Questions to Ask When Considering a Unique Franchise Concept

By Matt Ross, Founder and CEO One River School of Art + Design

In franchising, there is no shortage of pizza joints, home care companies, or auto parts stores. Anyone considering purchasing any of those concepts, or in any crowded industry, has plenty of research and resources upon which to draw. But then you encounter a much lesser-known industry or concept, navigating that territory can be intimidating and treacherous.

There is much to consider, learn, and ask in uncommon franchise endeavors. Everybody loves pizza, for example, so the supply-and-demand equation won’t be a problem. But when it comes to axe throwing, art schools, or even a beef jerky outlet, there are several important differences to consider. Here are some of the top things to think about when exploring a lesser-known concept:

Know Your History.

The foundation of any franchise is in its roots. It’s important to know the guiding philosophy of the founder(s). Understand the long-term vision they have or had for the company and know when and how that may have changed.  Every company has a brand personality and that is usually grounded in the roots of a company. 


Passion Play.

If you’re serving burgers and fries, success lies in your numbers and the bottom line. In lesser-known concepts, having a passion for that unique purpose and vision is critical. In our example, we know that a franchisee without some level of passion for art will have difficulty in operating one of our art and design locations. We’ve built a proprietary curriculum and a profitable business model, and we know how to hire the right people, but a passion for the concept is required to truly thrive.


The other side of that coin is to ascertain whether others in the franchise have that passion as well. You might be committed to the concept, the business and its purpose, but if the front office team or executives don’t give off the passion vibe, ask more questions. 

Market Forces.

If you’re considering opening a franchise in a new region or territory, do your due diligence on demographic research.  Can you open a Mediterranean grill in rural Alabama? Will an East Coast franchise thrive on the Pacific? Make a point to understand the work done by the home office to target expansion in your market.  The franchise itself should be able to erase any doubt that the concept can thrive in your part of the country. If they can’t, you have a lot of questions left to ask.


Speaking of market(ing)…

The best brands assist their new locations through extensive marketing efforts to increase awareness and/or recruit customers. Home office should have a clear customer profile and know how to attract that group to your franchise location. Beyond the Grand Opening, ensuring a solid customer foundation is an important responsibility of the master brand – whether they execute the marketing in-house or utilize an agency to help with that task. Opening the doors – whether it’s logistics or local political or permitting issues – is hard enough. Ask about the level of support the brand offers to get people through those doors.


Be assured that the professionals running a lesser-known concept have already asked all the questions you can conjure in your head. Knowing their thinking, and how you and your location contribute to the brand, its personality, and purpose is the key to success when you’re off the beaten path in franchising. Keep asking questions and the ultimate answers will be clear to you soon enough.