8 steps to get your brand franchise-ready


When you're gearing up to get into franchising your independent restaurant, there are a few things you'll want to consider brand- and marketing-wise before you take the plunge. Some are more major than others, but all are important—and time-sensitive. Here's a short-ish list to get the wheels turning.



Right now—before you've started connecting with potential franchisees—is the ideal time to take a good hard look at your brand positioning and internal messaging. Make sure they're aligned with your core values. Make sure you have core values articulated! They can be very inspiring to a franchisee. Yes, people want to run a successful business, but they also want to feel good about the business they're buying into. It may be your baby, but they want to see their values reflected in it so they feel like it's their own.



Give your brand aesthetic a hard review against competitors. When I say competitors, I'm not talking about the local folks you're already blowing out of the water. I'm talking about national and global brands that compete in the same food space you do. This will be your new competition.  

Make sure there's clear differentiation between you and any other major competitor. Make sure that differentiation would be clear to someone outside your business. You are intimately familiar with—and have inherent affection for—your brand, but a stranger does not. Make sure they don't look at you and see six of one, half a dozen of another.

If you come to the conclusion that you need a brand refresh, it's better to do it now before your franchisees buy-in than to have to reach out to them a year or so down the road and say, "Soooo...I know you just spent all this money on signage and materials, but you're going to have to do it again." You may end up having to pay out of pocket a bit to incentivize your franchisees. Long story short, it may seem like an expensive effort now but it will be far cheaper than doing it later.



Whether your identity system gets a style refresh or not, take a good look at how flexible it is. Can it accommodate any type of signage under the sun? If your franchisee opens a location in a strip mall where tenants are required to use one color—and it isn't your brand color—does your identity still remain distinctive enough that it's recognizable? If there's a monument sign (you know those things that feature the logos of all the shops in the center?), will your logo work in a square configuration? Will it work in a very shallow horizontal configuration? How will it adapt to maintain integrity and recognition?



Let's say you do a brand refresh, obviously, you should update your website with your new brand aesthetic and add calls-to-action that let prospective franchisees know you're available. But don't shift the focus of your content primarily toward franchisees. Create a separate site that is optimized (I'm talking SEO) exclusively to attract franchisees, and have the main site link to the franchise site. 

You may be wondering to yourself, "Why separate them? If the most important thing for me is to attract franchisees and my customers don't visit my website on a regular basis after they've been to it once or twice, why not focus it on the franchisees?" 

Well, two reasons. A) You'll get better traction on your SEO if you're not trying to use it for two audiences (diners and 'zees), and B) because your franchisee is going to want to use the main website to attract new customers! They're going to want to see a site that welcomes new customers, gives them the info and experience they want, and isn't trying to sell them a franchise! Your main site is an asset for them. Don't turn it primarily into a sales tool for you. 



Whether you do a brand refresh or not, now is the time to have clear brand standards in place. A set of guidelines about how to use your brand aesthetic, messaging, and materials is key for maintaining consistency from store to store. You don't want people going rogue and marketing your brand however the hell they want. 

Make sure the guide is available online. As you expand and update your brand standards, you don't want to constantly be having to re-issue PDFs to all your franchisees detailing updates. A live, online style guide keeps everyone up to date at all times.



Do you have a physical kit of materials that you can send to franchisees when they show interest in your brand? Something that feels really special to demonstrate that you've thought of everything. That you are a solid choice as an investment. A thorough website is great, but this should feel important and almost gift-like. Get them excited about joining you!



Do you have a "Grand Opening" package of branded materials that your franchisee can use to start generating interest in the opening of their new store? I suggest construction barricade designs, banners, flyers, and giveaways for the big day such as t-shirts, balloons, etc. Again, the more resources you have for them, the happier they'll be, the better the return on their investment, and the better you look to other franchisees.



Along those same lines, do you have templates you can share with them for ongoing promotions? Ad layouts, flyers, coupons to hand out at events, social media promos, etc. Anything and everything you can think of that someone would want to have handy to market their location. Don't make them reinvent the wheel. Show them what works. Give them the resources they need to make their investment successful.


Will unexpected things come up as you get into franchising? Absolutely. Is this list completely comprehensive? Of course, not. But the more you can demonstrate that your focus is on the franchisee's success in their investment as opposed to your success at locking in more franchisees, the better you'll get at this franchising game. Welcome to your new mantra, "Happy 'zee, happy me." 

If you're gearing up to franchise and are looking for help putting these suggestions in motion, give us a shout. We love helping independent brands hit the big time!