Apr 04

Why millennials make valuable franchise partners | Pizza Marketplace

Restaurants, over the past several years, have spent a lot of time, creative energy and money wooing millennial customers, but they may have been missing out on an even more important opportunity. These consumers, born between 1977 and 2000, are more than just customers; they are valuable franchise partners, according to several execs speaking on the “To Catch a Millennial: How to Attract Young Entrepreneurs to Your Franchise” panel this week at the Restaurant Franchising & Innovation Summit in Dallas.

Millennials are known for being tech-savvy, creative and resourceful, and a recent Angus Reid survey found 78 percent are motivated by the concept of “charting their own course” and 76 percent of millennial business owners said they’re making a positive go of the companies they’ve started.

Connie Alires, director of franchise development  at Which Wich, agreed, noting that about 30 percent of the chain’s franchisees are mMillennials. Instead of trying to mold young franchisees into versions of existing franchisees, Alires finds their optimistic and laidback attitude a great fit for the brand.  As a company, Which Wich has embraced the millennial mindset, which is about working hard but on your own terms while helping others and having fun.

“If you wear a suit and tie you will be uncomfortable. We are all on the same team, all living and eating the brand,” said Alires about the brand’s corporate office. “We are very quick and nimble, on the fly. You have to embrace that culture, and we are either right for your of you might think we are freaking weirdos but you’ll know for sure cause that’s who we are.”

HuHot Mongolian Grill also works with millennial franchisees and has a similar culture as Which Wich, said Laura Sporrer, the brand’s director of franchise development, who happens to be a millennial.

“We are casual, too; you can bring dogs, you can work remotely when you need to,” she said. “We work hard, but we do it whenever we need to. We are not there to look a certain way; we have fun and are inspired by what we are doing.”

Smashburger’s Tom Ryan and Newk’s Chris Newcomb echoed Sporrer and Alires’ opinions about not enforcing set schedules and providing a laidback, transparent atmosphere.

“On our discovery days, everyone comes in and has access to anyone they want to talk to,” Newcomb said. “We’re very open, and when we take (possible franchisees) on a tour they can ask anything they want.”

Connie Alires of Which Wich, Laura Sporrer of HuHot and Chris Newcomb of Newk's, discuss why Millennials can make great franchisees.

Ryan agreed, noting offices, these days, have ping pong tables and craft beer.

“It’s important to have that spontaneous recreation ability to break away,” he said.

How to deal with a lack of experience and finance

Many of HuHot’s younger franchisees are veterans who are using the GI bill for financing and often have had a ton of real-world experience, said Sporrer. When she comes across a good millennial franchisee with less experience, however, she will connect them with an experienced GM or help them find a mentor.

Similarly, Which Wich often uses its existing franchise base to help less-experienced candidates.

“They’ll tell us: ‘This dude has no clue.’ Or, ‘He’s green but asking great questions and was willing to dig in and learn from the experts.'”

A different type of franchisee

Ryan pointed out millennials have caused a lot of rapid change in the industry and view franchising differently than the previous generation of business owners.

“The last generation was about the hardcore business model, and this one is growing a lot more heart,” he said.

What drives them is a sense of community, agreed Newcomb, who said past generations have had the attitude of ‘give me the model and I’m going to run my business.’

Millennials, however want to be heavily involved.

“They want to know what you believe in, how you make a difference, how you are attached to community,” Newcomb said.

Communicating millennial-style

One area where millennials catch a lot of flack is how they communicate, but Alieres taps the generation’s text and social media obsessions as a way to to meet them on their own turf.

“If you aren’t texting your millennials you are missing out; they hate talking on the phone. They text; don’t get mad if they don’t look at their emails. You have to adapt,” said Alieres, who admits that while older execs view texting as unprofessional, it’s the way millenials prefer to communicate.

“It’s not the golden rule of treat them how you want to be treated,” she said. “Find out how they want to be treated. They are going to tell you how they are going to communicate; if you are old-school and think your way is the only way then it’s not going to work.”

Sporrer said a reliance on texting doesn’t make millenials bad face-to-face communicators.

“Since I’m a millennial, maybe I get defensive,” said Sporrer, who often pairs candidates with existing franchise owners to get their opinions on communication skills. “Also, they are going to be managing millennials and the next generation, so if they want to send a text that may work actually better,” she said.

Winning over millennials

Third-party endorsements are more important to millennials than what any CEO has to say, Alires told panel attendees.

“They aren’t going to take your word for it; they are going to look at reviews and do their homework even after a three-hour meeting with you. They are going to fact check you on everything; they are savvy when it comes to that and are going to dig deep. They can see through it all,” Alires said.

Franchisors must speak from the heart, Newcomb noted, about the business and must ask candidates the right questions, including:

  • Do you have a plan how to operate the business
  • How do you treat team members?
  • How do you support them?
  • What is your goal?

“If their goal is just to make money, then no, but if they are going to build a legacy, then yes,” Newccomb said.

Family ties

Millennial franchisees, who happen to be second-generation restaurant owners are Alires’ favorite type of franchisee. Many want to own a business but don’t want to take over their parents’ legacy QSR brands.

“They want something unique and different, but (from growing up in the business) they buy into the processes, the systems,” she said.

Source: Why millennials make valuable franchise partners | Pizza Marketplace

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