We launched Classic Burger Joint (CBJ) with just one restaurant in Lebanon in 2010. Since then, the franchise, which is owned by the Beirut-based Ministry of Food s.a.l., has grown to have 30 branches across the Middle East in 2016. Famed for its classic bright yellow New York look and upbeat city vibe, CBJ is now a valued brand that has restaurants across the region, including Cyprus, Kuwait, Lebanon and the UAE, and its first Iraq branch is scheduled to open in 2017.
CBJ was established by a team of passionate F&B experts, including Joint Partner Donald Batal, a culinary guru with more than 25 years in the industry. “CBJ is a hit with people who want a real burger– flame-grilled Australian Angus, grain-fed and freshly cut fries,” Batal says. “Our customers are burger-connoisseurs, and when they experience the iconic CBJ vibe, most become fans for life.”
As a brand that’s grown rapidly in a short amount of time, I can say that the CBJ approach to building a franchise network differs from the typical model. Our franchisees are partners to us- we work closely with them on a daily basis to provide all the support they need. Given that today’s markets have become so demanding, one must be operationally very agile to adapt to trends and opportunities in order to maximize profitability, and thus stay on top of the game.
At CBJ, we have a welldefined franchise development strategy, and have thus established our criteria to choosing the best partner that would help us expand our brand into new markets. Here are five traits that we expect from our franchise partners:
1. Be a champion of our brand
First and foremost, our partner needs to be a fan of our burgers and the brand. We highly believe that our business was founded and is constantly goaded by passion, the number one drive towards the success of any business, and we expect these of our partners as well.
“When people buy your franchise, they buy your brand experience, not your menu offering,” explains co-founder Walid Nasrala, Brand and Marketing Director of CBJ. “So the right franchisee is one who sees the value of the brand experience, and understands the importance of marketing the brand in his own territory to keep an edge on the competition, and to achieve their sales targets.”
2. Be an F&B guru
Second of all, we seek partners with a solid background in the food and beverage industry, and a successful track record of lucrative brands’ development and operations. We look out for their willingness to develop the brand into a thriving chain in their territories.
3. Be aligned with our corporate cultures
A long-term business relationship is one that is built on a basis of shared visions and core values. If you are a franchisor that believes that your human capital is your biggest asset, you should look for a partner that takes pride in growing his/her people. If you’re a believer in the saying “quality comes first,” you should not sign a deal with a franchisee that seeks lower quality products to save on some pennies and raise profits.
4. Be equipped with the requisite in-market resources
We have now reached the fourth criterion, which is access to real estate and the qualified human capital. Before you decide on any potential franchise partner, tackle the topic of acquiring prime locations to locate your brand, and trust me, in this part of the world, it is not easy. Typically, retailers and F&B operators with a diversified portfolio of good brands have access to prime malls and high profile developments, especially if the brands they operate are desirable by the developers, and this takes us back to criterion #2.
As for staffing, a lot of countries have quotas on the number of staff and the nationalities companies can acquire, and that’s a real challenge. In many times, your franchise partner would have done his homework of finding the right location, fitting the store and sourcing the approved ingredients; however when it comes to the staff, he could be still struggling with their visas.
5. Be financially secure and committed to the franchise
Ensuring that the candidate is fully capable of what the full financial commitment is likely to be, and that he/ she has clear access to those funds, is quite key to the long-term success of a franchise. Hence, qualifying a franchise lead financially should be a delicate process that takes considerable amount of time and resources and may require professional due diligence, strong cooperation and goodwill from both ends.
Choosing the right partner to join in a so-called “commercial marriage” is never easy. You will find it difficult to select a qualified franchisee to operate your brand the way you do in the best way possible. However, always remember that this kind of preparatory work is at the heart of a successful franchising relationship. Given you have done your tedious homework of preparing your brand for this step, franchising is the natural amplification to your brand’s success and one of the easiest business models to expand.
Start with the aforementioned fundamental criteria, but be sure to also take your time with the process. Be careful, follow your rules, and don’t cut corners. Regardless of whether you use these tools or not, assessing the job of the franchisee -and ultimately doing what you can to assure the franchisee’s success- is the most important and the most difficult job of every franchisor.