I first learned about franchising in a conversation with Steve Abrams, CEO of Magnolia Bakery. He recommended a few books for me to read, including one about McDonalds. While I would never want to utilize their "food" model in the area of international franchising, they have a lot to teach.
I was initially contracted to create the café menu for the Magnolia Stores in the Middle East. They are a café culture and cupcakes alone would not suffice for cities like Doha.
I began the work and the franchises balked at the additional cost. This brings me to my first point.
1. Retain control.
Just like a co-op, retain the right to charge an assessment for additional costs for work done in the interest of the franchisee. This might be additional staff training, special menus or product development for a specific market.
2. Own your name.
Worldwide we have a culture of imitators. If you don't protect the rights to your name worldwide, there is nothing to stop China from opening under the same name and creating similar food.
3. Be responsible for your food.
If you are famous for your tacos, make sure they source ingredients with the same integrity you do. You can even specify brands and drop ship products that are not locally available.
4. Adapt for local markets.
Right now I am working with CEO Michael Ayoub of Fornino. We are in the process of developing non-pork sopresatta, pancetta, and prosciutto for markets that forbid pork. If you are going into Key West, you need a Conch on the menu, if headed into San Francisco, a vegan, gluten-free version of your product would be very appropriate. Think globally, act locally within your markets.
Photo credit: MJELLMA LLONCARI
5. Visit often.
Check the integrity of your franchises. Taste the food. Engage in additional staff training if needed. Never be a negligent parent. As your family of restaurants grows, the amount of careful training and supervision needed grows as well.
6. Have fun.
How exciting is it to have something that other cities or cultures want to share. Enjoy your expansion.
Now can we please get a branch of Paris' Willis Wine Bar in New York? If only for a taste of the bean stew with mushrooms and polenta... yeah, it's that good.