Food truck encroachment: Why sunk cost investments and change kills mom/pop franchise life savings

September 10, 2010

A legal civil war will mask franchising’s unavoidable investment flaw: opportunism arising from inevitable change.

The #1 business risk is franchisor opportunism: the self-interested exercise of contractual discretion via deceit. This one risk comes cloaked in hundreds of types.

Systemic Factors: At one time, franchisees were granted a geographic monopoly but that ‘s history, mostly. Franchisees own the majority of the assets but franchisors control the use/exit of this capital. Franchisors take $ from the top; franchisees only from the bottom. Pre-sale due diligence is irrelevant because the franchisor reserves the right to unilaterally change the model. Sunk cost chains draw off-balance sheet capital in from all s0urces of “love money”.

High-end, branded roach coaches will be franchisors’ new crack cocaine:

  1. lower capital barrier to sales (easier financing),
  2. boost total market retail sales (royalties/ad fund %),
  3. product sales margin increases (tied buying provisions),
  4. same control via central commissary innovation and tied buying to outfitters,
  5. 100% flexibility (scaled territories),
  6. streamlines process when an intentional insolvency is chosen,
  7. centralized social media promotion, and
  8. margins by contracting with a secondary space rental company (more than make up for franchisors giving up hefty lease margins).

Benefits for traditional mom-and-pop investors?

At best, a generous offer from your franchisor for you to buy 3 new trucks to replace your outdated bricks-and-mortar store.

I would suggest that billions of $  existing franchisee-owned assets just shrunk. Permanently. Never to return.

Think: Dunkin’ Donuts, Tim Hortons,  Quiznos on wheels.

Thanks for the tip, Michael.


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