Who’s game enough to own a fast-food franchise? Often demonised as unhealthy and evil, the fast-food business is not for the faint-hearted.
McDonald’s franchise owner James Currie knows the ups and downs of life in the fast-food lane.
Currie went head to head with furious protesters when he announced plans to open his third McDonald’s franchise in Tecoma, in the picturesque surrounds of Melbourne’s Dandenong Ranges.
The much-publicised battle lasted almost three years until last month, when the burger chain opened its doors – albeit with placard-bearing protesters still picketing at the door.
Despite the long-running dispute, Currie says it’s all been worthwhile.
“It’s certainly been a long road but I’m really proud of the restaurant we’ve built – it’s a beautiful building that absolutely fits in with the local surrounds and more importantly it’s created over 100 local jobs,” he says.
“I respect every individual’s right to express their opinion, but also believe that the needs and wants of the majority of the local community who want to have the choice of McDonald’s and the benefits it provides shouldn’t be forgotten.”
More than 21,000 customers came through the doors in the first week, which Currie says proves the restaurant has a legitimate place in the suburb.
“We obviously did our research in Tecoma – as we do with all of our sites – and we knew that there was a demand and local community support for us in Tecoma,” he says.
Like other fast-food franchise owners, Currie has a history with the chain he now holds a stake in.
“I started my career with McDonald’s as a cleaner and worked my way up,” he says.
“I started working at McDonald’s when I was 15 and this year marks my 39th year with the company.
“By the age of 23 I was a restaurant manager and at 26 I attended Hamburger University in Chicago to gain qualifications to become a training consultant.
“I then went on to other positions including franchise consultant and opened restaurants in Victoria, NSW, Tasmania and South Australia before deciding to buy into franchises as a family business with my wife and two sons.”
Of all Australia’s fast-food chains, McDonald’s is the most popular and one of the most competitive for franchisees to get a foothold in.
Research released by Roy Morgan in March shows 29.5 per cent of Australians visited McDonald’s in an average four-week period, followed by KFC at 19.9 per cent and Subway at 17 per cent.
Whatever chain a franchisee buys into, they need to make both a financial and time commitment.
At KFC the approval process includes four interviews, a financial assessment, reference checks and a review of the candidate’s business plan.
“We look for franchisees who can grow to three to five stores quickly, with a minimum equity of $1 million,” a KFC spokesman says.
“Considering that we operate in a highly competitive industry, we prefer our candidates to have previous business ownership experience, particularly in the quick service restaurant industry.
“However, if prospective franchise partners come to us with a great business plan and demonstrate an enthusiasm for the brand, we look at the full application and consider how we can help them develop any required skills within our training and development programs.”
KFC has 60 franchisees running 500 restaurants in Australia with the average tenure 15 to 20 years. Australia’s longest-running KFC franchisee has been operating for more than 40 years.
Paola Tanner, director of marketing implementation agency Fuse Partners, works with franchise businesses, particularly fast-food ones. Her client list includes Red Rooster, Eagle Boys Pizza and The Cheesecake Shop.
With an increased focus on healthy eating and the doubled-edged marketing power of social media, Tanner says fast-food franchisees have been forced to work harder.
“As Australians become more health and food conscious, there is a growing expectation from fast-food outlets to provide a higher standard of food quality and service,” she says.
“Customers are looking for something new and with the popularity of social media, many customers now share their dining experiences on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, which can be beneficial if a fast-food franchise wants to create more awareness.
“However, as customers share their experience through social media it also brings with it additional pressure for fast-food franchise owners, as they now need to manage discussions around bad experiences and rectify any issues promptly.”
* Original Article by Kate Jones: http://www.smh.com.au/small-business/franchising/want-to-own-a-fastfood-franchise-20140517-38gio.html