Franchising can certainly be
less risky than starting your own business from scratch. The franchisor has already done a lot of the dirty work for you: they've created a strong business plan, they've built strong brand name recognition, and they're usually responsible for most of the marketing and advertising.
Before you can build upon their good work, however, you first have to figure out precisely where you're going to locate your franchise business. A good franchisor will work closely with you, but the marketplace is crowded with other franchisees, and there's plenty to think about on your own when you're scouting a location that will open the door to a profitable business. Studies in the past have shown that franchises can fail at a rate of more than 30 percent within the first few years of operation.
The old adage still rings true when it comes to franchising: location, location, location. Here's our guide to picking the perfect site that will allow you to become a successful franchisee.
Selecting a Franchise Location: Know the Concept Inside and Out
The first step is to understand the concept of your franchise business. "Because there are so many different kinds of franchises, when you talk about location, your considerations really depend on the type of business you're getting into," says Tom Pitegoff, a franchise attorney at Pitegoff Law Offices, which are based in White Plains, New York. To find out what makes your franchise business of choice tick, you'll need to work closely with the franchisor to learn the answers to the following questions:
Dig Deeper: How to Evaluate a Franchise Business Plan
- What drives traffic to the business?
- Who are its target customers?
- Where do those target customers live?
- How and when do those customers interact with the concept? (Is it a restaurant that caters to the business crowd on their lunch breaks? Is it an emergency care center that needs to be close to where people live and in a safe location for late nights?)
- Is it a destination concept? (Do your customers come to you?)
- Does it rely on impulse sales, and so is a highly visible location a must?
- Are your customers coming to you, or are you going to them? (In this case, location is less important and you might even be able to start a home-based franchise.)
Selecting a Franchise Location: Do Your Homework With the Franchisor
The reality is that each franchisor has its own specific set of requirements and regulations when it comes to selecting a site location. Everything you need to know will be spelled out in the Franchise Disclosure Document, but those documents can run upwards of 75 pages long. That's why building a strong relationship with your franchisor is so important.
Good franchisors (the type you want to be in business with in the first place) have already done a lot of the market research for you. It's in their best interest to keep track of demographics, and they'll share that data with you. They also have something you might not have as a first-time franchisee: experience. "We have the data to understand the market, but we also know what we've done in the past and how our business has performed in different areas," says Tariq Farid, the CEO of Edible Arrangements, a company based in Wallingford, Connecticut, which provides bouquets made of fresh fruit.
Many franchisors already have people on the ground in various regions, scouting out potential locations, keeping track of commercial development deals, and working with real estate brokers. "Quite often, the major developers are actually coming to us," says Les Winograd, a spokesperson for the international sandwich chain Subway, which is headquartered in Milford, Connecticut.
Investigate what sort of territorial protection you have, if any. "The common approach today with many franchisors, especially the more established ones, is to grant a location, but no territorial protection," Pitegoff says. Subway, for instance, does not guarantee an exclusive territory. They do, however, have a review process where interested parties are notified of an intention to open another location nearby, Winograd says.
On the other end of the spectrum is Noodles & Company, a casual dining restaurant based in Broomfield, Colorado, by which most locations are company-owned and company-operated. Noodles & Company is newer to franchising than a company like Subway, so it carefully selects which markets to expand to through franchising. "We're looking specifically for markets that are smaller than what we prefer for a corporate market," says Wayne Humphrey, vice president of franchise initiatives. "Or, we also look at markets that are very large so we can get critical mass more quickly."
Noodles & Company also guarantees franchisees a protected territory, within a one-mile radius. But if you think you've found the perfect site, be prepared to prove it: "We have a very stringent approval process," Humphrey says. "They have to make a presentation and sell it to us. We spend a lot of time with franchisees to get them thinking along the same lines we are." Dig Deeper: Edible Arrangements's CEO on Franchising
Selecting a Franchise Location: Talk to Fellow Franchisees
Don't stop at the franchisor. It's a good strategy to solicit input from current franchisees as well to get a sense of the franchisor's management style.
For example, some of those prime commercial development sites might be difficult for a first-time franchisee to nab, because franchisors will want to give their best locations to franchisees with proven track records. "Initially, I think some franchisees get the impression that the franchisor will find the location for you," says Doni Pitchford, owner of a Subway restaurant in the Rochdale Village neighborhood of Queens, New York. "They did give me some sites to look at, but nothing of interest."
So, Pitchford took matters into her own hands. She happened to find a shopping center with a lack of healthy food options or restaurant chains with strong brand names. "You probably know your neighborhood better than they do," she says. wall murals