Providing the ultimate in convenience for customers, there’s been a surge in interest for mobile and van-based franchises of late
Could you ride to the rescue as a mobile franchisee? The idea of being a knight in shining armour, delivering goods or services to delighted customers, is not just a fairy tale.
Mobile franchisees commonly say that they love being on the road, speaking to new customers and leaving them happy.
Mobile franchises are not limited to working from a van, though. There are management franchises, where franchisees run teams of drivers who deliver goods or services. This can be rewarding, because happy customers may contact head office to say thanks.
Why are mobile franchises worth considering now?
Internet ordering of goods and services has been growing for years, but the pandemic has got people ordering online like never before. It means a huge surge in business for mobile franchises.
At DPD, volumes have surged to levels normally seen during the Christmas peak season.
Dan Turner, associate director of DPD’s Owner Driver Franchise scheme, says: “Figures for deliveries from February to July 2020 are almost twice as much as for the same period last year.
“On Easter Bank Holiday Monday alone the number of deliveries we handled was double that of 2019.”
For many people, especially the shielding group advised to stay at home for 12 weeks, food delivery was essential.
Franchisees with Wiltshire Farm Foods, which has been delivering frozen ready meals to customers’ doors since 1991, were suddenly inundated with new orders and a corresponding increase in interest from prospective franchisees. It’s a management franchise that means running a team of delivery drivers.
Wiltshire Farm Foods managing director Ian Stone says: “We’ve experienced a significant uplift in requests from prospective franchisees who want to capitalise on the growing trend for home delivery services.
“They also appreciate our business proposition and the commercial value of investing with a company that yields high returns combined with the social value of making a difference to people’s lives.”
Will the delivery boom continue?
“We expect so,” Dan says. “Many of our customers say that consumers who tried home delivery for the first time during lockdown will continue, having experienced the convenience.
“Coupled with ongoing concerns surrounding shopping in person, every indication is that the current levels of deliveries are likely to remain.”
As a result, DPD is recruiting more Owner Driver Franchisees (ODFs).
“We have recruited around 3,500 new ODFs since the beginning of 2020 and are on track to recruit 3,000 more this year,” Dan says.
The franchise fee is £400, plus a £1,000-£2,000 refundable deposit. You can supply your own vehicle or lease from DPD. Previous delivery experience is not essential, though franchisees must focus equally on providing an exemplary delivery service alongside running a successful business.
Other mobile franchises are booming too
John Graham, managing director of oven cleaning franchise Oven Wizards, says: “Demand for oven cleaning post-lockdown has been like the run-up to Christmas, our busiest period.
“More home cooking has meant dirtier ovens and people have realised the value of oven cleaning services. The increase in demand shows every sign of continuing.
“We have seen an increase in interest from prospective franchisees. Some suspect they may be made redundant and want to get into business for themselves. We are expecting about six new franchisees to join us.”
New mobile franchises are appearing
Claire Harris, founder of the pet taxi franchise Pets 2 Places, is seeking her first franchisees. She says: “Demand soared by 30 per cent over lockdown from people looking for animal transport to vets and holidays and from the RSPCA. We’ve even had the children’s TV programme Blue Peter looking for transport for their pet beagle.”
According to the company, to become a Pets 2 Places franchisee you must have good driving and customer service skills, but need not have worked with animals before. However, you will need to take manual handling and animal first aid courses and be willing to generate business through networking.
It’s more than just driving
You need more than driving skills to become a successful mobile/van-based franchisee, although franchisors provide training in the necessary practical skills, plus business training and support such as route scheduling and customer relationship management software.
You will need people skills too. Successfully interacting with customers generates repeat business and increased customer recommendations.
Mobile franchises can be inexpensive
Hands-on mobile franchises are usually relatively inexpensive - often under £15,000. On top of that, you may have to supply your own van, but you may be able to access lease finance for that.
Management franchises in the mobile sector
You don’t have to be a driver. Many franchises in this sector are management franchises, where you run teams of drivers.
These franchises cost more than hands-on mobile franchises and you typically need people and business management skills, making them attractive to people changing careers.
Many mobile franchises encourage hands-on franchisees to build teams of drivers and move into management.
Online ordering boom equals more business for mobile franchisees
Since lockdown, online ordering has soared. Every order needs someone to deliver it.
The survey COVID-19 and the Consumer by digital commerce agency Astound Commerce found that online shopping surged by 129 per cent week on week during lockdown and that 31 per cent of global consumers are increasing their online expenditure.
In the grocery sector alone, consultancy company Kantar found that online ordering now accounts for 11.5 per cent of all grocery sales and that the channel has attracted more new shoppers in 2020 than in the previous five years put together.
Market research specialist Nielsen puts the online share of the grocery market in the four weeks to May 16 even higher at 13 per cent - nearly double its share for the same time last year.
Mobile franchise services that may surprise you
All these services - And many more - Are delivered by mobile franchisees:
- Pet food deliveries
- Foot health services
- Tree stump removal
- Gutter clearing
- Pet care
- Vehicle paintwork repair
- Window cleaning
- Shutter installation
- Property cleaning and restoration
- Coffee and snack supply
- Loft ladder installation
- Oven cleaning
- Dog washing
- Estate agent signboard erection
- Pest control
- Greetings cards to shops
- Window repairs
- Automotive tool sales
- Hygiene products sales and services
Before buying a mobile franchise
1. Choose your area carefully. How many potential customers are there and how scattered are they? Scattered customers mean more time driving, but the value of each order may mean it’s worth it.
2. Check the franchise offers good route scheduling software to maximise your time earning and minimise fuel costs.
3. Go out on rounds with existing franchisees. It’s a big change from an office job.
4. Understand that you need to be on time every time or risk disappointing customers.
5. Check safety measures to minimise the risk of COVID-19.
Anita Amesbury-Page: Wiltshire Farm Foods
Delivering business growth with the feel-good factor
“My client numbers grew 48 per cent during lockdown and we’ve retained about two-thirds of them,” says Anita Amesbury-Page, who owns the Blandford, Dorset franchise for Wiltshire Farm Foods, the home meal delivery service.
She bought the franchise as a resale in September 2019 and uses her past experience as a team manager in banking to run her current team of 18 staff. Her drivers deliver food to over 1,500 customers a week across a large territory that stretches from Wimborne, Dorset to Axminster, Devon.
“We had four drivers when I bought the franchise and I plan to expand that to eight by the end of this year,” Anita says. “Currently, we run five to seven rounds a day, but I plan to increase that to eight, so I’m buying an extra van and remapping the rounds to make them more efficient.
“Expansion was always my plan, but then lockdown made it essential.”
However, Wiltshire Farm Foods is about more than business growth.
“The biggest reward comes from making our clients feel good,” Anita says. “Most of our customers are elderly, vulnerable or disabled and have been in the shielding group expected to remain in their homes for three months. Now that is over, but many are going outdoors less often than in the past, so meal deliveries are a lifeline for them.
“A visit from one of our drivers means they see a friendly face and I schedule the drivers’ rounds so they have time for a quick chat, even if it’s only from a distance.”
Anita manages the team and the overall business rather than doing deliveries herself, but says she would happily do so if necessary.
“This is a management franchise, but going out with the delivery drivers is part of the franchisee training, so I know what value our drivers bring to our customers’ lives,” she says.
“It’s great to be growing the business, but the biggest reward is customer feedback. We get cards and calls in the office all the time from customers who are grateful for our service. It gives me a nice warm feeling.”
Dani Hickman: Dog First Aid
The franchisee that helps save pets’ lives
Every time Dani Hickman takes to the road, dogs’ lives get safer.
Dani is the owner-operator of the Derbyshire and East Staffordshire Dog First Aid franchise, delivering dog first aid training courses to dog owners and canine professionals.
She says: “I took a Dog First Aid training course in 2018 and was so impressed that I decided to invest in the franchise.
“After 20 years in the corporate world, I can now indulge my love of dogs and the flexible hours mean I have time to be ‘mum’ to my rescue dogs Ian and Mally, three cats and three hens and to support my local dog shelter.”
After training with members of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and work experience in a veterinary practice, Dani started travelling to venues to deliver courses that provide the skills and confidence to help dogs in emergencies. During lockdown, the courses have been delivered online from Dani’s home office.
Clare Adrian, one of Dani’s course attendees, says: “My nine-month-old puppy started choking on a training treat while we were out on a walk, so in the middle of a field I put my training into practice. It took a while, but it came out. I’m so glad I knew what to do.”
Jo Middleton, managing director and founder of Dog First Aid, says: “You don’t need a background in the veterinary world to become a Dog First Aid franchisee, but you must be a dog lover with ambition to grow a business.
“Our franchisees get training with registered members of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and unlimited ongoing support from our in-house veterinary team.”
Ray White: Oven Wizards
Mobile oven cleaning drives a secure future
“About a year before I joined Oven Wizards, I began to realise the company I was working for could not guarantee me a secure future,” Ray White says.
He decided to look for a business of his own and since 2012 has been the Oven Wizards franchisee covering Watford and the surrounding areas.
“I’d been a production manager in a factory and decided on a mobile franchise because it meant going to different places and meeting new people each day - and I still love that,” Ray says.
“Since lockdown lifted, we have been exceptionally busy. Partly it’s regular bookings held off over the lockdown, but we’re also seeing many new customers because people have been cooking at home more so their ovens are dirtier.
“I expect many of these new customers to become regulars because we know from customer feedback that we do a good job. Customers are delighted with the results, which always puts a smile on your face.”
Linda Whitney writes about franchising for the Daily Mail, What Franchise and many other publications.
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