Staff happiness is business happiness: Franchising tips from the pros


Johannesburg - With franchising businesses performing well despite South Africa's gloomy economy, opening a franchise might be a stellar opportunity for a budding entrepreneur.  

Krispy Kreme’s managing director in South Africa Gerry Thomas, founder of RocoMamas food franchise Brian Alriche and ‘living’ brand Ina Paarman all shared their top tips of how to be a successful franchiser at the annual FNB Franchising Summit in Johannesburg this week. 

These are their secrets: 

1.     Select the right franchisor

 “We were very firm in our requirements of buying into a franchise,” said Thomas, whose past successes include the Fego and Europa coffee shop brands. “Among our criteria were a franchisor’s pedigree, to be the first to market, as well as social responsibility and financial stability. You also have to be the best in class and have a point of difference are fundamental when investing in a food franchise brand.

“Krispy Kreme’s footprint with emerging economies similar to South Africa pointed to the fact that the concept had legs," he said.

He and his team were invited to the annual Krispy Kreme summit in the Philippines before the team had put pen to paper.

"You’re talking 30 different cultures coming together – but for a franchisee to love a franchisor and hug and kiss them all the time, you know that's good. And that helped to convince us.”

2.    Intellectual Property matters

Ina Paarman, who is over 60 years old and whose products have become a staple of South African household cooks, said her business had built up a bank of Intellectual Property "of how to make this, how to make that”.

“We are not a factory that can only make mayonnaise. We often sit down with restaurant groups, for instance, and advise them.”

RocoMama's Altriche, who designed the RocoMamas logo himself, agreed.

“I taught myself about IP – Intellectual Property is very important,” he said. “To this day I do a lot of my own design work and branding.”

3.     Keep your website fresh

Paarman said the front page of their website changes every month. “Each month I do a new recipe for everyday cooking, one recipe that’s a personal favourite, and a menu for a special occasion and a kids’ recipe.”

4.     Staff happiness is business happiness

“We pay our people well, they are not unionised, and we talk to them. Nobody does things alone. I’m a passionate, passionate believer in team playing,” said Paarman. “One of the biggest advantages in my career is that I trained as a teacher. That shows you what you can do with people’s minds if you give them the self-respect, the motivation.” 

5.     Watch and learn

After the first RocoMamas store opened in Randburg, Altriche spent most of his days just sitting in the store and observing what happened in his store. This helped him to get a feel on the ground for what his customers were experiencing. Today he still does the same. 

“He still has meetings in the store,” confirmed Mike Sharman of Retroviral digital communications agency, who developed RocoMama’s now-legendary #electionburger campaign.

“Brian, for example, noticed this stuff from the ‘food porn generation’, that the images were not looking as good on social media as they were in real life. So he changed the lighting in the store so that the product looked better on Instagram."

Sharman said the stories often get so entrenched in the day to day operations.

"For most franchisees there’s ops, finance challenges and so much to distract you day to day... but it’s about being in the store. Like Brian says, you can only control those four walls, and ultimately the experience in the store for the consumers.”

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