Working in various roles for a franchise business gives a unique perspective on the big picture. Chief among the lessons learned is that processes need constant re-evaluation.
By Trinity Hall
The franchising business is growing by leaps and bounds, and Dickey’s Barbecue Pit is among the companies on the forefront of that wave. In 2016, the GDP of the franchising sector is projected to see a 5.1 percent gain, while the overall U.S. economy is slated for a 3.1 percent increase, according to IFA’s annual report on the state of the industry from IHS Economics. With such a positive outlook for the franchise industry, many brands are beginning to revamp their franchise programs.
There are more franchising opportunities now than ever before, and franchisors should take a hard look at their franchise development process to ensure that it is seamless and franchisee-friendly.
In my franchising experience, I have managed everything from equipment procurement to design to construction. I have learned a lot about the process from my five years at Dickey’s and 10 years in manufacturing. Most of all, experience has taught me that processes need constant re-evaluation. Just because you’ve always done something a certain way doesn’t mean it’s the best way. About a year ago Dickey’s decided to take a fearless approach to revamping the company’s franchising process. We decided to measure everything, determine what works and move quickly with recommended changes according to data we collected.
In revamping Dickey’s franchise development process, here are the top five best practices we learned along the way:
Simplify and streamline
Simplified store operations are an attractive selling point to potential franchisees, but go a step further to re-evaluate the whole franchising process to discover how to streamline the entire process. Are there steps that can be eliminated? Is there a way to speed up the process so that franchisees can start making money sooner? For Dickey’s, that meant that we invest in a project management team that oversees new store builds. For our franchisees, that means that they don’t have to spend the time and effort talking to contractors and figuring out timelines — they can go into their community and start marketing while the store is still being built.
2. Reassess franchisee qualifications
There are, of course, certain mandated qualifications to enter into the world of franchising, including net worth. However, many franchisors require franchisees to have a certain level of industry experience as well. In reassessing franchisee qualifications, franchisors can increase their talent pool and attract millennial investors who are excited to become business owners. We have a certain recipe for success that we teach our franchisees in addition to ongoing support, and find that no amount of previous experience can substitute for an unwavering commitment to the brand.
3. Appeal to millennials with design changes and transparent commitment to values
In our research, we found that millennial franchisees want transparency, sustainability and a tech-driven experience from their franchisor. We spent about 18 months designing our new concept store, which has the experiential qualities that a millennial investor would not only want to buy into, but choose as their preferred hang-out spot. In the fast casual industry, these changes are a must to keep up with current trends. However, other types of franchisors have just as much opportunity to invest in updates in interactive technology, transparent business practices and sustainable elements. There is obviously an investment up front, but the rewards far outweigh the risks as positive feedback rolls in.
4. Take the word ‘sales’ out of your vocabulary
Today’s franchisee wants to know they are taken care of by the brand in which they have invested. It is easy to focus on franchise sales and neglect ongoing support. Franchisee support can be time-consuming and expensive, but it is the best investment a brand can make in its future. An investment in infrastructure on the front end produces the desirable result in the long term. The Dickey’s team likes to say: “Nail it and scale it.” In looking at our franchise model, we changed the word “sales” to “development.” This one slight change in verbiage means that the corporate office takes an active role in helping new franchisees build stores. After the sale is completed, we stay involved in the process from construction to training to opening. This creates loyal franchisees who become multi-unit franchisees.
5. Do only what you do best, and nix the rest
Dickey’s does Texas-style barbecue. That’s it. In fact, in a time when many brands are adding menu items and exploring new additions to expand their reach, Dickey’s actually reduced our menu to seven meats and eight sides. We have found a certain niche where we do really well, and everything else is sideline to that. I would encourage brands to take a hard look at what they do well, what their customers love and what their franchisees can execute flawlessly, then stick to it. That is really the best way to create loyal guests and franchisees.
Trinity Hall is senior vice president of development for Dickey’s Barbecue Restaurants. Find her at fransocial.franchise.com.