Having worked as a consultant at Technomic, the leading foodservice consulting and research firm for nearly a quarter century, one comment has been consistent; “How do I successfully grow my restaurant business?”
From the small, independent operator who wants to expand and open more units to the regional chain that is looking to grow outside its local comfort zone to the large chain operators who already have expanded but seek to accelerate, franchising is always part of the conversation.
Franchise operators often struggle with strategy, as their strengths are in running restaurant operations and not managing growth. These are very different skills. So, here are some key commonalities I’ve observed over the years that successful operators have employed in growing their franchise businesses:
Be prepared. Outline a step-by-step approach to site selection, construction design, equipment package, interior decor, signage, training manuals, pricing guidelines, local marketing strategy and operational procedures for front and back of house. Most operators run their business without these written guidelines, so this step can be cumbersome to develop but nevertheless crucial.
Take a cautious approach. Don’t expand too quickly. Opening profitable stores is key to long-term success. Failure means store closures and negative sentiment from your brand’s customers.
Create strong unit economics and partners that will support your business. This means careful selection of suppliers, distributors and service vendors that have an aligned strategy, serving your industry with the capacity to work hard to support your business. The infrastructure for franchise operations is essential to managing a franchise with few distractions.
Qualify your franchise. Best-practice operators select and approve franchisee candidates with experience, capital and, most importantly, passion for foodservice. These requirements are non-negotiable. Candidates looking for a career change or retirement are not well-suited for hospitality. Seek out foodservice experience that is looking to grow from working at a restaurant to owning one. Focus on multi-unit franchisees versus Single-unit operators and drive for area- development agreements with experienced leaders.
Spend the appropriate time with franchise partners, helping them select the right real estate partners, identifying the best locations and giving them guidance on what constitutes a good lease.
Train, train and train some more. It’s a critical ingredient for a franchise to have the appropriate education and preparation. Getting a store open is just the beginning. Then it’s all about breaking even and driving profits. Good franchisors spend quality time with every new opening and don’t leave until operations are smooth.
Make sure there is a customer-feedback loop to ensure that your franchise is following protocol and building customer satisfaction with a plan to boost positive online reviews.
Lastly, stay engaged and support your operator. Provide positive and constructive feedback on key areas for success and step in when necessary to lend a hand. Listen to your franchise and do your best to address their concerns and to provide solutions to problems as they emerge.
The best opportunity for those looking to engage franchising programs for growth is to work with an expert that has a proven track record to lead the way and provide guidance.