Franchises Takes Center Stage in Reality TV
"My fear is that there will be a general misperception among Americans about franchising. They'll say, 'Oh it's this easy. ... This is something that will feed me for the rest of my life," says Don Sniegowski, founder of BlueMauMau, a blog about franchising. "This is dangerous ground. A franchise can be a wonderful thing, but if you get into the wrong concept, particularly with these new franchise systems, some of which are featured, it's dangerous."
There is also a concern about a brand, such as Complete Nutrition, that is still unknown to viewers. While the show may be good exposure for newer or smaller brand, and ultimately result in higher sales, is it a proven business?
"This is really high stakes for a person who makes a mistake and gets a franchise system that is a dud," Sniegowski says. "If they're going to be on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars, they need to get a sense of the bigger picture."
Ryan Zink, president of Complete Nutrition, says he and founder and CEO Cory Wiedel (both featured in Sunday night's premiere) had plenty of discussion internally and with the producers before they agreed to the show.
The company, launched in 2004, has about 160 stores. Eighteen months ago, the company imposed a franchise sales moratorium so that infrastructure could catch up with the amount they had already sold, but the company is now looking to start selling franchises again.
"I was really hoping that we'd come off exactly as who we are. We are a young, successful, energy-driven brand that is about changing people's lives. We're not selling shoes or sandwiches. We're changing people's lives through fitness and goals," Zink says.
With Complete Nutrition putting up the $150,000 to $200,000 in start-up costs for the winner (which won't open for a few months), another major concern was the quality of the prospective franchisee in the show. Despite being a current employee, that doesn't automatically mean they were qualified to run their own store, Zink says.
Being part of a show can hurt productivity and put the corporate team at risk of ridicule from viewers.
Molly Maid President Meg Roberts says the company was willing to take the risk.
"We were willing to show some of our blemishes on national TV" with the hope of coming out of the experience as a better company, she says, adding that the brand was picked for its strong female leadership team, which would appeal to the show's target audience.