I have now been involved in franchising for 25 years.
My franchise career began in 1998 when I was asked to join the NatWest Franchise Team by the then Head of Business Banking. I stayed there for 23 years, including heading the team for the most part. It continues today as MD of Azura, part of Franchise Brands plc, where I have now been for a little over 2 years.
I still remember with fondness my first solo meeting after my training period which was with David Glover at Subway (now joint CEO at Caremark). It was in an office above one of their stores in Southend, which is now very close to where I live. Shortly after that was a meeting in Rugby with Mark Llewellyn of Colorworks, now much better known as Revive! During that meeting we began to learn about franchising together and one thing I distinctly remember was recommending that they join the bfa, which they went on to do but not only that Mark and I both went on to be bfa board members. We have both gone on to know a significant amount about franchising, though I’m sure we continue to learn every day.
Back in 1998 Tony Blair was the PM, DVDs and the Ford Focus range of cars were launched. The biggest films were Titanic, which won 11 Oscars, Saving Private Ryan and Jumanji. The £2 coin went into circulation and the euro was confirmed as the currency for the EU countries to adopt. The Furby was the most sought after (and annoying in my view) toy that launched and in technology terms Google was founded.
On a personal front my youngest daughter was born and will be 25 later this year.
Turning again to franchising, the bfa/NatWest survey in 1998 found that the industry turnover was just £7.4bn. The last survey, 20 years later in 2018 found it was £17.2bn and so I expect it may well have trebled now to over £21 bn.
In 1998 the franchise landscape was very different. There were very few children’s activity businesses, multi-unit, except for KFC and Burger King or multi brand franchisees. Domino’s were getting ready to launch on AIM the following year with just 200 stores. They now have over 1,200. Similarly, McDonald’s UK network of franchisees was less than 30% of their restaurants and it is now over 80%. Back then there were only 1 or 2 domiciliary care franchises and now there are significantly more and they play an important part in the industry growth. With new franchises in this area launching each year it will continue to be a growth area.
Perhaps because of the increase in children’s activity the percentage of female franchisees is now at its highest – 30%. Back in 1998 it was 20%. Not only that women are involved in the management of many more franchises as equal partners to their male business owners.
One of the other aspects is the growth of international over that same period. In the late 1990s very few UK business had exported their system. I remember speaking to Victor Clewes at Filta Group around the time I joined the franchise team and he said they were going to conquer the US – something very rare for a UK business. Roll that forward to today and they have a wide coverage of the US and were purchased by Franchise Brands when they were themselves an AIM company.
So, what does the future hold for the next 25 years?
To some extent I expect the growth of the F&B franchises to continue, as the existing businesses expand and new ones come to the fore – I particularly think Poke is one to watch. With more vegans than ever before at some point this type of offering will be more sustainable. I have already mentioned domiciliary care so I expect other businesses that work with the elderly or infirm to increase given the increasing longevity and health of the population. It’s difficult to know what type of vehicle franchises there will be as a lot has happened in the last 25 years to gauge properly but we will no doubt see over time. The current talk is of AI, so no doubt there will be further debate and discussions around its use, etc. but who knows what other technology will be here to help your franchise business
I can always hope but I am an avid Ipswich Town and England football fan, so I hope the former returns to the Premiership and wins major trophies as we did in the 1970s and 1980s and the latter will obviously win the World Cup again.