How the Franchise Industry Evolved Post-Pandemic

How the Franchise Industry Evolved Post-Pandemic

The franchise industry, like many others, faced unprecedented challenges in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, from these challenges emerged remarkable innovations, adaptability, and resilience that have reshaped the landscape of franchising. In this article, we explore the key transformations that have taken place in the franchise industry as a response to the pandemic.

Health and Safety as Top Priorities

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, health and safety emerged as paramount concerns for both franchise businesses and their customers. The sudden onset of a highly contagious virus forced franchises to reevaluate their operations, adopting comprehensive health and safety measures to ensure the well-being of employees and patrons.

Franchises across various sectors swiftly implemented sanitization protocols, social distancing guidelines, and protective measures such as the mandatory use of masks and the installation of protective barriers. The goal was to create an environment where customers felt safe and reassured, enabling them to engage with businesses without compromising their health. KFC Malaysia, a well-known fast-food franchise, implemented stringent health and safety protocols across its outlets. They introduced measures such as contactless ordering and payment options, regular sanitization of high-touch surfaces, and social distancing markers to ensure a safe dining experience for customers.

KFC Malaysia implemented strict social distancing and measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Source: MalaysiaGazette

While not a traditional food franchise, Guardian, a health and beauty retail chain, prioritized health and safety by implementing temperature checks at store entrances, providing hand sanitizers for customers, and enforcing mask-wearing within their stores. This emphasis on health and safety extended beyond physical spaces to encompass interactions and transactions. Many franchises adopted contactless payment systems to minimize the need for direct contact, enhancing the feeling of safety for customers during their visit.

Embracing Remote Work for Franchise Operations

Franchises were compelled to reimagine their operational models when lockdowns and social distancing measures disrupted their usual workflows. Many franchise headquarters and support functions transitioned to remote work environments, leveraging communication tools and project management software to ensure continuity. This adaptation not only safeguarded employees but also revealed the untapped potential of remote work within the franchise ecosystem.

The shift to remote work extended beyond administrative tasks and reached into franchisee training and onboarding. Franchises that traditionally relied on in-person training sessions pivoted to virtual platforms. Interactive webinars, virtual classrooms, and online training modules became the new norm. The “TechGenius” franchise, specializing in technology services, led the way by conducting comprehensive onboarding for technicians entirely online. This allowed them to source skilled professionals from a wider geographical area, breaking down geographical constraints.

Remote work obliterated geographical boundaries, opening up access to a global talent pool. Franchises found themselves in a unique position to tap into talent beyond their local vicinity. This was especially significant for roles that could be performed remotely, such as marketing, graphic design, content creation, and digital customer support. Franchises began collaborating with individuals from different regions, enriching their teams with diverse perspectives and skills.

Benefits and Challenges of Remote Work

The adoption of remote work in franchising brought forth a host of benefits. Franchises could now access specialized skills that might not have been available locally. The cost savings associated with reduced office space and overhead expenses were appealing as well. Moreover, franchisees located in regions with lower living costs could engage with brands that were previously unaffordable.

However, remote work also posed challenges. Communication and collaboration required careful coordination. Establishing a strong virtual company culture became imperative to maintain team cohesion and employee engagement. Franchises needed to invest in robust digital infrastructure, cybersecurity measures, and remote work policies to ensure the success of remote operations.

Hybrid Work Models: The Future of Franchising

As the pandemic recedes, franchises are entering a new phase characterized by hybrid work models. The lessons learned from remote work and the positive outcomes achieved have prompted many to embrace a flexible approach. Franchises are now considering a blend of in-person and remote work, recognizing that different roles and tasks may require distinct approaches. The experience of successfully tapping into a global talent pool has sparked discussions on how to balance the benefits of remote work with the advantages of face-to-face interactions.

Evolving Real Estate Strategies

One of the most substantial shifts that the franchise industry underwent in response to the pandemic was the reevaluation of real estate strategies. With lockdowns and restrictions affecting foot traffic and consumer behaviors changing, franchises were compelled to take a fresh look at their physical presence. This led to the emergence of evolving real estate strategies that allowed them to adapt to the new normal and align their operations with changing market dynamics.

As consumer preferences shifted towards online shopping and contactless transactions, some franchises opted for downsizing their physical locations. Smaller, more streamlined spaces allowed them to reduce operational costs while still maintaining a local presence. Franchises that primarily offered products that could be easily accessed online, such as apparel or gadgets, found this approach especially effective. By optimizing their retail spaces, they managed to operate more efficiently and channel resources into enhancing their digital offerings.

Franchises that experienced shifts in customer demographics and preferences also adapted their locations to meet these changing needs. For instance, franchises with a significant office worker customer base observed a decline in office-related foot traffic due to remote work arrangements. To address this, they either relocated or opened new branches in residential areas or suburban communities where customers were spending more time during the pandemic.

Building Strong Bonds in Local Community Amidst Uncertainty

In the face of unprecedented challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the franchise industry experienced a remarkable transformation, marked by resilience, innovation, and adaptability. One aspect that emerged as a cornerstone of this evolution was the deepening commitment to local community engagement. Franchises across various sectors recognized the importance of forging strong bonds with their communities, not only as a means of support during tough times but as a foundation for long-term growth and success.

Franchise brands swiftly rose to the occasion, showcasing their commitment to their communities in meaningful ways. For instance, Subway, a popular sandwich franchise, launched an initiative called “Support Local Heroes” to show appreciation for healthcare workers, volunteers and frontliners of COVID-19 in Singapore. They offered 10,000 free sandwiches to these heroes as a gesture of gratitude for their dedicated service during the pandemic.

Subway donates 10,000 free sandwiches to volunteers, staff of the COVID-19 testing & vaccination centre.
Source: MediaCorp SG

Beyond immediate assistance, franchises realized the potential to create a lasting impact through sustained community engagement. Many franchisors and franchisees collaborated on initiatives that ranged from food drives to virtual workshops. These efforts served to strengthen relationships, enhance brand reputation, and position the franchise as a genuine partner invested in the community’s welfare.

During the pandemic, Nando’s Malaysia initiated a compassionate effort called Nando’s Kind Dining. This initiative allowed patrons to contribute non-perishable food items and, in return, receive a 20% discount on their own Nando’s meals. The primary goal of Nando’s Kind Dining was to gather non-perishable food items that could be directed to vulnerable communities heavily affected by both COVID-19 and the Movement Control Order (MCO). This effort was significant as it aimed to address the challenges faced by those whose livelihoods were adversely impacted during this time.

At Nando’s, they feel privileged to be a part of the community effort where everyone can lend a helping hand to move forward as one.
Source: Business Today

The pandemic has not only reshaped how franchises engage with their local communities but has also provided valuable lessons for the future. Franchisees and franchisors alike have recognized that community engagement is not just a reactive measure during crises but an ongoing commitment. The bonds forged during tough times will continue to strengthen the franchise’s position within the community and enhance its long-term growth potential.

To Conclude

The franchise industry’s response to the challenges posed by the pandemic has showcased its adaptability and innovation. From the rapid integration of technology to a renewed emphasis on health and safety, franchises have demonstrated their capacity to evolve in the face of adversity. As the industry navigates the road to recovery, the lessons learned and the transformations undertaken are sure to define its trajectory for years to come.

The franchise industry is poised for a resilient and prosperous future, characterised by innovative strategies, customer-centric approaches, and a commitment to adaptability. Learn how you can start your own franchise with us here at Intellect amidst the post-pandemic environment.