Taking the plunge and starting your own hospitality business can be challenging but – if done right – the rewards are plentiful
Hospitality is a people business, so having the right attitude and approach to your team, your customers and your community are vital to your chances of success. While you need to go your own way when starting a business, it is important to listen to the lessons of the past to give your venture the best chance at prosperity.
With all of that in mind, Yousif Aslam, managing director of Heavenly Desserts, shares five top tips on how to become a thriving hospitality franchisee.
1. Understand what you are looking for
The key to making the right first moves is to find a business model that is proven to work and is known to be profitable in the long run.
It’s important that the franchisees take as much time as possible to carry out thorough due diligence on the brand or concept that they are interested in and really get under the hood of the business model as much as possible.
We would strongly recommend speaking to as many existing franchisees as possible to get an unbiased view of how the business works, its positives and – most importantly – the challenges.
Once you have this frontline knowledge, it’s important to speak to some of the business’ senior leadership team to get a feel for who they are, and fully understand their experience, values and vision for the business.
Consider looking at getting yourself an external mentor – someone who has experience in running a business, but perhaps not from a franchise background. This will give you additional clarity on how you operate in the wider context of the franchise, as well as invaluable advice.
2. Embrace the challenges
Understanding the key challenges for the business is vital to the long-term success of the franchise. While there are always immediate issues that need addressing, such as the cost-of-living crisis and rising inflation, it is those ongoing issues that need the most planning to tackle.
In our experience, the biggest ongoing obstacle franchisees face is recruitment and retention of staff. The obvious solution of increasing staff pay to attract talent isn’t always a financially viable option, especially in the early days of a franchise.
So, giving attention to and investing in team welfare and wellbeing is important to ensure that staff feel valued and heard in the workplace, which has shown to reduce team turnover.
3. Find your sweet spot
It’s important to find a franchisor that understands the value of collaboration. This is the sweet spot when it comes to key decisions on business direction, marketing and human resources.
Often, franchisees will develop some really interesting and clever marketing ideas as they are the ones talking to and dealing with customers. While a franchise business has its brand guidelines, which do have their place, a collaborative approach is certainly the best way forward.
However, when it comes to HR, the picture is very different, and franchisees should always refer to their brand operations manuals for guidance as it can be quite a tricky arena. If you’re not sure, pick up the phone to your franchisor support team – that’s what they’re there for!
4. Understand your tools
More than in any other sector, it’s important that franchisees understand their tools of the trade to get the best out of their business.
• Menus – your menu is your fundamental tool to win and retain new customers. Understanding your menu well and ensuring that the frontline team understand each dish and can recommend something special – especially for first-time customers - is key.
• Networking – networking is often not recognised as the valuable tool it is. It can get your business known in your locality and grow your customer base. Invest your time in consistently networking, and you will reap the rewards.
• Social media – if you have an audience that is active on social media, find the best channel to engage with them and use it as a means of communication. Understand from your franchisor how much input and control you can have over your social media accounts, as it is the best way to maximise your business exposure amongst this captive audience.
• Community – engagement with your local community is of the utmost importance. They are the people that will become your regular customers so get involved in local initiatives, engage with them and find out what they want and what matters most to them.
5. Know how to grow
The absolute top tip for franchisees looking to grow their business is to spend time in it - learning the business - and spend time on it – evaluating its strengths and weaknesses. These are both very different things, but equally as important if you want your business to grow.
Don’t be afraid to take risks, but ensure they’re calculated. Continuously assess whether you are in your comfort zone or not, and if you are, look at how you can push this to help you grow.
When done well, hospitality franchises are some of the most successful on the market. People will always need to eat, and socialising over food has been and will always be a key pastime for all cultures.
Taking the plunge and starting Heavenly Desserts back in 2008 was born out of this understanding and giving like-minded entrepreneurs the opportunity to experience business growth through franchising is something that gives us great joy.
About the author
Yousif Aslam is the managing director of Heavenly Desserts, one of the UK’s leading dessert franchises. Yousif gives advice to hospitality franchisees on what they can do to support their franchise.