3 food franchise lessons from Marides Fernando
Whether starting out or seeking to diversify, entrepreneurs can establish themselves in the franchise industry. Food, in particular, is a huge pie that keeps on growing.
When she started, Marides Fernando looked at no less than the largest food chain in the country, Jollibee Foods Corporation (JFC). The former mayor of Marikina City was not at all new in business, but she was from an entirely different territory: construction.
Fernando did not get accustomed to the periodic cash flow involved in property development, the turf of her husband Bayani, who is also former mayor of the shoe capital and chairman of Metro Manila Development Authority.
In food franchise, there is cash every day and no receivables to collect later, Fernando said in a panel at Franchise Asia Philippines 2015 on June 11. “That kind of business model seems to suit me better.”
Besides, “I’ve always wanted to be in the food business because that’s what I took up in college,” added the graduate of Hotel and Restaurant Administration from the University of the Philippines.
Choose a reputable brand
Fernando did the legwork first. According to her, rookies must do research on the franchisor they want to do business with. Those who are already doing it will have something to say about the stakes.
She chose the Jollibee brand because it already had built itself an empire. The Filipino fastfood chain was well-known and ubiquitous. But its main selling point was a robust outpouring of support from the head office, which trained people and provided starting franchisees with managers.
These efforts continue at present, with added value. “The advantage in a food franchise is you don’t have to do your purchasing. It’s already negotiated for us,” Fernando said.
This frees up a store’s management and crew to focus on customer service and maintain high-quality performance – serving with a smile, offering hot food, and keeping the store clean, among others.
Owning several brands under the umbrella company JFC, Fernando said there is the advantage of having uniform systems and processes across her branches. It is like being with a team, a family.
The head office also allows franchisees to conduct trainings and dish out incentives as they deem necessary.
Among her group’s incentive programs for performing units are cash bonuses and overseas trips. These are on top of constant learning through trainings and mobile phones and other gadgets.
Fernando also shared that she maintains a Viber thread with area managers: “They email all the time to update me. When we have renovations, they send pictures on Viber.” There are also the regular meetings and presentations.
For Fernando, making a Jollibee store thrive all boils down to good accounting, excellent resource management, and agile decision-making.
If intervention is needed in a non-performing unit, her team does not hesitate to replace managers and crew members.
“We replace non-performing managers very quickly,” she added.
‘Own’ the business
Franchising is no shortcut to success. This venture requires a lot of work, ensuring steady communication and a strong relationship with the head office.
The franchisee is seen by end consumers as the representative of the franchiser’s brand. The franchisee must believe in the brand as much the maker does. Such belief should be reflected in the business’ daily operations.
Asked if there are other investments her group is currently interested in aside from food, Fernando did not drop a clue. But she acknowledged that “the market is getting thinner because of the proliferation of malls,” permitting the entry of more and more players.
She still is confident though, and banks on the sustainability of the fast food giant, which she calls “the masses’ place for 'fine' dining.”
According to her, people are increasingly buying takeaway meals because they are having less time to prepare food at home .
So, Fernando’s business development team will always look for good locations so they can add more and more Jollibee stores in the future.
“We want to keep being in the business of providing the daily meal of the people,” she said. – Rappler.com
Shadz Loresco is a freelance business writer for both online and print. Follow her on Twitter: @shadzloresco.
Jollibee file photo from Agence France-Presse