You can do many things as a franchisor to improve your chances of building a thriving restaurant franchise. However, the most important thing is to engage with the right franchisees.
Even if you’ve ticked all the right boxes and executed every step of the restaurant franchise playbook to perfection, your ability to attract and retain strong franchisees is essential to your success.
If you enlist the wrong partners for your foodservice business, it will not only cost you time and resources but can potentially set your expansion efforts back for years. Moreover, making mistakes when choosing franchisees can take a devastating toll on your company’s reputation AND the relationship with the other franchisees of your restaurant brand.
The tips and examples in this guide will help you to find the right business partners and increase franchisee retention.
- What is a restaurant franchisee?
- What makes a good franchisee?
- Which profiles should you avoid?
- How can you reach potential business partners?
- The importance of building solid relationships
- Final thoughts
Before we talk about franchisees’ hiring and retention process, here’s a definition and a brief introduction to the role that franchisees play in your restaurant business.
What Is A Restaurant Franchisee?
A restaurant franchisee is an investor with a license to do business under your trademark, brand name, and business model. In other words, franchisees are business owners operating a restaurant under your franchise’s brand.
Restaurant franchisees wear many hats. They run their restaurant’s day-to-day business operations, meet with customers and vendors, and hire and train their team – to name just a few responsibilities.
Because franchisees play such a crucial role in your restaurant franchise’s success, it is imperative to team up with the right business partners to help you grow your foodservice brand.
The essence of a franchise is a successful cooperation between two independent parties with the aim of creating a win-win situation.
John van Kooten
Franchise Recuiter at De Beren, The Netherlands
What Is A Good Franchisee For Your F&B Concept?
The first step to finding and hiring great franchisees is to define what makes them ideal candidates for your restaurant business.
The best way to start is by developing the ideal profile for future business owners: what kind of knowledge and experience should they have to qualify as your franchise partner? Which soft and hard skills should they demonstrate? Do they need previous experience or not?
If you’re unsure how to create your ideal franchisee profile, ask your franchise support team for help. A franchise support team typically includes an experienced franchise consultant, lawyer, account, and training specialist. With their combined franchising knowledge and experience, you should be able to come up with a solid profile for a sustainable restaurant franchisee.
Your “perfect match” may differ from the candidates your competitors are looking for. That’s because each franchise is different. Each franchisor prioritises other personality traits, skills, and requirements that fit their business model and brand.
However, some common characteristics show a candidate has a franchise mindset right off the bat:
- They are hard workers with a can-do attitude who are not afraid to roll up their sleeves.
- They don’t have a “get rich fast” mentality and understand that success takes time, effort, resources, and dedication.
- They have an entrepreneurial spirit but are not looking to reinvent the business.
- They demonstrate grit and passion and lead by example. Preferably, they have managed a team before.
- They have a strong network of supportive friends and family to fall back on if things get rough.
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Which Profiles Should You Avoid?
There are several pitfalls to look out for when starting a restaurant franchise, including finding the right independent business owner willing to invest in your business.
If you can define what the red flags are for you, you will save yourself time and trouble. To help you along, we’ve asked Apicbase-users with a franchise if there are any signs that indicate to them whether someone is a good candidate or not.
These are the signs that were mentioned most often:
- lack of sales or marketing experience (in the restaurant industry);
- poor credit history or lack of funds to provide a start-up capital;
- bad performance or inability to demonstrate skills during the interview;
- lack of vision for the business and the future;
- unwillingness to share control with others.
Keep in mind that, to attract your ideal franchisee, you’ll have to come up with an attractive offer that includes perspectives for growth. We’ll talk more about this later in the retention section of this guide.
First, we’ll outline the most important sources of information for entrepreneurs looking to enter a restaurant franchise opportunity.
Recommended reading: How To Turn Your Virtual Brand Into a Booming Franchise
How To Reach Potential Business Partners Looking For Information About Your F&B Franchise?
Once someone is interested in your concept, you need to understand what type of info they are looking for and how to communicate with them.
By offering answers to their most pressing questions and being aware of the sources they use to compare franchise opportunities, you’ll increase your chances of turning suitable candidates into business owners.
These are the primary sources potential restaurant owners turn to when evaluating franchise opportunities:
- Your current and past franchisees
- Your website and social media
- Industry events
- Franchise opportunity lists
- The wildcard: your customer database
Let’s look at each source more closely.
1. Your current and past franchisees
A survey from the Research Strategy Group found that your current and past franchisees are the single most credible source of information for business investors looking for franchises.
While you cannot control what your restaurant franchisees say to candidates, you can manage your relationship with them. And that will have a significant impact on how they’ll talk about your franchise.
You need to know that every good working relationship starts with transparent communication, a consistent and regular feedback flow, and mutual respect. Additionally, franchisees expect ongoing support and recurrent training to give them the tools they need to thrive.
These factors will help make your independent restaurant owners feel valued, making them more likely to become brand ambassadors who happily assist in bringing new franchisees on board.
Offering a referral program is another good idea to encourage your franchisees to help you find suitable candidates. And why not extend this scheme to all your restaurant employees?
2. Your website and social media
Your company materials about the franchise are another significant source of information for interested entrepreneurs. Good news because you can shape these resources the way you want.
The first thing you’ll need is a franchise website or, at the very least, a franchise page on your restaurant’s website. This is one of the first places candidates will look, so it is crucial to consider the information you’ll want them to find there.
We recommend including:
- testimonials from current franchisees (your brand ambassadors);
- info about your restaurant business, such as the company profile, a short history, and key statistics and numbers;
- your brand’s unique selling points;
- the main benefits of joining your franchise (what sets you apart from other restaurant franchises?);
- contact info and next steps for interested investors.
Besides a website, you also need to use the power of social media to showcase your restaurant’s personality, company initiatives, signature dishes, new products, etc. Many franchisors also allow their franchise outlets to create social media accounts for their own business. This can be especially interesting for potential future franchisees.
3. Industry events
Look for annual industry events you can join, like conferences and trade shows in your region or target market. These events are created specifically to show off the most exciting local and global F&B franchise opportunities. But, more importantly, these meetings provide a perfect way to spread the word about your brand by meeting face to face with potential prospects.
If possible, participate in round tables and discussion panels to further increase your restaurant franchise’s visibility.
4. Franchise opportunity lists
Industry organisations and interest groups like Franchise Europe often list franchise opportunities for sale in specific countries or regions. These lists are a great way to reach potential investors online and give them the essential info to become interested. Therefore, we advise you to research the organisations that may be interesting to your brand and reach out to get your F&B franchise included in their lists.
5. The wildcard: your customer database
The ideal candidate for your next franchise unit may already be right in front of you. That’s why recruiting from within your existing customer database is an excellent plan.
Just think about it: your regular customers already know your brand, concept, and products. Also, they love your restaurant (or they wouldn’t be regulars). So, why not ask them if they would like to have their own restaurant?
Talk to your franchisees to see if they already have customers in mind, and ask them to have a chat about it next time the customer comes in. You can also advertise by hanging “always-on” posters in your restaurant and making flyers available at check-out.
How To Retain Franchisees: The Importance Of Building Strong Relationships
A franchise is a two-way street.
Knowing how to reach potential new restaurant franchisees is one thing. Partnering with them and keeping them happy is another.
Once you’ve hired the ideal candidate, you have to ensure they get what they are looking for.
After all, the franchisee’s success is the franchisor’s success (and vice versa). Therefore, whatever you can do to improve the relationship and the franchise’s results will boost franchisee happiness, helping you increase retention.
So, how can you make sure your independent business owners remain happy within your F&B franchise?
- Focus on facetime
- Offer a robust training program
- Internal support network
- Create a CSR program
- Offer a solid tech ecosystem
- Keep the communication lines open
Before we dive into the details, let’s look at a perfect example of a program for restaurant franchisees.
Example of a Program for Franchisees
De Beren is a major Dutch foodservice enterprise with over 80 owned and franchised locations. This is how they explain their franchise opportunity to potential partners in a superclear post on Linked.
How does the franchise work? In a nutshell:
The essence of a franchise is a successful cooperation between two independent parties with the aim of creating a win-win situation. The franchisee is the ‘local hero’; an independent entrepreneur who operates a De Beren-branch at his own expense and risk.
The franchisee is someone with knowledge of the local market, proactive and entrepreneurial by nature, following the guidelines of the formula. This means that in addition to the smooth running of processes within the branch, there is also a bold look at trends and developments that may influence the operating results and strengthen the formula.
When opening an outlet, the entrepreneur is actively supported by the franchisor. To guarantee that each restaurant is operated in accordance with the formula, several clear agreements are made, which are laid down in a franchise agreement. For further exploitation, manuals and preparation instructions are available for the entrepreneur.
Commercially franchisees are bound by agreements; legally, they are fully independent. With the support of De Beren, entrepreneurs can focus on the operational activities of their own restaurants.
This is done with the support of the start-up team. This team actively participates in the first weeks on the work floor. It creates the ideal conditions for entrepreneurs to operate their businesses successfully.
Training and education
When opening a new branch, the franchisee first follows an 8-week training course, during which they work on the general knowledge of the products and methodologies. After that, they work on speed, understanding the entire process and communication. This way, the franchisee is fully prepared to start!
Together with the consultant, the start-up team, and the marketing team, the franchisor is closely involved with the new branches. The script for new units is followed in all activities. A franchisee receives a manual explaining what is expected of the franchisee and franchisor. The consultant is responsible for the supervision of the entrepreneur.
De Beren has gained extensive experience in the field of purchasing, logistics and administration, which is transferred to the franchisees. In addition, De Beren has an Academy where education and training are given on a regular basis. Through ‘De Beren Connect’ franchisees and employees exchange information daily. Furthermore, there is a quarterly franchise meeting, we organise inspiration days and much more. This is how we continuously make each other better.
Okay, back to where we left off: how can you ensure the independent business owners remain happy within your F&B franchise?
There are six priorities.
1. Focus on facetime
Putting more facetime with franchisees on your priority list will help you establish a personal relationship with them, build trust and respect, and understand what makes them tick. When your business partners feel valued and recognised for their work, they are more likely to come to you with questions, concerns, and suggestions to improve the business.
So, make sure to check in with your franchisees face to face regularly to listen to their input, hear their concerns, and alleviate their problems. Visit their restaurant whenever you can. A video call will do just fine if a live chat is not possible.
2. Offer a robust training program
Training is one of the cornerstones of a successful restaurant franchise business. Plus, it plays a crucial role in franchisee retention because it enables them to develop themselves professionally and personally.
A robust training program for franchisees includes, at the very least:
- an extensive operations manual;
- onboarding sessions and initial training;
- on-site training;
- ongoing training through webinars, field training, on-site visits, etc.
We recommend offering soft skills training and leadership courses to help business owners manage their teams better. A team is only as good as its leader!
3. Develop an internal support network
Franchisees need their franchisor’s support, but they can also significantly benefit from peer support from their fellow restaurant franchisees. It’s up to you and your franchise support team to provide your business owners with a community where they can share experiences, best practices, questions, and ideas.
Here are some ideas for platforms to get your creative juices flowing:
- Set up an open online forum accessible to your entire franchisee network.
- Provide franchisees with a space to meet and make it appealing to participate in meetups. For example, you could allocate a small budget to inviting interesting speakers, organising workshops, and providing catering.
- Offer franchisees the opportunity to visit their fellow franchisees’ restaurants.
- Host an annual retreat for franchisees to encourage them to get to know each other better, do networking, and reward them for their hard work.
4. Create a CSR program
Any business should think about giving back to the community. That’s where a CSR or Corporate Social Responsibility program comes into play. With this program, your restaurant can take the initiative to serve your local community and benefit society.
Involving your franchisees in your CSR program can help you secure their loyalty because it helps them connect with their customer network and community. Moreover, it’s a compelling way to let them know you support their social values and initiatives.
KFC, for example, serves society by focusing on waste management and water conservation in their restaurants. Other initiatives include donating food to charity, incorporating local ingredients, promoting green energy, or supporting education programs.
5. Offer a solid tech ecosystem
Technology makes your life and the lives of your franchisees easier.
To increase efficiency and save resources, you can choose from an entire universe of cloud-based POS systems, automated software solutions, and F&B management platforms for restaurants.
These technologies all offer a wide range of features that put your franchisees on the track to success right from the start by centralising various operations in the back and front of house, such as inventory management, a recipe database in the cloud, production planning, and purchasing tools.
Additionally, restaurant tech can help you and your business owners track your franchise’s KPIs, ensuring everyone gets access to the right (and most current) data.
Therefore, selecting the right technology can give your franchisees a significant headstart and serve as their restaurant’s backbone in the long run.
6. Keep the communication lines open
It is vital to give your franchisees ample opportunities to speak up, share their concerns, and make themselves heard. But you shouldn’t limit them to doing this only during scheduled check-ins.
Instead, offer them a platform where they can voice their opinions 24/7. Consider investing in employee feedback tools or setting up franchisees’ committees to encourage your business owners to freely share their ideas and insights.
Final Thoughts: Your Restaurant Franchise’s Success Depends On Hiring And Retaining The Right Franchisees.
Your ability to recruit and retain high-quality franchisees plays a crucial role in the growth and brand value of your restaurant franchise.
To attract your ideal candidates, you need to understand what info they are looking for and which sources they use to compare and evaluate F&B franchise opportunities. Therefore, make sure your brand is highly visible and approachable.
The next challenge is keeping your franchisees invested and happy once you have brought them on board. You should invest in continuous training and development, foster open communication, and enable access to the tools and technology they need to succeed.
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But you don’t have to do this all by yourself. Apicbase will help you and your franchisees achieve operational excellence with its complete restaurant management platform for multi-unit restaurants.
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