The franchisee market is vast, and the effect the pandemic has had on them has been immense. Hotel chains are looking at this market with a different eye than in the past. Major chains are accelerating their move to an asset-light model, and with that acceleration, the importance of the hotel chain model means that the franchise operator relationship has intensified.
As chains become more dependent on fees from their franchise properties, it’s time to take a step back and look at ways to strengthen the relationship that exists between these two key stakeholders to ensure brand integrity. Below are four elements to consider when building a successful franchise relationship.
All too often, when looking to enhance or create new experiences, franchisees are provided updates on what is to be done and what is expected of them. The chains that will win more frequently are those that truly embrace the relationship in a collaborative manner and look to engage their franchise operators in the design and development of new experiences. This can be accomplished by creating multiple listening posts and establishing advisory boards that are facilitated with the intent to gather valuable feedback as well as challenge the chains to step outside their comfort zones.
While the relationships between brands and franchisee organizations may not be fractured, they often experience a lack of planned, organized, and repeatable communication strategies. While brands are well-versed in creating solid positioning and messaging about their mission, goals, and marketing efforts, they may not have devoted as much time creating the same type of consistent messaging for their franchisees. Without having a solid communications plan for ongoing discussions with all stakeholders, the franchisees may feel out of step with corporate goals and objectives.
Continuity of the Brand
During the height of the pandemic, brands became somewhat lenient when it came to accountability programs. Q/A audits, programs that measured the guest experience, and property KPIs or actions that had been put in place for dealing with underperforming hotels were put on hold. Reduced expectations for food and beverage were also common during this time. Of course, this was accepted because fewer guests were on property and hotel owners and operators were fighting for survival.
Now that business is coming back, some owners/operators still want to maintain the lower standards or the dispensations, however, the guest is demanding more. Chains will need to bring their franchisees back carefully to those normal business standards that define their brand promise and deliver on guest expectations. With the expansion of franchising in the hospitality space, the need to ensure continuity of experience is critical to maintaining the integrity of the brand.
Developing effective and cost-efficient brand standards is key. These standards should not only define the “what” but also provide guidance on the “how” including a solid vetted list of vendors that can support the experiences. By providing solid, all-encompassing standards, continuity of experiences can be maintained, and franchisees can enjoy the benefits of a much larger buying power through a focused group of providers.
Inclusive Technology Decisions
Many brands are re-evaluating where they are and where they need to go. This will lead to permanent changes based on what they did during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and will come with the understanding that we are not there yet nor are we going back to where we were pre-COVID. Owners/operators lost so much that they need time to recover as well. There are also the added stresses with a shortage of staffing at all levels, not to mention the continued disruption of the delivery chain along with the concurrency of crises in the world today.
During these challenging times, both chains and franchisees need to come together in a different manner to be able to drive actionable insights from an often-fragmented data set. What worked yesterday may not work today, and what works today may not work tomorrow. From a technology perspective, cohesive integration will help achieve goals.
Regardless of technology spend, chains must involve owners and operators right from the start. Some are often ignored until decisions have been made until they are told what needs to be done and how much needs to be spent. This goes back to having a true two-way communication model in place with cohesive messaging that is consistently shared with all stakeholders. Everyone wants to believe their voice is heard and engage in the development of new experiences. Building a community and inclusivity in these types of decisions will improve franchisee engagement.
Leverage an Effective Enablement Platform
Finally, enhanced and frequent communication is required, more so than before. To do this, there must be an effective enablement platform in place, one where all parties can not only see what is expected, but also track activities, action items, and results. Without this visibility, there is no way to consistently track and monitor the effectiveness of the relationship and its performance
This is particularly true for technology. Technology vendors should provide a path that ensures franchisees receive the training they need, have access to support, and have ongoing success strategies and education as staff turnovers occur. Additionally, look for solutions that provide the ability to review usage reports at-a-glance from the top-down from an enterprise perspective. This will ensure the technology is being used to its fullest potential, and if it isn’t, will provide insight into the properties that may be struggling with the implementation (or ongoing usage) of the solution.
Communication, consistent messaging, combined buying power, and a central enablement hub to address concerns and provide access to brand materials will make for a successful franchise model. These elements will also help brands create a community for their franchisee base that will in turn provide consistent ROI for the chain as well as the owners.
About the Author
Jeff Bzdawka is the CEO of Knowland.