FRANCHISING can be a very effective way of expanding a business, but it's not as easy as it looks.
Sara Pantaleo joined her brother Rocco's Italian food chain La Porchetta in 1996 when the company had 12 restaurants.
Ms Pantaleo became chief executive in 2005 and her brother was killed in a motorcycle accident in 2010.
The franchise chain has grown to 74 restaurants, including seven in New Zealand. It plans to open another two in the next 12 months.
Ms Pantaleo shares her tips for building a successful franchise operation.
''THE number one secret to success in franchising is accrediting the right people,'' she says.
''Early on as you're growing you probably don't put enough effort into that front, because you think 'I've replicated the success, so anyone can do it'.''
A preparedness to work hard and a love of Italian food are the key attributes at La Porchetta, she says. Restaurant experience or being a qualified chef are not important.
''If the attitude is right we can teach them skills, that's not an issue,'' says Ms Pantaleo. ''We arm them with skills, with leadership skills as well as technical skills.''
But ultimately success is up to the franchisees themselves. Ms Pantaleo tells them: ''We facilitate it, we give you the tools, you use them.''
Resilience is also important. ''If they love it, then if there's a bit of a tough time they'll see it through.''
WHEN Ms Pantaleo joined the business there was a lot of passion about Italian food, but very little in the way of documented franchise systems. ''None of the recipes were written down, there were no instructions, no manual,'' she says.
''I was the driver of all the franchise infrastructure and all the current systems we have in the business.''
Systems need to be documented so that each of the franchisees maintains standards and delivers the same product.
''We are one brand, and if we as a brand are sending a message and that message is delivered differently at each site it does make it difficult,'' Ms Pantaleo says.
TO ACHIEVE constancy strong training is needed, especially for people with no experience in hospitality or in running their own business, she says.
''In a franchise system you do need processes, you do need lots and lots of structure so that the franchisees understand that they've got the tools.
''We have set up all the manuals, whether it be the policy and operations manual, our crisis manual … our OH&S manual we've got it on an intranet system and it is available to them all the time.''
The company has its own training program - named ''Recipe for Success'' - for franchisees and their staff. ''Even if they're not going to be the chef we still get them to spend time in the kitchen, time in the pizza section, time in the bar and time on the floor,'' Ms Pantaleo says.