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Franchisee Q&A

The predicted contribution of franchising to the UK economy is now reckoned to be £15.1 billion and this figure is set to grow. With franchises growing exponentially year on year some of the biggest names on the high street are franchised. We caught up with franchisees from some of the UK’s most well-known franchises to find out why they decided to franchise and their plans for the future as they give you their top-tips on taking the plunge into the franchise sector.

We speak to:

    Jo & Austin Boland, Papa John’s Plymouth

      Nick Kington, Riverford Bury St Edmonds

        Jamie Lloyd, Subway, Wales

          Fifi Zahedfar, Beatons Tearooms, Petersfield

            Rhys Davies, Sheffield, Mango Bean

            What made you decide to open a franchise in the food and beverage sector?

            Jo & Austin Boland: “My husband Austin was a baker in the merchant Navy and so you could say we had a bit of food history!  We were looking for a safer future than life at sea offered and so when a Perfect Pizza store came up a stone’s throw from where we live in Plymouth, we decided to go for it.  Sometime later, we moved over from Perfect Pizza to Papa John’s and we haven’t looked back!

            Jamie Lloyd (30) is a successful Subway® franchisee, with a team of 15 staff across two stores in Gorseinon and Morriston in Wales. Jamie became a franchisee at just 19 years old, making the decision to start his own business with the support of his parents, who joined him in the start of the venture.

            Jamie: At 19 years old I was fresh out of college and didn’t know what professional avenue I wanted to go down. I first explored a role with the DVLA, however, I really enjoyed being in a customer facing role and I found working in a supermarket developed my confidence and interest for the food industry. This prompted me to start exploring the possibility of franchising, and found myself drawn to the food and drink sector.

            With so many parts of retail moving online, even back then, the food and drink sector seemed to provide the best future-proof option.

            Rhys Davies: Originally my plan was to go into the industry I knew already, however, I found these franchises to be overly expensive and also the number of good locations seemed to be limited, so I expanded my parameters.

            Nick Kington: I believe that there are still many opportunities to develop a loyal customer base with a regular recurring income within the food and beverage sector, particularly in a specialist area such as organic produce.

            I also believe that the emergence of internet centric businesses with direct home delivery is a growing area within the industry.

            Fifi Zahedfar: I wanted a change of career, and to own my own business, a franchise allows me to do that with the support of operating under an established business format.

            I’d already chosen the food beverage or hospitality sector because I wanted to get away from looking at a screen and commuting.

            How did you decide which franchise to choose?

            It was not a quick decision and Rhys spent a lot of time assessing his options before choosing Mangobean.

            Rhys: I came across Mangobean and immediately fell in love with the brand; its fresh, vibrant style and the fact it was unlike any other coffee shop on the high street.

            Jamie: It was during a family BBQ in 2006 that the Subway® brand first sprung to mind and, from there, my father and I requested the brand’s franchising brochure, which contained all the details we needed to make an informed decision.

            At first I was really overwhelmed by how big the Subway® franchise was, but I was also inspired by its history and how it had grown over the years, from being just a small start-up in Connecticut to a global franchise business. The brand was still growing and I saw the potential it offered.

            Fifi: I did my research, reviewed lots of businesses online and went to an exhibition.

            Nick: I had been a Riverford customer for several years so it was an obvious place for me to start. Once I had started researching Riverford and entered into the business planning phase, there was never an alternative option.

            Jo & Austin: Geography played a big part.  We wanted to run a business close to where we lived.  Who would have guessed at that time, we would become part of such a world-wide recognised brand now running two Papa John’s stores in Plymouth?

            How did you go about funding your franchise?

            Jamie: I was fortunate enough to have the backing of my parents, and we ventured into franchising together. We secured a bank loan, which enabled us to open our first store. I felt completely comfortable doing it this way, as I knew we were entering into a successful and proven business model.

            Fifi: Mainly through personal investment.

            Jo & Austin: We funded the franchise purchase from savings.  Papa John’s runs an incentive scheme for franchisees opening new store with deals on equipment and assistance with marketing plus reduced royalty fees which has been a great help with our latest store opening.

            Nick: I was lucky enough to have some personal savings which I used to cover the initial investment and star- up costs.

            Do you feel that you have the support from those at the head of the brand?

            Nick: Yes, I receive good support from Riverford, I work closely with David, my business development manager, so I feel part of a strong network.  Both parties, myself and Riverford rely on each other to continue to grow the brand and deliver a high level of customer service.

            Jo & Austin: Papa John’s support is amazing.  For example, we opened our second store in Plymouth recently and a member of the head office team joined us for a week to help-out.  As well as real-life staff training and operational support, the experienced extra pair of hands and eyes helped us deal with the take up of doubling the size of our operation! 

            Similarly, if we ever have questions, staff are always on the end of the phone.  This includes ‘out of office’ hours which is, of course, when our stores are open.  Someone is always there if we need them and that back-up is invaluable.

            Jamie: Once we had committed to our first store in Neath, which was an existing store we purchased, I went on a two week training programme in Connecticut, which was a fantastic experience. That was 11 years ago now and, at the time, the Subway® brand in the UK was very much in the early growth stages; it was really exciting to be part of something on the edge of a popularity boom.

            After the training, we had our Neath store up and running within four weeks – it was a whirlwind!

            We had the support of the Subway® brand throughout the process, which was really reassuring. Our Development Agent for the region visited us several times throughout the set-up process and was always on-hand to answer any questions or provide any advice. It was invaluable to have this support.

            Fifi: Yes. We’ve received training and ongoing support on all aspects of the business since day one, including having an on-site manager for the first weeks. 

            And it continues! There’s a monthly official (but unannounced) site visit, and we see the ‘heads of the brand’ often, apart from weekly meetings.

            How much training did you have to give your staff prior to opening and were you fully briefed to do this?

            Jo & Austin: Even though we ran the Perfect Pizza store previously, Austin visited Papa John’s European HQ in Milton Keynes for full training.  At the head office, they have a mock-up store which means training can be hands on and replicate real-life.  We also visited a Papa John’s store in Poole too. 

            This was useful to understand how to handle the fresh dough correctly – all Papa John’s pizzas are made with freshest ingredients for a better natural flavour.  We’d only used frozen dough previously, so we needed to learn how to make the finest pizza with the fresh ingredients properly! 

            When we moved over to the Papa John’s: ‘BETTER INGREDIENTS.  BETTER PIZZA’ concept, our customers certainly noticed the difference!

            Fifi: I was given an initial 1 week’s intensive training, then my team were also given a week’s training before opening before having that first month of managed support.

            Jamie: We took over an existing store, so all our staff were already trained. However, it soon became apparent that there was room for improvement. I used the skills and knowledge learnt at my franchisee training to re-educate and guide my staff, sharing everything from practical skills through to customer service tips.

            Our staff also benefit from online courses via the University of Subway®. I offer a £25 incentive for all new starters to complete the required courses within the first three months, to encourage and reward their commitment to learning. In addition, we’ve now developed our own induction booklet for any new starters, to ensure they’re fully informed of the role and its requirements.

            Do you have plans to open further sites?

            Fifi: Maybe!

            Jo & Austin: I’ll never say never but we are concentrating on looking after the two outlets we have currently!  The benefit of having two stores is that we can achieve more rapid and consistent delivery times for our customers to enjoy our fantastic product! 

            Plus we have extended our geographical reach, which mean we can grow our local customer base within the local community.

            Jamie: Yes, absolutely. I plan to open a further two-three stores over the next two-three years. Finding the right location is key; this will be a big focus in 2018.

            With investment and support from his family, Rhys’ dream of running a franchise business has become a reality and Rhys is excited to be part of the Mangobean family and is already looking to the future.

            Rhys: “My aspirations for the future are to expand beyond this store and open in more locations in the Sheffield area.

            “We will, of course, initially focus on achieving the quality of service the customers of Sheffield deserve in this store. When we feel comfortable we are achieving that goal, the next step would be to expand and service our loyal customer base in multiple locations.”

            Mangobean has 5 more coffee shops opening in the next few months, in Leeds, Liverpool, Gateshead, Hartlepool and Stockport, with a further 10 due to open by the end of 2018. The company plans to open 200 stores across the UK in the next 5 years, in addition to outlets in the education and health markets.

            “It’s an exciting time for us and we’re looking for franchise partners to join us in 2018,” adds Shane Saunders, Mango bean’s Head Honcho. “It has been a journey of many twists, turns and obstacles and we’re delighted to have Rhys Davies, our franchise partner for the Sheffield store on board!

            “We can’t wait to see how successful his store is going to be over the coming months and years.” 

            Would you recommend franchising in the food and drink industry?

            Nick: Yes, I would. It’s a diverse area with a variety of opportunities and different business models.

            Fifi: Yes.

            Jamie: I would really encourage anyone thinking of buying their first franchise to go for it, but don’t underestimate the challenges that come with it. If you’re a younger age like I was when I first became a franchisee, it’s a huge amount of responsibility to take on and you do have to make sacrifices, you can’t always go out with your mates or take impromptu trips.

            You have to be reliable and there for your team. But the rewards are fantastic too – you have a flexible lifestyle as you aren’t committed to a 9 to 5 desk job and there’s huge variety in your day-to-day activity.

            Jo & Austin: Yes, absolutely! Franchising is a good model generally as all the loop holes and risks have been covered off by the franchisor.  They’ve done it all before and can talk you through it and know where you could go wrong before you do!  It’s also a good set-up if you’ve never run your own business before as there is so much support.

            Running your own business also offers flexibility.  With a young family, it means I have time to attend events at school which many full-time working parents simply cannot.  However, we also have to be responsible – we can’t just phone in sick!

            In your opinion, what makes a successful franchisee? 

            Fifi: Someone who is willing to work hard and has a hands-on approach. A manager who can lead from the front, a ‘people person’ who is not afraid of putting themselves out there.

            Also appointing the right staff for your establishment is essential, ensuring they are given the correct training and ongoing support.

            Jamie: Having a solid team around you. I think it’s vital that franchisees invest in their team, - you can only be as good as the team around you and ultimately, they can make or break you in business.

            Nick: Be prepared to roll your sleeves up and be hands on to get to know your business well, particularly in the early stages. It can be hard work but very fulfilling.

            Jo & Austin: For us, our success is dependent on us being hands-on and involved in the running of our stores.  Our local friends order our pizza and so I want them to be delighted with their orders!  By keeping a close eye on the running of the stores we can ensure the consistent level of quality is enjoyed by our customers on an ongoing basis.

            What top tip would you give to somebody looking to operate a franchise?

            Jo & Austin: Ideally choose a Franchisor that is a member of the British Franchise Association (bfa), this means they will adhere to their code of ethics which protects franchisees.  Be prepared to do your research as this will become a long-term partnership.  Talk to the franchisor in detail. 

            Importantly, your values will need to match those of the franchisor.  You will find out how helpful they are and the type of people you will be working with.  This job is actually so much about people and you need to feel like they are helping you reach your goals.  We can’t fault Papa John’s in that regard! 

            Nick: Do plenty of research, prepare your business plans and speak to existing franchisees before taking the plunge. You really need to ensure that you know the business you are about to be involved in, what each day will involve and what will be expected of you.

            Fifi: Be prepared for hard work, it won’t happen on its own. Listen to the advice of those who have already been through the process – that’s the reason you choose a franchise business.

            And always be on the lookout for opportunities to establish your reputation.

            Jamie: My top tip would be to not underestimate the work involved to make your franchise a success. Whilst having the security and support of a global brand is invaluable, this alone can’t be relied upon. It takes a lot of hard work to get a store up-and-running to where you want it to be, but the rewards make it worth it.

            Having a successful business with a great team around me, makes me proud to be a part of the Subway® family.



            Friday, 19th January, 2018
            MVH Media
            Food Franchise