What do you get when you mix a kid-friendly fast-food restaurant with the hip, laidback atmosphere of a coffee shop and a nutritious menu that would make even the most rigid school nurse smile? A tween destination called Ozon that’s worth a look if you’re tired of the same-old QSR partnership options.
CEO and founder Patrick Benasillo rolled out his first two Ozon franchises in Staten Island and Edison, New Jersey malls in 2003. The chain’s slogan, ‘Better Food – Cooler Place’ encompasses its futuristic-looking interior design (complete with hydraulic seating areas and tons of color) as well as its health-focused menu, which includes treats like tosti sandwiches and waffles.
And based on a 2002 market research study conducted with Just Kids Inc. in which tweens largely dissed the low-value toys on offer in most kids meals, Ozon has a different recipe for its ZonDough customer loyalty program. Kids collect points for dollars spent on an embossed credit card, which can be used to buy toys like Bratz dolls (50 points) on-site. With just over 400 ZonDough members signed up so far, the program is still manageable enough that Benasillo personally buys each loyalty toy at wholesale.
But with two new stores opening this June (in Queens and the Staten Island Children’s Museum) and plans to expand beyond New York soon, Ozon needs to form a marketing agreement with a brand that could supply the loyalty prizes for less cost. ‘It’s hard to find toys with good value for US$1.25 to US$2.50,’ Benasillo admits.
With that in mind, he’s actively seeking out smaller companies that are, like Ozon, in their formative years of development. And his goal is to add older-skewing toys to the ZonDough treasure chest. Edgy brands such as Patiki, David & Goliath, It’s Happy Bunny and Dog of Glee are right up his alley. Partnering with Ozon would give these properties a secondary distribution path at the QSR level, as well as building out their fanbases.
If you’re thinking that Ozon is too localized to warrant a second look, think again. Benasillo is negotiating a master license that could see 150 stores open in Korea next year, and a major U.S. retailer plans to integrate Ozon QSRs into its brick-and-mortar stores in the near future.