When you’re nurturing a new BBQ franchise, resist the urge to grow too fast
Here’s the latest in a series of blog posts by our senior director of franchise development, Chad Tramuta, for Franchise Business Review. This month, he wrote about how franchise systems sometimes need to hold back on their growth until, in homebuilders’ terms, the foundation sets:
Entrepreneurs are impatient by nature. They want more, more, more, all the time, keep it going, push forward, sustain the momentum, fly past the competition, push it, push it real good, generate leads, sell, kick ass, win.
That’s why it’s hard sometimes to persuade yourself and the hard-charging folks around you to … chill. Hang back. See the big picture. Plan your work before trying to work your plan.
I thought about this recently, when I ran across an Inc. interview with an executive vice president for Bojangles’, a Charlotte, N.C.-based fried chicken franchise system that’s been around since 1977 and has more than 500 locations in 10 states and Washington, D.C. But Bojangles’, even after 35 years, has resisted the urge to branch out from the East Coast and Southeast.
Why? The company decided to build out in their existing states to maximize volume instead of geography; build partnerships with and buy fresh chicken from local and regional farms; and make the most of their marketing dollars by concentrating on high-volume areas. “Smart growth” is an urban planning term, but you can apply it to franchising, too!
It’s an attitude we’ve nurtured at VooDoo BBQ & Grill franchise since we began franchising in 2007. There were times, believe me, when we were like dogs straining at the leash to get out there and sell more franchises. What were we waiting for?
But we knew we had to pump the brakes. We weren’t ready. We’d heard enough stories about franchises that overextended themselves and grew too quickly for the franchise system to keep track of them, and quality and consistency suffered.
We’d heard about operations staff that lost the reins and had to explain after the fact (sometimes on their way out the door) why the businesses failed. We’d heard about franchisors so eager to open locations, they sold units to people with marginal financing, questionable desire and little to no experience — a recipe for failure.
That wasn’t going to be us, and it shouldn’t be you, either.
Smart franchisors need to do a few key things:
Solidify a small group of peak-performing franchise owners who can serve as linchpins for the system and examples and tutors for subsequent owners.
Do thorough examinations of candidates’ finances to make sure their margins are comfortable. As any franchisor knows, a franchise owner’s first year can be challenging. They need enough money to cushion the difficulty.Plan any expansion tactically and strategically, with thorough and detailed research about target areas and their demographics, likelihoods of success and proximity to the home office.
It’s wise to stay conservative and make sure your house has a strong, solid foundation before you start adding the patio with awning, gabled roof and dormer windows. We’re expanding big-time now — 14 locations with three more about to open, plus agreements signed for 40 additional stores in six states — but it’s come only after some hard work, trial and error and smart planning.
It’s pretty appropriate that we serve barbecue, a cuisine that demands patience in preparation. It teaches a great lesson: Don’t rush it, or you might ruin it.
It’s pretty good advice, and there’s no question our deliberate approach to building our system has paid big dividends for us in the last couple of years. Want to join the New Orleans BBQ franchise revolution? We want to hear from you. Fill out the form on this site, download our detailed franchise information report and take your first step toward citizenship in the VooDat Nation!