Franchisee Rights FAQs

Mar 23, 2018 - Blog by |

What are your rights as a franchisee? Whether you are looking for more ways to grow your business or facing a potential dispute with a franchisor, this is a very important question. While you own your own business, you and your franchisor are inseparably intertwined, and your rights are largely dictated by the terms of your franchise agreement. However, there are various laws that apply to the franchise relationship; and, depending on where you operate your franchise, you may have additional protections under your state’s franchise law as well. Then, there are the general rights that exist by virtue of the fact that your franchise agreement is silent on certain subjects. Q&A with Franchise Attorney Jeffrey M. Goldstein Q: Are franchisors required to impose uniform standards on all franchisees? As a general rule, franchisors can impose different standards on different franchisees. While uniformity is one of the hallmarks of the franchise model, there are a variety of reasons why some franchisees may be subject to different standards than others. For example, franchisees in urban areas may need to do more to stand out from their competition than those in rural towns. Or, some franchisees may have negotiated additional protections into their franchise agreements. However, there are limits on franchisors’ ability to treat franchisees differently. Providing disparate treatment without a justifiable basis may constitute franchise discrimination. Franchise discrimination is a violation of franchisees’ rights, and legal remedies are available. Q: Do I have the right to negotiate my franchise agreement? Yes, […]

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Building Wealth: Can You Get Wealthy By Owning Franchises?

Mar 16, 2018 - Blog by |

Can you get wealthy by owning franchises? Undoubtedly, the answer is yes. Some franchisees are able to make significant sums of money, and they build careers as serial franchise owners. According to an article on Forbes.com, the largest restaurant franchisee in the world, Greg Flynn, has nearly $2 billion in annual revenues. The article goes on to list nine other franchisees that bring in over $500 million per year. However, for every Greg Flynn, there are countless franchisees who is struggling to make payroll or pay rent. For each of these struggling franchisees, there is another franchisee who has already failed. According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), franchisees fail at approximately the same rate as independent business owners, which means that roughly half of all franchises go out of business within the first five years. Also, keep in mind that Flynn owns 800 restaurants, has relied heavily on institutional capital, and has a team of professionals working for him behind the scenes. But, let’s assume that you are planning to start small, and that you don’t need to make hundreds of millions in order to consider yourself wealthy. What do you need to do in order to make your first franchise a success? Aside from having a sound financial plan, you also need to address the legal issues involved. For example: 1. Protect what you own currently. When you own a business that is open to the public, there is a chance that you will get sued. If you […]

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Buying a Franchise or Starting an Independent Business: Which is Better?

Mar 9, 2018 - Blog by |

Deciding whether to buy a franchise or start an independent business requires consideration of a variety of legal, financial and practical considerations. While many people find success as franchisees, a significant percentage of franchisees fail. Of course, many independent businesses fail as well. In fact, according to the Small Business Administration (SBA), failure rates of franchised outlets and independent businesses are roughly equal. When trying to decide between buying a franchise and starting an independent business, here are some important considerations to keep in mind: 1. What is your business background? If you start an independent business you will, by definition, be on your own. Unless you have a natural business acumen, without a significant business background, you may struggle to find success independently. This is especially true with a brick-and-mortar business such as a convenience store, which requires you to lease retail space, hire employees, and maintain a sizeable inventory. However, you need business savvy to operate a successful franchise as well. Even when you are propped up by an established business model and have a real-world-tested system for running your business (all franchises should offer this, but not all of them actually do), you still need to make the day-to-day decisions. If you don’t know how to run a business, you are likely to struggle regardless of whether you choose to operate independently or as a franchisee. 2. What does the market demand? For certain types of businesses, operating under a franchised brand can offer a significant advantage. […]

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What is the Universal Franchisee Bill of Rights?

Feb 28, 2018 - Blog by |

If you have been looking for information about your rights as a franchisee online, you may have come across something called the, “Universal Franchisee Bill of Rights.” While this sounds promising, unfortunately, it does not actually grant you any rights as a franchisee. As stated by the Coalition of Franchisee Associations (CFA): “This Universal Franchisee Bill of Rights is a fairness doctrine. It has been developed by franchisees in multiple systems and industries to identify the basic terms of fairness that are missing in their franchise agreements, and [that] must be restored to ensure the success and growth of the[ir] franchise systems.” In other words, rather than providing franchisees with legal protections, the Universal Franchisee Bill of Rights reflects protections that are absent from most franchise relationships. As a result, reviewing the Bill of Rights is not an exercise in understanding how you are protected, but rather in understanding the risks involved in buying a franchise. Summary: Universal Franchisee Bill of Rights There are 13 provisions in the Universal Franchisee Bill of Rights: Freedom of Association. You should have the right to communicate and pool resources with other franchisees. Good Faith and Fair Dealing. While some states have franchise relationship laws that impose a requirement of good faith and fair dealing, this protection is absent from most franchise agreements. Uniform Application of Brand Standards. Franchisors should enforce system standards equally and a non-discriminatory manner. However, discrimination is a common practice in many franchise systems. Full Disclosure Regarding Fees Collected from […]

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What Does It Take to Become a Successful Franchisee?

Feb 26, 2018 - Blog by |

When considering franchise opportunities, there are numerous factors that go into making a profitable investment. From the franchisor’s reputation to your own personal desire to operate a particular type of business, the more boxes you can check, the more likely you are to find success as a franchisee. Of course, success is never guaranteed. In fact, data from the Small Business Administration (SBA) indicate that about half of all small businesses fail within the first five years, and this includes franchises. So, if you are thinking about buying a franchise, what can you do to increase your chances of success? Here are some tips from the franchisee attorneys at the Goldstein Law Firm: Finding Success as a Franchisee: 7 Tips for Potential Buyers 1. Due Diligence Before buying a franchise, it is critical to gather as much information as possible. Make sure you read (and understand) the FDD and franchise agreement, avoid relying on information the franchisor provides you orally, and prepare a thorough list of questions to ask current and franchisees. 2. Financial Planning How will you fund your initial investment? How will you fund your first six or twelve months of operations? Many franchisees fail because they do not have adequate financial resources to stay afloat during periods of unprofitability. 3. An Informed Buying Decision The decision to buy a franchise should be based on facts, not a blind desire to “be your own boss,” and not the promotional materials provided by the franchisor. If you do not […]

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Is the Non-Competition Clause in My Franchise Agreement Enforceable?

Feb 21, 2018 - Blog by |

You have spent the last five years (or longer) learning the business and building a reputation in your local community. Your franchise agreement is about to expire, and you want to begin operating independently. There’s only one problem: Your franchise agreement includes a non-competition covenant which states that you can’t operate a similar business in your geographic area for the next several years. So, this begs the question, “Is the non-competition clause in your franchise agreement enforceable?” As a General Rule, Non-Competition Clauses Are Enforceable In the context of business-to-business contracts, the general rule is that non-competition clauses are legally enforceable. This is an acknowledgment of the fact that there are certain circumstances in which a company can have a legitimate business interest in preventing competition. For example, if a company supplies information about a proprietary business system and allows someone else to use its brand to grow a business (sound familiar?), it may be fair for that company to prevent competition for a limited period of time. Possible Exceptions to the Enforceability of Franchise Agreement Non-Competes However, the protections available to franchisors through the use of non-competition covenants are not absolute. For example, franchisees may be able to avoid (or limit) their competitive restrictions based upon: 1. State Law Prohibition on Enforceability The laws regarding enforceability of non-compete provisions vary from state to state. California’s law is one of the least favorable to companies seeking enforcement, as it flatly prohibits competitive restrictions in certain types of relationships. While the […]

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First Cannabis Dispensary Franchise Hopes to Open 50 Outlets in Three Years

Feb 19, 2018 - Blog by |

It was only a matter of time before the worlds of franchising and legalized marijuana intersected. According to Blue MauMau, Colorado-based Green Man Cannabis has announced plans to open 50 new outlets through franchising within the next three years: “Christian Hageseth, the seasoned entrepreneur behind Green Man Cannabis, touts his dispensaries to be the best in the nation. He says Green Man is well known for its connoisseur grade craft cannabis and many Cannabis Cup wins. The business owner says he is now focused on building the world’s most powerful cannabis business franchise system under his new brand, One Cannabis. He touts that he has more than 20 years of experience in the business world and nine years in the cannabis industry. . . . One Cannabis, based in the founder’s home state of Colorado, expects to have 50 locations within the next 36 months.” Legal Considerations for Cannabis Dispensary Franchisees It appears that One Cannabis will initially be focusing its franchising efforts in Colorado, which has one of the most-favorable recreational marijuana laws in the nation. However, with the Justice Department’s rescission of the well-known (and heavily-relied-upon) Cole memo in January 2018, the future of recreational marijuana in the United States has shifted back to a greater level of uncertainty. State authorities in Colorado and other states have publicly opposed the Justice Department’s decision and indicated that they will not be revisiting their enforcement policies. But, the fact remains that marijuana is a Schedule I drug that is illegal […]

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Franchise Litigation Countdown: When is it Time to File a Claim Against Your Franchisor?

Feb 14, 2018 - Blog by |

As a franchisee, you will likely reach a point at which you are considering legal action against your franchisor. If you are fed up and ready to go to court, here’s what you need to know: 5 Preliminary Considerations for Pursuing a Claim Against Your Franchisor 5. Do You Have a Claim for Breach? In order to file a claim in arbitration or litigation, you need to have more than a general grievance. You need to have a legal cause of action, and this could be a breach of your franchise agreement. Although franchisors’ contractual obligations are usually limited, franchisees will usually still have several potential grounds to sue their franchisors for breach of contract. Some examples of common breach allegations in franchisee-initiated litigation include: Imposition of improper obligations or restrictions Failure to enforce territorial restrictions on other franchisees (territory encroachment) Breach of representations and warranties Improper refusal to renew or approve a transfer Improper use of advertising fund contributions 4. Do You Have a Statutory Cause of Action? If you don’t have a cause of action for breach, do you have a claim based on state or federal law. Franchise litigation often involves statutory claims such as: Antitrust violations State franchise law violations Discriminatory franchise practices Franchisor fraud Wrongful termination 3. What Does Your Franchise Agreement Say about Dispute Resolution? If you have a claim, your next step is to understand the implications of your franchise agreement’s dispute resolution clause. Does your agreement require mediation or arbitration; and, if […]

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Franchise Due Diligence: Getting the Most Out of the Item 20 Disclosure Tables

Feb 12, 2018 - Blog by |

If you flip through a typical Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD), most of what you will find is page after page of small, dense text that was clearly written by an attorney. However, things change (briefly) when you get to Item 20. In Item 20, franchisors are required to produce a series of five standardized tables that provide historical information, current information and future projections about the size and growth of the franchise system. Carefully reviewing the data in Item 20 can tell you a lot about a franchise system. Has it grown consistently over the past three years? Have franchisees been leaving the system on a regular basis? Is the franchisor focused on expanding through franchising or company-owned outlets? You can gain insight into these issues and more through Item 20 of the FDD. Breaking Down Item 20 of the Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD) 1. Systemwide Outlet Summary The first table in Item 20 is labeled, “Systemwide Outlet Summary,” and it simply compiles data from tables three and four.  Here you will find: The total size of the franchise system (including franchised and company-owned outlets) The net change in franchised outlets for each of the past three years The net change in company-owned outlets for each of the past three years All of this information is important for assessing the health of the franchise system as a whole, and the later tables provide information that is specific to your state. 2. Transfers of Outlets from Franchisees to New Owners (other […]

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Trends in Franchising: What Franchisees Can Expect in 2018

Jan 25, 2018 - Blog by |

As a franchisee, finding success means meeting customers’ demands while working within the confines of a franchisor’s business system. As market conditions change and new technologies emerge, franchisees can struggle when their franchisors fail to keep pace with the times, and they can incur unnecessary financial burdens when their franchisors choose to follow the wrong path. The following are five trends that are likely to impact franchisees – for better or for worse – during 2018. 5 National Trends (With Legal Implications) Likely to Impact Franchisees in 2018 1. Proprietary Apps and Online Ordering Certain franchised brands have emerged as leaders in the trend toward proprietary apps and online ordering. Several quick service and casual dining restaurants now offer tableside tablets for ordering food, and restaurants are increasingly encouraging customers to order online for instore pickup. When used effectively, these tools can streamline the customer experience and make it easier for franchisees’ employees to keep pace during periods of high demand. However, without thorough testing and a clear plan for implementation, they can confuse and frustrate customers, and they may be destined to become relics of the past. 2. Facial Recognition and Alternative Payment Options While alternative payment options – such as Apple Pay and PayPal – have been making online shopping easier for years, many brick-and-mortar concepts are just starting to incorporate these options into their point-of-sale systems. If your franchisor wants to offer alternative payment options (including use of facial recognition) in test locations or across the entire […]

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