The UK has now been in an enforced lockdown for nine weeks, with very little clarity on how and when normal life will resume.
But business owners have been taking matters into their own hands, proactively pivoting and innovating their standard services to maintain the British economy and, in turn, keep the nation going. Keep calm and carry on, a mantra synonymous with the UK public’s ability to thrive in the face of adversity, hasn’t felt this relevant for close to 75 years.
As some employers breathe a sigh of relief following the news of the extension to the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, others are ramping up recruitment and welcoming new customers. In times like these, alternative ways of doing business aren’t just the new normal – it’s a fundamental strategy for longevity. But what is it, specifically, that these franchise brands are doing differently?
Since lockdown came into force on the 23rd March, UK households are at home to eat an additional 503 million meals per week, with home delivery trips up 57% on this time last year. Therefore, it stands to reason that the food service industry has the potential to truly thrive during these isolated times.
Miss Millie’s, a chain of company-owned and franchisee-operated fried chicken restaurants in the South West, anticipated the essential changes needed to pivot their service offerings, long before COVID-19 officially hit UK shores. Anticipating a sudden upturn in demand for quality PPE, antibacterial wash and cleaning supplies, the franchise support team leapt into action, sourcing and producing the necessary resources to maintain staff and customer safety.
“Our first priority is supporting our franchisees to navigate the changes that affect their businesses, so when it became clear that the UK was set for a nationwide lockdown, we put the necessary actions in place,” explained Carl Traill, Managing Director. “Our restaurants are all pick-up and delivery only, we immediately enforced two-metre distances and only accept card payments. We also created a whole host of marketing collateral, instructing our customers how to move safely through our restaurants, and reminding staff of our additional safety precautions. By opening time on the 24th March, we were ready to serve our loyal customers, safely and efficiently – a commitment we’ve upheld throughout this incredibly busy time. Our footfall has doubled across all five of our locations, meaning we’ve had to recruit additional staff to meet the demand.”
Sarah Wilson, franchisee of Miss Millie’s Staple Hill, says the support from her franchisor has been essential in recent weeks.
“The guidance has been phenomenal. From providing all of the PPE and marketing collateral, to implementing charitable initiatives – we’re donating 20% of takings to the local NHS trust and giving away meals to frontline heroes – nothing has been too much for them. I’m very proud to be part of the Miss Millie’s brand, now more than ever. We’ve upheld our standing as a quality fast-food provider, kept customers safe and created employment during a time of mass unemployment. I’m confident that I’ll come out of the other side of this with a profitable and successful franchise.”
It isn’t just the food service industry that has encountered a positive upturn in traffic since COVID-19 hit. Business coaching franchise, ActionCOACH, has continued offering new and existing clients one-to-one and group coaching sessions, thanks to the marvels of modern virtual communication tools.
“Our brand has continued to thrive throughout the pandemic and that’s down to the proactive measures our franchise partners have put in place,” explained Ian Christelow, Co-Founder of ActionCOACH UK. “As well as maintaining the high quality of business coaching synonymous with our brand, they’ve supported business owners to navigate a new business landscape and, in many cases, increase profitability. We’ve seen a significant upturn in enquiries from business owners looking for solutions to survive this business-critical time and best prepare for the new normal. And in the true abundant nature of our franchise partners, every one of them has gifted a minimum of five pro bono coaching sessions to their community every week since lockdown started.”
Throughout the ongoing pandemic, brands like Miss Millie’s and ActionCOACH are implementing multifaceted strategies to preserve their market presence and reassure their network of franchisees. For many franchsiees, this level of support is crucial – the difference between a venture that survives and a franchise that thrives.