Digital Marketing for Franchisees: What Restrictions Apply?

Aug 16, 2019 - Blog by |

From Instagram to Google Maps, in today’s world, getting found and interacting with customers online are among the most-effective ways to build a successful business. The International Franchise Association (IFA) recently published the results of a poll in which franchisees were asked to list their most-effective channels for generating customer leads, and four of the top six involved digital marketing. Social media came in second (behind “referrals”) at 55.26 percent, followed by search engine optimization (SEO), pay-per-click advertising and content marketing. Radio and television tied for second-to-last (before billboards) at just 2.63 percent. But, as a franchisee, your ability to market online is limited. As with all other aspects of your business, you can only say and do what is permitted by the terms of your franchise agreement and the franchisor’s operations manual. If you build an online presence in a non-compliant manner, your franchisor may force you to make changes (which could confuse your followers), it may force you to transfer your accounts and it may even declare you in default under your franchise agreement. What Can (and Can’t) Franchisees Do Online? So, as a franchisee, how can you market your business online? While individual franchisors’ rules and restrictions vary, some examples of potential restrictions include: 1. Approval of Advertising Materials Traditionally, franchisors have typically required franchisees to obtain pre-approval of any advertising materials they intend to use. But, as a franchisee, you cannot wait days (or weeks) to find out if you have permission to post a photo […]

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How Can You Find Your “Perfect Match” in Franchising?

Jul 31, 2019 - Blog by |

Recently, Forbes.com published an article titled, The Franchise Dating Game: Finding Your Perfect Franchise Match. The article analogizes the process of choosing a franchise to that of finding “your perfect life partner,” and it discusses six steps that prospective franchisees can take to narrow down their options until they find the “right” franchise opportunity. We have discussed these steps before in various articles covering the topic of due diligence. But, it is interesting to examine them in the “dating game” context; and, as due diligence is one of the most-important steps involved in buying a franchise, we thought we would share our thoughts on these tips for finding “The One”: 1. “Know Your Personal Interests, Strengths and Goals” This is a critical factor in choosing a franchise opportunity. Even if a franchise appears to have significant profit potential generally, if you are not interested in the nature of the business, and if you are not passionate about the product or service you would have to sell, then it is probably not the franchise for you. 2. “Know Your Figures” Different types of franchises require different levels of financial investment; and, even among competing franchised brands, some franchisors demand higher initial franchise fees, royalties, and marketing fund contributions than others. While these higher costs may (or may not) be justified, overextending yourself financially can limit your ability to survive the initial months of operation when your franchise isn’t generating a profit. 3. “Get Online” These days, there is no shortage of […]

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“Jamba Juice” is No More. Franchisees Prepare to Re-Brand as “Jamba”

Jul 26, 2019 - Blog by |

In July, the franchisor of the Jamba Juice franchise system (which offers “smoothies, juices and bowls”) announced that the system would be dropping “Juice” from its name and re-branding simply as “Jamba.” As reported by Blue MauMau, “[t]he change in brand comes as a rising tide of press from Time magazine to the Washington Post have reported that drinking juice can be as unhealthy as consuming soda.” Interestingly, however, juice will remain one of the brand’s core offerings, even though the franchisor’s president touted the re-branding as an effort, “to meet our guests’ ever-changing definition of wellness.” Admittedly, the branding exercise does come with some menu changes. However, according to Blue MauMau, it also comes with a requirement for franchisees systemwide to purchase new signage and packaging for their products (and of course menus). Franchisees will also be required to “invest” in a large-scale store remodel and begin allowing customers to order ahead and have their orders delivered by Postmates and Uber Eats. All of this comes as systemwide sales are down year-over-year and as the number of franchisees in the system is dropping. Dealing with (and Paying For) Mandatory Updates as a Franchisee As is typically the case, this appears to be a top-down overhaul. Franchisors routinely require their franchisees to adopt (and pay for) updates to their outlets—with varying degrees of investment and success. Regardless of whether dropping the word “Juice” from the brand will draw in more health-conscious customers, the only thing that is certain for the […]

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What Benefits are Available to Veterans Who are Thinking about Buying a Franchise?

Jul 22, 2019 - Blog by |

If you are a veteran and you are thinking about buying a franchise, you are not alone. Thousands of franchises are owned by veterans, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) promotes franchise ownership as an alternative for former military servicemembers and officers who are thinking about going into business for themselves. According to the International Franchise Association (IFA): “Even though veterans account for about 7% of the population, 14% of franchisees are vets . . . and 65% of franchisors have indicated that their rate of hiring veterans has increased in recent years.” Of course, buying a franchise comes with financial risk. To help reduce the cost of ownership, many franchisors and other businesses and organizations offer benefits to veterans. Here is a list of some of the benefits that are available, as well as a list of resources for veterans who are thinking about buying a franchise: The International Franchise Association’s (IFA) VetFran Program Under the IFA’s VetFran program, participating franchisors offer discounts and other financial incentives to veterans who have been honorably discharged from the U.S. armed forces. Many suppliers offer waived or reduced fees to veterans through the program as well. Currently, more than 600 franchisors participate in the VetFran program. The IFA rates participating franchisors with up to five-star ratings, with higher ratings reflecting the IFA’s view of the franchisor’s commitment to the ideals of VetFran. Of course, in addition to reviewing these ratings, veterans who are considering franchise opportunities under VetFran should conduct […]

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Dunkin’ Sues 30 Franchisees Seeking Termination for Hiring Undocumented Workers

Jul 19, 2019 - Blog by |

According to news reports, over the past 10 months Dunkin’ Donuts Franchising LLC has sued more than 30 of its franchisees alleging that they have hired undocumented workers in violation of federal law and the terms of their franchise agreements. As a remedy, the franchisor is not seeking to compel proof that the franchisees’ employees are lawfully in the United States or that they only employ documented workers, but instead it is seeking to terminate their franchises. At least one franchisee has countersued alleging that it was not afforded a sufficient opportunity to cure and that Dunkin’ is attempting to resell its franchise without any payment of compensation. As summarized by The New Food Economy: “Since September 2018, the company has sought to close almost 30 East Coast restaurants, bringing their owners to court in a recognizable pattern. In at least three instances, Dunkin’ reviewed store records, found franchisees hadn’t verified the employment status of their workers, moved to terminate the franchise agreement, and then took the store owners to court to enforce it. . . . Dunkin’ has a reputation for taking franchisees to court who don’t comply. During an 18-month period in 2006 and 2007, for example, the company filed over 100 lawsuits, the vast majority of which were brought against store owners . . . .” The current spate of lawsuits is interesting for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that they appear to be one of the first efforts in franchising to […]

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Is Cannabis the Next Great Frontier in Franchising?

Jul 15, 2019 - Blog by |

Last February, we covered the launch of what was reportedly the first cannabis dispensary franchise offered in the United States. A lot has happened since that time. As more states have made the move to legalize or decriminalize marijuana, and as scientific research continues to dispel longstanding misconceptions about the effects and health risks associated with cannabis, cannabidiol (CBD) and other marijuana compounds, new businesses are popping up all over the country, and more and more of these businesses are turning to franchising as a way to grow their brands. As explained in a recent article from Franchise Direct: “According to JWTIntelligence, about 20% of American adults now have access to legal marijuana, and retailers . . . have been quick to jump on the new potential revenue stream. For example, Colorado saw well over $1 billion in cannabis sales in 2017 alone. . . . Brightfield Group predicts the CBD market will soon be a $22 billion industry.” In addition to dispensaries, there are now franchise opportunities for cafés that sell cannabis and CBD products, medical marijuana businesses, and other retail-based outlets. As of the end of May 2019, cannabis has been fully legalized in 10 states and Washington D.C., and many other states have taken intermediate steps such as decriminalizing marijuana, and legalizing the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes only. Of course, at the federal level, marijuana is still a Schedule I controlled substance. As a result, prospective franchisees face a number of unique legal issues above and […]

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4 Special Considerations for Buying a Low-Cost Franchise

Jun 28, 2019 - Blog by |

In a recent article, we discussed some of the practicalities of purchasing a low-cost franchise. We looked at some “cheap” franchise opportunities that have wide initial investment ranges, and noted that most franchisees should generally assume that they will not be at the bottom of the range. We also examined some of the ongoing costs that can substantially increase the total investment in a franchise, and we provided links to some of our most-popular resources for evaluating franchise opportunities. What Do You Need to Know Before You Buy a Low-Cost Franchise? In addition to these financial factors, there are a number of other special considerations involved in buying a low-cost franchise as well. Some of these factors include: 1. Brand Value When you buy a franchise, what are you really paying for? The legal definition of a franchise consists of three main elements: (i) association with a trademark and (ii) access to a marketing plan in exchange for (iii) payment of a fee. For many franchisees the association with a trademark (or “brand name”) is one of the most valuable – if not the most valuable – aspects of franchise ownership. If a franchisor offers a low franchise fee, one of the key questions you need to ask is, “Why?” Could it be because the franchisor’s brand value is minimal? If so, then you need to seriously consider if even the low franchise fee is justified in terms of the brand recognition you will enjoy as a franchisee. 2. Business […]

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What is an “Unfair” Franchise Practice?

Jun 21, 2019 - Blog by |

As a franchisee, many aspects of the franchise relationship can seem unfair. The longer you own your franchise, you are likely to realize how truly one-sided the relationship really is, and there is a good chance that you will grow increasingly frustrated with the power that your franchisor wields over your business. But, from a legal perspective, when are a franchisor’s practices considered “unfair”? Unfair franchise practices provide franchisees with a legal cause of action against their franchisors. However, the legal definition of an “unfair franchise practice” is limited, and not every complaint will justify arbitration or litigation. Examples of unfair franchise practices include: 1. Supplier and Sourcing Restrictions Franchisors are well within their rights to designate suppliers for products and services and impose other sourcing restrictions on their franchisees. After all, uniformity is one of the hallmarks of franchising. However, what franchisors cannot do is impose undue restrictions that harm franchisees to the franchisor’s financial gain. For example, if similar-quality products are available from multiple suppliers, it may be an unfair franchise practice for the franchisor to mandate that franchisees pay more to a supplier that offers a rebate to the franchisor. 2. Price Control Under state and federal antitrust laws, franchisors are prohibited from using their “market power” to dictate prices in individual markets. While proving that a franchisor has sufficient market power to control local prices can be a challenge, if your franchise is struggling because you cannot charge a reasonable price for your goods or services, […]

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Long-Term Thinking as a Prospective Franchisee: Avoiding Costly Mistakes When Negotiating the Franchise Agreement

Jun 14, 2019 - Blog by |

When you buy a franchise, it is easy to focus on short-term considerations: How much is the initial investment? How long will it take for you to open for business? How soon can you reasonably expect to turn a profit? While these are all undoubtedly important factors, there are several long-term factors you need to consider as well. Whether you intend to operate your franchise for as long as possible or you are hoping to build a business you can sell, there are several important provisions of the franchise agreement that should weigh into your buying decision. Some of these factors include: 1. Renewal Rights and Conditions Franchise agreements typically include numerous strict and franchisor-friendly conditions on the franchisee’s right to renew. When reviewing the franchise agreement’s renewal provisions, some of the key factors to assess include: How much is the renewal fee? Does the franchise agreement provide for unlimited renewals? Do the renewal conditions essentially give the franchisor subjective control over your right to renew? 2. Transfer Rights and conditions Similar considerations apply to the franchise agreement’s transfer provisions. Most franchise agreements require payment of a transfer fee (which can often be negotiated between the franchisee and the buyer) and impose various other conditions on the franchisee’s right to transfer. Many franchisors will also demand a right of first refusal, which can be a turn-off to prospective buyers. 3. Grounds for Termination Ideally, you will find success as a franchisee, and you will never have to think about the […]

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Home-Based, Mobile or Storefront? Considering Franchise Location Alternatives

Jun 12, 2019 - Blog by |

When choosing between potential franchise opportunities, there are numerous different factors to consider. Among these factors is the question of where you want to run your business. Do you want to run your business out of your home? Are you interested in a mobile franchise? Or, do you want to lease a retail location where you and your employees will interact with customers? 4 Factors to Consider Regarding Franchise Location While some franchises offer options, in most cases, whether you operate from home, from a vehicle or from a storefront location will be dictated by the franchise you choose. In any case, when deciding which option is most fitting for you, here are some important factors to consider: 1. Self-Direction and Discipline Some people are extremely efficient working from home. They have an office that is dedicated to their franchised business, and they have no problem sitting down and working when work needs to be done. Other people find working from home too distracting, with everything from laundry to video games getting in the way of productivity. Operating a successful franchise requires commitment, and if you cannot commit yourself to working from home, then a home-based franchise may not be for you. 2. Storage and Facilities When leasing retail space, meeting your storage and other facility-related needs is a matter of choosing a suitable location and negotiating the terms of your lease. When operating from home or operating a mobile franchise, there can be more restrictions involved. Will you have […]

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