|Photo: Caleb Roenigk (Flickr)
After several years of running a pizzeria, there comes a time when you start to think about expanding. That can mean opening a store in the town next door or branching out across the country and allowing others to use your company name and recipes.
Running one store can be hard enough, so when considering franchising, many pizzerias bring in an expert to help make the transition from one to many a smooth one.
I touched base with historic Aurelio’s (aureliospizza.com) in Chicago, which currently operates 40 locations in six states, to see why chief operating officer Kirk Mauriello sought franchising assistance, and how it ultimately benefited the pizzeria.
The Pizza Insider: Why did you seek assistance from FranConnect?
Kirk Mauriello: We were looking for an all-encompassing system to use for handling our franchise information and communication stream. FranConnect had the most comprehensive and easy-to-use system for corporate and franchisees.
How long did the process take from start to finish and what were some of the biggest challenges and rewards?
We were able to get FranConnect up and running within about 30 days. The biggest challenge was internal. Getting all the stores set up and making sure that we had all the correct information such as email addresses for the franchisees. The biggest reward was being able to have one system that keeps all the information we need about each franchise locations in a database.
Are there some aspects that you felt could not be done without assistance from an expert?
We are a small organization. Although, we are listed in the Top 50 Pizza Chains in America, we are very lean. We only have six corporate employees and we rely heavily on technology systems to maximize our effectiveness. FranConnect has saved us thousands of hours of work that we used to have to do compiling data. Now we just enter the data and the system keeps track of it all.
How has working with FranConnect helped to grow Aurelio’s?
We have been able to implement other pieces that FranConnect offers such as PerformanceWise, which has allowed us to improve our quality control process and automate a very detail oriented, time consuming process.
What advice do you have for the independent pizzeria operator considering franchising?
The key to franchising is systems and processes. Not only restaurant operational systems and processes, but administrative systems and processes.
Rick Arevalo, chief client officer from FranConnect shared some additional information with The Pizza Insider about what pizzerias operators should think about before considering franchising.
The Pizza Insider: What are some of the big questions an independent pizzeria operator should ask themselves when considering franchising?
Rick Arevalo: Before considering converting a business over to a franchising model, there are many commitments and legal requirements to consider. Once you have registered a trademark and created the franchise agreement, you have now committed to a system of promised support that would convince an investor to spend a significant amount of time and money to become “part of a greater thing” – your trademark. So why should they gravitate to your offering? The operator going into franchising would need to have over time:
· An organized process of handling leads from different sources which organizes, automatically send responses and retains records of all investments and results by lead source as well as an electronic sending and accounting of all FDD’s sent out and their results.
· A clear communication follow up to every prospective inquiry that expeditiously showed them what is offered, why it is attractive and graphically represents your company as the only choice in your specific space.
· Once you have brought on new franchisees, they will need an organized, managed process to cover all bases and expedite the opening of their location and shorten their time to “days first dollar”.
· A centralized online communication tool where your whole system would “congregate” to drive culture, improve communication and create alignment throughout your network.
· A formalized way of supporting franchisees through online training and timely addressing daily issues that come up.
· The ability to retain all records of documents, trainings, personal information, phone calls , emails and field visits in one place that is easy to access and understand corporate wide.
· An objective way of making location visits that specifically directs franchisees on what to do and why through pictorial examples and impeccable follow up to ensure compliance and progress.
· Compiling financial information and KPI’s, collecting royalties electronically and comparing all units to benchmark results and progress.
· The ability to help franchisees increase revenues through an integrated marketing platform to include franchisee micro-sites, email marketing, PPC, print marketing, online ad builder, customer feedback etc.
How long does it generally take to open a franchise using FranConnect versus doing it on your own and what is involved in the process?
There are a myriad of issues and problems to overcome if one were to consider entering franchising on their own. The biggest problem that you would encounter is not knowing what you don’t know. It takes many years of experience to realize that it would take you years to setup a franchise system, start to bring in prospects, show them that they are investing in a complete system that will ensure direction, protection of the trademark they are investing in, and a solid promise of increasing the value of their investment over time. All of this comes from the “complete” array of services brought to the franchisee by the franchisor. FranConnect offers all of these modular pieces in one place and most importantly, supports individual franchisor/customers by bringing them the expertise and best practices of over 500 brand names. The result is the ability of the potential small company can become a franchisor in a fraction of the time because all modules you could possibly need along with the supporting expertise to use them is provided in one place.
Is help affordable to the small business owner? What is the typical return on investment?
It does not matter what size of an organization you are, help is affordable and expandable. FranConnect currently works with many small and startup companies that may start out with only a few modules, but expand to others as they grow and need them. The ROI on any particular module is clearly short term and ongoing. We are highly accessible to anyone and want to become partners in growth for life.