Franchising as a Growth Strategy: Is it right for your restaurant business? (Part 2)

Today, I’m sharing Part 2 of the article, Is Franchising the Right Way to Grow Your Restaurant Business? An article for which I was interviewed based upon a webinar of the same title that I presented at RestaurantOwner.com approximately five years ago.

Timing is Everything

A restaurant operator knows the time is right to franchise his concept, ideally, after duplicating profitability and customer engagement at several locations. That proves systems and processes are working without the restaurateur being on the premises.

Slightly less than ideal, but certainly doable, Segreto continues, is having a single, highly successful location that runs like a well-oiled machine even when the owner is not on site. That said, the time can also be right when the restaurant owner wants to help others follow his vision to success, knowing that the business now is franchising as opposed to foodservice.

Understandably, the smaller and more efficient the restaurant, the better. The lower investment is attractive to experienced operators who may have $1 million to invest but would rather do it with five to I0 units rather than investing it all in one high-dollar operation with little to no room for error. That’s why the QSR (quick-service restaurant) model tends to be attractive, says Segreto.

Segreto also sees an excellent opportunity for successful food truck operations transitioning to brick and mortar. The key in all of this is simplicity in operations while maximizing efficiencies for higher profit margins. This is especially true of QSRs without grills or hoods, but with preparation of fresh salads and other dishes. Some don’t even have freezers, which is even cutting down space requirements.

Franchised takeout and delivery concepts will continue to proliferate, Segreto predicts. What I also see changing is a move away from single-item franchises such as French fries or dessert items. Basically, if it’s a single, complementing, or add-on item on a typical menu it won’t sustain a franchise operation. The few units that survive will be in high-foot-traffic areas albeit with high rents.

It will be a struggle, but some will survive, he suggests. I also believe we’ll see more modeled after typical pizza operations: large takeout and delivery, high percentage of online and phone orders, (and) counter-type operations of a high-margin family style product such as barbecue and fajitas.

Initial Steps

The first thing Segreto recommends would-be restaurant franchisors do is conduct a feasibility study. It’s understanding the competition, he explains. It’s understanding what’s working out in the restaurant industry in your particular food segment. It’s looking at where are the best locations. Where are the successful brands succeeding? What does the real estate footprint look like? What does the size of the space look like? What is the competition that’s out there? Who’s growing in my particular area that I anticipate going head-to-head with? So, the last thing you want to do is open up your Greek food restaurant as a franchise and go directly across the street from an actual brand that is doing the same thing.

Development of an operations manual is another necessary step, Segreto says, and this is really complex. It really is the specific development of every process, every procedure. Keep in mind, as I said before, franchising is being able to repeat the system over and over and over and over again; being able to duplicate it, to replicate it, so somebody can pick up that operations manual and actually learn from it and be able to operate that business.

“Some of the most successful brands – in any sector – are franchises. In the restaurant business, they are household names. For many independent operators, franchising their concept is the so-called Big Hairy Audacious Goal. Before you take that big leap, there are a lot of small and critical steps to consider.” – Paul Segreto

Franchisee and franchisee employee training and program development comes next. How are we going to go ahead and get individuals who are interested into your brand in a franchise situation to be trained correctly? – he asks. You have to develop a training program along with a training manual. You also have to have a train-your-trainer program, because the person who might be doing your training today might not be around (in the future), and you have to make sure you have everything documented from that.

Ongoing support, understandably, is critical. We have to support the individuals who are out there. Obviously, we don’t want to just pick up the phone and say, ‘Hey Joe, how are things going?’ There has to be an action plan. There have to be goals. There has to be a way of motivating them. There has to be a way of coaching them. There has to be a way of understanding at a glance where this franchisee might be having some issues.

Web site development must account for each new franchisee that comes on board. “They’ve got to have specific unique URLs (uniform resource locator, the address of a World Wide Web page) on your site. If you wind up selling 10, 20, 30 franchises, obviously you have to have the structure in place to be able to accommodate those location pages. Is it going to be Pizzarama Number One? Is it going to be Pizzarama, Abilene, Texas? How are we going to identify them? There must also be a franchise development web site, a page on the regular web site that also has its own unique URL that can be used as a landing page.

A franchise relations management computer application is another valuable addition. Compliance mechanisms must be put in place, he urges. How do you track royalty payments? How are you going to do it for multiple franchisees? There are different franchise relationship computer applications out there; some are very proprietary, and you can’t even get in the door at $25,000.

But there are a lot being released now which are Microsoft-dynamic, and are able to integrate QuickBooks very, very effectively. He calls this an absolute necessity in order to track what’s going on. And if you’re selling any type of supplies or goods to them, this is another way of tracking.

Another essential step is prototype restaurant layout and design. Rarely, says Segreto, does someone open a restaurant and afterward say it is exactly what he wanted. We’re always saying, ‘I wish the bathroom was a little bit different. I wish we had a little bit more room in the server area. I wish we had a little bit more room in the kitchen because we’re kind of running into each other.’ Keep in mind; this is something that your franchisees are depending upon you for, so obviously there’s a cost involved.

Likewise, development of signage specifications is a necessity. Whatever the franchisee is going to have, you’re going to have signage specs. What is the sign going to look like from the outside, on the building itself? What does the road sign look like? If it’s on a multi-use line, what is the small side going to be? Of course, make sure your logo fits on it.”

The franchise disclosure document is really the big one, – says Segreto. Within it is a franchise agreement. Again, you could reign in the cost on this, but a lot of it depends on how good your franchise attorney is. I would never, under any circumstances, ever, ever, ever recommend an attorney do your disclosure document that doesn’t specialize – not touch on but specialize – in franchise law.

The timing for a certified financial audit varies according to state. “You won’t need this your first year, at least in the State of Texas, says Segreto. But if you’re franchising in the State of New York, you will need it in the first year.” It calls for an independent audit firm to look at and sign off on the venture. “It says, ‘These are the financials as I know them.’ State administrators look at this to make sure that you can support franchisees, that you’re not just doing this on a wing and a prayer.

According to Segreto, a franchise registry is something that’s popped up of late. It is part of the Small Business Administration (SBA) registration. It’s almost, almost impossible for a franchisee to get an SBA loan without the brand already being vetted out and listed on the franchise registry, and there’s some reason behind it. By the same token, however, it also shows the franchise candidate that this brand is serious and has actually invested in getting listed on the registry.

You Can Do It Yourself… And Other Myths

If we can take anything away from Segreto’s advice it is that franchising is a tremendously complex endeavor. Few operators – even successful franchisors – have the breadth of knowledge and skills to do even a portion of the required steps without professional advisors.

Of course, the franchisor can try to do it himself, he adds. I’ve seen many, many individuals in the restaurant industry, and otherwise, try it. They always come running back and say, ‘I’ve no idea how to handle this. There are too many things going on at one time.’ So, you’re going to need a consultant to kind of ‘hold your hand’ along the way and make sure that everything gets done in a very progressive manner.

The human factor in a franchise relationship should never be overlooked. As Segreto has found, A few individuals may just be needy and whiny about everything. Could you handle that? How about a franchisee that’s not complying, not paying royalties, causing issues in the marketplace, and as a result you must take them to court and possibly terminate the franchise agreement and get them to cease operations? Keep in mind, his lifesavings are on the line. Could you handle that?

His point is that a franchisor has to have the right personality and has to be committed to the long-term vision. There are a lot of myths about franchising: ‘If I franchise, I’ll make tons of money. If I franchise, I won’t have to work as hard as I’m working now. I can just retire.’

The vision of franchising a restaurant concept can make some over-confident, Segreto has found. Some are likely to say, ‘Once I teach a franchisee how to run the business, then I don’t have to do anything else. All they do after they sign is pay me royalties.’ That’s not true. You have obligations.

Indeed, Segreto concludes, this might be the biggest myth there is. A lot of franchisees that, all of a sudden, make an investment have an entitlement attitude that, ‘Because I invested X-amount of dollars, the business should just succeed.’ You find that all of a sudden, they’re on the golf course a lot more. They bought that new boat. You’ll be surprised what comes out of the woodwork.

Read Part 1 of this article HERE.

Assistance & Resources

If you’re interested in exploring whether franchising is right for you and your business, let’s discuss. I can share with you my 40+ years’ franchise development experience while also introducing you to resources necessary for you to make an informed decision – one that is right for you and your brand! You can reach me via a LinkedIn message, by email to Paul@Acceler8Success.com, or by phone or text at (832) 797-9851.

Have a great day. Make it happen. Make it count!