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Performance of Franchisees’ Loans

Below is the Small Business Administration’s annual compilation of performance data on thousands of franchisee loans it has guaranteed covering loans made from October 1, 2000, to September 30, 2007. A “failed loan” below is when the SBA must step in and pay back a loan that it has guaranteed. However, does failure rate of a loan equal the number of failed franchises? No, because the chart below only captures the worst of the worst, when someone completely abandons their debt obligations. Definitions are tricky and can mask the true data. Franchisees who sell their units and pay off or transfer their loan or franchisees losing money are not caputred. But, the value in the report card can be a vague checklist for avoiding high-failing franchises. Hat Tip: WSJ REPORT CARD Class Leaders Franchiser Failure Rate Failed loans Total loans Comfort Inn 0% 0 158 Primrose 0 0 110 Edible Arrangements 0 0 104 Massage Envy 0 0 61 Holiday Inn Express 1 1 157 Culver’s Frozen Custard 1 1 150 Hampton Inn 1 1 88 Bruster’s Real Ice Cream 1 1 84 Little Caesars Pizza 1 1 72 Fastsigns 1 1 71 Super 8 Motel 2 8 363 Best Western 2 3 156 Choice Hotels International 2 3 144 Rita’s Water Ice 2 2 103 Arco 2 2 85 Zaxby’s 2 2 81 Anytime Fitness 2 1 65 Econo Lodge 3 4 119 Goddard 3 3 109 Subway 4 84 1,974 Dunkin’ Donuts 4 17 410 Sport Clips 4 8 191 Cartridge World Stores 4 5 112 Travelodge 4 4 91 IHOP 4 3 67 Class Trailers Franchiser Failure Rate Failed loans Total loans All Tune and Lube 48% 37 77 Philly Connection 48 30 63 Cottman Transmission 46 75 163 Blimpie Subs & Salads 37 58 158 …

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Using Weather to Increase Sales

Ace Hardware helping their franchisees by project weather-related sales: Ace Hardware’s Director of Inventory Control, Paul Sikes, pointed out that, “We have been able to make weather part of the DNA and culture at Ace, so that when we talk about sales opportunity, sales risk and past performance, weather is now just a part of that.” Sikes shared an example from ’07-’08 winter season when Ace substantially increased inventories for snow removal products based on Planalytics’ projections. “We made an extra $10 million in sales in a tough economy because we planned it and we bought it. We were able to service 91% on the hottest seasonal category I’ve seen in years at Ace because of the support of Planalytics and the actions we took off that information.” Subway franchised restaurants using weather to better understand buying trends: SFAFT is a non-profit organization that provides marketing support to Subway’s franchised restaurants. Adam O’Hara, Manager of Reporting and Analytics for explained in his presentation how the company isolates weather’s impact on sales through “a transaction-based model” specifically developed with Planalytics. “Our weather-driven demand number is tied directly to what percentage of our sales were up or down,” O’Hara remarked. “You would be amazed at the correlation between how our volume performs and how the weather performs.” Identifying the degree to which sales are impacted by weather enables SFAFT to better measure the effectiveness of advertising and to optimize the timing of programs going forward. Source: News Blaze

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Cash Discount for Customers

Interesting article on gas franchisees offering discounts in Connecticut for customers paying cash. Tala said Hess Corp. was fine with his decision to offer a cash discount. He knew that Connecticut law already allowed cash discounts, but banned surcharges for credit, and decided to begin offering a lower price on Memorial Day weekend after credit card sales became 90 percent of his business. They had been only 40 percent when gas was under $2 a gallon. Tala said he wound up paying about $12,000 to $13,000 a month at his Newington store for credit card fees. He wasn’t making enough money to cover his costs.

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Advice from a McDonald’s Franchisee in U.K.

This article from the United Kingdom highlights some of the positive aspects of franchising. He said: “Choosing the right franchise is a big decision – it’s your own money on the line and you need to be sure that you are investing in a sound business model. McDonald’s employs some of the most talented professionals around and it helps to be able to draw on that knowledge and expertise.” There are significant advantages to running a franchised business, as a new idea has already been tested to ensure it is successful. What’s more, larger franchises will have a well-established trading name and are likely to offer marketing support and comprehensive training programmes in a wide range of business skills. Good franchisors can also help secure initial funding. Mr Thomas said: “McDonald’s has some fantastic training opportunities for staff at all levels, which means that when I identify talent I have the tools to help my staff develop their skills.” “At the same time, I can operate on a local level too and I’m involved in a number of community initiatives. I am deputy chair of the Trust for Sick Children in Wales, and regularly give talks on business and entrepreneurship at local schools and offer work experience placements through Careers Wales.” He added: “For entrepreneurial people owning a franchise is a great opportunity to take a fantastic brand and make your own mark.” The only portion I have issues with his last statement. For truly energetic entrepreneurs, owning a single franchise provides limited entrepreneurial satisfaction because of the lack of flexibility and adaptability limits built into the franchise operating structure.

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Online Ordering

Most of my friends order food online whenever possible, especially pizza like Domino’s and Papa John’s.  Online ordering is making up 20% this Papa John’s franchisee’s sales: In fact, Chesley estimated, about 20 percent of her store’s sales arrive via the Internet.Customers can insert exactly what they want and it saves on labor costs since the staff doesn’t have to spend as much time on the telephone taking orders, Chesley said. “We do great with online ordering.” Potential franchisees should make sure you are free to engage an online ordering network such as Order Network, CityWaiter, eHungry, Kudzu Interactive, or GrubHub.

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McAlister Franchisee Doing Well

This McAlister franchisee with 30+ years of restaurant experience from Oklahoma is doing well. The article has some good tidbits: “Our business is actually up,” said Bothwell, attributing that to McAlister’s market positioning and lunch focus, which accounts for 65 percent of its revenue. “People seem to still be eating out for lunch.”Competing for the fast-casual market with such well-established companies as Panera Bread and Jason’s Deli, McAlister’s offers more than 100 menu items for lunch and supper, targeting health-conscious customers. “We have to get more sales to cover our increased operating costs,” he said, noting his average per-person ticket runs $7.85. His firm ended 2007 with revenue of $10 million, his stores averaging $1.5 million per year. With eateries to open this year in Shawnee; Lawrence, Kan., and Joplin, Mo., as well as at 21st and Yale in Tulsa, he projects 2007 revenue of $20 million.McAlister’s restaurants established in existing shopping centers, like his new midtown Tulsa deli, cost about $750,000 to open, said Bothwell. Stand-alone stores can run $1.5 million to get off the ground. Both employ an average staff of 50, now a greater challenge since Oklahoma’s new immigration law further drained the state’s tapped labor pool. UPDATE: May 29, 2008 @ 5:34pm EST UPDATE #2: June 4, 2008 @ 3:14pm EST There was an interesting comment to this post about whether a stand alone location can realistically justify the $1.5 million build out costs, which is double the $750,000 cost for a strip mall location. The short answer is yes. You wouldn’t need twice the sales, but there would be an incremental increase in sales to have the free cash flow to service more debt. Here’s the analysis: The monthly cost of borrowing an additional $750,000 @ 8% with 10-year repayment term is Loan Balance: …

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Real Estate Requirements

Ever wonder what the real estate selection criteria look for a typical sandwich shop? Below is the criteria for a sandwich shop called Which Wich. Landlords are not often willing to dedicate parking spots to particular tenants as noted in the criteria. If you were considering being a franchisee and you were given this criteria, and you plan to open a store on a busy street that only provides street parking, make sure to get agreement from the franchisor prior to signing the franchise agreement.

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Delivery Management

I should have guessed but was pleasantly surprised that an entrepreneur produced a GPS enhanced software  that managed a crew of delivery drivers and integrates with several POS.  A 21-unit Pizza Hut franchisee just purchased a system.

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To Franchise or Not to Franchise?

Performance differences between corporate-owned and franchised hotels are slim to none, according to new research. Leah Sipher-Mann h Sipher-Mann writes in Michigan in the News that, for a company pondering the question, “To franchise or not to franchise?” new research from Michigan’s Ross School of Business suggests that performance differences between corporate-owned and franchised outlets, when chosen right, could be slim to none. Ross Professor of Business Economics and Public Policy Francine Lafontaine and colleagues Renáta Kosová of Cornell University and Rozenn Perrigot of University of Rennes, studied the effect of vertical integration on the performance of individual hotels. They found that a company’s decision whether to franchise or own a particular hotel has little effect on yield (average price) or performance. Lafontaine and her team studied an unnamed multi-chain hotel company that has both franchised and corporate-owned hotels under each of its several brands, running the gamut from budget to luxury. They collected data to determine whether organizational form for each hotel has an effect on any of three outcomes: monthly revenues per available room (i.e., what the industry calls “RevPar”), price or yield (average room rate per month), and monthly occupancy rate. Across all three variables, Lafontaine and her colleagues found that franchising per se does not have a statistically significant effect. “We conclude that the firm chooses which outlets to franchise and which to own in a way that yields no differences in pricing or performance, in the end, between the two sets of hotels,” the authors state. “This result is important as it suggests that when firms can choose, they indeed adjust organizational form in such a way that there are no real differences in outcomes.” “This does not mean that franchising and company operations do not have different incentive effects, because they do,” says …

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Franchise systems that train extensively, help keep franchisees afloat, study says

Jan Dennis, Business & Law Editor of News Bureau, reports that a new study co-written by Steve Michael a professor of business administration in the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign reveals that fast-food restaurants and other chain outlets are less likely to fail when super-sized training programs prepare fledgling owners for the challenges ahead.Advance, in-depth training on everything from bookkeeping to dealing with customers and suppliers is a key to survival for franchise outlets, said Steve Michael, a professor of business administration in the U. of I. College of Business. But while some chains put aspiring entrepreneurs through months of schooling, others turn them loose in as little as two weeks, increasing the odds of failure, said Michael, whose study was published in January’s Journal of Small Business Management. “The notion of just watching while somebody else does the job for a while is a mistake,” Michael said. “People need to realize these are sophisticated businesses that require extensive training. The more time you spend at Hamburger University or Dunkin’ Donuts University, the lower the failure rates.” Michael and Florida State University business professor James Combs studied nearly 90 national restaurant chains to gauge whether franchisors contribute to the success or failure of franchisees, which number about 700,000 worldwide in industries ranging from lodging and office supplies to tax-preparation and cleaning services. Along with training, franchisors can help keep franchisees afloat by pumping money into advertising that promotes the company brand, according to the study, “Entrepreneurial Failure: The Case of Franchises.” “Chains that are out there promoting themselves create value and drive up demand. When they don’t, franchisees are more likely to fail,” said Michael, who says the study is the most extensive look to date at how chains influence the fate of franchises. The study also found that …

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Dairy Queen Remodeling Fight

Dairy Queen franchisee associations with members in Arizona, West Virginia, Ohio, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Missouri and Illinois filed law suits to halt required remodeling: Dairy Queen franchisees’ arguement: The lawsuit contends Dairy Queen is trying to force franchise owners to spend between $275,000 and $450,000 to remodel stores to adhere to an unproven concept — one that will cost more to operate, double staffing requirements, and cut into profits. “No one should have to make this conversion that is quite expensive unless they want to,” Caruso says. “If the DQ Grill & Chill concept was such a promising new concept, then the free market would solve this problem.” That hasn’t happened, according to the lawsuit. As of December 2006, the complaint says, just 105 Grill & Chill restaurants had opened in the United States. Some have performed poorly, and two have closed. Dairy Queen franchisor’s argument: Moreover, Mooty maintains no one is being forced to do anything. Dairy Queen does require about 70 percent of franchises to modernize restaurants periodically. But Mooty says Dairy Queen has capped the required investment at $75,000 for 2008, $85,000 next year and $95,000 in 2010. The required modernization should be no surprise to franchise owners because it’s standard in most of their contracts, Mooty says. “It is not making somebody spend hundreds of thousands,” he argues. “And it is not forcing somebody to go to another concept.” Mooty said it is the franchise-owner associations, which compete with the corporation to supply the restaurants, that are stirring up trouble. Dairy Queen is cutting margins on its supply business, which is hurting the associations, he contends. “They are losing membership, they are losing market share and they are having to take more drastic measures in creating fear and concern.”

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Story of a Bankruptcy: Jiffy Lube franchisee

Things will probably work out for Heartland Automotive Services Inc. of Omaha, Neb, a 438-unit Jiffy Lube franchisee filing Chapter 11 bankruptcy as it will probably sell/close underperforming and money-losing units.Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the business filing usually continues to operate while a bankruptcy court supervises the “reorganization” of the company’s contractual and debt obligations. The court can grant complete or partial relief from most of the company’s debts and its contracts, so that the company can make a fresh start. Often, if the company’s debts exceed its assets, then at the completion of bankruptcy the company’s owners (stockholders) all end up with nothing; all their rights and interests are terminated and the company’s creditors end up with ownership of the newly reorganized company. The other type of bankruptcy is chapter 7, whereby the business ceases operations and a court appointed trustee sells all of its assets and distributes the proceeds to its creditors in accordance with statutory defined priorities.The large franchisee most likely negotiated favorable terms when faced with closing or selling units, such as reduced transfer fees, low or no penalty for closing a certain number of units, delays in royalty payments when filing bankruptcy, etc. According to a statement on Heartland’s Web site, the company filed for Chapter 11 because of what it calls a “breakdown of negotiations with Jiffy Lube International to resolve long-simmering disputes regarding the companies’ relationship” over advertising and marketing, and support from the franchisor, product pricing from JLI’s parent, Shell Oil Co., and expansion strategies.Economic pressures in the volatile gas and oil market were also cited as reasons for the filing.Heartland said it anticipates going back to the negotiating table with JLI after the initial stabilization phase of its reorganization, which was to go heard in court on Jan. 23. If settlements …

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Free Wifi in Your Store?

McDonald’s is the largest supplier of free wireless internet in England. I imagine a similar plan is in the works for the USA. I’m a fan of free wifi or near free wifi (pay an extra $5 and you can have unlimited internet for the day) if you have the seaing capactiy.  I am a frequent user of free wifi in stores and think it usually makes economic sense. I go to Panera Bread and other local restaurants just for the free wifi.  In fact, many visitors will buy a coffee and snack, then in a few hours buy lunch. The idea that people will sit there all day and not spend any money is rare because people simply cannot sit and not eat for 10 hours, especially when they are in a restaurant. You will always have people who pay you $2 for a coffee and use your wifi for several hours, but most don’t.  The $20-$30 per month spent on wifi will certain pay for itself in higher net sales. Panera Bread limits free wifi to 30 minutes during lunch times (noon – 2pm).

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Franchisee Mistakes

Entrepreneur Mag has an article on the top franchisee mistakes. Lease terms. Construction and fixture costs. Business equipment Inventory and supplies. Marketing costs. Labor costs. I vote for construction costs and labor costs as the biggest mistakes – that’s is where most of the surprises and mishaps occur.

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