Broadly speaking, restaurants can be segmented into a number of categories:
1- Chain or independent (indy) and franchise restaurants. McDonald’s, Union Square Cafe, or KFC
2- Quick service (QSR), sandwich. Burger, chicken, and so on; convenience store, noodle, pizza
3- Fast casual. Panera Bread, Atlanta Bread Company, Au Bon Pain, and so on
4- Family. Bob Evans, Perkins, Friendly’s, Steak ‘n Shake, Waffle House
5- Casual. Applebee’s, Hard Rock Caf´e, Chili’s, TGI Friday’s
6- Fine dining. Charlie Trotter’s, Morton’s The Steakhouse, Flemming’s, The Palm, Four Seasons
7- Other. Steakhouses, seafood, ethnic, dinner houses, celebrity, and so on. Of course, some restaurants fall into more than one category. For example, an Italian restaurant could be casual and ethnic. Leading restaurant concepts in terms of sales have been tracked for years by the magazine Restaurants and
CHAIN OR INDEPENDENT
The impression that a few huge quick-service chains completely dominate the restaurant business is misleading. Chain restaurants have some advantages and some disadvantages over independent restaurants. The advantages include:
1- Recognition in the marketplace
2- Greater advertising clout
3- Sophisticated systems development
4- Discounted purchasing
When franchising, various kinds of assistance are available. Independent restaurants are relatively easy to open. All you need is a few thousand dollars, a knowledge of restaurant operations, and a strong desire to
succeed. The advantage for independent restaurateurs is that they can ”do their own thing” in terms of concept development, menus, decor, and so on. Unless our habits and taste change drastically, there is plenty of room for independent restaurants in certain locations. Restaurants come and go. Some independent restaurants will grow into small chains, and larger companies will buy out small chains.
Once small chains display growth and popularity, they are likely to be bought out by a larger company or will be able to acquire financing for expansion. A temptation for the beginning restaurateur is to observe large restaurants in big cities and to believe that their success can be duplicated in secondary cities. Reading the restaurant reviews in New York City, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, D.C., or San Francisco may give the impression that unusual restaurants can be replicated in Des Moines, Kansas City, or Main Town, USA. Because of demographics, these high-style or ethnic restaurants will not click in small cities and towns.
5- Will go for training from the bottom up and cover all areas of the restaurant’s operation Franchising involves the least financial risk in that the restaurant format, including building design, menu, and marketing plans, already have been tested in the marketplace. Franchise restaurants are less likely to go belly up than independent restaurants. The reason is that the concept is proven and the operating procedures are established with all (or most) of the kinks worked out. Training is provided, and marketing and management support are available. The increased likelihood of success does not come cheap, however.
There is a franchising fee, a royalty fee, advertising royalty, and requirements of substantial personal net worth. For those lacking substantial restaurant experience, franchising may be a way to get into the restaurant business-providing they are prepared to start at the bottom and take a crash training course. Restaurant franchisees are entrepreneurs who prefer to own, operate, develop, and extend an existing business concept through a form of contractual business arrangement called franchising.1 Several franchises have ended up with multiple stores and made the big time. Naturally, most aspiring restaurateurs want to do their own thing-they have a concept in mind and can’t wait to go for it.
Here are samples of the costs involved in franchising:
1- A Miami Subs traditional restaurant has a $30,000 fee, a royalty of 4.5 percent, and requires at least five years’ experience as a multi-unit operator, a personal/business equity of $1 million, and a personal/business
net worth of $5 million.
2- Chili’s requires a monthly fee based on the restaurant’s sales performance (currently a service fee of 4 percent of monthly sales) plus the greater of (a) monthly base rent or (b) percentage rent that is at least 8.5 percent of monthly sales.
3- McDonald’s requires $200,000 of nonborrowed personal resources and an initial fee of $45,000, plus a monthly service fee based on the restaurant’s sales performance (about 4 percent) and rent, which is a
monthly base rent or a percentage of monthly sales. Equipment and preopening costs range from $461,000 to $788,500.
4- Pizza Factory Express Units (200 to 999 square feet) require a $5,000 franchise fee, a royalty of 5 percent, and an advertising fee of 2 percent. Equipment costs range from $25,000 to $90,000, with miscellaneous costs of $3,200 to $9,000 and opening inventory of $6,000.
5- Earl of Sandwich has options for one unit with a net worth requirement of $750,000 and liquidity of $300,000; for 5 units, a net worth of $1 million and liquidity of $500,000 is required; for 10 units, net worth
of $2 million and liquidity of $800,000. The franchise fee is $25,000 per location, and the royalty is 6 percent.
What do you get for all this money? Franchisors will provide:
1- Help with site selection and a review of any proposed sites
2- Assistance with the design and building preparation
3- Help with preparation for opening
4- Training of managers and staff
5- Planning and implementation of pre-opening marketing strategies
6- Unit visits and ongoing operating advice
There are hundreds of restaurant franchise concepts, and they are not without risks. The restaurant owned or leased by a franchisee may fail even though it is part of a well-known chain that is highly successful. Franchisers also fail. A case in point is the highly touted Boston Market, which was based in Golden, Colorado. In 1993, when the company’s stock was first offered to the public at $20 per share, it was eagerly bought, increasing the price to a high of $50 a share. In 1999, after the company declared bankruptcy, the share price sank to 75 cents. The contents of many of its stores were auctioned off at
a fraction of their cost.7 Fortunes were made and lost. One group that did not lose was the investment bankers who put together and sold the stock offering and received a sizable fee for services.
The offering group also did well; they were able to sell their shares while the stocks were high. Quick-service food chains as well-known as Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. have also gone through periods of red ink. Both companies, now under one owner called CKE, experienced periods as long as four years when real earnings, as a company, were negative. (Individual stores, company owned or franchised, however, may have done well during the down periods.) There is no assurance that a franchised chain will prosper.
At one time in the mid-1970s, A&W Restaurants, Inc., of Farmington Hills, Michigan, had 2,400 units. In 1995, the chain numbered a few more than 600. After a buyout that year, the chain expanded by 400 stores. Some of the expansions took place in nontraditional locations, such as kiosks, truck stops, colleges, and convenience stores, where the full-service restaurant experience is not important. A restaurant concept may do well in one region but not in another. The style of operation may be highly compatible with the personality of one operator and not another.
Most franchised operations call for a lot of hard work and long hours, which many people perceive as drudgery. If the franchisee lacks sufficient capital and leases a building or land, there is the risk of paying more for the lease than the business can support. Relations between franchisers and the franchisees are often strained, even in the largest companies. The goals of each usually differ; franchisers want maximum fees, while franchisees want maximum support in marketing and franchised service such as employee training. At times, franchise chains get involved in litigation with their franchisees.