Buying into a fastfood franchise

Sandwich chain Subway is looking for new franchisees

American sandwich chain Subway is appealing for managers to open 100 new stores in towns and cities around France

AMERICAN sandwich chain Subway is appealing for would-be managers to open 100 new stores in towns and cities around France.

The group has about 200 outlets in the country and wants to sign franchising deals for the new branches by the end of this year.

Allison Lefebvre opened and ran three Subway chains in Scotland with her French husband Eric and moved to Bayeux in 2007 to work as a regional development agent for the company.

They have helped eight people set up Subway branches in towns across Normandy and Centre, with seven more in preparation.

Mrs Lefebvre said the franchise set-up is ideal for expats looking to run their own business and is less expensive than starting from scratch.

Prior experience in catering is not essential, but basic transferable skills such as dealing with the public and good organisation are vital.

“People say the French don’t eat fast food but it’s not true,” she said. “I don’t think many people would want to own up to going to McDonalds, but we don’t have that problem.”

The total set-up costs – from starting the business plan and applying for a bank loan, to welcoming the first customer – are typically between €150,000 and €200,000, although this varies depending on the location and size of the shop.

Dealing with builders and bureaucracy – you might find you need to apply to the council for a change of usage – takes time and patience. “Matters are often out of our hands,” Mrs Lefebvre added. “A good timescale to allow would be six months.”

Subway takes 8% of revenue, and a further 4.5% goes to a central fund that is used to buy advertising and promotional material. The company says this means your store can benefit from better coverage that a single outlet would not be able to afford on its own.

The company offers two full weeks of training in Paris and a further two weeks working in a store that is already open. Regional bosses provide help along the way and are on site for the first week in business, as well as regular visits and regional meetings.

It is hard work and the rules are “fairly rigid” – there is not much room to tailor the store to your own tastes. Mrs Lefebvre said: “When people walk into a Subway in London or Brazil they expect it to be more or less the same. You do have to remind people sometimes.”

Another hurdle at times is “inflexible” French labour law. Adjusting staff numbers to cater for high and low sales periods is difficult.

“In Scotland if it snowed I could send everyone home and we’ll make the hours up later in the week,” she added. “Here if you have a store by a university and the students and teachers go on strike, you can’t reduce your staff.”

Running a franchise is not a licence to print money, but once up and running with a team of staff, it is possible to take a more hands-off approach.

See www.subwayfrance.fr and click on La Franchise for more information about how to sign up.

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