Executive Offers Advice on Working with Franchisors
Bob McDevitt, Senior Vice President of Franchise Development for Golden Corral, recently discussed ways in which small business owners can maximize their relationship and leverage the value of their franchise partnership. The speech was given to an audience of potential franchisees at the Tampa Franchise Expo on Saturday, February 28.
In the presentation titled “How to Get the Most Out of Your Franchisor”, McDevitt outlined steps business owners can take to enhance the overall success of the franchise they have selected. McDevitt insights are gathered from more than 40 years as an executive in the restaurant industry, including several senior management positions with Golden Corral, beginning in 1994.
“Signing the franchise agreement and opening a business is just the beginning of a long-term, financial and personal relationship with a franchisor,” McDevitt said. “There are many things franchisees can do by leveraging their fees and royalties to maximize the success of their investment.”
Below, McDevitt recommended eight ways franchisees can get the most from the franchise they have selected.
Execute Your Concept with Enthusiasm
Franchisors develop concepts and new opportunities. They test products and look to innovate ideas through their franchisees. Too often, McDevitt said, franchisees object to these changes or new products and what is required to execute them on their end. This resistance invariably damages their relationship with management. He urged franchisees to embrace these innovations with enthusiasm, as they are the life of the brand.
Maximize the Use of Available Resources
While franchises vary in many different ways, almost every franchisee is equipped with the same resources, such as operations manuals, training programs and recruiting tools, among others. The most successful franchisees incorporate these tools into their business model and use them as an opportunity to enhance the value of their operation. McDevitt referenced Golden Corral’s longtime personality profile system and site selection standards as resources offered to their franchisees to increase the opportunity for success.
Establish and Maintain Relationships at the Highest Level
McDevitt said it is important for franchisees to establish regular contact with members of upper management, such as the Regional Vice President, VP of Franchising, Senior VP of Operations and even the CEO, if possible. While franchisees often have strong relationships with field level personnel, they are often not the decision makers in the organization. Inviting upper management to their location or grand opening and providing them with updates on the business are ways to develop connections.
“You want to be careful not to go over the head of your field representative, but consider it your right to have contact with officers of the company,” McDevitt said.
Ask For Help If You Need It
Having relationships with upper management becomes critical in situations where franchisees need to request assistance. Whether it is providing advice, financial help or support for unforeseen hardships, many organizations can offer the appropriate resources to their franchisees in a time of need. It is essential to have an open line of communication with the franchisor and be willing to request help. McDevitt cited a franchisee in Joplin, Mo., who reached out directly to the Golden Corral CEO for assistance following devastating tornadoes that struck the area in 2011. The franchisee attended meetings and had a relationship at the highest level, and Golden Corral was able to send truckloads of bottled water to those in need within days of the storm.
One way in which franchisees can stay informed about their business is to attend regional or national meetings. These meetings and conferences provide opportunities to gain insight into industry issues, share viewpoints and establish connections. Although attendance at these events is not required, good franchisees take advantage of the opportunity to be present, listen and ask questions.
Participate in the Advisory Council
McDevitt suggested franchisees participate in an advisory council, which gives them a forum to discuss programs, listen to issues and present concerns to management. Appointment on an advisory council is an elected position, and representatives are typically selected by their peers. Being a member of the advisory council provides an opportunity to stay informed at every level of the organization. It also gives franchisees a forum offer input on major decisions and be heard by company management.
Request and Use Benchmark Numbers
McDevitt also discussed the importance of franchisees being educated on their business and being active participants in the administrative process. Franchisees should know the benchmark statistics across the system. In Golden Corral’s case, the company publishes numbers in the areas of top line performance and food and labor costs. These figures give franchisees a baseline to assess their operational strengths and weaknesses, along with areas in which they can improve.
Keep a Positive, Businesslike Attitude
Finally, McDevitt offered advice on maximizing relationships through professionalism in communication with management and company peers. Having a respectful and businesslike approach helps attract the attention of the right people in the organization. If disagreements arise, keeping emotions in check and maintaining professional communication with franchisors are essential to establishing this relationship.
“The relationship between a franchisee and franchisor is vital to the success of an operation,” McDevitt said of his presentation. “I wanted to provide franchisees insight as to what they can do to enhance this relationship and get the most out of the franchise they have selected.”
Golden Corral, based in Raleigh, N.C., is the nation’s largest grill-buffet restaurant chain with 500 restaurants operating in 41 states as of January 1, 2015. Seventy-five percent of the restaurants are operated by franchisees. Golden Corral is famous for its variety, with most restaurants carrying 160 innovative and delicious food choices including USDA steaks cooked to order, rotisserie chicken, awesome pot roast and desserts like homemade carrot cake and the Chocolate Wonderfall.
The company has received numerous awards and distinctions including: No. 1 in the Buffet Restaurant Category three years in a row in Entrepreneur Magazine’s prestigious Franchise 500 Ranking, No. 1 in the Grill-Buffet segment for 14 years by Nation’s Restaurant News, named ALLStar Franchise in 2010 by ALLBusiness and in 2009 Restaurants & Institutions ranked Golden Corral No. 1 in Consumer’s Choice in cafeteria/buffet chains.
Golden Corral’s first restaurant opened in 1973 in Fayetteville, N.C., as a family steakhouse. In the mid-’80s, guests’ requests for additional entrees and an expanded salad bar prompted the company to reinvent itself by introducing the 400-seat “Buffet and Grill.”