Katrina Fowell, head of operations delivery at Domino’s Pizza, provides her top tips for growing a profitable food franchise
The NatWest/British Franchise Association survey revealed that the hotel and catering franchise sector was one of the most popular types of franchises to run. As someone who has been working in this vibrant industry for the past 23 years, I can see why.
A food franchise offers an exciting, sustainable business with great margins. It also provides a fantastic opportunity to build a loyal customer base who, if you look after them well, will continue to come back time and again. Food is a ‘people business’, so a franchise such as Domino’s is ideal for energetic and dynamic entrepreneurs who love interacting with customers and leading a team.
While it may be daunting to choose a franchise in a sector where you have no previous experience, good franchisors will offer you the support you need to get your business up and running. Domino’s franchisees come from all walks of life - we have a complete cross-section of highly successful franchisees running stores, including an IT director, ex-Navy officer and even a champion gymnast. All of them bring their own skills, which are applied to their stores in various ways. Franchisors should always provide a comprehensive franchise development programme to ensure that, regardless of their backgrounds, new franchisees receive all the necessary training and assistance to get their business started.
Taking on a food franchise is a great way to hit the ground running. Right from the start, you will benefit from the franchisor’s well-established brand and reputation, not to mention existing consumer awareness.
By investing in a franchise, rather than starting up your own food business from scratch, you can also take advantage of the many systems already in place - from sourcing and ordering ingredients to fitting out premises and developing and implementing marketing plans.
You can get your business up and running fast using tried and tested processes the franchisor has spent significant time, money and effort in developing. And, most of all, the franchisor knows they work. Domino’s franchisees benefit from over 25 years’ experience in the UK, not to mention around 55 years in the United States, where the company was first founded. We know our onions - and all the other ingredients used on our pizzas too.
A good franchisor will ensure you are set up to succeed from the beginning. Do your homework and make sure you will receive the support you need to make a great start in your new business. Also, check what level of ongoing support is provided. If you’ve never been involved in marketing or don’t have any IT experience, it’s essential to have head office and field-based teams who can provide all the advice and assistance you need to keep your business running - and growing too.
With a food franchise, providing great customer service should be the cornerstone of everything you do.
There is a saying that unhappy customers will tell more friends and family about a bad experience than a good one - and it’s true. Whether your franchise is an eat-in restaurant or a takeaway, it is vital to ensure your customers are satisfied and, if they’re not, you need to make it right. Sometimes, resolving a customer service issue well can turn the situation around and create a fantastic advocate for your business.
The highest standards are key in any business, but when it comes to food, customers want the extra reassurance that whoever is preparing their food is fully adhering to them. Schemes such as the national Scores on the Doors hygiene ratings programme provide an easy way for customers to check how their food is being prepared, as well as the environment in which is it made and also the general running of the business. Achieving a high score is a fantastic way to prove to your customers your food franchise is in great shape.
When it comes to standards, franchised businesses offer customers the comforting knowledge that whether they order from a store in Cornwall or one in Edinburgh they will receive the same quality food from a brand they trust. At Domino’s, our customers know that whichever store they place an order with, they’ll receive a piping hot, freshly made pizza in less than 30 minutes.
In addition to food preparation, the highest standards should also apply to your ingredients. In the current climate, with price increases affecting all manner of businesses, some companies can be tempted to cut costs by reducing the quality of their ingredients. The thing is, you really do get what you pay for when it comes to food - customers can tell in an instant if they are being served something of lesser quality than they are used to.
Throughout our 25-year history in the UK pizza business, we’ve never scrimped on ingredients or tried to cut corners. We always use 100 per cent mozzarella cheese, fresh dough made in our commissaries and top quality, fresh toppings from around the world. All our pizzas are made to order from scratch, just how each customer likes them.
One of the other great benefits of choosing a food franchise is ongoing product development, which makes it easy to keep your menu fresh. Our NPD programme means we regularly introduce tasty new pizzas, sides and desserts to entice new customers and keep our menus exciting.
Location is key to a fantastic food business. The location of your business is likely to depend on what it is - for example, if you’re running a restaurant, heavy footfall will be key, so a central location may be exactly what you need. For a business that sells coffee and doughnuts, you might be better suited to one of the key routes into a town, so that people can stop off to grab breakfast on their way into the office.
Your franchisor should help you find the right premises in the ideal location. It will know exactly what space will work for your business and where it will need to be located to attract the maximum level of customers. Some franchisors will even source premises for you and assist with any necessary planning applications, not to mention design and shopfitting. Use their expertise to make sure you are situated in the best possible place.
Food franchises offer fantastic opportunities for growth, with many owners having more than one outlet. With one well-established business under their belt, it makes sense for successful franchisees to replicate this winning formula and open further outlets. According to the latest NatWest/bfa franchise survey, around half of franchisees in this sector run multiple unit businesses, with each one owning an average of six units.
Operating more than one franchise in an area also provides other advantages, such as being able to transfer staff between them - great for ensuring your units are all well-staffed, as well as providing the team with opportunities for career development - not to mention economies of scale with activities such as local marketing.
Food franchises are exciting, vibrant places to work and provide great returns. Choose the right franchisor and you’re sure to have the recipe for success.