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Franchise M&A Tips From FT Dealmakers Winners

Everybody wants a piece of the franchise M&A pie. Our interviews with 20-plus family offices, multi-unit operators, private equity firms, franchisors and investment bankers featured in our upcoming Franchise Times Dealmakers cover story reveal how 12 award winners landed their deals. Here’s a preview of five franchise M&A best practices.

  1. Make a growth plan. Landing a multi-unit operator doesn’t just happen. McAlister’s Deli three years ago set out to attract additional multi-unit franchisees to the system. President Joe Guith charged his sales team with the specific goal, and they drew up a short list of franchisees they believed would be interested. Then an exec who had an existing relationship with Guillermo Perales, founder of Dallas-based Sun Holdings, reached out and ended up inking a 98-store deal. “You can’t just decide to bring people like Guillermo in,” Guith said. “This wasn’t like a cold call. He already had an interest in the brand and it was a matter of reaching out.”

 

  1. Strategic fit comes first. Bill Guzik, COO of Ace Hardware, and John Venhuizen, CEO, decided a few years ago to pursue an acquisition of a franchise in the home services space. Guzik began making phone calls to systems around the country: “ones that would fit a certain profile,” in particular, one that would be able “to use what we sell in our stores.” So, an HVAC franchise wouldn’t fit, for example, but a plumbing or painting franchise would. They ended up buying Handyman Matters and re-branding it to Ace Handyman Services, and will compel franchisees to buy goods from the Ace stores and then issue rebates each month.

 

  1. Partner with people at the top. That’s advice from Jody Luihn, a KFC and Taco Bell operator in North and South Carolina and Florida, who needed to buy out family members when they were no longer interested in the business. “A lot of these family offices you deal with the second or third in command, and it was important to me to be able to deal with Paul Edgerley directly,” he told Franchise Times, referring to VantEdge Partners’ principal. “On the line, it’s his money, it’s my money.”

 

  1. Account for franchisee loss. Ownership transitions are tough on franchisees, particularly at brands that are founder-led. Paul Flick, CEO of Premium Service Brands, has purchased three franchises in the last 18 months and he says it’s important to prepare for the shedding. “You’ve always going to lose franchisees. You just figure it into your plan,” he said.

 

  1. Spend time together. Stacy Brown, founder of Chicken Salad Chick, and her late husband Kevin Brown hosted a number of private equity groups back in 2015, when the pair needed to seek outside investment. Her method was to cook people dinner in her home to really get to know potential partners, until they found Eagle Merchant Partners, the only firm that didn’t want her to make multiple changes to the brand. Scott Deviney also came in at that time as CEO, building the restaurant chain to it second sale in 2019, this time to the much larger Brentwood Associates.

All Franchise Times Dealmakers winners will be honored at the Franchise Investment Conference in Dallas March 10, and featured in the April issue of Franchise Times. Learn more at franchisetimes.com/Conferences

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