SA Franchise Brands welcomes Yvette Frater, Franchisee for Melissa’s The Food Shop in Paarl to share some aspects on being a Franchisee.
WHAT QUESTIONS SHOULD PROSPECTIVE FRANCHISEES ASK THEMSELVES BEFORE BUYING A FRANCHISE?
A. What are franchisees saying about the franchisor – It is definitely a good idea to ask questions before purchasing.
B. What is it Iike to work in this franchise? It would be advisable to almost job shadow to find out what it would be really like to own a franchise by “working” or at least spending some time there.
C. What support do they offer beyond the initial training?
WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO BUY A FRANCHISE?
On our quest to find the perfect tenant for our building, we realized that we have the opportunity to purchase a Melissa’s.
We wanted to open a deli/coffee shop in this specific space but only had retail experience (from previous businesses). A franchise would offer us a system (so needed) in the food industry and this specific franchise would not only teach us their systems, but also already offered a product well known to those that enjoy good quality food.
HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO INVESTIGATE A FRANCHISE AND WHAT CRITERIA DID YOU USE?
I was in the fortunate position that I could completely trust the Franchise and its systems – as we know the owners very well. In the real world it would be of utmost importance to do a lot of research before purchasing a franchise.
It goes without saying that it is important to choose the right site and often you will be guided by the franchise. It is important to determine the brand’s market perception by looking at its ratings, Facebook comments etc. especially how the franchise deals with critique (or not).
I also had a good look at the competition in my area and also did a price comparison of some of their products.
WHAT MADE YOU BUY A MELISSAS THE FOOD SHOP FRANCHISE?
Firstly, I have always loved the Melissa’s concept and supported the brand over many years. We chose Melissa’s because it matches our personal values – no pre packed sauces, msg, margarine, short cuts will be found on site – only freshly made food with the focus on quality ingredients! We sell interesting, high quality products with good old fashioned service. Most people will be surprised that it is a franchise as it is definitely different to your typical SA franchise. It is more than just a coffee shop or a deli…it is a food shop offering unique gifts, tasty treats, daily buffet – all packaged in a special way.
THE OWNERS INVOLVEMENT
The concept of Melissas The Food Shop has stayed the same from the start – it is all about quality and the product remains timeless. It is still Melissa who decides on new products and everything in the store still carries her unique signature.
The store offers its classic products, but we have found that the Franchise invests a lot of time (and money) in product development. We have new products every month, our menu changes often (seasonal) and we always have trendy, new products on our shelves. This makes it an amazing environment to shop in, as our regular customers often want to see change.
What early challenges did you face?
1.1 Staff – this will be a problem with any new business, especially when it is a seven day a week operation. We have however had no staff turnover for the past eight months and I have two very good managers in charge.
1.2 Systems – it took us a while to understand all the systems. They have many different systems (with loads of manuals to consult). I do however realize that this is really the backbone of my business and needs to be done as they have tested and tried these systems over the years.
1.3 Hours – In the beginning I had to put a lot more hours into the business than initially planned. We often worked 12 hour shifts for the first couple of months, but this however became easier and less as the staff started to ease into the process.
1.4 Financing – again a problem for all new businesses in South Africa. Banks have changed Their lending criteria and no longer give out loans easily. We have however approached a financial institution that backs small business and also receive a lot of financial advice and support from them.
1.5 Accounting – as I do not come from this background, I have struggled to find the right person to do this for me. It is of course important to have up-to-date management reports, prepare the VAT, UIF etc. This is all very difficult to manage when you start a new business.
WHAT TRAINING AND SUPPORT DOES THE FRACHISOR PROVIDE YOU WITH?
We started to train three months before we opened. I appointed my manager in this time and she trained with me in one of the other Melissa’s stores. We worked in several of the stores and training focused on the daily operations of a store, stock take, product information and staff.
We now have monthly visits from the operations manager to assist with general problems, but also to rate the store.
We also have training manuals for all the staff and these manuals also get updated by the head office from time to time.
The owners also frequently visit the store and we have a complete backup system at the head office to assist with daily problems.
We also go on courses which the head office arranges – i.e. financial and service workshops.
We have been to a financial overview meeting with the owners and assessed our first six month’s turnover and costs and received valuable information for the road ahead.
We do find that this is one of the things that set Melissa’s apart from the rest of the franchises on offer – they offer great assistance and solutions to problems.
HOW IMPORTANT IS THE FRANCHISEE’S RELATIONSHIP WITH THE FRANCHISOR
After completing my first year with a franchise, I really have to admit that it would not have been possible to operate without a relationship with the franchisor. This is probably the most important part of buying a franchise. As you are selling someone else’s successful “idea”, you need to understand their systems, logic behind choosing products and recipes and the communication channel between you and the franchisor need to be perfect to achieve the end result.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO PROSPECTIVE FRANCHISEES
- Be involved. The owner needs to be there as a bridge between managers and staff, customers and staff and franchise and staff. It is important to be involved with the staff and customers and to make sure that all systems work optimally.
- Communication. Vital between the franchisee and franchisor. Ask for help and assistance all the time, especially in the beginning and after the set up period.
- Set realistic goals for you and staff and factor in Eskom problems, economic changes etc.