Interview by Kieran McLoone, editor for Global Franchise
Romania is arguably one of Europe’s most understated franchise markets, but brands are increasingly turning to its untapped potential when expanding throughout the continent.
In October, for example, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen signed a deal to bring 90 restaurants to the country over the next decade. Chuck E. Cheese, meanwhile, began its European expansion this year with a signing in Romania – effectively using the country as a springboard for development.
These international players join the already 400-plus franchises that operate in Romania today, with the country’s franchise market worth upward of €3bn.
Many of these brands are supported by the Romanian Franchise Association: the country’s leading franchise authority that was founded in 2006, with a mission to champion credible franchising in the region. Following the Association’s recent partnership with Global Franchise’s World Franchise Network, we wanted to speak with Ariana Cosmina Anton, director of the Association, about what the future holds for Romania’s franchising entrepreneurs.
KM: What work does the Romanian Franchise Association do to promote ethical franchising within the country?
AA: Since establishing in 2006, we have become a public utility association. This is a recognition from the Romanian government, acknowledging our efforts as an association in the years since.
We help our members, which are ethical franchisees and franchisors, to develop their networks; including their franchise manuals, agreements, and international development efforts.
We also have a franchising portal to promote franchises that are willing to expand, both in Romania and internationally. In addition, we organize business-to-business events to bring potential franchisees together with well-established franchisors.
“Both domestic and international brands have lots of space to grow and develop in Romania”
We’re currently building on our partnerships with the surrounding associations from Serbia, Croatia, Slovakia, and Hungary. We have a project underway to establish a new association, which will develop neighboring countries and grow the respective franchise markets across these regions.
We also organize franchise courses for franchise managers – both for franchisees, and franchisors. These courses are very helpful, because they develop participants’ knowledge of growing their franchise networks faster, and in a healthier way.
During all of our years of operation, we noticed that franchisees are sometimes not very well educated on the business model. It’s important for them to understand what a franchise is and what they need to respect with regards for franchisor policy.
KM: What makes Romania an attractive market for international franchisors?
AA: Romania has an economy that’s currently underdeveloped when it comes to franchising. The industry’s potential is currently around 30 per cent. That means that both domestic and international brands have lots of space to grow and develop in Romania.
People are very interested in franchising; the first franchise that came to the country was InterContinental in the mid-1970s. We have expertise in this area, but it’s currently underdeveloped.
During the pandemic, I noticed a lot of domestic brands that are now willing to franchise, which surprised me. Romanians are now interested in expanding their brands, and we offer them advice about legislation and what requirements they need to fulfil.
KM: What do you find fulfilling about your work with the Romanian Franchise Association?
AA: At the beginning of my career, when somebody in my family asked me to get involved with the industry, I told them it wasn’t for me. That person must have cursed me, because I now love franchising.
Franchising is now a passion of mine, and I am very happy that I get to talk with lots of people and help them to fulfil their dream of franchise ownership. I think I can change their lives in a meaningful way, which is very fulfilling for me.
I feel very happy, because sometimes I’ll get a call after a few years and clients will thank me for my advice that I offered, and will then recommend me.
KM: What advice would you give to Romanian entrepreneurs who are looking to get into franchising for the first time in 2022?
AA: First, I recommend that they read our local legislation. This offers them tips about the disclosure document, which is very important as the previous laws were very vague. Right now, entrepreneurs have a lot of help in understanding the legislation.
Second, they should contact the Romanian Franchise Association, and we can offer free advice about how to franchise a business while respecting the new legislation.
“Foreign brands should know that Romania is welcoming them into our secure economy”
I’ve previously told a few potential franchisors that they’re not eligible to franchise their business. We can evaluate their business and see whether it has potential.
KM: What do you find exciting about this brand-new partnership between the World Franchise Network and the Romanian Franchise Association?
AA: The World Franchise Network is a very good idea, because it will boost the Romanian franchise market. It will make it more appealing for foreign franchisors that are willing to come into Romania.
Romania isn’t very well known when it comes to franchising, so we need to promote our possibilities. Foreign brands should know that Romania is welcoming them into our secure economy, despite the situation caused by the pandemic.