Is franchisee innovation an oxymoron? Not necessarily. Take McDonald’s, for example, one of the best-known franchises in the world. Two of its key menu items, the Big Mac and Filet-o-Fish sandwich, were developed through franchisee innovation!
The heart of franchising: following the system
The McDonald’s sandwich innovations are the exception rather than the rule. By its very nature, franchising discourages franchisee innovation. This is because franchisees contract to follow a tried-and-true system. They agree to a set of rules addressing the product or service, the method for creating/delivering the product or services, and even the layout and appearance of the store or restaurant. This allows consumers to trust in the quality of the experience they’ll have at any franchise location. And it provides franchisees with a level of comfort in opening a new location, because they have the benefit of a known brand and a proven business model.
3 Tips for Making Suggestions to the Franchisor
If you’re wondering as a potential franchisee whether you’ll ever be able to put your own spin on a franchise business, take heart. The opportunity may be there. Here are a few suggestions to increase your chance of success.
First, prove yourself. Show that you can execute your franchisor’s existing business model before suggesting ways to improve it. A successful franchisee will have more credibility with the franchisor than one who is struggling.
Review your franchise agreement. It will outline areas that are set in stone and those where you can try out new ideas.
Find the right person to approach. Identify the corporate-level person who typically receives franchisee feedback. Present your idea before spending time or money developing the idea. It’s possible, and maybe even likely, that the same idea will already have been proposed by another franchisee.
If your idea is really good and the franchisor is open to it, you could be on your way to developing the next Big Mac. Admittedly the odds of that happening may not be in your favor. But with a little creativity you can find another way to make your mark. For example, many franchisees find it easier to innovate in the marketing arena, developing custom campaigns and promotions. Keep your eyes open to seize on other opportunities as they come along.