What to Look for in a Restaurant Franchise Consultant

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Franchising can be a great way to grow your restaurant.  A knowledgeable restaurant franchise consultant can determine how franchisable your restaurant is, help you develop your franchise concept through market research and business planning, as well as help with regulatory issues and provide ongoing support and guidance. Selecting the most suitable consultant will involve plenty of research, including background checks and referrals.  Below is a list of qualities you should look for in a franchise consultant.

What to Look for in a Restaurant Franchise Consultant

1. Certification

Ask potential consultants if they are Certified Franchise Executives.  The CFE designation means that they have completed the courses offered by the International Franchise Association’s Educational Foundation and have met important industry standards.

You can locate franchise consultants who are members of the IFA’s Council of Franchise Suppliers by visiting its Web site at www.franchise.org.

2. Fair Pricing

Some consultants will try to get away with using the same template for all of their clients by simply plugging changes into an existing boilerplate franchise plan.  If you are paying more than $100,000 for consulting services, you deserve to receive individualized attention and customized plans.  Confirm that is what you will receive before you start working with a consultant.

3. Specialization

Consultants who know the restaurant industry will be familiar with the market as a whole as well as the current industry trends.  They can use this knowledge to work with you to create expansion strategies that will suite your restaurant concept.

A specialist will also be able to provide guidance about the best markets for new locations.  An expert can help you target areas that will truly benefit from your concept and avoid overly saturated markets.

4. Experience

Not only should you look for a consultant who specializes in the restaurant industry, but also consider the size and type of restaurants he or she has worked with in the past.  If you are a fast-casual concept, look for a consultant who has achieved successful results for similarly-sized restaurants within the segment.  This will give you an idea of what results you can expect for your own restaurant concept.

5. Connections

A consultant who specializes in restaurants should also have plenty of contacts and partners within the industry.  This can come in handy when you need a recommendation for another service.  Franchise consultants might not handle payroll services, but if they have industry contacts, they can recommend someone who does.  It is often as much about who you know, as what you know.

6. Successful Track Record

Your consultant should have worked with a number of restaurants that have achieved expansion and franchising efforts and results you admire.  Knowing what restaurants a consultancy has previously worked with will give you a good idea of its track record for success.  Has it helped others grow successfully and establish strength in the marketplace?

A great way to investigate consultants’ successes is to visit their Web sites.  This is where you can often find case studies for projects that they have worked on in the past, including what types of restaurants they have worked with and what results were achieved.

7. Marketing Expertise

Marketing will be an integral part of your success as you expand your brand through franchising.  Consultants should provide more than legal guidance; they should be marketing experts as well.  Look for a consultant who will build the marketing into your franchise plan.  This way your restaurant’s branding and positioning will be enforced and managed throughout every stage of the growth process.

8. Depth

Are you going to be dealing with a one-man-band or a diverse organization with multiple departments?  Usually it is better to work with a bigger organization that will have specialists in various departments.  If you are working with only one person, keep in mind that he or she will be balancing other accounts besides yours, as well as handling the consultancy’s business efforts.  Someone wearing too many hats might not be able to devote enough time to your restaurant.

9. Proper Account Management

Sometimes the marquee consultant will come in and sell a company’s consulting services to you and then you’ll never see him again.  Make sure to confirm who your project point-of-contact will be so that you aren’t delegated to junior executives.

10. Similar Work Ethics

Once you find a consultant who has a thorough understanding of the restaurant industry and a proven track record for success, ask a planning session.  This way you can get a feel for how the consultant works on a small project before you expand to a larger scope.

A planning session will also help you to get a sense of your consultant’s business philosophies and practices to ensure that they match your own.  It is essential to select someone whose work ethic and work style are similar to yours.

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