We’ve recommended before that you search for reviews, and especially negative reviews, when you’re evaluating a franchise. Sites where people review franchise business opportunities are often just gripe-fests, but seeing the kinds of complaints people make can be enlightening.
If there are plenty of complaints about how the franchisor didn’t provide as much one-on-one as the reviewers wanted and you’re looking for a franchise where you have more of a free rein — that can be a “Bingo!” moment for you. If there are complaints saying that the franchisor pushed the franchisees and you love that kind of challenge, the franchise in question might be just your jam.
But you can also learn from consumer reviews.
When you check reviews on Yelp for one franchise in many places, you’ll often find significant differences from one town to another. For the franchise gym in the example below, two of the locations had mostly 4 or 5 stars reviews, with the occasional 1 or 2 stars for a specific issue — in the screenshot below, a 1-star review is based entirely on parking. The third location has 2 and 3 star reviews.
Reading the reviews shows that space is a frequent issue in the lower-star reviews. They’re thoughtful reviews with lots of detail, not rants, but they point out that the location doesn’t have amenities they’ve seen at other locations — because there just isn’t enough space.
The second set below show a men’s grooming franchise that gets 5 star reviews at most locations, but a few locations get much lower marks.
Read the reviews and you’ll see complaints about nicks from a shave, uneven haircuts, and details of poor service. At the mostly 5 star locations, 4 star reviews or negative comments get a response from the franchise, while the low-star locations get no response. It looks as though this is a business that relies on skilled workers and diligent management.
The final example is a frozen yogurt chain that has a pretty steady 4-star average across the country, not because they’re averaging 5-star reviews and 3-star reviews, but because people usually give 4 stars. An occasional 5, an occasional 3, but this is a chain that people are satisfied with but not excited about.
Negative comments sometimes mention a rude cashier, but most comments say it’s okay yogurt, just like every other yogurt shop. If you’re considering a franchise with reviews like this, you have to consider how much competition you’ll have — if you’re the first frozen yogurt shop in town this might be okay, but if you’re the eighth, you might need to search for something more dazzling to customers.
Customer reviews can give you insights into the specific factors your franchise location will need to focus on in order to excel. If you need an amazing staff, make sure the workforce in your area can provide that amazing staff. If location is key, make sure the right location will be available in your price range. If reviews are ho-hum, find out how much flexibility you’ll have to make your location stand out.