Fair Franchising: Maintaining Robust Relations

Part 6 of the Series: Consultant Stan Turkel Explores AAHOA's Fair Franchise Standard of Franchisors Maintaining Robust Relations with Their Franchisees

In 1998, the Asian American Hotel Owners Association identified a set of standards called the 12 Points of Fair Franchising by which to judge the actions of franchise companies.  Now, nine years later, AAHOA has updated the 12 points and has embarked on a survey of franchisors to assess their compliance with these fair franchising standards.  In this Hotel Interactive article, I highlight Point 7:

Point 7:  Maintaining Relationships With Franchisees

Franchisors should strive to maintain and build on their relationships with the Franchisees by actively seeking feedback from the Franchisees themselves, and by working with the various councils and associations that represent the Franchisees, including the Franchise Advisory Councils (FACs) and AAHOA.

Franchise Advisory Councils

Franchisors should encourage and support the establishment of independent and democratic FACs, which are comprised of a representative group of Franchisees who are elected by the Franchisees themselves, and who can advise the Franchisor on matters of importance to the franchise system, Franchisors should seek feedback from the FACs, and use their best efforts to follow the recommendations proposed by the FACs on such matters.

• Amenity CreepAmenity creep is a recognized problem in the hotel industry, and Franchisees are concerned that they are not being heard on such issues.  Franchisors should regularly seek input from the FACs concerning whether specific amenities should be added, eliminated or changed for the brand name hotels.  Prior to mandating the addition of a new amenity, Franchisors should submit the issue for a vote to the Franchisees themselves, and obtain a 66% vote of approval from all Franchisees who vote on the matter.

• Marketing and AdvertisingFranchisors should regularly seek input from the FACs concerning how best to market and advertise the various brand name hotels and their services.  For example, Franchisors should consult with the FACs concerning the annual marketing and advertising budgets, the annual marketing and advertising plans, the format and scope of the directories of hotels in the franchise systems, the franchise system internet websites, and the operational plans for the franchise central reservation system.  As discussed in Fair Franchising Point 6 above, there should be greater Franchisor disclosure and accountability concerning the expenditure of the marketing and reservation fees, including annual audits that are shared with the FACs or their audit committees.

AAHOA Relations

Franchisors should strive to work closely with AAHOA and its members to promote fairness in the franchise system, and to enhance their respective business interests.

Franchisors also should seek ways in which they can (a) increase and improve their communications with AAHOA and its members, (b) obtain input and feedback from AAHOA and its members on issues concerning the franchise systems, and (c) educate and train AAHOA and its members on matters that will improve the individual hotels and strengthen the franchise system on a global basis.  Franchisors should attempt to meet with AAHOA personnel on a regular basis to discuss these and other related issues that are of importance to the AAHOA Franchisee members.

AAHOA’s CHO ProgramThe AAHOA Certified Hotel Owners (CHO) program is an innovative professional development program for hotel owners offered by the AAHOA Institute of Management (AIM).  The CHO program involves an intense, eight-day comprehensive course taught by world class instructors.  At the conclusion of the coursework, attendees take a CHO certification review and a CHO examination.

Franchisors should recognize and support the AAHOA CHO program as a hospitality professional accreditation program, and CHO graduates should be given credit for successfully completing the CHO program in the same manner that, for example, the Certified Hotel Administrator (CHA) and Certified Lodging Managers (CLM) training courses have been supported and recognized by Franchisors in recent years.

The CHO Program was designed to recognize and certify the expertise of AAHOA’s member hotel owners, and is the first program of its kind in the country.  The CHO program covers a variety of topics, including (1) Front Desk Operations & Reservations; (2) The Laws of Inn Keeping; (3) Leadership; (4) Hotel Sales, Marketing & Public Relations; (5) Hotel Accounting & Business Ownership Structure; (6) Technology For the Lodging Industry; (7) Human Resource Management; and (8) Housekeeping, Laundry, Engineering & Maintenance.  The CHO program has several recognized sponsors, including Best Western International, Inc. and was developed by Kapoor & Kapoor Hospitality, Inc.

Are Franchise Advisory Councils Typically Powder Puffs?

Are franchise advisory councils (FACs) powerhouses or powder puffs?  Unfortunately, my long experience with hotel franchising reveals many of them to be paper tigers with no real clout and no independence.  On the major issues: encroachment and impact, termination and liquidated damages, transferability, choice of venue, and dispute resolution.  FACs have little negotiating  strength and no veto power.

While franchising dates to the Middle Ages, FACs are a relatively recent development.  How they came about, why they exist, and the extent to which they contribute to the success of both franchisor and franchisee bear looking into as more companies become players in the franchising game.  These organizations began back in the early days and rose out of controversy.  Franchisees who were dissatisfied banded together to present a more unified response to the franchise company.  There were often adversarial relationships between franchisor and franchisee which centered around the same sorts of issues about which  the two sides still debate: impact and encroachment, quality-assurance guidelines and inspections, fees, royalties, marketing promotions, length of licensing agreements, termination and liquidated damages, etc.

Some people trace the creation of FACs back to the 1920’s.  A&W Root Beer and Terminex Pest Control were the first franchise companies whose licensees formed organizations to negotiate with their respective franchisors.  Hotel FACs arose in the 1950s and 1960s, when hotel franchising began to proliferate.  In 1955, just three years after the founding of the Holiday Inns brand, Kemmons Wilson created a franchise advisory council of Holiday Inn franchisees.  The original name “National Association of Holiday Inns” was changed in 1963 to the International Association of Holiday Inns (IAHI).  Today the IAHI represents the interests of the owners of InterContinental Hotels Group brands including Holiday Inns, Holiday Inn Express, Crowne Plaza, Staybridge Suites and Candlewood Suites.  While it bills itself as a separate/ independent organization, it nevertheless is essentially a franchise advisory council not an independent owners association.  IAHI corporate offices are located in Holiday Inn Worldwide Headquarters in Atlanta.  IAHI is funded by a combination of Association membership dues, system funds and expense allocations from the Holiday Inns Corporation.

To hear most chain executives tell it, their respective franchise organizations strive to be fair, vital and meaningful.  By most accounts, however, FACs are in-house organizations, funded and controlled by the franchise company.

Hotel owners concerned about the relative power of their franchise advisory councils should ask the following questions:

  1. Does your FAC have a meaningful voice when it comes to reaching decisions about important franchisee issues
  2. Does the FAC have an office away from the franchise company headquarters?
  3. Is the FAC funded by the franchisor or by member franchisee fees?
  4. Is membership mandatory?
  5. Does the FAC communicate directly to franchisees or must its communication be filtered through the franchise company’s corporate office?
  6. Are there open FAC meetings at the chain’s annual convention?
  7. Who elects FAC officers and by what procedure?
  8. Does your franchisor seek FAC input regarding changes in amenities?
  9. Does your franchisor submit suggested building design and amenity changes to FAC members for a 66% vote of approval?

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This is part of a series. Please read:

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Stanley Turkel, MHS, ISHC, is a New York-based hotel consultant specializing in hotel franchising issues, asset management and litigation support services. He is also available for due diligence studies for an acquisition, a third-party audit of a marketing or operational problem, an expert review of a management contract or a franchise agreement, or litigation support. Mr. Turkel is a member of the International Society of Hospitality Consultants and can be reached at 917-628-8549 or email at [email protected]

~~~If you would like to reserve an autographed copy of Stanley’s new book, “Great American Hoteliers: Pioneers of Hotel Industry” (to be published by Fall 2008), send an email to [email protected]

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Comments

Econo Lodges of America Franchisee Association

Stan, you know about the Econo Lodges of America Franchisee Association and its history.

Do you have any sense about how their franchise agreements match up to AAHOA's 12 Points of Fair Franchising? 

Michael Webster PhD LLB

Franchise News

Quiznos had an FAC.........what a joke/puppet group.

The Q at one time had an FAC and you were given their (the ZORS)selections as to who you could vote on to represent your territory. Mine was a gentleman from NJ, named Moe Faruq (sp?)and what's absolutely incredible was you never recieved any replies back from him...just an automated email response. Never any indication that your communication was received, reviewed, agreed or disagreed with etc. Nothing at all. Across the country, most other FO's found the same thing with their territories representative. And yes, any minutes from the FAC meetings (in Denver) were reviewed by corporate prior to release to FO community. And the contents of the minutes was vague at best. They disappeared off the map about a year and a half ago....no communications, etc.
All marketing meetings that were once mandated by Q (as far as FO attendance) also ceased because of the fear of uprising of a large group of FO's in one place at one time. Now you get a training meeting with a small selected group of FO's, during business hours, at a Quiznos store. That's pretty tricky on the Q's behalf too. Actually smart. They figure the probability of a mass coup occuring in one of your fellow FO's locations are slim to none. Even though your fellow FO's are all echoing the same problems.

Poll the FO community to see if these points are truths....you'd be amazed at what you hear.

"Don't get into bed with the Sandwich Devil"