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QSR Feature
What Franchisees Think
Your operators have something to say about your brand’s strength.

In our many discussions with franchisees over the years, we have come to appreciate how difficult it is for operators to gain a say in brand leadership. All too often franchisees feel disenfranchised in setting the direction for the concept that has so much to do with their net worth. All this explains the burgeoning success of our QSR/Restaurant Research LLC Brand Satisfaction Survey. It provides a very public platform for operators to voice their opinions. This year 990 franchisees operating 8,462 units weighed in with their opinions. This year’s survey response represents approximately 7.5 percent of all franchised units among the largest 150 chains tracked by Restaurant Research.

We included in our final analysis only the aggregated responses of those systems in which at least 5 percent of the franchised system units were represented, leaving us with 13 leading concepts. Responses are weighted on a one-vote-per-franchisee basis, and averages are considered informational rather than statistically significant. Notably, this year we added a new feature to the survey; we are reporting the average of the nine individual brand component ratings to reflect the overall concept rating.

Aggregated Category Ratings
2005 2006 Y/Y
Average Overall Score 2.55 2.41 +5.5 percent
Franchisee Support 2.67 2.45 +8.2 percent
Sales Growth Prospects 2.53 2.33 +7.9 percent
Advertising 2.68 2.47 +7.8 percent
Profitability 2.84 2.65 +6.7 percent
Franchisor Management 2.67 2.51 +6.0 percent
Product/Promotions 2.42 2.32 +4.1 percent
Menu 2.30 2.21 +3.9 percent
Physical Condition 2.43 2.35 +3.3 percent
Operations 2.43 2.37 +2.5 percent

Aggregated average results for all respondents spanning all concepts showed increased confidence across the board. Franchisee support represents the biggest change for the better. Apparently franchisors are becoming more responsive to the operator community. Operators are also very confident about sales prospects and that advertising will drive sales. In the end, this portends well for unit-level profits. Operations bring up the rear but at least post an increase.

Average Overall Brand Strength Rating

Sonic took the top spot in this year’s survey, up from a third-place tie last year. Here is a chain that performs well across the board and receives kudos from operators for an inclusive environment that treats franchisees as part of the family. McDonald’s is new to the survey this year, with a sufficiently strong enough showing to take a close second place—a tribute to the chain’s phenomenal turnaround that is now two–and–a–half years strong. We note that McDonald’s response rate was an astonishing 22 percent of total franchise units, reflecting the wide breadth of positive sentiment among operators. At the other end of the spectrum, Quiznos’s operators rated their chain dead last for brand strength, reinforcing public complaints about a largely unresponsive franchisor.

Pick up the June 2006 copy of QSR to find out how franchisees rated your brand on:
  • Sales Growth Prospects
  • Profitability Prospects
  • Menu
  • Product/Promotional Line-up
  • Advertising Effectiveness
  • Operational Effectiveness
  • Franchisor Management Ability
  • Physical Condition
  • Franchisee Support Programs

In the end, overall responses suggest operators’ perception of brand strength might have much to do with their relational feelings towards their franchisor. A strong, familiar bond between franchisees and franchisors might drive more than just favorable perceptions of brand strength. It might actually increase brand strength.

Methodology
Restaurant Research LLC joined with QSR in 2005 in an effort to provide a useful tool to assess brand value by asking franchisee operators to rate their own restaurant concepts around nine key brand components—sales and profit prospects, menu, promotional line-up, advertising, operations, system condition, concept management, and franchisee support—on a 1-best to 5-worst scale.
Phil Mangieri and Wally Butkus founded Restaurant Research LLC to provide industry players with competitive intelligence. Contact them at www.restaurantresearch.info.