Franchise Restrictions May Seem Unreasonable, but It's a Trade-OffIf you’re looking to get into business but not quite prepared to start completely from scratch, buying into a franchise presents a significant opportunity. Think of it this way, would you rather attempt to recreate the Mona Lisa using a paint-by-the-numbers kit, or a bucket of paint and a blank canvas. If it’s the former, franchise may well be the way for you.

In becoming a franchise owner, essentially you get to copy someone else’s formula for success, right down to the name, logo and décor. You have the option of starting up a business that’s already popular with a built-in customer base, free advertising, and a blueprint (hopefully) for success.

But, if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t like coloring within the lines, you may want to think real hard about whether or not a franchise is right for you. Because all of those benefits – come at a price, the franchisor is your commander, and you must comply.

Restrictions Imposed by Franchisors

In addition to the initial purchase price and franchise royalty fees, franchisees can be subject to a number of restrictions in the way they do business, including (but of course not limited to!):

  • Choice of product and service suppliers
  • Hours of operation
  • Employee uniforms
  • What equipment may be used on the premises
  • Where and how you are allowed to advertise
  • Selection of products and services offered for sale

While it may seem overbearing, many of these restrictions are actually necessary to ensure the integrity of the original brand – after all, you wouldn’t want a Taco Bell to stop serving tacos, right? Part of the value proposition of a franchise is that customers expect to find a consistent product selection as well as a standard level of quality, whether they’re in New York City or Nome, Alaska.

If one franchisee decides to go off the wagon and stop purchasing from the franchisor’s prescribed vendor to save a buck or too, customers at that branch who have a negative experience may shy away from the chain altogether, which isn’t good for anyone. The actions of any one franchisee can hurt the business of everyone – so the franchisor has to step in for quality control.

Restrictions? Or Hidden Benefits

As I’ve mentioned just before, many of these restrictions can actually work to the benefit of the franchisee, as corporate headquarters of a large chain is in a much better position to negotiate prices and service contracts from vendors. And when it comes to marketing, there’s no substitute for the advertising support and brand recognition that your franchisor is able to provide.

Different franchises have differing levels of restrictions when it comes to what the franchisee can and can’t do, and it’s worth going over the contract with a fine tooth comb – or a lawyer (probably the better choice) to determine the level of creative control a particular franchisor allows.

It’s important to remember that while a franchise opportunity provides a step-by-step blueprint and removes some, but not all, of the risk of venturing out on your own, it is by no means a guarantee to success. A successful franchisee requires an independent thinker with a stronger entrepreneurial spirit to build a single location into a flourishing enterprise. You have to be willing to give up a certain amount of autonomy; control freaks, you are not gonna have a good time. But if you find a franchise that is such a great idea that you can’t believe you didn’t think of it yourself, and you’re enthusiastic about the operation and how it’s run, this might just be your lucky day.