This idea is a fat lot of good

Franchising: the format that has made Fatty Arbuckles fit for expansion will seek new converts at its national exhibition this week

After a long career in horse racing, Laurie Corper wanted a change of direction. He knew he wanted to be his own boss but he did not want to risk everything, so franchising appealed to him. "I could join an established company with a proven track record," he says.

He looked at several franchise operations and finally opted for the themed restaurant group Fatty Arbuckles American Diners. The Manchester-based company, co-founded in 1983 by former Beatles associate Peter Shotton, seemed a "young and progressive" organisation that would offer flexibility and support.

Earlier this year, Mr Corper and his wife, Clare, opened the doors to their Ipswich outlet - and appear to have been over-run with customers. Mr Corper, who was given two months of training in the catering business beforehand, says he is "working 14 hours a day, seven days a week, but I wouldn't want it any other way".

In the second week of operation the outlet became the group's second most successful. The number of staff has already increased from 14 to 33.

But it is just one of many that have opened in recent months. Tottenham and Islington in north London, Birmingham, Cardiff, Harrow, Rhyl and Winchester are all among the places to have received the Fatty Arbuckles touch, and a flagship restaurant is due to open in London's West End before Christmas.

The chain, named after Hollywood actor/director Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, has grown to more than 30 outlets since the first franchise was opened in 1991, with two-thirds operated by franchisees. And expansion is intensifying: the group expects to have 50 restaurants serving "very generous portions of American food at an affordable price" by the end of the year, and has plans for another 30 next year.

"Any restaurant's success is governed by a good location, and we really spend a lot of time looking at sites," says managing director Adrian Lee. "Couple that with our proven concept and support and it really is hard to fail."

But Fatty Arbuckles is not the only catering operation that is dining out on the franchise concept. Neither, says Peter Stern, franchise manager at NatWest, is the idea confined to the likes of Kentucky Fried Chicken and McDonald's. Among the others are the Cybercafe and Mongolian Barbecue operations, while US-based sandwich bar operators are competing with British companies for a share of the booming take-away market.

Mr Stern also points out that franchising is becoming popular in the business-to-business arena. As well as the instant printers that have been around for some time, there are now such operations as hydraulic hose supplier Pirtek, concrete company Mixer Mate, several parcel delivery services and a number of motor factors.

But, then, the whole franchise market appears to be growing. According to figures recently produced by NatWest and the British Franchise Association, the overall turnover of true business format franchising rose 7.1 per cent last year to pounds 5.9bn - continuing the steady improvement from 1984's pounds 0.9bn. The number of active franchises grew twice as much to reach 474, supporting 25,700 franchisees. It is also thought that the sector employs about a quarter of a million people either directly or indirectly. As Mr Stern says, such figures seem to support the view that "at least in theory everything is franchisable".

Meanwhile, the organisers of this week's National Franchise Exhibition at the NEC in Birmingham say prospective franchisees will be able to meet an unprecedented array of companies. The show, which runs from 4 to 6 October and is now in its 13th year, is the biggest such event ever held in Britain and will be opened by Sir Bernard Ingham, president of the British Franchise Association. Businesses ranging from greetings cards to hi-tech signage will be seeking to entice fresh investors with the promise of successful careers and substantial earnings. The amounts that need to be invested range from pounds 5,000 to pounds 500,000.

However, a warning note comes from a recent assessment of the franchise market published earlier this month by City University Business School. After a comprehensive survey of activity over the past five years, Professor Christina Fulop, the report's author, highlights two particular concerns. First, more stringent initial recruitment by franchisors is essential to minimise turnover of franchisees - even if it risks slowing down a network's rate of growth. Second, as the concept develops, there is a danger that too many franchisees will have met their expectations and reached "a comfort level", with the result that the overall businesses may suffer from reduced enthusiasm and drive.

Arts and Entertainment
Sheeran arrives at the 56th annual Grammy Awards earlier this year
musicYes, that would be Ed Sheeran, according to the BBC
Sport
Rio Ferdinand, Alan Shearer, Alan Hansen and Gary Lineker during Hansen's final broadcast
Sport
News
newsBear sweltering in zoo that reaches temperatures of 40 degrees
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll has brought out his female alter-ego Agnes Brown for Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie
filmComedy holds its place at top of the UK box office
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
Ian Thorpe has thanked his supporters after the athlete said in an interview that he is gay
people
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Kathy Willis will showcase plants from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
radioPlants: From Roots to Riches has been two years in the making
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
Arts and Entertainment
Eminem's daughter Hailie has graduated from high school
music
Arts and Entertainment
Original Netflix series such as Orange Is The New Black are to benefit from a 'substantial' increase in investment
TVHoax announcement had caused outrage
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
One Direction star Harry Styles who says he has no plans to follow his pal Cara Delevingne down the catwalk.
peopleManagement confirms rumours singer is going it alone are false
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Arts and Entertainment
'Deep Breath' is Peter Capaldi's first full-length adventure as the twelfth Doctor
TVFirst episode of new series has ended up on the internet
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Life and Style
Once a month, waistline watcher Suran steps into a 3D body scanner that maps his body shape and records measurements with pinpoint accuracy
techFrom heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, Accreditation, ITIL)

£70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, A...

Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

£75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

Trade Desk Specialist (FIX, Linux, Windows, Network Security)

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Trade Desk Specialist (FIX, Linux, Windows...

Service Desk Analyst (Windows, Active Directory, ITIL, Reuter)

£35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst (Windows, Active Dire...

Day In a Page

Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?