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Whet your appetite with these food industry tips

food industry tips

Highly competitive and fast paced, the world of food franchising is not for the faint hearted. So what does it take to be successful? Katie Shevlin investigates

The food-franchising scene, from over-the-counter takeaways to quick-service restaurants, covers virtually every type of cuisine imaginable and includes a host of household names. With many huge brands on the market, there’s bound to be a business proposition that whets your appetite. In recent research conducted by OnePoll, it was revealed that Britons spend an annual £30billion on takeaways and fast food, so the UK food sector is a buzzing and attractive market, and many big names from overseas have launched their franchise opportunity in the UK in recent years.

The popularity of the market, however, means that it is a competitive industry to enter, and in order to run a food franchise operation you will need to be a driven and dedicated individual.

The long hours mean that you can expect serious hard work in the beginning – but once on the road to success you can, like some franchisees, switch to a management-style approach that allows you to focus on business development and not on day-to-day operations.

Here, two franchisees and one food franchise founder explain what drew them to work in the lively food sector and describe their journey so far.


Des Pheby is the founder of Wok&Go. The company was established in 2008 and is one of the UK’s leading noodle bar chains.

How is business going so far?

Franchising is going very well, half of our outlets are a franchise and we recently signed an investment group to take 15 franchise stores over the next 18 months in the UK and have also signed an area development franchise for UAE for 15 stores. We will be at 25 stores in the UK by May 2015.

What are the benefits and challenges facing franchisees in the food sector?

The benefits are well documented – when taking on any established franchise, you are buying into an already established business model with a proven track record and the success rate is therefore much higher than if you were starting out as an independent. In terms of challenges, there is a lot of choice out there in the food sector. Customers’ expectations are much higher, and the demand for good, fast food that is both healthy and high quality means you must keep looking to improve all areas and not drop the ball. It’s high pressure for the franchisees to not only match the demands from the paying public but also those of the franchisor as well.

What kind of training and support do you provide to franchisees?

At the start there is an extensive four-week programme of training that covers areas such as food hygiene, EPOS tills, financial reporting, payroll, menus and cooking. This is both classroom-based and on-site. We then follow this up with two weeks of on-the-job training when the store opens. We assign a manager and head chef to work with franchisees over this period on the job. Once this stage is complete, the franchisees are visited every two weeks by an area manager to discuss sales and operational points and identify any training requirements there might be.

What sets Wok&Go apart from its competitors in the food industry? Why do you think it has been so successful?

The public are looking for premium-quality, fast-service, healthy, nutritional food presented in an interesting way that is smartly packaged and value for money. We tick all these boxes. Customers’ tastes are more evolved now and a sandwich or burger just doesn’t cut it anymore. Traditionally there have been two distinct categories: the fast food market and the restaurants. Now there is a group in between and we sit very comfortably in this area with our pricing and product. No one has grabbed hold of the pan-Asian market in this category more than us. We see ourselves as the leading brand in the UK and with our planned expansion we believe we will go from strength to strength.

What kind of characteristics are you looking for in your franchisees?

Ideally someone that is driven, believes in our product and is able to motivate people. We want people who are looking to grow their business, who are not just happy to have one store but will be looking to expand when the time is right. In my senior managers I look for drive and a hunger to succeed, so I see no reason to expect less from a franchisee.


Papa John's

Richard Goddard owns Papa John’s Carlisle. Richard previously worked in the IT industry.

Why did franchising appeal to you, and why Papa John’s in particular?

I was quite simply looking for a change. The Papa John’s product is fantastic and the brand is powerful – this is what first attracted me to the franchise. Papa John’s is growing in the UK and I wanted to be part of that.

What are the challenges of working in the food retail sector?

The sector is fast paced and you deal with a wide cross section of the public.

The volume of trade can be hard to predict at times – it only needs to start raining and we are twice as busy!

What is a typical day like?

As well as Papa John’s I manage other businesses, so first thing I spend an hour or two working on them, then head intomy Carlisle Papa John’s store for about 10am. I work there until it closes around midnight. During the day I am managing the staff, taking orders and working on marketing promotions. I like to be hands-on and chip in where needed! I work hard but love what I do.

What are your plans for the future of your business?

For the Carlisle franchise I was lucky to be able to access the company’s ‘Enterprise Development’ incentive. My mind was already made up so the financial incentive that Papa John’s offered was such a bonus. I am already looking forward to the future and really lifting the potential of the franchise by opening more stores with Papa John’s help. I plan to open as many Papa John’s as possible! I am already looking at locations for the store I will open next year and I anticipate things will snowball after that.

What advice would you give to anyone considering a franchise in the fast food sector?

Food franchising is a fast-paced environment – you need to be ready for that. You also need to be prepared to undertake lots of marketing, as this iswhat will make or break your franchise.

For example, we recently targeted our local student population with discount flyers and leaflets in halls of residence and at the fresher’s fair and advertised in the students’ welcome guide. This kind of activity builds awareness and converts customers. It’s part and parcel of runninga food franchise.



Stephen Coulter opened his Subway store in Holywood Exchange, Belfast in December 2013, having taken the decision to leave his job as a general manager for a large restaurant chain and instead become his own boss.

What led you to invest in a Subway franchise?

I had been watching the Subway brand closely for a long time. Once I’d decided that I wanted to make a move from my management job in the restaurant sector, I started looking around at business opportunities, specifically franchises.

It made sense for me to stay within the sector that I knew well but to apply my knowledge and experience and workfor myself.

In January 2013, I began the process of applying for a Subway franchise, spending time in Subway stores, talking to other franchisees and writing my business plan – which alone took just over two months.

What training and support have you received so far?

The guidance and support I had from the regional development team was so valuable; I felt like they were there with me every step of the way and I could call them to ask anything. The support was probably the most reassuring aspect for me. Although I had decided to start my own business, I felt I was in good company and was being well looked after.

How do you ensure you are one step ahead of the competition?

There’s a coffee chain in the adjacent unit to my store so the quality of coffee and the breakfast offer was crucial. We invested in a high-end coffee machine, which means we can offer a range of excellent coffees to our customers. But by keeping within an affordable price point, we are able to encourage customers to give us a try, even if they haven’t stepped inside a Subway store before. If they call in for a coffee and a cookie and enjoy their experience, they may well stop by for a lunchtime Sub next time around.

Do you find it challenging running your own store?

It’s really hard work running your own business, there’s no doubt about that, but it’s one of the best things I have ever done, and I really enjoy it. Because the store has only opened recently, we’re still finding our feet to a certain degree, but learning every day and making the most of allthe opportunities.

I employ seven full-time staff at the store, and I’m keen to lead by example. I take the time to get to know our regular customers and can often be found working behind the counter, serving customers and making subs.

What advice would you give to anyone considering investing in a food franchise?

My advice is simple: just do it. But be prepared to work hard, and that means being very hands-on in your store, especially in the early days.

The training provided by the Subway brand at the UK headquarters in Cambridge is delivered to a very high level, but you need to make the most of all opportunities. Get out there and talk to other franchisees, spend time in their stores, and utilise the team at the development office, they are there tohelp whenever you need them.

What are your plans for the future of your business?

I’m really enjoying running my store at the moment, I have a great team around me and we’re in good shape.

I’m looking to develop a delivery side to the business in the coming months, making the most of the lunchtime market, especially in the local business park.

I’d love to open a second store and I’m always keeping my eyes open for opportunities, but I think there’s plenty to do here first!

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