Back when the U.S. highway system was being built, restaurants along the roadside had a wonderful opportunity — and a serious problem. Some travelers love finding that surprising little place off the beaten path, but plenty like to make a quick stop where they know what they’ll get, and head on down the road with limited delay and no surprises. Whether they have a delicate digestion or a picky child, or they’re just tired enough not to want to think too much, many road trippers like something familiar.
Fast food was the answer. Travelers knew that if they followed the billboard of a familiar chain, they’d find the restaurant quickly, right off the highway. They could expect a drive-through window so they wouldn’t even have to get out of the car, or at least a quick and predictable process of ordering, pickup, and spending just a few minutes at a table.
Because of the standardization of the system, they could also feel pretty confident that their sandwich would have a sesame seed bun whether they were in Poughkeepsie or Tehachapi. The food might not be exciting, but it would be safe to eat, palatable, and pretty much what they expected.
As franchising grew, people had more options. But even now, when you can find a franchise for everything from Tex-Mex to tempura, customers expect something particular when they visit a franchise. A tourist who liked Krispy Kreme back home drives up to your Krispy Kreme location with confidence.
And that’s part of what you’re paying for when you invest in a franchise business opportunity. You’re counting on the customer who knows he likes the way your franchise company changes his oil, grooms his dog, or cooks his burger. He doesn’t have to think twice about coming to you because he likes the brand. He’ll get to know and like you later. Right now, knowing and liking the brand is enough.
Now what happens if the Krispy Kreme fan goes to a Krispy Kreme outlet that overcooks the Maple Iced Glazed? He may not go back to that franchise — but he might skip yours, too. Instead of feeling confident that every Krispy Kreme will give him that Krispy Kreme experience, he now thinks that Krispy Kreme is inconsistent. He’s not sure what he’ll get when he goes into a Krispy Kreme, so he’s going to shop around a bit before he decides whether to come to your shop.
He doesn’t think, “That Krispy Kreme franchise overcooked my Maple Iced Glazed that day.” He thinks, “Krispy Kreme isn’t as good as it used to be.” And that affects every franchise location he sees.
So you want a franchisor that will protect its brand. Look for evidence of firmness about a consistent experience in the franchise agreement documents and in the conversations you have with current franchisees. Ask the franchisor directly, “What do you do if a franchisee is not maintaining the quality and identity of the brand?” A franchisor might hesitate to say they’ll insist on consistent customer experience — but that’s what you want to hear.
That way, every one of your fellow franchisees is helping your franchise location with marketing and customer satisfaction.