Following on from yesterday’s all-day golf tournament at Arroyo Golf Club, today saw the official start of this year’s Multi-Unit Franchising Conference (MUFC). Taking place in Sin City, this year marks the 22nd year of the convention and is the must-attend event for all multi-unit franchising professionals looking to learn more about trends impacting the industry, opportunities for growth and development, and the biggest and best brands to broaden a developing multi-unit or multi-brand portfolio.
We’ll be covering day one and day two of the convention – like how we covered the biggest happenings of the IFA Annual Convention last month – so read below for a summary of Wednesday 30 March, and make sure to return tomorrow when we’ll be summarizing the must-know updates from Thursday 31.
OPENING GENERAL SESSION
The 22nd annual Multi-Unit Franchising Conference was kicked off with a warm welcome from Gary Gardner, chairman of Franchise Update Media. Gardner celebrated this year’s convention and its unparalleled scale, with the 1,800-plus attendees marking record levels for the conference.
Following Gardner’s welcoming statements, the vast audience was treated to an introductory video showcasing what they could expect from this year’s instalment. In two words: next level. That meant next level venues, next level meeting spaces, next level experiences – it was all about getting bigger and better, which is no doubt set to be a running theme throughout the rest of the convention.
After the opening clip, Gardner introduced Michael Kulp; a multi-unit franchisee and familiar face to those who have attended MUFC before, whose portfolio includes the likes of Arby’s, KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell.
“It’s so refreshing to see so many friends and colleagues that we haven’t been able to see in quite some time”
Kulp’s opening remarks were very much focused on community and collaboration; a theme that we’ve seen plentiful coverage of at all of the major franchising events as of late. Coming off the back of an incredibly challenging time for the whole industry, the franchise world is now doubling-down on relationships and teamwork; the fundamentals of a successful franchise operation.
“It’s so refreshing to see so many friends and colleagues that we haven’t been able to see in quite some time,” said Kulp. “You can step back and look at all of the successes of people within this business and within franchising.”
Kulp was followed by two other familiar faces to those that have attended MUFC before: Guillermo Perales and Cheryl Robinson. Both are established multi-unit franchisees within their own right, and echoed the sentiment that it’s so powerful to have so many fresh and ambitious minds together again in-person.
Robinson in particular went on to speak to the importance of employee engagement and retention; two key themes that were continued throughout the duration of the first day.
“Employee engagement was previously viewed as a ‘nice to have’, but it’s now an essential,” explained Robinson. “The phrase ‘because I said’ never works. The fact is that your employees don’t read your email or poster, but they do listen to you.”
To close out the opening general session, Jesse Itzler, renowned keynote speaker and author of Living with a Seal, delivered a motivational masterclass with a deep dive into his “unconventional and unorthodox” journey as an entrepreneur.
One of the biggest takeaways from Jesse’s session was the idea of differentiation: what are you or your brand bringing to the table that can’t be found elsewhere with your competitors? He also spoke about the idea of luck when it comes to success, and how he’s “a big believer that we put ourselves in a position where we attract luck. Luck happens when you’re out and about, making things happen.”
“For a lot of people, a lack of experience can be the biggest hurdle. But for me, it was the biggest blessing”
To close out the session, Itzler touched on inexperience within the entrepreneurial community: “For a lot of people, a lack of experience can be the biggest hurdle. But for me, it was the biggest blessing; it guaranteed that everything I did in life would have a different outcome than my competitors.”
GENERAL SESSION PANEL: STRATEGIES TO ATTRACT TOP TALENT
- MODERATOR: Michael Kulp, franchisee, KFC, Taco Bell, Arby’s
- Dr. Ashley Hollweg, president and CEO, Hollweg Assessment Partners
- Aziz Hashim, managing partner, NRD Capital
- Gary Robins, franchisee, Supercuts
Shortly after the opening keynote, attendees gathered for the first panel discussion of MUFC, centering on an area that every brand – regardless of industry or size – is struggling through right now: talent retention and attraction.
Moderated by Michael Kulp, the session touched on many areas that have been at the forefront of conversation at the moment, including the use of technology, the balance of retention compared to new hires, and how franchises reward their top-tier employees.
Aziz Hashim was fully invested in the use of technology and AI when recruiting; particularly when it comes to alleviating the burden from your operational staff, as well as responding as fast as possible when a prospective new hire reaches out about an opening. “Let’s embrace technology and all of its different aspects to make our locations the prime place that people want to come and work,” said Hashim.
“The most important person is the general manager of a specific unit. They set the tone and the company culture”
There was also a lot of talk around the most important roles when it comes to the hierarchy of a franchise, with Hashim considering general managers vital in the branding and perception of your organization: “The most important person is the general manager of a specific unit. They set the tone and the company culture.”
MARKETING TRACK: CHANGING CONSUMER BEHAVIOURS
- MODERATOR: Matthew Patinkin, franchisee, Auntie Anne’s Pretzels
- Baryalay Razi, franchisee, MSR Restaurants
- Scott Groeneweg, franchisee, Pizza Ranch, Inc.
- Patrick Ryan-Southern, franchisee, HeyDay Skincare
This session on the changing landscape of consumers and their engagement with brands opened with a comparison by moderator Matthew Patinkin between the recently-discovered BA.2 subvariant of the coronavirus, and the ways in which consumers have adapted and changed dramatically over the past few years.
“Consumer behaviors are more muted today, and consumers are becoming more capable of handling their decisions and understanding the implications of those,” said Patinkin. “This is like the new BA.2 variant that has just been reported on. We are now more capable of dealing with this new evolution and challenge.”
Following from this, the conversation turned to the changes that we’ve seen occur over the past two years, and which of these are transient compared to permanent.
“Companies that adapt will survive; companies that don’t will fail”
“If we’re faced with ongoing supply chain issues or remote working policies, and the resulting consumer behavior changes become permanent, companies that adapt will survive; companies that don’t will fail,” said Patinkin.
The panellists went on to discuss the ways in which their respective brands have changed and evolved in line with customer expectations, with Patrick Ryan-Southern discussing the bespoke nature of his operation: “Consumer behavior has changed so much with a skew toward personalization, so we now use technology to record what happens during a facial as well as the products that a customer is recommended. That then lets us reach out to them regarding refills, and we can give them a great experience the next time they join us.”
The three panelists closed out the session by suggesting the changes and trends that they think are here to stay, which include:
- Online ordering and delivery
- A strong focus on sanitation and cleanliness
- The expectation of fantastic experiences and service
- Unfortunately, the labor shortage will be around for quite some time
This is just a quick overview of the first day of MUFC, which doesn’t even delve into the immense networking opportunities that took place when the exhibitor’s hall opened at 3pm PST. It was certainly the perfect way to kick off this year’s exhibition, and the Global Franchise team can’t wait to head back to learn more on day two.