Posted Under: Franchise News
It was the first time they had been formally brought together. “This was a group of folks who’d been influential in our system for some time, and we took this opportunity to formalize our communication with them,” says host Steve Rafferty, Burger King vice president of franchising and business development, who dubbed the meeting the Brand Ambassadors Summit.
Its purpose was to help Burger King maintain and grow the franchise base. The company says 1,200 franchisees comprise 90 percent of the system–or roughly 10,000 units–in 74 countries. The company controls 1,400 stores.
Help, We Need Somebody
One of Rafferty’s jobs is finding buyers for the 200 franchised units that come up for sale annually. He says his staff handles much of that, but “our thought process was to augment and expand our efforts.”
It’s not surprising he’s looking for help. Given the credit crunch, existing and potential franchisees are finding it difficult to finance franchise deals. “Good deals are getting done; few, but they are getting done,” Bernie Siegel, founder and chairman of Siegel Financial Group, told operators in a seminar at the National Restaurant Association Restaurant Hotel-Motel Show in Chicago in May.
Rafferty agrees deals have slowed yet “transactional activity” hasn’t completely ground to a halt. So he is inviting lenders to a meeting at headquarters in June. He’ll again lay out the company’s strategy, he adds.
Franchise consultant and former Stevi B’s CEO Jordon Krolick thinks it’s crucial for franchisors to reach out to business leaders outside the company. “Maybe it will work, maybe it won’t. What’s exciting is that Burger King is trying a new idea,” he says.
Relationships play a key role in recruiting franchisees. “They invited me because of my relationship with franchisees,” says former Burger King attorney and franchise expert Barry Blum, now with Minneapolis-based law firm Krass Monroe.
“If a businessperson in the Asian community is familiar with someone who’s looking for an opportunity like ours, that person can make a clear connection. Burger King and the franchisee benefits,” Rafferty maintains.
Burger King spokeswoman Denise Wilson won’t disclose how many minority franchisees already operate Burger Kings or the number the chain intends to franchise to minorities, including women.
Blum recalls that the meeting wasn’t focused solely on diversity recruitment. “Burger King wanted to make sure they’re communicating their message, and that they are top of mind should someone reach out to us,” he says.
Says Rafferty: “Frankly, we don’t control the flow of transactions. But we want to be ready with qualified franchisees.”