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Franchise Restaurants: A Beginner’s Guide


In the landscape of global business, restaurant franchising has become a dominant force. According to the International Franchise Association, over 760,000 franchise establishments operate in the United States alone.

This model has produced significant employment opportunities, creating over 8.4 million jobs, and contributes substantially to the GDP. As a franchise owner, the journey is a unique blend of entrepreneurship and corporate support. The franchising model empowers individuals to own a business within the structured support system of a parent company.

This comprehensive guide is designed to assist those stepping into the restaurant franchising industry, providing valuable insights and tips on critical aspects such as evaluating franchise opportunities, initial investments, legal preparation, and recruiting franchisees. It aims to equip potential franchisees and franchisors with the knowledge needed to make informed decisions, ultimately setting them on a path towards success in the exciting world of restaurant franchising.

What Is a Restaurant Franchise?

The franchising model, particularly restaurant franchising, revolves around a simple yet powerful concept: a parent company (franchisor) grants a franchise owner (franchisee) the right to operate a franchise business under its brand. Essentially, the franchisor licenses its proven business model, brand, and resources to the franchisee, who then operates the business according to the agreed terms.

The heart of franchising lies in its duality: it provides a way for businesses to expand their reach and for individuals to own businesses without building everything from scratch. Particularly in the restaurant industry, franchising has been a pathway for many entrepreneurs to break into the market with the backing of established brands. This business model offers the chance to serve communities with food they already love and trust while learning the ropes of business ownership under the guidance of a more experienced entity.

What is a Restaurant Franchise?

Several restaurant franchises have grown to global proportions thanks to this model. Household names like McDonald’s and Subway owe their global reach to franchising, operating more than 36,000 and 40,000 locations worldwide.

These brands have built a global presence by offering unique, consistent experiences to customers across different markets and cultures. Franchising provides the framework for this scalability, allowing businesses to grow beyond what would be possible through traditional methods.

The franchise model isn’t without its challenges and complexities, but it’s an exciting venture for individuals looking to make a mark in the restaurant industry. It allows for personal ownership while benefiting from the parent company’s established reputation, continuous support, and proven business strategies.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Restaurant Franchising

Operating a franchise business in the restaurant industry comes with its unique pros and cons, and potential franchisees need to understand these before diving into this venture. Understanding the advantages and disadvantages of franchising allows for informed decision-making and setting realistic expectations.

Restaurant Franchise Advantages and Disadvantages


  • Brand Recognition: As a franchise owner, you’ll be trading under an established brand name that customers already recognize and trust. This can significantly simplify the process of customer acquisition and drive customer loyalty. The value of brand recognition can’t be overstated, especially in a competitive industry like restaurants, where the customer’s familiarity and comfort with the brand can greatly influence their choice.
  • Proven Business Model: One of the key advantages of franchising is that you’re buying into a proven business model. The franchisor has already done the heavy lifting of figuring out what works and what doesn’t. They’ve made mistakes and learned the lessons so you don’t have to. This can greatly reduce the risk and uncertainty associated with starting a business from scratch.
  • Training and Support: Franchisors often provide extensive training and ongoing support to their franchisees. This can be incredibly helpful, especially if you’re new to the restaurant industry. The training usually covers everything from operational procedures and customer service to marketing and administrative tasks. Furthermore, most franchisors provide continuous support and resources to help you run and grow your business. This could include everything from marketing materials and business advice to access to preferred suppliers.
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  • Initial Investment: The startup costs of a franchise can be significant. You’ll need to pay an initial franchise fee to the franchisor, and there will also be costs associated with setting up your restaurant, such as leasing a location, renovating the space, buying equipment, and initial inventory. These costs can add up quickly, and it’s important to understand the full extent of the financial commitment before you sign on the dotted line.
  • Ongoing Franchise Fees: As a franchisee, you’ll typically be required to pay ongoing franchise fees to the franchisor. These could be a fixed amount, a percentage of your gross sales, or a combination of both. This is essentially the price you pay for using the franchisor’s brand and business model, and for receiving ongoing support and resources. While these fees can be substantial, they’re generally balanced by the benefits you receive as a franchisee.
  • Regulations and Restrictions: As a franchisee, you’ll need to operate your business according to the franchisor’s standards and procedures. These are typically outlined in a comprehensive operations manual. This means you’ll have less creative control over your business than if you were to start a restaurant from scratch. While these rules are intended to ensure consistency across all franchise locations, they can sometimes feel restrictive, especially for entrepreneurial individuals who crave creativity and innovation.

How to Start a Franchise Restaurant: 8 Tips

How to start a restaurant franchise

Franchising a restaurant involves more than just picking a brand and signing a contract. It requires a comprehensive understanding of the franchising process, meticulous planning, and a deep commitment to the chosen brand and business model. Here are the tips to help you navigate this complex journey:

Tip 1: Develop a Unique Restaurant Concept

If you’re planning to franchise your own restaurant, start with a unique concept that sets your business apart. Identify your target market, and develop a menu and dining experience that caters to their preferences and needs. Test your concept locally, gather feedback, and refine it until you’re confident in its potential for success.

Find out more about restaurant concepts on how to open a restaurant.

Tip 2: Create a Franchise Business Plan

Restaurant Franchise Business Plan

A comprehensive business plan outlines your vision for the franchise, including anticipated startup costs, ongoing expenses, marketing strategies, and projected revenue. This document will be essential in convincing potential franchisees and investors of the viability of your franchise.

Learn more with our guide about how to write a restaurant business plan.

Tip 3: Legal Preparation

Entering into a franchise business involves numerous legal considerations. Franchise laws are complex, and it’s crucial to ensure you’re fully aware of all your legal obligations and rights as a franchisee. 

Key Legal Considerations
  • Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD): Before you sign a franchise agreement, you’ll be provided with an FDD by the franchisor. This document provides detailed information about the franchise, including its financial performance, fees, legal disputes, and more. It’s essential to thoroughly review the FDD and understand all its terms.
  • Franchise Agreement: The franchise agreement is a legally binding contract between you and the franchisor. It outlines the terms of the franchise, including your obligations and rights as a franchisee, the franchisor’s responsibilities, the duration of the agreement, and more. Make sure to read the franchise agreement carefully and ensure you’re comfortable with all its terms before signing.
  • Legal Assistance: Given the complexity of franchise laws, it’s highly recommended to seek legal assistance. A lawyer with expertise in franchising can help review and negotiate the franchise agreement, ensure your interests are protected, and provide legal advice on all aspects of franchising.
  • Intellectual Property: As a franchisee, you’ll be licensed to use the franchisor’s intellectual property, including its brand name, logo, and proprietary knowledge. Make sure you understand the terms of this license, including any restrictions and your obligations to protect the franchisor’s intellectual property.
  • Compliance with Laws: As a business owner, you’ll be responsible for ensuring your business complies with all relevant laws and regulations. This includes food safety laws, employment laws, health and safety regulations, and more. Non-compliance can result in penalties, so it’s crucial to understand and adhere to all legal requirements.
  • Liability Insurance: It’s essential to have appropriate liability insurance to protect your business from potential lawsuits or claims. This can cover a variety of risks, including injuries to customers, product liability, and more.

Legal preparation is a critical step in setting up a successful franchise business. It can help you avoid potential legal disputes in the future, protect your investment, and provide peace of mind as you embark on your franchising journey.

Tip 4: Build a Strong Brand

In a competitive restaurant industry, a strong brand can be your greatest asset. Develop a compelling brand story, design a distinctive logo and visual identity, and ensure that every aspect of your business, from customer service, restaurant website to social media presence, aligns with and reinforces your brand.

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Before you start creating your brand, you would want to look at our article about how to create a restaurant marketing plan.

Tip 5: Build a Restaurant Website

Restaurant Franchise Website Building

Nowadays, having a dedicated restaurant website is a must. Not only does it increase your restaurant’s visibility and reach, but it also gives potential customers a first impression of what they can expect from your restaurant. Here’s how to go about it:

  1. Use a Website Builder: There are many website builders available that offer a variety of templates and customization options, such as UpMenu website builder, integrated with the online ordering system.
  2. Design Considerations: The design of your website should be in line with your restaurant’s brand identity. Use restaurant website templates, and high-quality images, maintain a consistent color scheme and fonts, and ensure the design is clean and easy to navigate. Remember, your website should be mobile-friendly since many customers will access it through their smartphones.
  3. Important Information: Ensure your website includes all the essential information a customer would need. This includes your restaurant’s location(s), contact information, operating hours, menu, and pricing. Also, consider including an ‘About Us’ section to tell your restaurant’s story and a ‘FAQ’ section to address common questions.
  4. Online Ordering System: Incorporate an online ordering system in your website to facilitate easy take-out or delivery orders. This feature has become even more crucial due to the recent increase in demand for delivery services.
  5. Reservation System: A reservation system will allow customers to book a table in advance, enhancing the overall customer experience. There are several reservation software options that you can integrate into your website.
  6. Customer Testimonials and Reviews: Featuring customer testimonials and reviews on your website can build trust with potential customers. Positive reviews act as social proof that can entice new customers to visit your restaurant.
  7. SEO Optimization: Optimize your website for search engines to increase your visibility with restaurant SEO. Use relevant keywords in your content, include meta tags, and create a sitemap.
  8. Analytics: Use tools like Google Analytics to track your website’s performance and gain insights into your customers’ behavior. This data can help you improve your website and marketing strategies. In addition, you can integrate external analytics tools with UpMenu’s built-in restaurant analytics system.

Remember, your website serves as an online extension of your restaurant. Make sure it accurately reflects your brand, is user-friendly, and provides value to your customers. Building a well-designed and informative website can significantly boost your restaurant’s online presence and, ultimately, your bottom line.

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Never build a single website? Check our step-by-step guide about how to create a restaurant website for free.

Tip 6: Set Up an Online Ordering System

In the age of technology, having an online ordering system is crucial for the success of any restaurant franchise. With the rise of on-demand food delivery services and an increasing preference for convenience among consumers, online ordering has become a standard feature in the restaurant industry.

Setting up an online ordering system has several benefits:

  1. Increased Sales: By offering the convenience of online ordering, you can attract more customers and increase your sales. Studies have shown that customers tend to spend more when ordering online compared to in-person.
  2. Improved Efficiency: An online ordering system can streamline your operations. Orders are more accurate as they are input directly by the customer, reducing the risk of misunderstandings or mistakes. This can also free up your staff’s time to focus on other tasks.
  3. Data Collection: An online ordering system with built-in restaurant CRM allows you to collect valuable data about your customers’ preferences and buying habits. This can help you make informed decisions about menu changes, marketing efforts, and more.
  4. Customer Satisfaction: Offering online ordering can improve customer satisfaction by providing an easy and convenient way for them to order their favorite meals.

When setting up an online ordering system, consider user experience. The system should be easy to use, intuitive, and mobile-friendly. It should also integrate seamlessly with your current POS system for smooth operations. With UpMenu you get everything your restaurant needs in one single platform.

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Learn more with our step-by-step guide on how to set up an online ordering system.

Tip 7: Build Your Own Branded Restaurant Mobile App

In addition to an online ordering system, a branded restaurant mobile app can significantly boost your restaurant franchise’s performance. Mobile apps provide a unique opportunity to strengthen your brand, increase customer loyalty, and enhance the overall customer experience.

Here’s why you should consider building your own branded restaurant mobile app:

  1. Brand Recognition: A mobile app can help reinforce your brand image. It allows for a consistent and customized user interface, which aligns with your restaurant’s theme, logo, and colors.
  2. Customer Loyalty: Mobile apps can help boost customer loyalty by providing a platform for reward programs. Features in restaurant loyalty programs like points, discounts, and exclusive offers can encourage customers to return.
  3. Push Notifications: Mobile apps allow for push notifications, providing an effective channel for communication. You can inform customers about new menu items, special offers, or events.
  4. Feedback Collection: A mobile app can make it easy for customers to provide feedback. This can provide valuable insights for improving your services and menu.
  5. Enhanced Customer Experience: A well-designed mobile app can streamline the ordering process, offer personalized recommendations, and allow customers to make reservations, enhancing their overall experience.
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Building a mobile app requires careful planning, a clear understanding of your target audience, and investment in good design and development. Ensure that your app offers value to customers and aligns with your overall brand strategy to maximize its benefits.

Learn how to create a food delivery app in a few minutes without any code or technical knowledge.

Tip 8: Recruit Franchisees

With your legal documents and business plan in hand, you’re ready to start recruiting franchisees. This can be done through advertising, franchise exhibitions, and direct marketing. Recruiting the right franchisees is crucial for the success of your restaurant franchise. Here’s a streamlined approach:

  • Define Your Ideal Franchisee: Identify the key skills and traits needed for success, such as business acumen, leadership skills, and a passion for the brand.
  • Develop a Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD): An effective FDD, providing detailed information about your franchise, can attract serious and qualified candidates.
  • Marketing and Advertising: Strategically promote your franchise opportunity through various online and offline channels to attract potential franchisees.
  • Lead Generation and Qualification: Screen potential franchisees through application forms and interviews to assess their fit and financial capability.
  • Discovery Day: Hosting a Discovery Day can give potential franchisees a real feel for your brand and allows them to meet the team and tour a franchise location.
  • Support and Training: Highlight the support and training you offer to attract franchisees. Show them how you’ll help them succeed.
  • Transparency: Be open about the challenges and rewards of franchising to set realistic expectations.

Remember, the quality of your franchisees will greatly impact your brand’s success. Prioritize finding excellent franchisees over simply expanding your franchise numbers.

Evaluating Potential Franchise Opportunities

Restaurant Franchise Opportunities

If you’re on the other side of the fence, ready to become a franchise owner, it’s crucial to evaluate different franchise opportunities before making a commitment. Choosing the right franchise can be the difference between success and failure. Here’s what to consider:

  1. Understand the Franchise Fee and Financial Commitments: Franchise costs can vary widely between different brands. Make sure to understand all the costs involved, including the initial franchise fee, ongoing royalties, advertising fees, and estimated startup costs.
  2. Research the Brand: Understand the brand’s history, values, and reputation. Look at the brand’s presence and growth over the years. A strong brand with consistent growth could offer a more stable investment.
  3. Support and Training: A good franchisor should provide comprehensive support and training to help you run your franchise successfully. This could include help with site selection, store setup, initial training, ongoing support, and marketing materials.
  4. Financial Performance: Examine the financial performance of existing franchises. This information is often disclosed in the Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD). Look at key figures like average sales, costs, and profits of existing units.
  5. Talk to Existing Franchisees: Speaking to current franchisees can give you valuable insights. Ask about their experiences, challenges, and whether they’re satisfied with the franchisor’s support.

Understanding Franchise Agreements

A franchise agreement is a legally binding contract between the franchisor and the franchisee. This agreement outlines the rights and obligations of both parties, the terms of the franchise, and any conditions for renewal or termination of the agreement.

Before signing a franchise agreement, it’s crucial to understand every clause. The agreement will dictate how you run your business, so make sure you’re comfortable with all the requirements. It’s advisable to seek legal counsel before signing the contract to ensure you fully understand your obligations and rights.

Agreement cover several areas

Franchise Fees: The agreement will clearly state the initial franchise fee, ongoing royalty fees, and any additional fees you’re required to pay. These might include marketing fees or contributions to a shared advertising fund.

Term and Renewal: This section will specify the length of the agreement and the conditions under which you can renew it.

Territory: The franchisor may grant you exclusive rights to operate in a certain territory. Make sure this is clearly defined in the agreement.

Training and Support: The agreement should detail the training and ongoing support the franchisor will provide. This could include training programs, operations manuals, marketing support, and more.

Brand Standards: The franchisor will require you to adhere to certain brand standards to ensure consistency across all franchise locations. These standards will cover aspects like store design, menu, uniforms, advertising, and customer service.

Termination: The franchisor can terminate the agreement under certain conditions, such as non-payment of fees or breach of contract. The agreement should clearly state these conditions and the process for termination.

Initial Investment and Financial Considerations

Restaurant Franchise Finances

When considering a restaurant franchise, it’s important to understand the full range of financial commitments involved. The total initial investment will typically include the franchise fee, startup costs, and operating capital until the business becomes profitable.

  • Franchise Fee: This is the initial fee you pay to the franchisor to join the franchise. The fee can range from several thousand to several hundred thousand dollars, depending on the brand.
  • Startup Costs: These are the costs associated with setting up your restaurant. It includes leasing or purchasing a suitable location, renovating the space to meet the franchisor’s specifications, buying equipment and inventory, hiring staff, and any necessary permits or licenses.
  • Working Capital: This is the money you’ll need to cover the ongoing operating expenses of your restaurant until it starts generating enough revenue to cover these costs. This might include employee salaries, rent, utilities, supplies, and franchise royalties.

The franchisor will typically provide you with estimates for these costs in the Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD). It’s crucial to review these estimates carefully and do your own due diligence to ensure they’re realistic.

Training and Support

One of the significant advantages of a franchise is the extensive training and support provided by the franchisor. As a franchisee, you’ll receive training on all aspects of running the business, from daily operations to marketing and customer service. This training is usually provided both initially and on an ongoing basis.

Franchisors often also provide a comprehensive operations manual, which serves as a step-by-step guide for running your franchise. It covers everything from opening and closing procedures, staff training, menu preparation, customer service, safety procedures, and marketing strategies.

Furthermore, franchisors often provide ongoing support in various forms. This can include regular check-ins or site visits, ongoing training, marketing materials, and access to an experienced team to help you navigate any challenges.

It’s important to take full advantage of these resources. The success of your franchise depends not only on the brand’s strength but also on how effectively you run your business. With the franchisor’s training and support, you can avoid common pitfalls and set your franchise up for success.

Choosing the Right Location

Restaurant Franchise Localizations

Location is a crucial factor in the success of any restaurant business. A good location can draw in more customers, increase sales, and improve the visibility of your brand. Conversely, a bad location can significantly hamper your business, making it difficult to attract customers and turn a profit.

When choosing a location, consider factors like:

  1. Customer Demographics: You should have a clear understanding of your target customers and choose a location where these customers are likely to be. For example, if your target customers are families with young children, you might look for a location in a family-friendly neighborhood.
  2. Visibility and Accessibility: A location that’s highly visible and easy to access can draw in more customers. Look for locations with high foot traffic, ample parking, and good accessibility by public transportation.
  3. Competition: Too much competition in the immediate vicinity can make it difficult for your restaurant to stand out. On the other hand, some competition can help draw more customers to the area.
  4. Size and Layout: The location should be large enough to accommodate your restaurant’s needs and have a layout that’s conducive to efficient operations.

Remember, you’re not alone in this decision. A good franchisor will provide support and guidance in selecting a suitable location, as they have a vested interest in your success.

Common Challenges and How to Overcome Them

Restaurant Franchise Challenges

Like any business, a restaurant franchise can face various challenges. Understanding these challenges can help you prepare and increase your chances of success:

  • Financial Management: One of the biggest challenges faced by franchise owners is managing finances. From keeping track of expenses to managing cash flow, financial management can be a complex task. However, good bookkeeping practices, careful budgeting, and regular financial reviews can help you stay on top of your finances.
  • Competition: The restaurant industry is highly competitive. Standing out can be a challenge, especially in areas with numerous dining options. Staying true to your brand, offering exceptional customer service, and continually looking for ways to enhance your offerings can help you differentiate yourself from the competition.
  • Labor Costs: Labor costs can account for a significant portion of a restaurant’s expenses. Balancing the need for quality staff with the need to control costs can be a challenge. However, efficient scheduling, cross-training staff, and investing in employee retention can help manage labor costs.
  • Supply Chain Issues: Restaurants rely on a stable supply chain for their ingredients. Disruptions to the supply chain can have a significant impact on your restaurant. Building relationships with reliable suppliers and having backup suppliers can help mitigate this risk.
  • Regulatory Compliance: Restaurants must comply with numerous regulations, from food safety to employment laws. Failure to comply can result in fines or even the closure of your restaurant. Ensuring you’re well-versed in all relevant regulations and maintaining strict compliance procedures can help you avoid these issues.

Despite these challenges, owning a restaurant franchise can be a rewarding and profitable endeavor. With careful planning, due diligence, and a commitment to excellence, you can build a successful restaurant franchise that brings joy to your customers and financial success to you.

Key Takeaways

  1. Understanding Franchising: Franchising is a business model where one party (the franchisee) is granted the right to use the business model and brand of another party (the franchisor). This model is prevalent in the restaurant industry, with popular brands like McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, and Tim Hortons operating on a franchise model.
  2. Why Choose Restaurant Franchising: Franchising offers several advantages such as operating under an established brand, a proven business model, training, and support, and decreased risk compared to starting a new business. However, it also comes with costs like franchise fees and royalties.
  3. Researching Potential Franchises: When choosing a franchise, potential franchisees should look at factors like brand strength, franchisee satisfaction, and financial performance. Tools like the Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD) can provide useful information.
  4. Legal Considerations: Before signing a franchise agreement, it’s crucial to understand its terms. Consider hiring an attorney experienced in franchising to help review and negotiate the agreement.
  5. Initial Investment and Financial Considerations: The total initial investment in a restaurant franchise includes the franchise fee, startup costs, and working capital until the business becomes profitable.
  6. Training and Support: One of the key benefits of franchising is the training and support provided by the franchisor, which often includes a comprehensive operations manual.
  7. Location: The success of a restaurant franchise depends heavily on its location. Factors like customer demographics, visibility, competition, and size and layout all need to be considered.
  8. Common Challenges: Restaurant franchises can face challenges like financial management, competition, labor costs, supply chain issues, and regulatory compliance.
  9. Multi-Unit Ownership: Multi-unit ownership, which involves owning more than one unit or location of a franchise, can offer benefits like economies of scale and increased revenue.
  10. Role of the Parent Company: The parent company or franchisor plays a crucial role in the franchising process. They provide brand recognition, training and support, marketing, and an operations manual.
  11. Franchising vs. Starting Your Own Business: Franchising offers the opportunity to operate under a proven business model and established brand, reducing the risk of failure. Starting your own restaurant gives you total control over your concept and brand but carries a higher risk of failure.
Dominik Bartoszek

Dominik Bartoszek

8+ years Digital Marketer driven by data & AI. Helping restaurants grow more through online orders.

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