How We’ve Supported Franchisees through the COVID-19 PandemicAuthor: Smoothie King
Since mid-March, the entire world has been on pause, impacting the success of franchisees, business owners and their employees. COVID-19 has had a widespread impact on how our franchisees operate, and we have been working non-stop to ease the burden on each franchisee, whether they are a seasoned multi-unit operator or a first-time owner.
We acknowledge our franchisees are struggling, and being a part of the Smoothie King franchise family means we try to support each owner in the best way we can. From hosting webinars to delaying payments from our franchisees, we have been offering advice, empathy and guidance to any franchisee in need.
Understanding Financial Difficulties
For many franchisees, the revenue from their Smoothie King location is their sole contribution to the family income. With the dramatic increase in layoffs and furloughs, their business is potentially the only income source they have. In the past eight weeks, 23 percent of the national workforce has applied for unemployment, and even jobs considered secure continue to be at risk. From supporting a family to paying bills on time and buying groceries, the economic hardships can quickly accumulate.
Seeing the potential for increasing the financial burden our franchisees could have been facing, we made the decision to defer all royalties, tech and advertising fund fees during March and April. For those months, our franchisees did not pay anything to us. We also stopped upgrade requirements for franchisees for the remainder of the year and offered development management extensions to franchisees.
Our franchisees chose to become a part of our family, and we are beholden to support them as much as we can. We recognize and appreciate the hard work they have put into building and running a successful Smoothie King franchise – so how could we ask them to sacrifice even more during an unprecedented economic and health crisis?
Working Hard to Support Franchisees
Since COVID-19 pandemic struck with full force in mid-March, we’ve been communicating with franchisees as frequently and through as many channels as possible. We added a COVID-19 section to The Blend, our learning management system, and we’ve been holding weekly franchisee webinars. The webinar has drawn widespread attendance among our franchisees, with 500 or more owners joining every week. The webinars have covered topics ranging from rolling our curbside pick-up service, applying for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans and updated in-store safety and sanitation.
Meanwhile, the Smoothie King real estate support team has been working with franchisees to help them get their rent deferred or forgiven altogether.
In addition, our corporate team took the initiative to gain knowledge about topics that would be of more help to franchisees. For example, our Chief Business Development Officer, Kevin King, has become an expert on PPP loans.
In addition, we’ve made sure franchisees were able to offer their guests innovative products that fit their specific needs. During the pandemic, we knew supplying healthy and quick meals solutions was important. We also knew our guests still wanted to remain healthy and active. We quickly introduced a new line of Immunity Support smoothies while also offering our Immunity Support Enhancer for free through the month of April. We enhanced our digital ordering capabilities and began offering curbside service. We wanted to make sure we were there for both our guests and our franchisees.
Providing the Right Materials for Franchisee Health and Safety
For our franchise locations that are still open and those that are preparing to reopen to the public, we are taking the health and safety of the community, employees and franchise owners with the utmost seriousness. From offering up personal protective equipment (PPE) to helping implement curbside pickup and delivery to rolling out online ordering, our franchisees and their staff have all the tools available to safely operate their businesses.
As the largest quick-service restaurant in the health and wellness space, we feel it’s our responsibility to set an example of how to support our franchisees and local communities during such a tumultuous time.
Even facing a period of great uncertainty, we still had:
- 11 people sign franchise agreements
- Eight signed leases in the month of April
- Seven stores scheduled to open their doors for the first time this month.