There will never be an algorithm or technology that is capable of understanding what makes a restaurant concept a success. So, one can only imagine the complexity of rolling out multiple restaurant units across either a single region or the entire nation. Unfortunately there is no Amazon type solution for buying that expertise.
So, for the restaurant owner finding someone that can guide them through the franchise process becomes essential. A number of major restaurant franchise success stories have found that crucial ingredient to navigate the challenges of franchising with Chris Conner and Alan George. The duo are the original visionaries who created the Franchise Marketing Systems model.
“Originally, it started out of necessity and basically desperation to survive. The recession had handed out pink slips to us both and we were trying to land on our feet,” Conner said.
The saying “necessity is the mother of invention” could certainly be used here. “The reality is that neither Alan nor I really had some grand scheme of a plan in place, we just felt there was an opportunity to help entrepreneurs,” Conner continued.
Alan had dealt in territory planning and I was in consulting, development and sales, helping businesses transition into franchising. We worked together on a variety of different brands. My feeling was that as companies enter the world of franchising, they needed help with the implementation of their franchise program. For most franchisors, getting the initial 5 or 6-unit validation is where most of the new franchises were having a tough time, so we created a system that addressed this need. “I hated seeing entrepreneurs lose their investments and not succeed in franchising, so it was really something we were passionate about.”
“My draw to the franchise development industry was really driven by an interest and a passion for working with entrepreneurs,” George explained. “It hit me after working for some larger companies and just dragging myself into work each day, that I found enormous joy in working with an entrepreneur who had it all on the line and was oozing passion and emotion for what they did every day, it was an instant buzz and I was really attracted to the idea of working with entrepreneurs.”
The Franchise Marketing Systems niche is focused on what Conner and George term strategic partnership with brands that are transitioning their growth plans into franchising. “It’s a lot like a partnership, but no strings attached,” Conner explained. We don’t have long-term contracts – they are in fact, month to month, we don’t take equity and we just try to do what’s best for the client in every scenario.”
A lot of our compensation is based on results of the franchise development work we do together, so it makes it easy for business owners to understand how we are on the same team as we enter into a working relationship together. “In the traditional sense we are ‘Franchise Businesses’, but the niche is that we’ve taken what once was a transaction relationship and made it a strategic partnership. “
The principals of Franchise Marketing Systems bring extensive access to extensive experience for the potential restaurant concept looking to franchise. “Over the years, both Alan and I have worked with a wide variety of brands, some of which had exceeded 1,000, 2,000 or even 3,000 locations which is an incredible feat,” Conner said. So many times, brands will hit a point in their growth where the leadership is tested and the original founder’s ability to take the brand forward probably can’t make the leap from one benchmark to another.”
Conner also offers unique insight into what the characteristics are of the truly iconic restaurant brands and is able to bring that to each of our Franchise Marketing’s clients. “McDonald’s has exceeded 35k units, Wendy’s 6,500 and Burger King over 16k locations and all three have global representation,” Conner noted. “These are incredible brands that all rode the same industry wave of growth in the burger segment, of course led by McDonald’s so there might have been some market favor on their side. But what makes these brands so incredible, is that they all withstood the test of time and passed so many of the potential pitfalls for long-term brand growth that others can’t seem to get past.”
“The great ones have the foresight to understand this and bring in the right people, make the right strategic decisions and steer the brand forward. These three brands not only revolutionized the restaurant market, but the entire business mindset, they were really the first to capitalize on franchising in an enormously scaled way and show the power of franchising a concept.”
Franchise Marketing Systems sees major changes in the tastes of today’s consumer with demands for both higher quality and in many cases a healthier product. “We are convinced that if McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Burger King had not made the transition with the rest of the market to a better quality quick serve product that they would be long gone by now,” George added. “Look at any franchised strip mall you pass now, they look like nice restaurants and serve a higher quality product. Customers care about what they eat today more than ever and if you don’t put a high-quality food product out and offer some healthy menu items, it’s tough to compete.”
“Healthy is definitely in, everyone in virtually every market is eating healthy, so that’s definitely a major movement,” Conner said. Salad-only concepts, low carbs, low sugar and over intensive nutrition labeling are what you run into in every food service segment today, the customer’s demanding it. The key is defining who your customer is, knowing your position in the market and then embracing that position. There will always be a place for people to indulge themselves in high calorie food or sugar-laden desserts, maybe not on every corner, but in the right neighborhoods for sure.”
Franchise Marketing Systems has also worked to create a model that eliminates the high cost of the franchise model. “It’s not rocket science how FMS approaches the franchise market segment,” George quipped. We just take a large portion of our revenues out of the success of the program. Essentially commissions on franchises that we help the client recruit. By approaching the relationship this way, it puts the responsibility to work with strong brands and valid franchises on us and it shows the client that we genuinely care about the success of the franchise we are bringing to market.”
Franchise Marketing Systems has also embraced the importance of supporting its client base with a simple yet comprehensive approach to the operational side of a restaurant. Process development, is a significant part of putting a franchise together with the documentation and structure. “Our services in franchise operations work center around the creation of franchise operations manuals and franchise training documentation, but go into a variety of different associated services such as online training portals, intranet development, POS system development, merchant services, franchise training videos and others,” Conner said. “So much of what used to be entirely defined in a written manual today is handled through video and interactive portals allowing for easier scale and dissemination of intellectual property.”
Tri-State and Midlantic operators will have the opportunity to meet the Franchise Marketing team. Franchise Marketing Systems will be in Atlantic City at the upcoming Pizza and Pasta Northeast show (Booth 1014).
“The exhibition in Atlantic City is always great and really fun to be a part of,” George added. “Our booth at the show is meant to provide a relaxed, laid back way for people to talk about franchise development and start the conversations around whether a business model is ready, or when it might be ready to franchise. No pressure and just an open discussion about how to grow a food service business.”
For the restaurant/ foodservice operator seeking more information on franchising FMS offers several easy ways to get more information, visit the Franchise Marketing Systems site, www.FMSFranchise.com. “We always like to get calls at 800-610-0292, again no pressure or obligation, but it helps to talk through issues, concerns, opportunities and how we might create a path going forward to build a brand. Sometimes if you let the idea breathe over a call together it can take shape,” Conner concluded.