When Academics Fail to Get the Full Picture on Franchising

Last month, the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business Management posted a blog (Knowledge@Wharton) entitled: “How the McDonald’s Franchise Labor Case Could Upend an Industry.”


Wharton, of course, is one of the most respected business schools in the country.

Which makes the blog that much more incredible. The authors completely fail to understand the “joint employer” issue and the broader workings of the franchise model.

The authors were Peter Cappelli, the Director for Wharton’s Center for Human Resources, and Cesar F. Rosado Marzan, a contracts, labor law, and comparative labor law professor at the Chicago-Kent College of Law.  Also included were quotes by Janice Bellace, a professor of legal studies and business ethics/professor of management at Wharton, whose expertise is in the area of labor and employment law and employment relations.

These are surely qualified scholars on labor issues, but something is missing.  Did anyone think to get the views of a franchise business management expert or a franchise attorney?  Someone who is an expert on the franchise business model?

To the labor professors, a franchise relationship looks like an employment relationship, but this comparison brings new meaning to the trite expression that “if you are a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

For example, Professor Cappelli states there are two types of franchises in vogue.  One is the “trade name franchise,” where the franchisee gets the rights to use the franchise owner’s brand name. The other is an “operating agreement,” which McDonald’s uses, where it sets the rules on how their franchisees must operate the restaurants.

Herein lies the error; there is no such thing as a “trade name franchise.” Any license of a trademark must be accompanied by controls on quality and use of the brand or the trademark “owner” will likely forfeit their rights to the mark, which would be embarrassing to say the least.  The authors should have reviewed the Lanham Act before commenting on the franchise business model.

The authors also mention an “operating agreement,” where there are “rules” on how the franchisees must operate the restaurants. I think they must mean a business format franchise, where the franchisor transfers know-how to the franchisee in addition to the right to use the names and marks.

The brand standards associated with the marks and system are fundamental to franchising—without them, the consuming public would have no assurance as to the origin of the goods and/or services branded and would not know if the expected quality is there. Standards in preparing the hamburger—temperature, patty thickness, safe handling instructions, etc. ensures no one gets sick. Menu consistency guarantees mom and dad know when they pull off the road at Junior’s request who has seen the brand on a sign, that Junior’s favorite will be served at the restaurant. And so forth. But fast food is not the only franchised business. Practically any business can be franchised if the operating know-how is replicable.

Professor Cappelli continues, “in the operating agreements you can tell franchisees pretty much how to do everything.”


In each and every franchise system, the franchised businesses are independently owned and operated. These franchisees are entrepreneurs. While they must follow certain rules relating to brand standards, they set their own course as to everything else. They determine their day-to-day functions of their businesses. They determine who to hire and fire, the hours of the employees, the pay scale, and the duties of each employee, just like any other small business owner. And it’s their capital that finances the business; their capital is at risk.

Further underscoring the authors misunderstanding of franchising was Professor Rosado’s statement lumping McDonald’s and Walmart in the same category. While they are both “large corporations,” Walmart is not a franchise.

Professor Cappelli asserts, “Over the last generation, there have been lots of efforts by employers and businesses to get out from under the requirements of employment law.” So by implication, franchising is simply a ploy to avoid employment law compliance.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The business format franchise in its current form has been around since the 50’s. Franchising now accounts for 5.6% of the GDP and 9.1 million direct jobs. It is successful because it harnesses the extraordinary drive of the entrepreneur.

In a public policy blog, one must consider the public policy implications of taking a business model that has been around for 60+ years, and has become a substantial part of the economy, and “upending” it. At the very least, this piece lacked insight by failing to include franchise experts and instead solely considered the thoughts of labor/employment professors.

And as relates to public policy, Professor Cappelli even says “[p]art of the knowledge [imparted by the franchisor to the franchisee] is, frankly, how to employ low-wage unskilled people and get them to turn out this consistent, stable product.  Maybe it is not a bad thing to take a person without work experience and teach them how to make a good product, interact with the public, show up on time, and maintain a professional appearance – things needed to get and keep a job.  For most workers, a fast food job is not their ultimate goal—rather, it is a first step, a bridge to a better place in the workforce.

So Knowledge@Wharton? You’re absolutely correct for diving in on a significant labor policy, but you should not have made the mistake of only analyzing one side of the equation. It could hurt America’s economy and deprive entrepreneurs of their livelihood.

FAN in the States

On Tuesday, October 14, IFA staff Erica Farage and Chris Krueger, and a local Philly Pretzel Factory franchisee, Herv Breault took the Franchise Action Network (FAN) to the State Capitol in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The event, which comes after recent industry events in Philadelphia, was a continuance of IFA’s engagement in the state.  As a veteran, Herv has achieved his pathway to small business ownership through franchising.

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The group had a productive day of Member and senior staff level meetings with the Pennsylvania Delegation. IFA met with the following offices: Senator David Argall, Senator Shirley Kitchen, Representative Cherelle Parker, Senator Tim Solobay, and Senator Mike Stack. Concluding the day, IFA met with the Policy Director of Tom Wolf, candidate for Governor. Mr. Wolf is currently leading in the polls and projected to be the next Governor of Pennsylvania.

The takeaways were clear – the FAN needs to be heard in every state capitol and lawmakers want to hear from you, the franchise small business owners. Educating lawmakers at the state level is an important part of the FAN and its days like this that allow the lawmakers to learn how important the franchising industry is to their state and communities.  Through the FAN, franchise small business owners can promote, educate and protect the franchise business model and help tell the franchising story to these decision makers. Locally owned franchises are America’s hidden small businesses, IFA asks your support to get involved, please visit www.FranchiseActionNetowrk.com to sign up.

Specifically in Pennsylvania, the IFA will be working with the state delegation offices and our local members to organize a “FAN, Franchising in your State” day in Harrisburg. These events help educate policy makers on what franchising is and the important role franchising plays to the state economy.

If you would like to get involved with legislative meetings in your state, please contact Erica Farage at efarage@franchise.org or Chris Krueger at ckrueger@franchise.org.

IFA Addresses Threats to the Franchise Model at MUFSO

On Oct. 7, the 55th annual Multi-Unit Foodservice Operators Conference, better known as MUFSO, concluded in Dallas. MUFSO is the most comprehensive executive conference in the restaurant industry and IFA sponsored a session titled, “Franchising Under Attack: Get Informed & Learn How to Take Action!”

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The session provided an overview from industry leaders and legal perspectives on all the franchise legislative and policy issues facing the industry. It also explained how to get involved through the recently launched IFA Franchise Action Network (FAN).

Panelists included Patrick Doyle, president & CEO, Domino’s Pizza Inc.; Aziz Hashim, president/CEO, NRD Holdings, CEO/chairman, Impact Investments; Michael Lotito, co-chair and shareholder, Littler’s Workplace Policy Institute; Steve  Romaniello,  CFE, managing director, Roark Capital; and Matt Haller, senior vice president, media relations & public affairs, IFA, who served as moderator.

The session got underway with Hashim, Doyle and Romaniello echoing points on the state of the industry under attack. Hashim noted he has “never seen this kind of wave,” regarding the industry threats with Romaniello adding, “Make no mistake, the industry is under attack and it is broader and deeper than most people think.” Doyle was hopeful “that rational people will make rational decisions, but a lot is at risk right now for the industry that could impact millions of business owners and jobs.”

Haller guided the conversation next to last week’s veto by Governor Jerry Brown of harmful franchise relationship legislation in California. The veto of SB 610 represented a true victory for franchise small business owners and employees throughout the state, the culmination of a two-year strategic campaign by IFA and California FANs.  “The reason people choose to be franchisees are brand promise and operations, franchising success rate is higher.  Legislation like this would weaken brand consistency which would lead to more failures,” Doyle commented.

Hashim added that SB 610 would have been, “government interfering in business contracts and have unintended consequences,” noting that, “special interest is at play trying to cause a rift between franchisees and franchisors.” Romaniello spoke to the energy surrounding the IFA opposition campaign:  “we have made a greater effort to engage franchisees, there are more common interests than ever before, and also a common enemy,” and continuing that “the Franchise Action Network is a tool to engage on a more granular and local level, as state and local issues are now a focus to be pro-active on, and California is a great example.” Lotito gave the opposition perspective on what SEIU is spending on this fight, how well its messaging is organized and the real challenge in this debate.

The next issue of discussion was the National Labor Relations Board recent ruling on joint employer. Lotito walked the group through the full impact of the proposed joint employer standard and what it means for the industry. Hashim noted that the ruling “profoundly changes the franchise model. Worst case, everything becomes corporate-only stores, which threatens the basic foundation of franchising. Franchisees are independent entities that hire, fire, promote and set wages.”

The panel closed with a call to action from all the panelists that there is no choice but working together to protect the industry and engaging lawmakers with the franchise business community.

For more information about the Franchise Action Network or to sign up, please visit www.FranchiseActionNetwork.com.

For any questions or inquiries, please contact Erica Farage at 202-662-0760 or efarage@franchise.org.

Franchising World’s Legal Update at a Glance

Franchise business executives, franchisees and franchise suppliers must always be keenly aware of the pulse of the industry.  The March issue of Franchising World presents leading industry executives who will guide you through some of the issues facing a “Regulation Nation.”


This month’s authors walk you through the maze of compliance issues, enforcement standards, data breaches, financial performance representation, state legislative activities in Massachusetts and getting franchisees financed.  So not only will you gauge the pulse of the industry, but a quick click on your mobile device will help you prepare for the some of the challenges facing you in the regulatory forefront.

IFA Pres. & CEO Steve Caldeira, CFE, explains in this month’s column the significance of IFA members’ participation as grassroots advocates.  He advises that “legislators are very interested in hearing from our members, whose personal experiences and insight make them the ultimate authority on the challenges facing the industry.”

In the coming days, follow franchisingworld.com for more articles from the March magazine that will build on your expertise in management and operations, multi-unit franchising and trends affecting the franchise industry.

CKE Restaurants’ Puzder advocates for immigration reform in Washington




As the immigration debate continues on Capitol Hill and across the country, ImmigrationWorks, a national organization advancing immigration reform that works for all Americans, held an event in Washington D.C. today at the American Enterprise Institute to help lawmakers and voters understand the most important elements for creating a better legal system for the future.

Andrew Puzder, CEO of CKE Restaurants, provided insights on how the immigration reform bill would affect American businesses and the consequences of not addressing key issues in the debate.  With 3,300 restaurants throughout 48 states and approximately 70,000 workers employed by Carl’s Jr. and Hardees Restaurants, Puzder believes a bill like the one before Congress would spur economic growth and advance consumption.

“A rational, enforceable and practical immigration policy is something that would reinforce the idea that the U.S. is the land of opportunity,” said Puzder.

What American businesses like Puzder’s really need is the comfort that a person his restaurants have hired is here legally and that the system for legalization is easier for those involved to understand.

“E-verify has been very helpful for businesses who really want to comply with the law,” explained Puzder.  “If we had reform and were able to hire people without concern, we would have a better and more diverse workforce in this country.”

According to Puzder, the most important thing is economic growth and businesses have been fighting to survive since 2008.  “A bill like the one before Congress could really be a benefit to the U.S. economy and it would be nice to participate in an economy that was constantly growing,” he said.