Head office support is an essential part of a franchise package. Here Paul Rayment, Papa John’s business development manager, details what he does to assist the company’s franchisees build and grow profitable businesses
When buying a franchise, one of the important aspects of the package you purchase is the support from head office staff. This includes training and marketing assistance, but also encompasses help with the many processes that go into setting up a business.
Often the prospective franchisee views the deal as simply buying a business. However, there is much behind the scenes work that goes on to ensure franchisees can be up and running smoothly and quickly.
Some of these tasks are admin heavy and require navigation by experienced personnel. Because it is in the franchisor’s interest that franchisees do well, they employ the right staff, who are experts in their field, to dedicate their time to ensure franchisees are earning rapidly. Access to such expertise is a hidden bonus when buying a franchise.
Over the past 30 years I’ve worked for many of the top names, from Pizzaland to Pizza Hut to Perfect Pizza, Domino’s and most recently Papa John’s. As business development manager for Papa John’s, I wear a few different hats, but each role has the same objective - to smooth the transition for a franchisee to take over one of our pizza outlets.
We are always opening new retail premises across the UK, however I’m mainly focused on store transfer. This may be where a franchisee is leaving and a store becomes available or if someone is looking to move area. Sometimes stores are taken on by existing franchisees or a new franchisee joining may take on an established outlet.
At Papa John’s there are many initial details that need to be taken care of before any franchisee is approved, from due diligence to credit searches, liaising with accountants to managing anti money laundering checks. Much of this kind of admin work is time consuming, yet necessary to avoid issues further down the line. Then, once the background checks are completed and while franchisees are busy undertaking their four week in-house training course, I work with my colleagues to create the limited company and set up bank accounts so there is a smooth handover and franchisees are in business the Monday after their training course finishes.
Because my role is so varied, there is not really a typical day. I live in Birmingham and cover the Midlands, north and Scotland for the change of hands of outlets. Luckily Birmingham is fairly central, so one day I might set off early and drive the two hours to head office in Chertsey for staff meetings. I will get calls on the way about store transfers that are in progress and sometimes franchisees will get in touch if they are looking at selling.
One of our franchisees is interested in moving to an out of town area as he has a young family, so I talk to him about options and how we could help him shift the portfolio of his pizza outlets to available stores near where he would like to live.
When I arrive at head office, I return my other calls. I chat to our PR consultant about writing this article and send her the picture she needs. I also have a face to face meeting with a colleague about processing new franchisee applications. He needs to know if any of our current franchisees are looking to sell or move area, which would make an established outlet available for a new franchisee joining our network. Although we open many brand new outlets in the UK, new franchisees are often keen to buy the franchise for an existing outlet that already has trading history and awareness in the marketplace.
While in the office, I write a short operations overview, including data from the department to be included in our internal franchisee newsletter. I include details of any stores that have come on the market, including sales figures, so the franchisee network gets to learn about these new opportunities first. This is important, as many of our franchisees own multiple outlets. Many are also hungry to expand their franchises and we encourage that outlook and attitude, as it matches our company ambitions for growth.
A store has come on the market in Northampton. I call the franchisee to find out more information and see how I can help make an impending transfer as straightforward as possible. In the afternoon I visit a local franchisee for Paul Rayment: “There is much behind the scenes work that goes on” a face to face meeting to see if the Northampton franchise that is for sale might suit his development plans. I find face to face meetings are always preferable if possible, as selecting a store location is very personal to each franchisee and it is important for me to understand the drivers and needs for that franchisee and their family.
I like to think of store transfers as similar to buying a house. However, we help the process by instructing the solicitors, drawing up the contracts and pulling all the essential details together. In this way we can control the process efficiently, keep franchisees informed of progress and act quickly if any issues arise. As a result, the store transfers normally only take a few weeks.
But just like buying a house, there inevitably will be a few challenges that need to be ironed out. Although it seems that there are an increased number of empty shops on the high street, sourcing property remains difficult and a process that has to be managed carefully. We have franchisees ready and waiting to open outlets, with US support for finance that would help the UK economy, and yet, even when premises are found and secured, it can still take three months to get planning permission. Therefore store transfers that already have permission are always a popular choice for prospective franchisees.
Timing is also critical. It is often the opportunity to arrange refurbishment work during the hand over period. At Papa John’s we constantly aim to raise the bar and so refreshing the decor of outlets between franchisees is one way to ensure the ambience of the store is in keeping with our high quality brand values. It’s also what our customers have come to expect, given the high standards of our pizzas. Therefore, after visiting the local franchisee I might check on a store refurbishment and ensure the work is running to the planned timetable.
Because my job is different every day, it is certainly never boring. Even after 30 years in the pizza industry, it keeps me interested and passionate about the work I do helping our franchisees build and grow their businesses.