The classic Neapolitan pizza has been around since the Middle Ages. Its ingredients are dictated by the Associazione Vera Pizza Napoletana and include specific ingredients and cooking techniques – they must be stretched by hand, not with a rolling pin, then 90 seconds in a 900 degree oven. Famoso Neapolitan Pizza takes a lot of care to maintain authenticity, says Mitra Shad, marketing and communications manager for the franchise. But the company is also vitally interested in new trends in food to keep the rest of their menu right up to date. “The key is listening to our guests,” she says. “People can talk to us online. We encourage them to send recipes for any item they think belongs on our menu. You really need to make sure you tune in to their feedback to be ahead of the trends.”
For Nigel Beattie, president of Mary Browns chicken franchise, it’s travel and reading that keeps his company abreast of the trends. “What I mean by travel is that we’re always on the road not only in Canada but internationally, looking at trends in food. It doesn't mean I’m going to bring in a falafel or something but we are always looking at new menu items.” Reading? “We subscribe to every magazine related to our business that you can shake a stick at.” The company’s staff is required to read the professional literature related to their aspect of the business. “It’s company policy,” Beattie says. “We’re always looking to innovate, always. Embracing change is a really big part of our corporate culture.”
Liquid Capital Canada Corp is a factoring franchise. “Basically we buy the receivables of smaller companies that can’t wait for cheques to roll in,” says founder Brian Birnbaum. The factoring business is almost as bound by tradition as Neapolitan Pizza. “A lot of things we do follow proven methods,” Birnbaum says. Nevertheless, he finds that membership in professional organizations can teach new tricks even to an old business. “We get weekly updates on what’s going on in the marketplace,” he says. “Also there’s a couple of things we've picked up at recent conferences. One is how to harness social media in order to create more leads.” The other, he says, is how to read faces. “One of the issues in our business is fraud,” he explains. “The International Factoring Association had a specialty speaker on the art of face-reading, how you can look at someone’s face and know a little about how reliable they are,” he says. “It was a very popular session.”
For the UPS Store, Canada's largest franchised chain of business services centres, trends pass through in longer waves. (Photo: SUPPLIED)
Alan Serrecchia is Director of Financing for the Pizzaville franchise. For new food trends the company relies on its clients. Pizzaville monitors its website, debriefs call centre staff and checks in with franchise operators weekly to find out what their customers are saying. “If you’re paying attention to the customers you get a first hand scoop.
“At the back end of the business, we’re always looking for what can make the job, easier, safer, cleaner, more efficient,” Serrecchia says. For pizza technology, Pizzaville looks to the old country for what’s new. “Stuff we consider cutting edge in North America they’ve had for a while in Italy. We have just sampled electric stone ovens that are different from the standard gas ovens here,” Serrecchia says. “These ovens have such an accurate way of getting to the right temperature and keeping at the right temperature they’re phenomenal.”
The UPS Store is Canada's largest franchised chain of business services centres. According to national marketing manager Michelle Cameron, services like digital printing and photocopying, worldwide shipping and mailbox rentals aren't subject to same kinds of trends as the food franchises experience. “Our trends pass through in longer waves,” she says.
That said, the company still does have to keep a finger on the pulse of small business problems and solutions. “We do what any other marketing department would do,” Cameron says. “We look at what the competition is doing. We talk to our vendors. Xerox is one of them.” They do some of the forecasting for The UPS Store, she explains. “They keep us abreast of changes in the industry as they affect their own product.”
Cameron says that their franchisees and area franchisees share what they’re hearing on the ground from their customers. Also, “All of our franchisees are small businesses themselves,” Cameron points out. “They have all the same issues and challenges that many of our customers do. They’re a great focus group!” she laughs.
Behind every successful franchise there’s a well-oiled system helping the merchant at the till accept all payment types smoothly and confidently. The system has to be secure, and reliable, and it needs to fit the particular needs of the franchise operation. Chances are that system is Chase Paymentech the payment processing system of JPMorgan Chase. In 2012, Chase Paymentech processed 29.5 billion transactions worldwide.
Chase Paymentech has been a trusted advisor to many of Canada’s leading franchise systems for more than 25 years according to Nick Samurkas, president of Chase Paymentech Canada. How does the company make sure their clients are getting cutting edge service? Vigilance and consultation, says Samurkas: “We are constantly following trends and listening to our merchants to improve upon the holistic solutions we provide.”