It's a Multi-World!: Connecting Multi-Unit Franchisees with Each Other and with Franchisors

It was only a few years ago that, for the first time, franchisees controlled more units than single-unit operators did. That moment marked a shift that had been building for decades as franchising matured into today's world of dominant multi-unit and multi-brand franchisees--along with multi-brand franchisors offering several brands from under one roof. To paraphrase the old car slogan, "This is not your father's franchising." Or perhaps we should say, "not your mom-and-pop's." Franchising has grown up and it looks a lot like multi.

In the summer of 2004, we published the first issue of Multi-Unit Franchisee magazine. Named Area Developer at the time, the new publication set out to give voice to this rising phenomenon--and to serve the growing generation of multi-unit operators, hungry for information to help them expand in both number of units and number of brands.

Our first cover featured multi-brand franchisee John Prince, a former stockbroker whose franchise holdings then included Applebee's, Aaron's, Famous Dave's, and a Hooters (in Salt Lake City, no less!). We also featured Jim Gendreau, who sold 70 franchises in 9 months in 1981 for Cost Cutters, and then became a serial franchisee for several brands, including 54 Cost Cutters of his own in the Minneapolis area. And we told the story of Tom Larson, who had 20 lodging and units spread among 7 brands, primarily in Minnesota and Wisconsin. We led the story with this:
"Besides size, what makes these area developers different from other franchise owners? Why do they amass so many units and brands while others are content with one site, maybe two or three? How do they manage to manage more brands than other people can handle units? Who are these guys?"

(In keeping with the title of the magazine, we were calling multi-unit franchisees "area developers" at the time. Live and learn!)

In the nearly six years since then, we have been doing our best to answer these questions and more that our growing readership is asking. We've interviewed and profiled hundreds of multi-unit franchisees; heard from experts on every facet of the business; and compiled lists and rankings that chronicle the fantastic growth in not only the numbers, but also in the professionalism of these operators and their organizations.

Our annual Multi-Unit Franchising Conference, too, has grown over these years, in the number and quality of exhibitors, attendees, and panelists; and we've expanded our intelligence offerings online with monthly newsletters and websites--as we grow alongside the expanding ranks of multi-unit and multi-brand franchisee organizations.

In tandem with the growing base of multi-unit operators, we've also seen franchisors "get with the program" by changing their sales approach, even their FDDs, to accommodate multiple-unit sales to experienced franchisees. The "three-pack" has grown to the five-pack and 10-pack, and we're hearing more about deals to develop upwards of 50 or 100 units in territories that grow larger each year.

In his Editor's Note in that first issue, Ripley Hotch wrote: "Experienced multi-unit franchisees bring a lot to the table: an organization, sophistication, extensive knowledge of the territory, and of how franchising works. They're also very generous about sharing their knowledge and experience. Whatever they say seems to be focused; they create organizations to make money, and they know how to do it."

We've seen that generosity play out over the years, from the lengthy profiles of multi-unit operators who take time out from their busy schedules to share their stories with our readers, to the impromptu conversations and on-the-spot mentoring and counseling we've seen during and in between sessions at our conferences.

Hotch, a veteran of business continued: "From the point of view of someone who writes about franchising, I find multi-unit franchisees a breath of fresh air. I've interviewed so many corporate types who hedge everything they say that it gets to be no fun. These guys are fun." Success is fun.

This inaugural edition of the Multi-Unit Buyer's Guide to Franchise Opportunities aims to connect expansion-oriented multi-unit franchisees with like-minded franchisors. The following pages are filled with specific, information from franchisors to help you evaluate new opportunities to diversify your portfolio of franchise brands.

These franchisors understand multi-unit franchising and are looking for experienced operators to help them penetrate new markets quickly and effectively. And you're looking for partners to help you grow. We hope this guide helps all involved. And if you do get hitched as a result of this guide, we expect an invitation to your wedding--or at least an announcement we can publish!

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