There’s a lot of work that goes into opening a new store. This is true even when you’re working in a restaurant or retail franchise where the branding and product offering have already been developed. To scale franchise operations, you need a smooth process for standing up a new store quickly. Having well-designed franchise prototype architecture is a big part of opening new stores without a hitch.
This is true in both smaller franchises and larger ones, like Border Foods, which has 79 Taco Bell restaurants in Minnesota. In smaller franchises, the franchisees are often first-time business owners without the experience of starting new store locations by themselves. And in larger ones, the pace of store openings necessitates substantial organization.
Here are three things you can do to ensure your prototype architecture is helping your franchise thrive.
Easy-to-Grow Prototype Architecture
One of the things we recommend is to create prototype drawings that are easy to adapt to different sites. How do you make the prototype site-specific? That is, how must the prototype be adapted in a different state or jurisdiction? We develop a set of documents that highlights each little thing within the prototype that needs to be reviewed.
You need to look at the exteriors of the building, the materials that are used, to ensure compliance with local zoning. For example, some jurisdictions allow concrete block exteriors, while others don’t. Another area to look at is ADA compliance. Accessibility requirements vary in some states, so you’ll want to be sure the design is right for each one. We then go down the list to make sure the new franchise location will be compliant in that state and jurisdiction.
We also recommend that franchises develop a system for keeping track of periodic changes to the prototypes. As you build new franchise locations, the prototype architecture will constantly evolve based on changing needs and standards. Many franchises release these in quarterly updates, but your schedule can vary based on how frequently you open new stores. It’s a matter of constant improvement.
As national accounts for equipment or materials change, the prototype design should change to reflect it. Having this information well documented makes the entire job easier and prevents mistakes.
Designing for the Long-Term
How do you design something that will look good in 10 years? While a stand-alone store will redesign as they see fit, your franchise agreements only require franchisees to do so occasionally. So your franchise prototype architecture needs to be timeless enough to look good for the long haul. Steer clear of packing the design with the hottest trends out of New York and L.A.
Instead, aim for a design that is flexible enough to take on a new look in five or ten years. Then, as trends change, your prototype can keep up-to-date with new finishes, paint schemes, signage, and other surface renovations.
Likewise, your franchise prototype architecture needs to find a balance between keeping costs low and building something that will last. You don’t want the building, décor, and other furnishings to fall apart in five years. The prototype needs to specify materials that will last the length of your franchise agreement. Otherwise, franchisees may have worn and tired old furnishings that you can’t compel them to upgrade. And that’s bad for your brand.
Balancing Cost and Quality
Expense is a big deal for your franchisees. So in addition to being well-designed, the prototype needs to benefit their business. What’s the bang for their buck on the design?
For example, we worked with a franchise prototype that originally required floor tile to be laid at an angle. It definitely looked great, but it cost a lot more to install than laying the tile straight. So after enough franchisees complained, the company switched it. It just didn’t add enough value to their business. As the folks at Best Buy are famous for asking, “How many more televisions will that sell?” If the answer is not many, does the design really need it?
Of course, if you get cheap with the design, it will affect your brand image — and your profits. There comes a time where consumers say, “I don’t want to come here, because it’s a lousy experience.” If the place down the street is a lot nicer for the same price, consumers will go there instead. You have to find the balance between a design that won’t actually improve your sales and a creating great brand experience.
Have additional questions about franchise prototype architecture? Whether you’re a franchise owner looking to develop a new prototype or a franchisee looking for help to implement one, contact us today.
Dean brings more than 35 years of experience in architecture to his work with PlanForce Group. Across his expansive career of designing retail buildings and restaurants, he has also designed more than one hundred separate Taco Bell locations. He earned his architecture degree from North Dakota State University.