Will “brand strength” or hard fought-for legal provisions likely preserve Tim Hortons franchisee, staff, supplier and communities relationships?

February 23, 2015

In 2000, Tony Martin asked Tim Hortons VP Nick Javor which of their franchise agreement terms protected franchisees when a merger happens.

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In his public hearing testimony which lead up to Ontario’s 1st franchise law, Mr. Javor seems to suggest the “brand” is strong enough. He was silent on the contract provisions needed.

Mr Martin: I don’t think there’s anybody who’s suggesting that there aren’t good franchise systems around, and certainly Tim Hortons presents at this time as one of those good systems, for all the reasons you’ve laid on the table here today. What you have we want for all the systems, because when a system goes sour, as you suggest in the Pizza Pizza case, you’re all painted with the same brush. That’s unfortunate. It affects a good business relationship and ultimately probably affects the franchisee the most because they’re the most exposed and vulnerable.

My concern is when good systems get sold, and that’s happening. There’s a trend today where the bigger guy eats up the smaller guy and the relationship changes. We had that experience here in Sault Ste Marie where Provigo bought out Loeb and wiped out two of our best corporate citizens overnight. They slept in their stores for two weeks to protect their interests. That’s how difficult that was.

We’ve heard that 241 Pizza has just bought out Robins Donuts. What happens if tomorrow Pizza Pizza buys out Tim Hortons? Do you have anything in your agreement with your franchisees that protects them in that instance?

Mr Javor: That’s a very good question, Mr Martin, because this is the day of mergers and acquisitions. This is the business strategy of a lot of folks. I would answer your question with perhaps a description of our franchisee relationship. I think successful franchisors and chains and brands get successful not by accident but because of the hard work and everybody’s focused on a mutual goal. The mutual goal in our organization, and other franchisors who have been privileged to be as successful as us, is clear: to deliver customer service and realize that the way we get excellent customer service is by having franchisees who are committed to that. We have a strong culture of excellence and commitment. I think it would be very difficult for a new ownership group to come in and absolutely take away what’s taken us 30 years to earn and to grow together with our franchisee ownership.

The fact that we involve our owners a lot in our business at the advisory board level and committee level that I mentioned earlier I guess is a testament to the strength of that commitment we have to ourselves in the marketplace, and that is bigger than the contract. It takes many years to change cultures at corporations. Those of us here who have been in private business over the years understand that. Truly, yes, the top of the house or the CEO and president help set the tone – that’s well-documented research – but also when you have a strong commitment at the grassroots level in your community, where your franchisees are absolutely actively involved in supporting your community, because they know where their bread is buttered. It’s not downtown Toronto, it’s all the communities where we have stores in our particular chain across the country.

I honestly think that when a merger and acquisition comes along the strength of the brand will come through based on these types of commitments and relationships.

Mr. Javor and Tim Hortons were active in the spirited behind-closed-doors debate of the proposed amendment to the Arthur Wishart Act, Bill 102 in 2010: here, here and MPPs seek anti-swindling law for franchises.

Mr. Nick Javor, LinkedIn

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Tony Martin asks a few questions of the Canadian Franchise Association, CFA

September 22, 2012

Mr. Richard Cunningham spoke very professionally and accurately for the franchisor- and supplier-only association.

Mr. Tony Martin, MPP was a key player in asking the right questions which helped clarify how much contempt each stakeholder had for the democratic process. There were five expert witness spots in the 4 days of travelling public hearings that resulted in the Arthur Wishart Act (Franchise Disclosure), 2000. The subcommittee gave the CFA one of those slots.  The complete record of testimony can be found on WikiFranchise.org.

Questions

[…]
Mr Martin: I’m following up on the question that Richard [Patten, MPP] asked a few minutes ago in terms of who you’ve actually kicked out of the association. I’m led to believe that, in fact, you’ve only revoked the membership of one and that was Pizza Pizza. Is that correct?

Mr Cunningham: I’m not at liberty to say, I believe. That would be privileged information of the association and I don’t think it’s appropriate to make any of that public here.

Mr Martin: You’re not going to give me any numbers even?

Mr Cunningham: No.

Mr Martin: Then just to query as to the membership in your group and who you speak for, I’m led to believe that you have 220 out of about 1,300 franchise systems in the country. Is that correct?

Mr Cunningham: I don’t what the date of that paper is, but our franchise member list is just over 300 right now because some of our member companies, like CARA, for example, would have eight brand names.

Mr Martin: And 80 of your members are lawyers, accountants or consultants?

Mr Cunningham: Correct.

Mr Martin: Also there are some big systems-and we heard from one of them today-that don’t belong to your association. Do you have any auto dealers?

Mr Cunningham: No.

Mr Martin: Do you have any food stores?

Mr Cunningham: Yes.

Mr Martin: How many?

Mr Cunningham: One chain.

Mr Martin: Petroleum stations?

Mr Cunningham: Yes, Petrocan.

Mr Martin: What about hotels and motels?

Mr Cunningham: Yes, a number of them.

Mr Martin: You made a statement earlier about the information I shared with the committee that the perception out there is that there’s lower risk by going into a franchise than the independent small business route. I have a study that suggests that’s not the case that the incidence of failure in franchising is greater than in going the independent route.

Mr Cunningham: I don’t know your study so I can’t comment on it.

Mr Martin: It’s a study called Survival Patterns among Franchisee and Nonfranchise Firms Started in 1986 and 1987. I can give you a copy of the report. It was reviewed by Ms Susan Swift from our legislative research branch, and it’s actually quite interesting. It has a number of findings that I think maybe your association might find worth looking at because it challenges very seriously the contention-and I suggest it’s something that needs to be perhaps looked into further. If we’re offering franchising in the country as a more secure way to get into business, particularly in an environment where there are a lot of people who are being restructured and walking around with severance packages looking for someplace to invest them and they are thinking that franchising is a bit more risk-free than actually setting up an independent business, then we may be sending them down a road that will result in stories such as the ones we’ve heard over the last two or three days here.

Mr Cunningham: Can I respond to that?

The Vice-Chair: Go ahead, sir. We’re just about out of time here now.

Mr Cunningham: Even if these statistics are out there, and as people are being told that franchises are more successful than non-franchises, the disclosure is going to give them the information and the ability to contact people in the system. If they call up XYZ system and talk to 10 of the franchisees and they say, “I’m not allowed to associate,” “I’m not making any money,” “I’ve been in this business five years and I’ve lost money,” or “I’m not in the system any more because I lost my life savings,” I think that in itself is going to tell those people, regardless of what any statistics are, not to buy.

Mr Martin: The problem is, though, that a lot of the people that they should actually talk to have signed confidentiality agreements and they can’t talk.

Mr Cunningham: They wouldn’t be able to do that, though, with this disclosure legislation.

The Vice-Chair: Richard, thank you so much for your time today and for the presentation you left with us.


Pizza Pizza founder dies of cancer at age 70

April 10, 2010

I never met Michael Overs but am familiar with his work.

The Toronto Star reports on the death of Pizza Pizza founder Michael Overs in Everybody Knew his pizza Chain’s number.

Reporter Danny Gallagher states:

Michael Overs’ legacy started to take shape on New Year’s Eve in 1967, when he opened a 300-square-foot pizza joint at Parliament and Wellesley streets. He called it Pizza Pizza.

From that modest beginning, Overs turned Pizza Pizza into a quick-service icon and one of Canada’s leading chains for people on the go.

WikiFranchise.org was created to help franchisee investors improve their decision making: It helps “connect the dots” regarding business risk. I provide additional services as well.

WikidFranchise exists because of the generosity of the owners of the already-published documents.

Franchise relationships are more complex than they appear to most mom-and-pop investors. These links would be a start in assigning the likelihood of experiencing opportunism in a franchised relationship:


The Value of Knowing which questions to Ask

October 10, 2008

Frank Zaid is a Canadian lawyer with Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP.

1. From his wikipedia page:

He has been listed as one of the leading franchise law practitioners in every published edition of the Canadian Legal Lexpert Directory, the Lexpert/American Lawyer Guide to the Leading 500 Lawyers in Canada.

In the 2005 and 2006 editions of Who’s Who Legal Frank was ranked as one of the most highly regarded franchise lawyers in the world, and as the most highly nominated practitioner outside of the United States.

In the 2006 edition of the Lexpert Legal Directory he was ranked as the most frequently recommended franchise lawyer in Canada and Osler was ranked as one of the most consistently recommended major full service law firms in franchising.

Further under Professional Affiliations:

  • American Bar Association (Forum on Franchising)
  • Canadian Franchise Association (Past General Counsel and past member of the Executive Committee and Board of Directors)

2. Mr. Zaid gave testimony before the Standing Committee on Regulation and Private Members Bills of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario on March 6, 2000 in consideration of Bill 33, Franchise Disclosure Act on behalf of the business law section of the Canadian Bar Association. This bill resulted in Ontario’s first franchise law, Arthur Wishart Act (Franchise Disclosure), 2000.

The Acting Chair (Hon. George Smitherman) exercised his discretion in allowing additional time for questions. I know this because I was in the Committee room listening very carefully to Mr. Zaid. I had just come back from lunch with Susan Kezios and John Sotos.

This is an excerpt from the transcript.

The Acting Chair: We’ve got a few minutes left for questions. We’ll start with Tony Martin.

Questions

Mr Martin: Certainly, your presentation flies in the face of some of the information presented to us, particularly this morning by Susan Kezios from the American Franchisee Association, who suggests other than that franchisor systems flee states where there’s good legislation. I suggest that maybe bad franchisors flee, and who would argue against that?

Were you the counsel for the Pizza Pizza franchisor?

Mr Zaid:
I was one of the counsels.

Mr Martin: Were you the counsel in the Bulk Barn case for the franchisor?

Mr Zaid: I’m involved in that.

Mr Martin:
You’re not the person who sent out the letters of threat to anybody who would intervene in any way in terms of that action?

Mr Zaid: I’m not going to answer that question.

Mr Martin: OK, thanks.

The Acting Chair:
Further questions? Seeing none, thank you very much for your presentation.

Full pdf download

The motto on the Legislature’s Coat of Arms, AUDI ALTERAM PARTEM, challenges the legislators to “Hear the Other Side.” Also note that the Mace (top and crossed on the Shield of Arms) is the traditional symbol of the authority of the Speaker of the Assembly.

Mr. Martin served as the Deputy Speaker of the House at that time. I had the great privilege of acting as a volunteer industry researcher to him.


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