The Best Opportunities in Franchising Today
Printed in USA Today
by Nancy Rathbun Scott
Take an unscientific poll of any ten people. How many of them depend on cleaners to wash and press laundry items? How many have ever paid for lawn care services? How many rely on child care providers? If you took that same poll 30 years ago, chances are your answers would be much different. More people now choose the convenience of having someone perform services they might have done themselves a generation ago.
The trend hasn't been lost on the franchising world. "Smart franchises are catering to consumer's cravings for convenience," according to the International Franchising Association. The most popular concepts are those that help save effort and time for busy people.
Pressed for time?
A national dry cleaning franchisor captured this trend in its name: Pressed4Time. The company tapped into a mature industry known for its steady, repeat business and added a twist-free pick up and delivery.
Why? Service businesses that offer a helping hand to minimize the daily chores of professionals and dual-income families are increasing at twice the rate of product oriented business, say the folks at this 12-year old company. That potential has helped propel the franchise to the largest of its kind on a national level, with more than 100 operations in 28 states and four countries.
Cruise for savings
CruiseOne also has built a successful business on the premise that consumers are anxious to save time and money. The company represents 30 cruise lines and 120 ships selling more cruises in a day than most agencies sell each year. The leverage of CruiseOne's national sales allows homebased franchise owners to offer rates competitive with larger agencies. Franchisees also benefit from a toll-free number referring customers nationwide to owners in their area.
Promote a flexible lifestyle
Happy and Healthy Products, Inc. figured out that consumers "on the run" also are increasingly health conscious. Their franchisees market an all-natural, low-fat, frozen fruit bar to consumers through convenience stores, airports, shopping centers, health clubs, and other high-traffic areas.
What franchisees often find tempting is the flexible format that allows them to mold the franchise operation to their lifestyle. For some that means the ability to start the business as a part-time endeavor while working full time jobs. "This is a great opportunity for someone who is at home looking for extra income," says Mary Galinat, Happy and Healthy Products, Inc. general manager.
Go healthy
Quizno's Italian-style sub sandwich shops target the expectations of today's consumers who are looking for a quality, healthy alternative to burgers and fried food. "Our product is distinctive as sub sandwiches go," says Sue Hoover, executive vice president of marketing for Quizno's. Unlike more traditional fast food, Quizno's claims a product that is fresher and tastier. The restaurants use high quality meat and cheese and also serve vegetarian alternatives. The upscale dining room caters to business lunches.
The distinctive product has produced enormous growth for the company. "We're opening about one every other day," says Hoover. In fact, Quizno's has about 500 units currently open, with more than 350 sold but not open yet. While the healthy food and comfortable atmosphere might attract customers, the real selling point for potential franchise owners is the company's efficiency. By concentrating on the cost of goods and services at the franchise level, Quizno's has been able to reduce overhead throughout the chain. "If you're paying less for your food, you have the opportunity to make a better profit on the sale," says Hoover.
Cater to kids
Busy parents looking for good educational opportunities for children have turned their tots into "little scientists" through a program developed in 1991 to explain science to three-year-old children. Since then, Little Scientists, a franchised based in Connecticut, has introduced their curriculum into classrooms around the country, satisfying the curiosity of more than 1,000 children. "This is a great niche for potential franchisees starting their own business," says Heidi Gold-Dworkin, who developed the program. "There is nothing else in today's market for science education. That's what makes our program so viable and successful."
Outside of the classroom instruction, the company just joined with McGraw Hill to publish five activity books fore children from kindergarten to the second grade. Franchise owners will promote books in children's toy stores and book stores by doing free work shops. "We now have 14 franchise owners who are poised for tremendous growth," says Donna Goodman Lee of Little Scientists.
Clean-up anything
Steamatic Inc. also understands contemporary consumers' need for convenience, so they offer 13 different types of cleaning and restoration services. "People don't have the time to call out different companies and meet with different people, so they call Steamatic for virtually all their home cleaning needs," says Terri Hill, Steamatic director of advertising.
New franchisees are not required to buy into all 13 "profit centers," however. Owners can focus their business on a few services and build it into the other areas. "They might start out doing a lot of restoration work, then they pick up more residential cleaning," says Hill.
Either way, the market is ripe with potential customers who crave convenience. Just ask any ten people.

® copyright 1999 Nancy Rathbun Scott
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