A 'sweet shop for grown-ups': the franchise that could melt in the mouth of new retailers

Can Vom FASS entice partners to sell its oils and vinegars? By Kate Hilpern
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The Independent Online

Originating in Germany, it has been in the UK for five years and is looking to step up its presence here. "I think the Vom FASS concept is very attractive, not least because food and drink is becoming so popular in the UK," says managing director Richard Mosconi.

The firm has hit on franchising as the best expansion option, and its track record abroad suggests it may be right. Vom FASS operates in five European countries, and most of its stores outside the UK are run as franchises. They are doing well.

Mr Mosconi's objective is to establish 200 franchises throughout the UK over the next 10 years. So far, he has set up just one, with two in the pipeline. "My target is to have three franchises by the end of this year, a further 12 to 15 by the end of next year and 100 within the next four years."

But, he adds: "We're looking for a lot of people and we don't know where to find them. We haven't advertised much yet and don't really know the best place to start. We intend to use our existing shops, but clearly that won't be enough."

Once he begins to attract people, his next step will be selecting ones of the right calibre. "How will I know if they are up for the challenge and how can I get the best out of the interview? I want a defined process to help find the people who could really make something of the business."

It doesn't help that Vom FASS is a new idea, not always easily understood. "The best way to describe it is as a new generation of off-licences. After all, we sell everything that off-licences sell, except for beer and cigarettes, which we have replaced with something healthier - oils and vinegars," he says.

To put it another way: "Vom FASS is like a vineyard, where everything is for sale - not just the wine."

www.vomfassuk.com

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY

Mark Scott, National Franchise Manager, Natwest

"It sounds like Vom FASS is in a very exciting position, with plenty of scope to pursue the franchising route further.

"Raising interest will be the first hurdle to overcome. However, one of the most cost-effective ways is provided by the British Franchise Association's website - this tends to be the first stop for people considering franchising.

"Alternatively, advertising could be undertaken through a variety of areas, such as national newspapers (a number have franchise pages), the local press, radio, franchise magazines and websites, exhibitions or seminars.

"It is wise not to oversell the franchise - though don't be too bland, either - as no matter how competitive the cost of your proposition is, there will probably be a rival that can match the value.

"Interviewing potential franchisees can be difficult in the early stages. But the franchisor must lay down criteria for them, such as their background, experience, qualifications, and finance and business acumen. It may also be worth having set questions so that you can compare the different candidates more easily."

Christine Cryne, Chief Executive, Chartered Institute of Marketing

"There are many exhibitions focusing on franchise opportunities, and a number of specialist publications in which brands seeking business partners can advertise.

"However, as a passion for the product will be crucial for business success, Mr Mosconi may have most success with an ad campaign in specialist food and drink publications.

"But before he embarks on this, he must establish a clear idea of what his company is and how it delights its customers.

"Great brands thrive because they have a unique identity that is easily understood. A succinct mission statement would help to sharpen focus and form a useful foundation for a marketing drive.

"This should define the arena in which Vom FASS operates, the benefits it can offer, the customers it targets and the reasons why it stands out from the competition.

"Once this is in place, Mr Mosconi should find it easier to promote the concept in a way that will instantly grab the attention of potential new business partners."

Catherine Jackson, Accreditation Manager, British Franchise Association

"Usually, franchisors attract business partners through exhibitions, the industry press and websites. However, Vom FASS should not underestimate the value of its outlets as a basis for recruitment activity. Good franchisees are likely to be those who appreciate its product.

"It is important to establish a defined process for recruiting people. This starts well before any interview with unambiguous material and advertisements.

"Mr Mosconi can discover whether applicants are of the right calibre, and get the most out of an interview, by establishing an open, two-way process. He should ask demanding questions about funding, family support and willingness to work within a system, and encourage applicants to ask their own probing questions about Vom FASS. Franchisees who protect their own interests are more likely to protect the franchisor's interests and be committed to the success of the business.

"Vom FASS should be able to capitalise on the strength of its products by identifying partners who can invest flair and commitment."

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