should represent the various regions where your brand is located. A SWOT analysis groups key pieces of information into four main categories:
  1. Strengths: The advantages you have over the competition.
  2. Weaknesses: The disadvantages you have compared with your competitors.
  3. Opportunities: Current external trends that are waiting to be taken advantage of.
  4. Threats: External movements that may cause a problem and have a negative impact on your organization or brand.

The Purpose of a SWOT Analysis

The reason to conduct a SWOT analysis is to develop an awareness of all the factors that might affect strategic planning and decision-making for your brand, and to reveal opportunities and potential problems that should be addressed or at least recognized. The analysis can bring a strong understanding of a consumer’s current perceptions, as well as a solid understanding of the competition, trends in food and health, regulations and points-of-difference. It also helps establish an understanding of the various consumer touchpoints and their impact on brand perceptions. In competitor analysis, it is important to build a detailed summary of competitors in the market, focusing especially on their relative competitive strengths and weaknesses. The SWOT will examine each competitor’s value proposition, competitive position and product differentiation, key equities and other factors.

When to Use a SWOT Analysis

SWOT analysis can be used to obtain an understanding of competitors, which can give the insights needed to craft a coherent and successful competitive position. It can also be used to analyze strategic options such as entering new markets or launching new menu items, or exploring possibilities for solutions to problems.

Elements in a SWOT Analysis

There are four elements in a SWOT analysis. It is important to clearly identify the factors that are both positive and negative when conducting a SWOT.

Internal Factors

These are considered the strengths and weaknesses internal to the organization and are categorized depending upon their positive or negative effect on the organization or brand’s objectives. Strengths: When looking at your strengths, think about them in relation to your competitors.
  • What unique offerings do you have?
  • What qualities do you have that might give you an advantage over your competition?
  • What is your organization’s Unique Selling Proposition?
  • What are the factors that are tangible and intangible inside the company?
  • What are the advantages or distinctive competencies the company has that set it apart from its competitors?
  • Most important, what are the factors that are within the company’s control?
Examples of strengths include:
  • Strong brand name.
  • Good reputation among consumers.
  • A classic menu item like A&W root beer, or the Big Mac.
Weaknesses: When looking at your weaknesses, it is important to realize and accept them.
  • What do your competitors do better than you?
  • What could or should you improve?
  • What attributes do you have that might give you a disadvantage over your competition?
Examples of weaknesses include:
  • A weak brand name
  • Poor reputation among consumers
  • High cost margins

External Factors

  • These are considered the opportunities and threats presented by the environment external to the organization or brand and might include socio-cultural or marketplace changes, or a competitor’s position. Once a list has been generated, it helps to cut it down to just the top ideas so that the analysis can be truly helpful. It is important to proceed in order, recording strengths first, weaknesses second, etc.
Opportunities: During the analysis, be open to new possibilities and look for new opportunities that are not just a quick fix.
  • Are there any white spaces you could own?
  • Can you take advantage of shifts in lifestyle, demographics, social patterns, etc.?
  • What upcoming trends might positively impact you?
Examples of opportunities include:
  • High cost structure
  • An unfulfilled customer need
  • Arrival of new technologies
  • A developing market
Threats: When considering threats, think about current or upcoming trends as well as your competition.
  • What trends might negatively impact you?
  • What are your competitors doing that might negatively impact you?
  • Are there any obstacles?
Examples of threats include:
  • Shifts in consumer tastes away from the brand’s traditional menu offerings
  • New competitors
  • New regulations
If you’ve included everyone from the CEO to the bartender you should start to see some extremely interesting and useful truths reveal themselves about your brand. The SWOT analysis should help you survey the industry landscape and help determine where your brand fits and where it needs to be more competitive. A SWOT analysis should be one of the first steps when embarking on any kind of transformational project.