Can Franchise Fees Be Negotiated?
There's the initial franchise fee. Then there's the royalty fee, software fee, late fee, renewal fee, marketing fee, advertising fee, transfer fee... and the list of fees involved with buying into a franchise goes on and on. Negotiation is an art, and done properly, it can save money both up front and on the back end of buying into a franchise. Here, we break down the two biggest franchise fees - the initial franchise fee and the royalty fee.
The Initial Franchise Fee
The initial franchise fee, sometimes simply referred to as "the franchise fee," is what you usually find on websites like Entrepreneur, Business Insider, Forbes, and Franchise Times. If you read any list of "the most affordable franchises," you will see them stacked with flat fees that you assume you can pay to buy into that particular franchise. The initial franchise fee is just the tip of the iceberg. It's the fee you pay the franchisor for their great idea. For instance, our client Steri-Clean is partly a crime scene clean-up franchise. Their idea is that you can use their techniques and systems to thoroughly clean crime scenes - a job that pays very well and that not many others want to do. When someone buys into Steri-Clean, they pay an initial franchise fee for the right to use Steri-Clean's trademarks, methods of operation, marketing techniques, and other proprietary information.
The initial franchise fee isn't typically negotiable. It would not look good for a franchisor to offer different initial franchise fees to different franchisees. On the other hand, if you are interested in buying into a new(er) franchise, there may be some wiggle room as the franchisor is most likely seeking to grow in its early stages. Consider what you are getting in return for the initial franchise fee. Does the franchisor have an intellectual property portfolio of trademarks, patents or copyrights? Does the franchisor have an operations manual that contains all the proprietary information you will need to be a successful franchisee?
Royalty fees are typically a percentage of gross revenue that you will have to pay the franchisor each month. It is important to distinguish this from the initial franchise fee. Royalties do not compensate the franchisor for their great idea - you already paid them for that with the initial franchise fee. Royalties compensate the franchisor for ongoing support and development of the franchise system. We frequently encourage prospective franchisees to challenge franchisors by asking what ongoing support and development will be provided in exchange for monthly royalties.
Think of it this way - if you are going to give the franchisor anywhere from 5-10% of your monthly gross revenue for the next 10-20+ years, who says they won't just kick back and enjoy a chunk of your profits while retired on some beach somewhere? The best franchisors never lose the entrepreneurial spirit that got them into franchising in the first place. For an awesome example of this, consider our client High Touch High Tech. Daniel Shaw, the founder, is a scientist who took his passion for science and education to the next level when he created his franchise back in 1992. Daniel is invested in the success of each of his franchisees across the entire world. He and his team are constantly following trends in both science and education, and they provide ongoing training and development for his franchisees. Not only does this result in a growing and attractive franchise system, but the High Touch franchise has truly become a family of like-minded entrepreneurs who absolutely love what they do. When considering your royalty fees, find out what the franchisor's plans for the overall franchise are.
Royalty fees are sometimes negotiable. We have had success in negotiating them to both lower rates and incremental rates, the latter of which can give franchisees more room to breathe when first opening their franchise.
Can you negotiate yourself?
Sure, but we're probably better at it. At Barber Power Law Group, we represent many franchisors. Consequently, we’ve drafted over 100 FDDs and reviewed over 300 of them for franchisees like yourself. We know where to look and what to look for. Let us take care of reviewing your FDD and Franchise Agreement. We’ll provide you with a full legal opinion, any red flags, and negotiation points. We’ll even negotiate on your behalf if you’d like.