Whether it’s a fast-food company or automotive dealership, franchises are popping up everywhere. It’s seen by many business hopefuls as their route to market. With over 120 industries currently having franchised companies, the franchisee tends to receive help with key information, such as site selection and development support, brand standards, operating manuals, training, quality control and business advisory support from the franchisor.
Here, we take a look at three of the United Kingdom’s best-known franchises:
Initially, John Looker sold bicycles, parts, accessories and the odd used car when he set up his own business in 1908 in Manchester. By 1910, the business had forged with a garage owner in the centre of Manchester. Primarily a Ford dealer until the First World War, the company was thriving so much that the garage had to be rebuilt in 1911 to accommodate all the business that it had generated.
By 1918, the company had been appointed a distributor of Austin motor vehicles and bought several garages in Lancashire and Cheshire to continue its growth. John Looker retired in 1929, but the business didn’t falter. During the Second World War the Austin factory was committed to the war effort as the country fought.
A few decades later in the 1960s, the business made first major acquisition when the Group moved into Yorkshire. By 1973, their headquarters had moved from Hardman Street to Chester Road – their current base today. At the same time, the company became a listed company on the London Stock Exchange.
Currently, Lookers is known to be in the top three motor vehicle retailers in the UK, representing 32 manufacturers, selling car types and having a range of servicing offers at its 150 franchised dealerships.
Key business features
Value your people: the Group recognises the need to look after your staff. In 2017 and 2018 it received top employer UK accreditations. By acquiring several local businesses, including Benfield, the Group understood the need to keep the local feel of the businesses while softly implementing their own touch.
In 1979, from a former bookmakers’ store, the first Wetherspoon was opened in North London. It was initially named Martin’s Free House, before changing its name to Wetherspoon earlier the following year. The company’s chains initially only expanded in North London.
The company’s first pub with a no-smoking bar was opened in North Finchley in 1991. They then moved more into Central London, with their first pub in Liverpool Street Station. The following year, the first airport pub was opened in Heathrow and in the same year they were also named J D Wetherspoon plc, opening their 50th pub.
By 1993, things started moving faster and the company moved out of London, opening pubs in Bracknell and Norwich. By 1994, the chain had reached an impressive 100 pubs and ventured as far north as the Midlands. The business kept expanding and moving into new territory throughout the 90s, with further establishments opened in Manchester, Wales and Scotland. 1998 saw the 300th pub open and its rapid expansion saw them reach 500 pubs being open by 2001. The 600-mark was reached in 2002 as the breakfast revolution got underway as all pubs opened six days a week to serve the first meal of the day.
By adding free Wi-Fi to all of their pubs, the company proved that it was adapting to change, and in 2007 they held the first wedding. The 700th pub was launched in 2008, with the 800th following in 2011 and 900th in 2013. Nowadays, the company employs over 35,000 staff, and owns 948 pubs and hotels.
Key business features
Festival spirit: An advocate for embracing the festival spirit, Wetherspoon’s are currently involved in a biannual beer festival with 60 beers on tap.
Key travel locations: You can find a Wetherspoon’s in Aberdeen, Birmingham International, Doncaster, Edinburgh, Liverpool John Lennon, Heathrow, Gatwick, Glasgow and Stansted airports, and near train stations around London, Leeds, Liverpool and Glasgow. This was purposely chosen to take advantage of the foot flow of the area.
Meal deals: The company offers a range of popular meal deals, including the initial Curry Club and Steak Club, Chicken Club, Fish Friday and Sunday Brunch and offer a drink alongside them.
What can businesses learn from Wetherspoon?
It’s clear that location is vital and the public love offers. Wetherspoon’s have succeeded most by being flexible and adapting to their environment.
John Gregg set up his delivery service in the 1930s. He delivered eggs and yeast on his pushbike to families in Newcastle upon Tyne.
After helping local families bake their own bread for more than 10 years, John Gregg decided to open a small bakery on Gosforth High Street in 1951. It was a single shop with a bakery at the rear. This allowed Greggs to begin baking quality bread with flour that was milled from specially selected wheat for that distinctive Greggs taste and texture.
Following the death of his father, Ian Gregg took charge of the family business in 1964. Under Ian's leadership, Greggs developed a good reputation for selling products which were quality and of great value. The company also started to grow in size by buying regional bakery retailers across the United Kingdom and, by the 1970s, they had shops in Scotland, Yorkshire and the North West.
By 1984, the company was expanding rapidly and had over 260 shops across four areas of the country. For the first time ever, Greggs was on the Stock Exchange and they continued to expand, opening shops in the Midlands, Wales and North London.
This quick growth continued during the noughties. By investing in a large Technical Centre, the company was able to focus on developing an array of new recipes while improving old favourites.
Key business features
Keep it local: While Greggs has almost 1,700 shops nationwide, the company still prides itself on being rooted in their local communities. This is because while there is the popular national range, regional favourites can be found in their stores depending on where you are.
The three franchises mentioned are just a drop in the ocean of successful franchises, and it’s clear that the world of franchises is going to continue growing, regardless of the industry you choose. By providing you with a ready-made business model and allowing you to keep your skills sharp while joining an already thriving business, you may feel as though you have a greater chance of success. So, budding business owners out there, make sure you research any possible franchises that could be of interest to you before jumping in feet first with your idea!
"Whether its a fast-food company or automotive dealership, franchises are popping up everywhere."