Consumers are unlikely to see McDonald's golden arches painted blue or Burger King's menu items renamed. That's because franchises come with a variety of well-tested rules and restrictions that work to guarantee consumers a uniform experience, no matter which unit they visit.
"Franchises try to operate with a very pure business system," Doug Schadle, CEO of Rhino 7 Franchise Development, which works with franchisors and prospective franchisees to help create a more profitable and appealing business model, told Entrepreneur magazine. "The customers are following the brand, not the individual unit. It's a way of assuring that the quality remains high."
This does not mean, though, that owning a franchise does not require creative thinking. Franchisees can work with their system to customize marketing efforts and offerings to appeal to local markets. In fact, franchise systems often applaud this entrepreneurial spirit and effort, which can make the difference between a mediocre unit and a raging success.
Some of the standard fare at America's favorite franchises were actually created and proposed by franchisees. For example, McDonald's Filet-O-Fish, Big Mac and Egg McMuffin were all created by enterprising franchisees. Tossed, an up-and-coming franchise that serves salads, recently added a breakfast menu to all six of its locations after it proved popular at Lou Palermo's Boston unit. In fact, the new menu has increased the company's bottom line by 10 percent, the magazine writes.
"All of the good franchisors never stifle innovation from franchise owners," said Schadle. "They get a bad rap in that sense. Why would a franchisor, which is an innovator, try to discourage innovation? They just want you to talk to corporate first."
Franchisees with an idea should contact the franchisor director to ask how to submit ideas - or learn if the system will even accept concepts from owners. Unit owners should also be prepared for disagreement, however, as it is a natural part of making things work.
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