As a human being who likes coffee and the occasional donut, I've visited my fair share of Dunkin' Donuts/Baskin Robbins locations. And whether I'm ordering my vanilla latte in Chicago, Illinois or London, England, I fully expect to get the exact same experience on both sides of the pond — and all around the globe for that matter.
The somewhat amazing fact is that I actually do.
I wouldn't be so amazed if each of these locations were owned and operated by the same giant corporation, but Dunkin' Donuts (or "DD" as the cool kids and the Dunkin' branding machine call it) is a franchise. That means that individual small business owners are able to buy the rights to open their own stores using the DD brand, expertise and intellectual property. The result is that each DD location is actually an independent business run by a local owner (aka the franchisee).
With the customer experience depending almost entirely on the individual franchisees and how they choose to run their business, maintaining any kind of consistency across the brand seems SO HARD.
So how do Dunkin' Donuts and other successful franchises (Hertz, Marriott, McDonald's, Subway, to name a few) do it?
There are rules
Along with the rights to use a franchise's brand, franchisees also receive very specific instructions on how to use it, which often includes very clearly written customer experience operating guidelines that are reviewed with the franchisee on a regular basis.
Many franchisors also require franchisees to attend comprehensive in-person training sessions, where customer experience is often a focus. In fact, Hamburger University is a very real school in Chicago that educates McDonald's restaurant owners and managers on the operations procedures, service, quality and cleanliness that each location is expected to live up to.
It pays to be picky
Successful franchisors know they can't trust just anyone with their brand. While it's easy to accept checks from every Tom, Dick, and Carrie who's willing and eager to open a new location, that would not be smart. They can provide all the training, standards and restrictions in the world, but at the end of the day, if a franchisee decides to go rogue, the customer experience (and value of the brand) suffers.
Have you ever walked into a new location of a restaurant or store you've been happy with in the past, only to be let down by the actual product or customer service? I have.
Sometimes all it takes is one or two bad experiences for a customer to swear off a brand completely (which is why I haven't been to a Quiznos in 10 years). Franchises have to do their due diligence and find franchisees who are motivated, experienced and qualified to run a business.
Case in point: interested in owning a Chick-fil-A franchise? Good luck. You're actually more likely to get into Harvard. Out of 40,000 people who apply to open new locations each year, only 100-115 get the honor. This rigorous selection process may seem extreme, but it's one of the reasons why the Chick-fil-A brand is so consistent and highly regarded with a reputation for quality food and good customer service.
Communication is key (and tech helps)
Successful franchises also understand the importance of developing good relationships with their franchisees and keeping them motivated and excited about the business. The best way to do this is to maintain positive, open lines of communication.
One thing making that a whole lot easier is technology. Intra-office services like Slack and FranConnect enable easy, real-time communication so owners can feel connected and involved with the brand at all times. These platforms also serve as continuous reminders for the franchisees about the company's mission, core values and customer service philosophy. Keeping these things top of mind reminds owners of why they got into the business in the first place, and trickles down to improve customer experience and interactions on a daily basis.
The bottom line
While there are many possible reasons for the failure of a franchise, lack of consistency across locations is a big one. As long as franchisors pick the right franchisees, train them well and often, and establish good relationships while enforcing the company's values and service philosophy, they should be in pretty good shape.