Do You Take This Franchise to Be Your Lawfully Wedded Spouse?

I was sitting there at 4:30am drinking a large drip coffee and thinking about my life’s direction – that’s what coffee shop franchisees do, by the way.  I started thinking to myself about how this Franchisor-Franchisee thing is way more like a marriage than any other kind of business relationship on the planet.  I thought surely someone else has written an article with this analogy so I went to a search engine and found a real gem that I wanted to share by Marilyn Sinclair of BMO in her article entitled ‘A good business partnership resembles a good marriage’.  Please take three minutes (that’s how long it took me) to read this article because it’s awesome in every way when considering any kind of business partnership.  A three minutes of your time that will save you years of possible suffering is what we like to call a good investment.

What I will do here is take Marilyn’s points of the article, use them as a structure and then angle them specifically on the Franchisor-Franchisee ‘union’ as it is a unique relationship.

The Dangers of Passion

Almost every franchisee I have spoken to our in coffee shop franchise had the same story to report – they put all logic aside during the hopeful and exciting discussions with the franchisor about ‘how good things should go when you take over your store’.  We signed franchise agreements that no sober person would ever sign because of the ‘surely-these-50-other-franchisees-can’t-possibly-be-wrong’ delusion.  Now, we are all facing the fact that we may have rushed into a ‘bad marriage’.  Make sure you have a balance of wisdom with your passion.

Pros of Taking on a Partner

1. Complimentary Skills

Do not assume that the franchisor has world class talent working at head office. Every organization will showcase their top talent but crucial areas such as marketing, accounting, vendor relations, etc, may be run by unqualified or even unethical people.  Do your homework.  Never assume just because there is a nice shiny logo on many stores than everything is kosher.

2. Sharing the Risk

It is true that the franchisor shares some risk.  If the Franchisee goes bankrupt and locks and walks, they are liable to the landlord for the lease and trying to keep the store open to look good to the public.  If the whole chain goes badly, I suppose they might suffer the risk of not being able to fund their head office operations, but that’s really about it.  The rest of the risk is yours, newlywed.  Suck it up, buttercup because you signed the marriage certificate and it’s highly weighted in favour of your new Mr. Wonderful.  Hopefully he’ll be kind after the honeymoon.

3. Shared Responsibility

We’ve learned a lot about this one over the years.  Most folks buy a franchise because they assume that their hefty royalty fee includes some kind of guarantee.  Thanks to the recent Dunkin’ Donuts case in Quebec there may now actually be some hope of providing some kind of value to the franchisee for the hard-earned royalty fee they pay.  However, at the end of the day, your franchisee agreement (the legal stuff) can probably be summed up as “We’ll give you a logo and tell you what to do, but if things don’t work out, don’t come crying to me because we didn’t promise you anything.” In this marriage most people are signing in hopes of benefiting without truly knowing with whom you will be united.  Just understand that the Franchisor may not be taking much responsibility for the success of the relationship.

Cons of Taking on a Partner

1. Accountability

Let’s keep this simple: When you enter into a Franchisor-Franchisee marriage, your spouse will be watching your every step. If you don’t like that, run the other way.

2. Compatibility

Do you even know the directors and the people with whom you’ll be dealing on a daily basis?  Likely not and it’s admittedly hard to expect to wine and dine with your Franchisor before signing.  However, you have a bunch of currently-marriage spouses (and divorced ones) all over the city.  Find them, treat them well, get to know them and milk them for every detail they have.  You will be very surprised what you will learn about your future spouse.  You may postpone the vows.

3. Sharing the Wealth

It’s true that if you are becoming wealthy with as a franchisee so is your franchisor.  What they don’t tell you in marriage counselling is that if you are losing money at your job every month your Franchisor will still be there asking for 10% of your line of credit to keep his car running.  Will he give you a break next month because of your hard times?  We haven’t seen it yet in Vancouver but we wouldn’t expect them to publish it if it has happened. What we have seen repeatedly, though, is the Franchisor roughly blaming/accusing the Franchisee for not working long enough hours or working hard enough or spending enough of their own money on local marketing initiatives –  all the while not offering any of their own resources to help.  This can create a rough marriage environment, by the way. You would also expect the Franchisor to share the wealth by means of marketing but we have also seen this offering to be quite lacking.

4. The right ‘fit’

I think we’ve beat this dead horse.  Be careful who you marry.

Have the difficult conversations before you tie the knot

We concur.  Open the franchisee agreement and take the notes and discuss them with Franchisor.  If you need a good lawyer in Vancouver with expertise in Franchises, by all means let us know and we’ll send you some contacts.

Go Slow – Don’t Rush

I’m admittedly a little envious of you, reader.  There was no VCSFA when I bought my coffee shop franchise.  There was no one to turn to except the active franchisees, lawyers and a few franchise websites.  I’m not blaming anyone and it has been a great learning experience and now you can benefit greatly.  Don’t rush is right.  Ask the right questions before you sign because once you are married, you don’t want to know how hard it is to get divorced.  In some cases, stores that have been for sale for years are not selling or their buyers have not been approved.   At least with a marriage you can move to another city and get another job while you await your divorce papers but with a coffee shop franchise, you better make sure that store stays open!  Be wise.  Seek wise counsel.

We are here to help and don’t hesitate to contact us.

Waves Coffee Location Introduces Two-buck-per-hour Minimum Seat Charge

That’s a buck per cheek per hour – not bad!

We apologize for the low image quality but it was taken by someone in the public who thought we’d be interested in covering it.  Here is what the text on the sign reads:

————————–

DEAR VALUED CUSTOMERS

In recent weeks we have received many “Customer Comments” regarding “Waves” never having seats available and some customers staying for long periods of time without purchasing anything.

To ensure more customers have a chance to enjoy our facility, there is now a $2.50 per hour, per seat minimum charge

Thank you for your continuous support!

Waves Coffee

—————-

No one understands this Waves Coffee location franchisee (owner) more than the members of the VCSFA do.  It’s the message behind the sign that most people out there will never understand.  Within the lines of the text of this sign is found the foundation of the VCSFA.

If this sign were found at an independent cafe, it would be understandable.  The customer would think “Mario is having a hard time with cheap, abusive college students in his cafe so he’s going to get rid of these freeloaders with a butt-cheek penalty – ingenious!”  In fact, he’d probably get a lot of positive press for that.

But this isn’t an independent.  It’s a franchise – And a big one in Vancouver.

Customers of this location will look at the sign and say to themselves “That’s weird.  I’ve been to many other Waves and I haven’t seen this rule before.” Or, “McDonalds is a franchise and they don’t do this.”  And they will leave thinking somewhat less about the brand because of this inconsistency, even if it’s subconscious.  They will start thinking of this location more of an independent than a chain.

But what drives this inconsistency?  Why would this franchisee feel strongly enough to put this kind of sign up?  You can be sure the franchisor does not know about this yet.  It would not be there if they did.

Profit.  They aren’t making enough.  It’s that simple.

This franchisee of this location isn’t making as much money as he or she feels they ought. If the money was flowing in, they wouldn’t be too worried about the freeloaders. If you don’t believe us, go and test us it for yourself and ask.

So, from the street the cafe looks full – so full that there aren’t enough seats.  Yet the franchisee had to put this sign up?

Waves Coffee has a particularly punishing business model which you will soon see more and more franchisees rebelling against.  They would like all their stores to be open 24/7 and have unlimited and free WIFI for their ‘customers’.  Does anyone see the flaw in this business model yet?  Maybe the sign above in the photo might shine some light on it.  At least with Blenz they ask their franchisees to use a non-free but fairly innovative system of marketing that’s attached to the WIFI system which gives the franchisee some control over the length of connection.

But Blenz has its own questionable ‘programs’ for their franchisees.  One such example is their ‘Free Birthday Drink’ that they desperately try to get their new franchisees to adopt. It sounds great from the customers side but… oops!  They forgot to force a minimum order with this free drink (and this ain’t just a regular drip coffee – it’s ANY drink!) so the franchisee soon learns that if they participate they are buying free drinks for every Tom, Dick and Harry around town.  You read that right!  Just walk in, say ‘it’s my birthday’ and walk out with a drink paid for by the owner of that Blenz because head office doesn’t offer any compensation to the franchisee when they do this for the sake of the brand – straight loss of goods out the door. Needless to say that participation in this program has not had great success across the chain.  If you want to try this out for yourself, we recommend the Library Square location – the operators of this location always give it away for free with a smile.

So then what can a franchisee do?  The franchisor should have been there to help this franchisee address their issues and support them to come up with a system to overcome these challenges so that it doesn’t appear to the customer as a brand inconsistency.  Since this franchisee is not a member of the VCSFA, they wouldn’t have access to our vast resources and may not even know that a WIFI system exists out there that could help them overcome this.  WIFI and freeloaders is a commonly discussed topic amongst our members and innovative idea sharing has lead to improvement in this area.

Where is the franchisor?  Why is the franchisee forced to seek outside of their chain to stop the bleeding?  Where are the ears to hear and the hands to help? Why are they spending over 7% of their revenue on royalties only to end up running their shop like an independent and having the public look at it that way? Franchisees expect a certain amount of support for this royalty yet in many cases they are left to figure it out on their own.

We hope that this Waves owner has great success with their butt-cheek-penalty program. I’m sure every VCSFA member would love to institute it themselves! We hope the freeloaders go abuse someone else, as well. But more importantly, we hope that this franchisee will join the VCSFA and dozens of others who also had nowhere else to turn and need that edge of support to better their future.

Until then, I think I just used $5 worth of butt-space writing this so I better sign off.

Five Signs of Excellence in Franchising – a Must Read

This article is an absolute must read for all prospective franchisees (franchise operators) and current franchise owners.

The VCSFA completely agrees with these 5 measurements of excellence and we are excited that a reputable organization has published this.  It is backed with actual research as well, which is a great bonus.

After hearing horror stories in coffee shop franchising in Vancouver, we ran a quick check amongst our members and the ones who are suffering agree that their franchisor failed at least half of these measurements.  In fact, one chain has failed all of them.  Here is the list of five points from the article with some concrete examples of how some of our members were failed by their franchisor:

Five behaviours of credible franchisor leadership

  1. The franchisor demonstrates a clear strategy and direction for the brand (including awareness of competitive threats with a plan to deal with them).

One Vancouver franchisor has not acknowledged the sudden emergence of a competing brand, nor attempted to match their radio advertising on a local news channel.  Customers are asking the franchisees why the competing chain is advertising and they are not.  The same brand has completely different standards of ‘branding’ applied to different stores.  This is interpreted as ‘favouritism’ by the franchisees creating a poor business environment.

  2. The franchisor is fair and consistent in dealings with all franchisees (this means having clear policies and sticking to them).

This same local Vancouver coffee chain has also failed this.  Some stores are making their own sandwiches while other stores were told they would be ‘in violation’ if they did and that the stores making them are ‘special cases’.  Some stores were told they must do certain things while others were not.

  3. The franchisor shows respect by listening to franchisee ideas and concerns before making important decisions. However listening does not mean agreeing.

In the case of this same failing chain, several franchisees requested urgent meetings with the directors to discuss very important issues that affect the whole brand.  One franchisee was told to wait 3-4 weeks because ‘it was summertime’. The franchisor never got back to them and when the franchisee pointed this out, they immediately tried to remedy it but needless to say putting off an urgent meeting for 1.5 months make this person feel loved. Many of the franchisees have asked the same franchisor to address issues related to their business and the franchisor has remained silent – completely ignoring the questions.  Needless to say this entire chain is quickly approaching a crisis.

  4. The franchisor embodies the values of the brand in their own behaviour. Hypocrisy kills brand passion like nothing else.

When confronted by franchisees about expensive vendors that they were forced to use, the franchisor replied “The vendors must make money, too.”  However, when the franchisees themselves were going bankrupt, there was no support or help was given.  The chain continues to force on their franchisees the same vendors.  This chain talked endlessly about ‘the importance of brand’ yet in the same city they opened a location in a hotel lobby in prominent location with a ‘similar’ but not ‘same’ name.  The sleeves are from the chain but the cups are branded to the hotel.  Some of the drinks are the same but the entire concept is muddy and unclear.  Customers around the city have asked the franchisees ‘what is this thing?” to which they have no reply.  Hypocrisy kills the brand.  A franchisor must practice what they preach or risk losing the trust of their entire front line.

  5. The franchisor reminds franchisees that he/she and the entire support team care about franchisee profitability as much as their own.

As mentioned in some of the examples above, this same offending chain has demonstrated to their franchisees that they don’t care about their profitability as much as their own.  No offer of reduced royalty payments to struggling stores.  No offer of reduced marketing fund payments for the obvious absence of advertising.

Thankfully for the franchisees, times have changed quite a bit recently.  If you read this article we published about the Dunkin’ Donuts situation you will learn that a franchisor cannot simply continue to fail.

In addition to this 5  point health check you can now perform on your franchise or your prospective franchise, we strongly recommend you also read this article we published about Five Things You Should Know Before You Buy a Coffee Shop Franchise as well as our Checklist to Evaluate a Prospective Coffee Shop Franchise (with bonus commentary)

Don’t forget that the VCSFA is always here to help.  You are not alone and your questions are important.

In case you have not see our most up-to-date list of coffee shop franchises in Vancouver, here is a list in alphabetical order.  Let us know if we’ve missed any:

 

Bean Around the World, Blenz, BG Urban Cafe (formerly Bread Garden), Cultured Coffee and Tea, Esquires, Moka House Coffee, My Cup, Second Cup, Serious Coffee (Vancouver Island), Take Five Cafe, Tim Horton’s, Wave’s Coffee, Wired Monk

 

 

Five Things you should know Before you Buy a Coffee Shop Franchise

Well here is the $200,000 + article that I wish I read.  Part of our goal here at the VCSFA is to educate the public about some of what goes on behind the scenes in Vancouver because we do not have government legislation to help.  If you are reading this before you buy a coffee shop franchise, make sure that you go over each one of these points and make sure you understand their implications.  If you don’t understand, always feel free to email us and we’ll offer our help.  If you already own one, you should immediately become a member of VCSFA and work with us to help fix some of these issues that bring such a dark cloud over the franchise business model – we believe at the VCSFA that it could and should be a very win-win industry.  We hope that someone will benefit from this and please feel free to send us donations. This advice has come at a price tag of literally millions of lost dollars. Give generously to the VCSFA and it will always come back to benefit society.

1.  The Franchisor can and does mark up the product before it reaches the store

The franchisor is always very quick to teach the following basic business concept to its new franchisees (you have probably heard it already yourselves):

It’s easier to get more money out of your existing customers than finding a new one.

How true!

But… Who would expect that the Franchisor would perform the very same thing on its Franchisees (partners) the whole time?

Most people think that the franchise owner enjoys the benefit of group buying power from all those stores out there and thus receives better prices so they can make more money.  Wrong.  Written in many Franchisee agreements is a clause that looks somewhat like this

“The Franchisor has the right to take that group buying discount and keep it for themselves and you agree that this is ok.”

Of course it looks much more ‘legal’ in the real contract but that’s what it says so fool after fool signs it and while doing so signs away the lion’s share of their profit.  This is a severely punishing situation.  It has been reported to us that one large coffee chain in Vancouver marks up their coffee up to FORTY PERCENT before it reaches the store!  On the poor Franchisees’ largest expense outside of rent and labour the Franchisor enjoys a nice income while the Franchisee pays the same as the independent shop across the road.  You probably think to yourself, ‘That’s ok.  In a chain like that they probably don’t charge a royalty or they charge less.’  Not so quick, Sherlock.  The same aforementioned chain charges the weighty 8% royalty with another 2% marketing pool and even has the right to raise those rates over time.

It has been reported to us that some chains in Vancouver even own their own supply chain and therefore it would be even more difficult to find out what they really pay for their product. Very smart.  I’m sure none of the Franchisees would complain if those prices at least felt like wholesale prices but that is rarely the case.

2.  The Franchisor does not have to reveal to it’s Franchisees what they are planning to do with the lease

Imagine you buy a store with a supposed ten year lease.  They call it a ‘ten year lease’ when in reality it’s usually a five year lease with a five year renewal option.  And that still sounds reasonable except… the renewal option is exercised by the Franchisor, not the Franchisee!  Read that last part again if it didn’t sink in.  Imagine, you are on year number two.  Your wife has a baby so you decide you don’t want the headaches associated with running a coffee shop franchise (and if you didn’t know there would be headaches you definitely need to get out and do some serious research!).  So you call up the head office and say “I’ve decided to sell.  It was so much fun working with you but my wife had a baby and I need to move on.  Can you please put in writing that I have three years plus five years left on my lease so they can move forward with the purchase?”  To your surprise they reply back “We’re not sure what we’re doing with your store so we can’t put that in writing.”  That’s right.  They completely deny your request to put in writing that they will exercise that option – and they don’t have to contractually do anything until about six months before the lease ends.  So, your store now has three years left on the lease that you can guarantee to your buyer.  Good luck selling that one.  In some cases, we have heard rumours that a Franchisee will just walk out one day because they can’t sell their store and then magically the store is reopened a few days later by a new owner or is being run by head office complete with a nicely extended lease.  Hmm…..

3.  The Franchisor Can Deny Your Buyer

So, let’s say you finally got a buyer to agree to buy your store.  They pull out their money from the bank and flash it in front of you to prove it.  Nice.  Everything’s ready to go.  You sign the offer, the deposit is transferred into the trust account and all we’re waiting for is one subject to be removed from the contract: “Subject to Approval by Franchisor’

Of course, these folks always reassure you that the basis that they would deny a buyer would be on ‘reasonable’ grounds… like English level, for example.  It seems reasonable that they should be able to deny on the grounds of English level because they have to communicate with their Franchisees effectively, right?  Except…in one coffee shop franchise chain it is rumoured that one of the executives struggles immensely with his ability to communicate effectively in English!  In fact, much of this chain’s head office staff are new immigrants and their free help (interns) as well.  Not only that, but if you go around town and sample the English level of recent Franchisees, you’ll note quickly that there is some ill communication out there – some Bad English if you will.  This ‘English level’ card is pulled regularly to deny legitimate buyers and much research should be done in this area to bring this to light.  So, then, you might ask yourself “Who is the best kind of buyer? Who will they approve quickly?” Our answer: Your guess is as good as ours – kind of like pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey.

4. The Franchisor Profits When you Sell Your Store

How would you like to pay your Franchisor 40% more than you should for your bag of coffee, then pay them another 10% when the customer pays you for their coffee, and then, when you sell your store, pay them another 7.5% on the total sale price?  Now THAT’S how you get more money out of your customers!  Why bother expanding when you can keep introducing new ways to suck more out of your existing ‘Franchisee Base”?  I guess that’s ‘free enterprise’, right?

5. The Franchisor May Force a Renovation Upon You

Imagine this: the economy crashes because of, say, a housing bubble.  The whole economy falters and customers stop buying lattes because their local newspapers tell them to do that.  Sales drop.  Business is bad.  Your lease is coming to an end in a few months.  You go to your mailbox and what do you find?  A letter from your Franchisor informing you that you will be renovating your store on your tab if you wish to continue to have the right to run this money-losing business.  Golly, Beaver.  I don’t have any money!  That’s ok.  You’ll find the money.  You’ll borrow it from your family, or, if they can’t find it in their bank, you may have to take out a loan against your house.  If you were a member of the VCSFA you could rally financial support to get you through it as one member did. In one case in the lower mainland, a store was reported to have done a partial renovation and then magically shut down about a year later.  The owners lost their house.

Or, you could do what those other people did and just lock the door and walk away only to see your store appear open again under new management.   What’s really funny to us over at the VCSFA is that the corporate owned store of one of the biggest chains in Vancouver has not been renovated since before Noah’s ark came to dry land.  It would be good for all reader’s of this article to ask where the corporate store is and make sure they are staying on the cutting edge of their ‘new look’.

In conclusion, the VCSFA is here to help.  Don’t hesitate to contact us.

 

Does a Coffee Shop Franchisor Have to Do Anything for Their Royalty Cheque?

It’s a provocative title, but isn’t that the million dollar question that at least one side of the relationship is always asking?  Owning a franchise is always tricky because the franchisee (owner) would like to see more value for his/her dollar and the franchisor (their boss) always feels that their name alone is worthy of praise and since they did all the hard work establishing it – way back when Grandma and Grandpa were smooching at the drive-in –  that customers and franchisees should be lining up to dump money in their tills.

–>       Times have changed.     <–

Ask Dunkin’ Donuts in Quebec who’s bottom got tanned recently for a total neglect of their brand and for ignoring their franchisees for just a little too long.

This article by Mcarthy Tetrault walks through the situation in depth.  There is one paragraph, however, that I would like to draw the reader’s attention to as follows:

In the Franchise Agreements, the franchisor promised to protect and enhance both its reputation, and the “demand for the products of the Dunkin Donuts System” – in sum, the brand. The Court found that, despite the fact that the franchisor had assigned to itself the principal obligation of protecting and enhancing its brand, it failed over a period of a decade to protect its brand. The Court concluded that brand protection is an ongoing, continuing and “successive” obligation and that franchisees cannot succeed where the franchisor has failed to in this fundamental obligation. According to the Court, the franchisor has a duty to minimize losses and reposition itself in a changing marketplace. Although the Court made mention of the civil duty of good faith and of loyalty owed by franchisors to franchisees, no analysis was undertaken as to what that meant in these circumstances apart from a duty to work “in concert with” the franchisees in such market conditions.

The article then goes on to conclude:

Unfortunately, there is next to no guidance in the decision as to what, practically speaking, it means to protect the brand. Clearly, a franchisor cannot be content to rest on its past success. It must innovate and rejuvenate. However, beyond that, the decision is quite unhelpful.

I disagree that the decision is unhelpful.  I know that lawyers are always looking for black and white and would salivate if a crystal clear cookie cutter judgement would have resulted from this case for ease of use in all their upcoming  cases of a similar nature – so maybe in that case it’s not ultra-helpful for lawyers.  However, from a franchisee’s perspective, this case is monumental and has significantly contributed to the greater good of the future of the franchise system in Canada.  Now franchisees across the country can stand up with great confidence together to make sure that their franchisor is not letting their assets and life investments get eaten up while they sip martinis watching the fireworks while hooting their hardy-hars on their yacht out in Coal Harbour (you gotta be from Vancouver to real feel that one).

It allows franchisees to ask of their franchisor questions like these:

  • What is my franchisor doing to combat competition in my market?
  • Does my franchisor have any concrete plans to combat competition or do they plan on riding old systems hoping they keep working?
  • What is the value of the brand I’m paying for?
  • Is the brand I’m paying for decreasing, stagnant or increasing in value?
  • Where under the sun is my marketing pool money going?
  • Has my franchisor allowed the dilution of the brand I’m paying good money for (ie. notable inconsistencies across the brand, unclear core business, multiple direction changes that confuse the customers, etc)?
  • What kind of calibre leadership does my franchisor employ? What are their credentials? Were they hired because they are best for the job or because they grew up with the franchisor’s son’s girlfriend’s uncle?
  • Am I a member of a group like the VCSFA which facilitates the banding-together of other coffee shop franchisees to address such important things or am I an island on my own?

Now think about the franchise coffee market in Vancouver and the competition. Which brands are in competition with each other? You can go to our increasingly exhaustive list of Vancouver coffee shop franchises page called “FRANCOUVER” to run this question yourself.

At the VCSFA we have plans to conduct surveys to find out how much your brand is being affected by other competing brands.  Be sure to become a member so you can gain access and even help contribute towards these important future works.

Sampling and other Marketing Initiatives?

As a coffee shop franchisee, this article about Timothy’s sampling campaign raises some questions that should be asked by any franchisee or prospective purchaser of a coffee shop franchise.  Here are the questions you should ask your franchisor:

1.  Will you provide the sampling team or do I have to train and hire my own?

2. If you will train and set up this sampling team, is that coming out of my marketing pool?

3. If the marketing pool is being used to fund this sampling team, can you guarantee that my little store will have an equal share of the exposure or will you only focus on the ‘high profile’ locations?

Believe it or not, but there is at least one coffee shop franchise chain in the Vancouver area that not only expects their franchisees to pay for such sampling on the streets (labour and COGS) in addition to their marketing pool, but also insists on handing out 2 for 1 coupons while doing so.  When the customer comes to the till to pay (usually with a happy face which is always nice) for their one drink, the franchisee hands them two drinks and, get this, pays a royalty on the losing transaction! It’s one thing to have to take a loss in the name of marketing (standard business) but it’s something quite different to have to pay a royalty on that transaction.  For non-math students out there, this equates to a bad deal for the franchisee.

If this is your situation, why not ask your franchisor to train, send out, and provide the product for your sampling program from the marketing pool?  If they are not interested in this discussion, at least ask them to assure you that you will not be paying at 8-10% royalty fee right off the bottom line of the transaction!

This raises a more important discussion topic – How do you pull together a group of fellow franchisees to discuss such things?  This is where your FAC (Franchisee Advisory Council) comes into play.  Search this website with ‘FAC’ for more information on this important topic.  The VCSFA is dedicated to helping you start your own FAC so that these kind of discussions can start to take place.