Last Updated on October 12, 2023 by Morgan Beard
According to Colliers, 49% of U.S. retailers plan to expand their footprint over the next five years. For Franchisee real estate expansion planning, that means now is the time to prepare for competitive negotiations, align your teams around your growth strategy and gain complete understanding of your current lease portfolio obligations.
Expanding a franchise footprint into new territories requires careful planning and analysis. From understanding market trends to optimizing location selection, franchisees must take a strategic approach to real estate growth. This article explores key considerations for franchisees looking to expand their brand through new locations.
Understanding the Franchisee Real Estate Landscape
The franchise real estate landscape is complex and competitive. Before embarking on business expansion, franchise owners must fully understand the complex dynamics of the real estate landscape including franchisor requirements, franchise fees, site availability, broker relationships, lease terms, local approvals, competitive factors and consumer demand analysis. Thoroughly researching these key areas provides the foundation for strategic growth.
A few key factors to analyze include:
- Franchisor requirements – Most franchisors have specific rules around site selection, build-outs, trademarks, signage etc. Understanding these upfront prevents missteps.
- Site availability – Prime franchise real estate is limited. Research must identify available and suiting sites in your target markets.
- Broker relationships – Brokers with franchise experience are invaluable for sourcing and securing real estate. Cultivate these early on.
- Lease terms – Negotiating favorable lease terms is crucial for unit profitability. Factor these costs into financial modeling.
- Local approval processes – Municipal zoning, permits etc. vary by market. Research requirements to accurately forecast timelines and expenses.
- Competitive saturation – Try to be the first franchise in a new market. If competitors are present, differentiation is key.
- Consumer demand – Ultimate success requires consumer support. Gauge demand and ideal unit placement through data analysis.
Understanding these dynamics early on positions franchisees to make informed, strategic real estate decisions. Building out a successful business model and franchisee real estate expansion plan starts with understanding these key factors.
Strategic Approaches to Franchise Real Estate Expansion
Once the landscape is understood, franchisees can develop smart expansion strategies. Franchisees have options when it comes to smart expansion strategies including a hub and spoke model to incrementally broaden regional reach as well as a strategic market selection approach to target specific high-potential new territories. Choosing the right strategy is crucial
Hub and Spoke Expansion
The hub and spoke model is a strategic approach to regional franchisee real estate expansion where locations expand outward from a centralized hub into surrounding markets like spokes on a wheel. This enables franchisees to leverage existing infrastructure and staff at the hub location to support new spokes, while allowing for regional growth in a logical way. Benefits of this model include building strong brand awareness in local markets, realizing cost efficiencies through bulk purchasing and concentrated marketing initiatives, and tapping into your experienced teams to assist with new store openings.
- Leveraging existing infrastructure/staff – The hub supports new locations logistically.
- Strong local brand awareness – Concentrated presence drives regional recognition.
- Cost efficiencies – Bulk purchasing and concentrated marketing provide savings.
- Experienced team – Hub staff can assist with new store openings.
The hub and spoke approach provides an efficient framework for franchisees to expand commercial space regionally in a strategic, cost-effective manner building on their already established business.
Strategic Market Selection
The strategic market selection approach involves franchisees thoroughly analyzing potential new markets and selectively targeting locations that meet specific criteria. This model focuses on markets with factors like growing populations, favorable demographics, limited competition, prime retail sites, and development incentives. The goal is to strategically identify regions that align well with the brand and present the greatest opportunities to successfully enter a new market
- Growing populations – More potential customers.
- Favorable demographics – Specifically match your brand’s target audience.
- Limited competition – First mover advantage helps gain market share.
- Prime retail sites – Great visibility, foot traffic and accessibility.
- Development incentives – Tax/financial incentives make deals more appealing.
Brand Diversification Expansion Strategy
Brand diversification is a strategic approach wherein a franchisee expands by diversifying their brand offerings within a specific market or region. This strategy involves introducing complementary or related franchise concepts under the same ownership or management, leveraging existing brand reputation and operational expertise to penetrate different market segments. The aim is to maximize market share and customer reach while maintaining operational synergies and cost-efficiency.
For example, if your Franchisee 100% operates Tropical Smoothie Cafes in a given region, they could leverage the brand diversification strategy by opening Pita Pit’s. In this particular example, deploying franchisee concepts that share a similar customer archetype helps with customer loyalty. By diversifying the franchisee brand within the same market, the franchisee can benefit from cross-promotion, shared resources, streamlined operations, and that potential customer loyalty.
Either models above – or a hybrid approach – can enable strategic franchise real estate expansion. By carefully screening for ideal markets using data-driven criteria, franchisees can maximize their chances of profitability and return on investment in each new area they expand into. This selective, targeted model allows for smart franchise growth into regions with the highest potential for long-term success.
Analyzing Market Trends for Franchisee Real Estate Growth
Ongoing analysis of market-level trends provides critical intelligence to identify the most promising regions for franchisee real estate expansion based on indicators like population growth, job growth, housing starts, retail vacancies, local business growth and consumer spending habits
Local Business Growth
Growing numbers of small/local businesses show an active community. Seek out markets where new shops and restaurants are opening to tap into economic vibrancy. In fact, 66% of franchisors report feeling optimistic about their business according to Restaurant Dive.
Monitoring population growth trends using U.S. Census data can identify expanding markets ideal for entering early before competition moves in. Locating franchises in these high-growth areas ensures access to an expanding customer base over time.
Markets with increasing job growth show economic vibrancy, bringing more potential customers. Analyze labor statistics and track new major employer announcements to find these active regions. Keep in mind, many companies have adopted hybrid or remote office policy’s. Their employees may be flocking to suburban areas — remote work should shape your retail strategy.
An even better indicator for franchisees, is tracking major planned housing developments signal future population growth as new residents move into the community. Following city planning notices helps identify these prime growth areas early on. The rise of mixed-use developments combining retail, office, industrial and multi-family living indicates a burgeoning community.
Research local real estate listings and drive target markets to observe vacancy rates first-hand. High retail vacancies indicate struggling economies or local markets to avoid. On the other hand, understand where there are pockets for growth. The next five years will be competitive for businesses opening retail space.
Consumer Spending Data
Monitor consumer spending habits in categories relevant to your franchise, using data sources like Visa. Expand into markets where spending is increasing in your product/service categories. Consumer spending habits provide franchisees with an understanding of the buying psychology that influences their customers’ decisions. Analyzing market-level trends this way provides valuable indicators of ideal regions primed for franchise expansion.
Key Factors in Successful Franchisee Real Estate Expansion
While expanding into new territories is an exciting endeavor, franchisees must get key elements right including optimal site selection, demographic analysis, comprehensive financial modeling, local partnerships and operational readiness in order to ensure each new location is set up for success.
Optimal site selection considers visibility from main roads, easy access from multiple entry points, and proximity to office complexes or malls that generate foot traffic. Sites that are strategically positioned benefit from convenience and impulse walk-in customers.
Conduct deep analysis of market demographics like age, income, education, interests etc. and compare to your existing customer profiles. Markets with demographics aligned to current customers represent lower-risk expansion options and easier acquisition of future customers.
Comprehensive Financial Modeling
Create detailed profit/loss projections factoring in projected sales, operating expenses, payroll, taxes, rent, build-out costs, inventory and more. Conservative estimates identify locations likely to achieve profitability goals.
Partners like brokers and contractors with local real estate expertise help select viable sites, negotiate leases, and manage build-outs tailored to local regulations. Their insight is invaluable.
Before opening, install systems, hire and thoroughly train staff, implement supply chain logistics, and align offerings to brand standards. Consistency across units, even those geographically dispersed, is key.
Getting these key areas right goes a long way towards franchisee real estate expansion success. Thorough research and planning on the front-end enables franchisees to successfully navigate the complex real estate landscape and build their brand footprint.
Optimizing Location Selection for Franchisee Growth
Selecting the optimal site is one of the most critical decisions real estate teams make when expanding to a new market. Taking the time to thoroughly evaluate potential locations and identify sites that optimize key factors like high visibility for brand recognition, convenient accessibility, heavy traffic volumes, strong surrounding retail co-tenants, ample parking, and easy delivery access gives franchisees the best possible chance to drive consistent profitability at new locations.
- Visibility – Choose sites with maximum visibility from roads, highways etc. High visibility means more eyeballs on your location.
- Accessibility – Pick sites near major roads, ideally with lighted intersections and multiple curb cuts. Easy access means more customers can conveniently visit your franchise.
- Traffic Counts – Look for locations with automobile counts exceeding 25,000 cars per day. High traffic volumes generate more opportunities to attract passing motorists into your business.
- Co-Tenancy – Position your franchise near popular anchor stores, entertainment complexes or malls that drive significant foot traffic. Piggyback off the draw of co-tenants.
- Parking – Select sites with ample, convenient parking. Make visiting your franchise hassle-free for customers.
- Delivery Access – For restaurants/retailers, pick locations with easy delivery access. Accommodate delivery drivers to tap into this revenue channel.
Prioritizing these key location criteria and being willing to patiently wait for the ideal site to become available are prudent strategies that set new units up for success by maximizing built-in customer traffic and minimizing barriers to obtaining new customers.
Navigating Real Estate Challenges in Franchise Expansion
Despite careful planning, franchisees will likely face real estate challenges like finding qualified sites, securing approvals, managing build-out costs, weathering delays, hiring staff remotely and maintaining brand consistency across multiple locations. Proper contingency planning helps effectively navigate these hurdles.
- Finding qualified sites – In hot markets, prime sites get scooped up fast. Have backup locations ready.
- Securing approvals – Municipalities can impose unexpected requirements. Proactively engage early to streamline.
- Managing build-out costs – Construction costs can soar beyond projections. Control expenses with strict vetting and oversight.
- Weathering delays – Permitting, construction delays etc. can push back timelines. Build in contingency buffers.
- Recruiting/training staff – Hiring and training staff remotely in new regions can be difficult. Bring core team members from existing units to assist.
- Achieving consistency – Maintaining brand consistency across geographically dispersed units takes effort. Implement strong operating protocols.
With the right contingency planning, challenges like these can be anticipated and managed.
Franchisee Real Estate Expansion
Franchisees need to take a methodical, analytical approach to expansion. Understanding market dynamics, leveraging data and optimizing every real estate decision is key to profitable growth. While challenges are inevitable, preparation and strategic thinking position franchisees to successfully navigate the complex real estate landscape. With the right homework and planning, expansion into new territories can become an exciting next chapter rather than an intimidating unknown.
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