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SA Franchise Brands welcomes Nicolas De Sousa, Marketing Director of Traditional Brands.

Traditional Brands is the home of “Old Fashioned” Fish and Chips and Chingos – why Traditional Brands?

OFFC Nicolas De SousaThe holding company of two of South Africa’s most successful franchises, “Old Fashioned” Fish & Chips and Chingos, Traditional Brands was created on both a strategic and structural level as a corporate representing umbrella for the developing brands within the organisation. The De Sousa family, who founded the company, have been able to retain their personal touch in all aspects of the brands, a key ingredient in the creation of an umbrella brand that holds true to its spirit.

What would you ascribe the phenomenal growth and success of “Old Fashioned” Fish and Chips to?

Traditional Brands operates on a strong family ethos which is undoubtedly one of the main reasons why “Old Fashioned” Fish and Chips has been so successful and will continue to be so in the future. We not only give the value added services of a big brand, but we offer it to investors at a far lower cost. While so many brands try to replicate what they’ve seen work abroad, we have invested in creating an original African brand built on consumer understanding and what our market wants from a franchise takeaway. It is this watertight formula, and the continued sustaining of these elements, that have created the platform for our success.

How has your franchise model worked in favour of the group?

Today, “Old Fashioned” continues to develop, with short-term plans for international growth. The De Sousa family is confident that they have only scratched the surface of the brand’s potential this far, and are excited to see how far they will be able to take their company. A successful franchise is based on predictability, and the complete model we have created is the epitome of predictability. Our support structures and advanced logistical reach are unparalleled, meaning there are no limits for the “Old Fashioned” Fish and Chips brand. All processes include in-depth research and training, and our nano-marketing (marketing aimed at a particular area) activities are based on specific individual store locations.

Traditional Brands holds all of the associations and subsidiaries of the developed concepts but with the systems and structures varying internally from brand to brand.

How do you select dedicated franchisees for the group?

The franchisors (aka “head office”) operate through uniformity: this is one of the cornerstones of a successful franchise brand and this provides vital functionality. This standardisation is applied to areas such as menu and store design, location choices, franchise fees, as well as a variety of application processes. As such, it is important that franchisees are on-board with the brand’s overall philosophy and concept, to feel comfortable operating within their structures and in agreement with their systems. “Don’t just invest in any brand, your success as a franchise owner will depend on you choosing an organisation with a business model and vision that you believe in,”  De Sousa explains.

What are some of the attributes required from franchisees?

For a franchise operation to succeed, elements such as service, traceability, product and presentation should be predictable in nature. An ideal franchisee will ensure that these processes are adhered to. All parties involved in the franchise model thrive on certainty. A franchisee will guide the consumer experience and how the brand personality is portrayed, as well relationships with other company stakeholders such as suppliers and financial institutions, and so it is important to have strong and dependable interpersonal skills.

Clear communication is an important component in the skillset of a potential franchisee, particularly considering the diverse range of backgrounds in South Africa. “The ability to effectively engage with employees, customers and suppliers is vital,” says De Sousa. Poor communication leads to presumption, and once presumption occurs you will find a lack of proper understanding and many areas of fault.” De Sousa advises to look out for clear instances of solid social understanding when analysing a candidate’s experience.

Another important quality to look out for is emotional intelligence. “Being able to understand the needs of both employees and customers, as well as what the business needs on a day to day basis, is a valuable quality in a franchisee,” says De Sousa. Included in this skill is the ability to resolve conflicts and weaknesses within the business, while ensuring staff feel heard and supported. “It’s no secret that a well-motivated team means a better chance at business success, and as such the ability to inspire staff is a fundamental factor for success.”

How would you describe the overall relationship between the group and its franchisees?

Traditional Brands’ family-based culture is an integral part of the company. In fact, Nicolas believes that this unique culture is one of the reasons franchisees continue to re-invest with them. “We don’t treat our staff as robots. In stores, investors learned to expect key top level directors to be involved and show up in the stores to assist with setting up and training.”

What kind of training and support can franchisees expect?

“Training is one of the main reasons people invest in franchises. It empowers staff and provides a reliable grounding of product, operational and customer knowledge. It also makes the prospect of working for your brand more attractive to potential employees as they are given the opportunity to increase their own skillset,” De Sousa explains. “Training should be viewed as an on-going process and not just a once off activity. Once a skill is developed, the repetition of that skill creates a positive habit. This kind of consistency and traceability takes pressure off of upper management such as the owner and franchisor, who will rely on the manager to maintain the operation in a predictable, safe and sustainable manner.”

“With a lack of knowledge comes a lack of responsibility,” warns De Sousa, “you will be hard pressed to hold your staff members accountable for something that was never properly understood in the first place. It is the responsibility of the owner and franchisor to ensure training is provided regularly.”

Recognising the important advantages of face to face training has been a core part of our strategy at Traditional Brands from our earliest humble roots, and we believe it is equally (if not more) important now, that we are seeing our franchises grow into the successful brands they are today. Through our regular training and franchisee communications we are given the opportunity to engage, network and share valuable knowledge with them. All our franchise staff receive systematic, in-depth training across all relevant skills

New stores are kitted out with the latest hi-tech equipment, floor to ceiling tiling, interior and exterior branding and menus and marketing materials are provided. We also hold regular breakfasts, incentives and workshops with our investors to inform, educate and keep the lines of communications open, which can also result in occasional new introductions to our “Old Fashioned” menus and offerings. These changes are based on franchisee feedback, and are aimed at adding value for customers while increasing sales.

A number of recent developments and optimisations have further streamlined our processes and communications, and in fact, our support from head office to individual stores has never been stronger. As an increasingly growing brand, we are constantly working on improving our various departments and providing the best value for both our stakeholders and customers, while still maintaining the personal touch and core values that are an integral part of our family business.

Which factors are paramount for sustained future growth within the group with specific reference to its present and future franchisees?

Stability, traceability and consistent representation – three vital areas of consideration for the success of a franchise operation. Significantly, these are also facets of business that a well-established franchising industry is able to offer local and international investors. While this has not traditionally been perceived as a particularly strong area of the local economy, Nicolas De Sousa believes that local entrepreneurs have the ability to revolutionise the South African franchising industry and in so strengthen the economy.

De Sousa explains that the local franchising industry is a somewhat rough terrain with considerable room for improvement. “South Africa has great potential but there are still a number of areas which require significant attention. One of the greatest challenges is the current lack of industry regulation.

Where to from here for the group?

With the sustained success and international expansion of “Old Fashioned” Fish and Chips, as well as the promising growth of the more recently launched Chingos chicken franchise looking set to follow the same path, the group is currently finalising plans to launch a third franchise brand under its umbrella later this year.

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