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Jan 24, 2018

Stakes have 'never been higher' for franchisees: Freshii CEO

Freshii CEO: Actively seek out growth, don't cut costs

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As Tim Hortons franchisees scale back employee benefits and concessions in the wake of Ontario’s minimum wage hike, Freshii (FRII.TO) CEO Matthew Corrin is warning potential restaurateurs they need to carefully consider what they’re buying into before entering the market.

“I think the table stakes are greater,” Corrin told BNN. “You can’t just be any franchise out there, you need to be a really a compelling business model. You need to be an attractive investment.”

Corrin said that Ontario’s move to raise its minimum wage at the beginning of the year - with another scheduled for the beginning of 2019 – is just one example of the unexpected costs that come along with owning a piece of a well-known brand.

“Minimum wage is one of several examples,” he said. “If I was here a year ago you would have been asking me about the avocado prices and how we were going to deal with that and a year before that it was real estate competition. In our business, every year there’s going to be something coming up.”

Corrin also disagrees with the approach rival Tim Hortons has taken to the increased costs associated with the higher minimum wage. “I think it’s better to be investing in initiatives to drive sales and drive profitability as opposed to cutting things like paid breaks and free meals for staff,” he said.

Naturally, Corrin believes his company is part of the solution.

“There are hopefully diamonds in the rough and I think we’re one of them. We’ve seen no slowdown and, in fact, we’ve accelerated our franchise interest, our franchise applications [and] the amount of existing partners building new stores.”

Corrin’s comments come on another attempt to woo Subway franchisees to join Team Freshii, this time focusing his attention stateside. Just under a year after penning a “Dear Subway” open letter, Corrin took out a full-page ad in the Jan. 17 Chicago Tribune again extolling the virtues of Freshii as a viable way to salvage their businesses.

“Rather than risking the closure of another 900 Subway stores in 2018, let’s explore a partnership,” Corrin wrote in the ad.

“We continue to believe there’s a solution and we want to continue to have that discussion and sometimes the way to have that discussion is in a public forum,” Corrin told BNN when asked about the aims of his second overture to Subway franchisees.

“This is about long-term wins, long-term stability. Maybe or maybe not we have a conversation with Subway in the near future, but as the years continue to pass and we continue to do the right things … I expect there will be great opportunities that come our way.”