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Five Key Attributes of a Successful Food Franchise

By Alan Someck

In today’s highly competitive franchise food marketplace, it is no accident that some franchises have maintained a strong market position even in this very tough economy. The food service business is often living on the edge with very high failure rates (some estimates as high as 70%) within the first 2 to 3 years of operation. The competition is intense and the margin for error is often very thin. It is therefore critical that food franchises that want to grow and be vital need to maintain a series of best practices. Below are 5 keys to a successful food franchise:

  1. The franchise needs to strike a nerve in the marketplace. The product and or service delivery needs to be superior to whatever else is out there. There should be a clear distinction in relation to the competition. 5 Guys Burgers and Fries has been able to create a superior quality brand in the eyes of the consumer and it’s one of the reasons they continue to grow. This nerve can also have to do with the way you brand yourself. Pizza Fusion promotes itself as an extremely “green” operation, from its use of recyclables to the source of its local products. They’ve received a tremendous response from all over the country from people looking to buy into their business model. The marketplace is becoming very “green” sensitive and Pizza Fusion was one of the first food franchises to ride that trend.
  2. A Strong Responsive Management Team that Puts the Franchisee First. A thriving food franchise understands the franchise model. The franchisee needs to succeed for the franchise to grow. It is therefore important that the franchise management team do all they can to support the success of their franchise family. This means on going training and monitoring of results and being readily available to troubleshoot any major issues that arise. This is not about the franchise banking the franchise fee and collecting yearly royalties. That attitude is doomed to failure and contentious relations. The franchise should always be proactive in supporting franchisee success.
  3. Choosing the Right Franchisee. This is a tough one because food franchises, especially in the beginning growth stages, are very tempted to sell franchise opportunities if prospects have the money. There’s a tendency to hope that the franchisee will succeed without thoroughly vetting them for their ability to manage a food service operation which takes a very specific set of skills. The prospect needs to have a clear strong ability to create quality customer service as well as produce a great product. They also need to understand that the franchise model allows for some independence, but not complete independence. They are still very tied to sticking to the corporate brand and guidelines that the home franchise wants to promote. This is not for someone who wants to start with a proven system and some marketing and then after getting up and running, thinks they can take it from there in any direction they personally feel is right.
  4. Effective Marketing Strategies. In today’s food landscape, having a good or even great product is just where the game begins. To succeed, a food franchise needs to develop a multi-faceted highly comprehensive marketing plan that combines external marketing (getting the customer in the door) and internal marketing (getting them to keep coming back). The brand needs to ring true for the consumer and be able to adapt to changing economic times (for example Chili’s promoting shared appetizer, 2 entrees, and shared dessert for $20). In considering all of the business skills necessary to run a food franchise, a franchisee is probably least skilled in the marketing arena and this is where the franchise has to come through with effective powerful messages that get results. This would also include the use of a dynamic website and social media which can produce a clear competitive edge if used properly.
  5. Smart Growth Plans. It’s very important that a food franchise never outgrow its ability to provide a strong infrastructure for its franchisees. Although this is true for all franchises, it is especially true in the food business because of the long hours and intensive work commitment required for success. A growth strategy that insures core centers of strength before expanding will in the long run be to everyone’s benefit. It may be tempting to sell to franchisees who love your concept, but if the franchise is not ready to have an effective presence in the area, it will more often than not backfire badly.

Food franchises that incorporate the above key attributes are giving themselves a much needed edge in a business that often doesn’t give second chances.

Alan Someck is an advisor and regular contributor to FranchiseKnowHow. He can be reached at asomeck@gmail.com

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