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Researching a Franchise

Franchise Ownership in the New Economy

Before investing in a franchise, consider how the franchisor has reacted to the recession.

Joe Lindenmayer

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A lthough the franchise business model has proven strong in tough times, franchises are not immune to the credit crunch and shrinking economy. The franchise systems that have failed or are on the verge of failing were not prepared to handle the economic challenges. They may have suffered from substantive flaws in their model, personnel, vision, financial means, or a combination of factors.

If you’re considering owning a franchise, it’s in your best interest to have a clear roadmap of how the system of your choice has fared over the last few years, and an understanding of their strategy for success in the new economy. These are the four most important questions to ask before you invest your hard-earned money in a franchise:

Q Will the consumer of today (and tomorrow) buy what you’re selling?

It’s critical to avoid getting caught up in the latest fad. While the allure of getting into a fast-growing or innovative business may be strong, consider whether it has the staying power to survive the next 10 years – or even the first one or two. Make sure your concept will hold consumer value for at least the duration of your franchise agreement. Research pending technological advances that threaten to make your product or service obsolete. If you are looking at a new concept, evaluate emerging “copycats” that can potentially undercut your price or market share.

Q Do the company leaders have what it takes to survive the challenges ahead and make great strides in prosperous times?

You’ll have to evaluate the new processes, programmes, services and products that were put in place to help the company offset the negative impact of the downturn. Furthermore, you need to examine the company’s strategies for taking advantage of the economic uptick.

Reviewing the franchisor’s disclosure documents will give you great insight into their average unit revenues, overall expenses relative to revenues and their budget – all of which will help you to determine whether they can live up to their promises and your expectations. If a system is sustaining itself primarily through revenue from franchise fees, you can surmise that it will have difficulty staying the course against competitors operating off the organic growth of their system. It’s not that investing in a franchise from a new system that may not have built up royalty or system sales is necessarily a bad decision. However, the tight credit market and delayed openings will strain a franchisor that does not have the financial cushion to retain key support programmes and staff.

Q How do existing franchisees feel about the franchisor’s response to the recession?

Ask franchisees how often they saw the corporate staff in their market. Did executives attend meetings and hold conferences where they brought value and showed their ability to make tough decisions with a long-term and strategic solution in mind? Was there an open flow of communication, idea sharing and troubleshooting when the waters got rough?

I’ve heard my share of horror stories about lack of communication and collaboration between the head office and the franchise system. When times are tough, this communication is critical. Franchisees must feel comfortable in expressing their ideas and their concerns, and when their expectations aren’t being met, they need to trust that something will be done to help. Evaluating how the franchisor responded to franchisees’ struggles and the support they provided their system over the last year and a half speaks volumes for the support you can expect to receive going forward.

Q Are there incentives being offered that will help offset your start-up costs and increase your profits?

Many franchise systems have adjusted to economic conditions by offering a variety of financial incentives to buyers. Some offer reduced franchise fees or reduced royalties for a specific timeframe, while others offer enhanced training or other discounts. These types of incentives are intended to help offset the credit crunch and allow the system to grow and push past struggling competitors. So, as a prospective franchisee, it’s important to examine what the franchisor is offering to help you become more productive and profitable in your start-up phase. However, it is even more critical to evaluate whether or not the system is in a position to sustain healthy growth despite collecting less revenues from new franchisees. Financial incentives should not come at the expense of support or innovation from the home office.

Joe Lindenmayer is a military veteran, business owner, and respected voice in franchising.

Researching a Franchise

How Your Fast Food Franchise Can Attract Quality-Conscious Consumers

In a world where customers are becoming increasingly picky about where they dine and what they pick from a menu, it can be challenging to meet demands.

Diana Albertyn

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“Major foodborne illness incidents and outbreaks seem to be increasing. Even innocent or careless mistakes can sicken guests and ruin a restaurant’s reputation,” says Francine Shaw, President of Food Safety Training Solutions Inc. “Foodborne illnesses are 100% preventable and could be avoided if food service organisations adopted a food safety culture.”

Following a listeriosis scare in South Africa early in 2018, consumers have become more conscious about the foods they eat. Today’s customer is more concerned about the cleanliness of the food they buy over its taste.

“How food is sourced, prepared and served is uppermost with many diners demanding transparency when it comes to where they spend their hard-earned money.” – Franchise Association of South Africa (FASA)

The addition of more nutritious choices to your menu may be attracting health-conscious consumers, but it’s the quality of the regular – and perhaps popular – menu items that may win over consumers concerned with quality and not just calorie content.

Related: 3 Ways To Make Your Franchise ‘Instagrammable’

Here’s how you can ensure your customers are at ease with having their next meal at any of your franchises nationwide:

1. Ensure everyone knows why and how it’s done

Even with buy-in from the top-tier, your food safety efforts will be futile if not incorporated into every training touch point and may appear to be optional, when they should be a priority, says Chris Boyles, vice president for The Steritech Institute. When you have well-trained workers who understand the ‘why’ behind food-quality policies, momentum is built and a culture of food safety is created.

“Through encouraging genuine, comprehensive behavioural shifts, your franchise will protect the brand, safeguard employees and sustain a reduction in risk,” Boyles adds.

2. Build food-quality impetus across the network

As a company that serves food to the public you’re in a position of great responsibility. It’s important to pass this message down to your franchisees too. “Co-operation between the franchisee and their employees in this regard cannot be stressed enough,” says Marcel Strauss, Managing Executive of The Fish & Chip Co. – which was voted the top fish brand in 2012.

To get your franchisees on board with tightened food safety regulations, ensure they’re aware of the looming food-quality changes you’re planning on implementing and the ROI for your brand. This enables them to make budgetary allowance for certain credentials and technology you may require to meet certain standards of food safety.

Related: Why Your Franchise Brand Should Be Culturally Relevant

3. Tell your customers every chance you get

Give consumers a glimpse into your production process by including your quality mission statement on customer-facing materials such as your website, social media pages, profiles on external review sites and menus. “Use stories, images and videos to show your practices in action,” Katy Jones, Chief Marketing Officer at FoodLogiQ explains. “Take customers behind the scenes into internal discussions. Practice is the way you demonstrate your commitment.”

To incorporate quality and safety messaging into customer relations, you need collaboration between your food safety managers and marketing managers.

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Researching a Franchise

The Future Of Franchising Looks Smaller (And Fancier)

Franchises are adding smaller locations and reduced menu options, as niche markets emerge, to attract the customer of the future.

Diana Albertyn

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As the owner of a thriving franchise, you’re well aware of the fact that fluctuations in the world economy has both negative and positive effects on business. When it comes to your successful franchise, tough times could mean adopting new trends or seizing gaps, potentially resulting in a new franchise concept you wouldn’t have otherwise thought of.

“The buzz word in global franchising is ‘flexibility and adaptability’,” according to the Franchise Association of South Africa (FASA). “Whether a result of a need to inject some life into stagnant franchise brands or as a result of the new world order brought about by the recession, franchising is embracing alternative and options in a big way.”

Related: As Consumers’ Tastes Change Can Your Franchise Keep Up?

You can do this by either devising innovative areas to franchise or allowing more flexible ways for franchisees to operate to help with their bottom line. FASA has earmarked these as some of the biggest franchising trends in 2018 and beyond:

Smaller, more cost-effective franchise models

When franchisees don’t have high franchise fees and start-up costs to worry about, they can focus more on what customers want, and deliver. The added benefit of smaller spaces include having fewer employees and reasonable rental.

Among the new frontiers in franchising are the food court losing its legacy as the preferred setting for food franchises, as service stations increase in popularity in the industry. A number of brands – like Steers, Debonairs and Mugg & Bean On-the-Go outlets – are co-locating with major fuel retailers to create fully-integrated accessible centres.

Niche markets are offering one-of-a-kind franchises

“The opportunity to get in on the ground floor of a new franchise trend is also on the rise,” notes FASA. This could be offering a unique gourmet food experience in your outlets or a ‘green’ space of energy saving technology in your operations.

“Consumers have gained control of what they want,” says Morné Cronjé, head of franchising at FNB Business. “It is no longer about what you have on the menu, but how your product or service can be tailor-made to what a customer really wants.”

Founded just five years ago (2013), RocoMamas boasts over 60 franchise outlets, clearly responding to the essence of this trend –allowing consumers to build their own burgers without having to pay for items they’d rather leave out.

Related: Key Franchising Trends To Consider For 2018

Stay ahead of the game

For long-term success, franchisors who want to expand their business should start exploring beyond present circumstances and current predictions.

“2018 will no doubt bring its challenges, however for every challenge there is a window of opportunity to explore. We are advising franchisors to scrutinise these trends carefully, it can definitely give them a boost for 2018,” says Cronjé.

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Researching a Franchise

As Consumers’ Tastes Change Can Your Franchise Keep Up?

More of your customers are eating in, and if you’re not packaging, portioning and pricing your food accordingly, they’re heading to a retailer that does.

Diana Albertyn

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It’s generally believed that it’s cheaper to cook your own breakfast, lunch or supper than to go out and pay a much higher price for the same food in your fridge at home. But today’s consumer’s live fast-paced lifestyles – so food is becoming more about convenience.

31% of 6 022 middle-to-high income South African earners surveyed by BusinessTech, put eating out and entertainment at the top of their list of things they’re most willing to cut their spending on in 2018 to save money. Research by supermarket giant Pick n Pay correlates, reporting an increase in customers buying quality convenience food, not just to entertain at home, but for dining at home.

Related: Driving Your Business Growth Towards More Customers

Consumers are empowered by variety

You’ve heard about the ‘fast casual generation’, aka Millennials? They are demanding healthy, affordable eating experiences. But do you know how this affects the future of the food industry, and your business in particular – because they’re not the only ones adapting their lifestyles.

An increasing number of food brands and chefs are compelled to create complete ranges of new, convenient meal options that are not only packaged, portioned and precooked attractively, but affordable too.

The fastest growing sector of retail foodservice for the past four years has been the convenience store sector. Non-traditional avenues of distribution are growing, gobbling market share while establishing new patterns of consumption, price points, and customer loyalty.

Shoppers are becoming value-focused

A savvy franchise would acknowledge that although pre-packaged and pre-cooked convenience food isn’t a new trend among consumers and supermarkets, it is gaining popularity. “Some of the most notable trends in 2017 were an increasing shift to convenience foods as customers looked for both value and convenience,” says Pick ‘n Pay’s Head of Marketing, John Bradshaw.

Related: 5 Techniques To Leave Customers Grinning And Vowing To Return

Value for money and healthier food choices will continue to be top of the convenience food list for consumer in 2018, as more shoppers cut down on luxuries.

“We’ve seen significant growth in the number of customers looking for an easy way to enjoy a good meal without the cost of eating out,” says Bradshaw.

But he cautions that South African shoppers have always been value-focused, and while the most significant shift Pick ‘n Pay has seen is how all its shoppers, no matter what their income levels, are watching their budgets.

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