KM: What makes France such a strong franchise market within Europe?
VD: To start with, I think commerce is key in French culture. This long story started with retailers and very famous brands; this was key, because people needed to have faith in the brands if they wanted to franchise with them.
I do think that the first franchising models came from the U.S., but very soon, the French franchising model has been adapted to our culture. For me, what was crucial in the development of franchising in France was to have this adaptation, with a very fair vision of the relationship between the franchisor and the franchisees. It’s really key, and if you look in-depth at contracts from different countries, it becomes clear that in France, we have a kind of fair relationship between franchisors and franchisees. This is the reason why we have a code of conduct for the French Franchise Federation (fff).
We still suffer from a damaged image from the first franchisors who didn’t play that game, and didn’t consider transparency and equality between the franchisor and franchisees. We’re working on that, and try to let the people and the government know that the relationship is really fair and that those two kinds of entrepreneurs have the possibility to grow and develop their business.
KM: Has the French franchising industry been adequately supported by the government?
VD: Franchisees have been quite well supported by the French government. It was sometimes more difficult to make the government understand the situation of franchisors; they’re still seen as big and strong capitalistic structures that should be able to endure the crisis.
We were lucky to have a government that immediately decided to support entrepreneurs and the economy in general. What was key in that was the fact that they decided very early to have open discussions with all of the professional federations. We had weekly meetings with the minister of economy, and were able to let them know what the situation was on the ground and what entrepreneurs had to cope with. We could give them feedback on how useful measures were, and how everything was functioning.
KM: What kind of differences will international franchisors encounter when coming to France?
VD: It’s really about fairness and transparency between franchisors and franchisees. This is something that is very clear now; we have international brands that want to join the fff, and we often have to refuse them at the first step. We help and advise them on what should be improved in their contract.
I know the very important point is the independence of a franchisee, which is sometimes not clear enough in foreign contracts. They can’t dictate the recruitment for franchisees, for example, or the opening hours of a specific location. It must also be very clear in the contract that the franchisor can transfer knowledge. If there’s no transfer of knowledge, then it can’t be called a franchise contract.