How franchises are shaping businesses

September 21, 2018

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Franchises seem to crop up so quickly on the high street, but then again, that's what they're designed to do! Regardless of the sector, franchises offer a great way for new business entrees to run their own store without having to build up from scratch. More than 120 industries have franchised companies as a part of them, and people who open a branch within a franchise gain support for everything from site selection to advisory support.

But who did it best? Let's take a look as some of the best franchises in the UK, and how they did so well!


The pub: Wetherspoon’s
The story behind the business

Originally formed in an ex-bookmaker's shop in North London in 1979, Wetherspoon had humble beginnings. It was initially named Martin’s Free House, before changing its name to Wetherspoon earlier the following year. The company’s chains initially only expanded in North London.

North Finchley saw Wetherspoon first pub with a no-smoking bar back in 1991, with more appearing in Central London. The following year, the first airport pub was opened in Heathrow and in the same year they were also named J D Wetherspoon plc, opening their 50th pub.

Things gained pace after that, with pubs popping up in Norwich and Bracknell. By 1994, the chain had reached an impressive 100 pubs and ventured as far north as the Midlands. The business kept expanding and moving into new territory throughout the 90s, with further establishments opened in Manchester, Wales and Scotland. 1998 saw the 300th pub open and its rapid expansion saw them reach 500 pubs being open by 2001. The 600-mark was reached in 2002 as the breakfast revolution got underway as all pubs opened six days a week to serve the first meal of the day.

As for keeping up with trends and innovating, Wetherspoon put free wi-fi access in all of their pubs, as well as hosting its first wedding in 2007! The 700th pub was launched in 2008, with the 800th following in 2011 and 900th in 2013. Nowadays, the company employs over 35,000 staff, and owns 948 pubs and hotels.

Important business factors

- Festival spirit: Wetherspoon is a great advocate for embracing the festival spirit. They currently are involved in a biannual beer festival with 60 beers on tap.

- Key travel locations: The chain makes sure it positions its pubs in key travel locations, including train stations and airports. You can currently find them in Aberdeen, Birmingham International, Doncaster, Edinburgh, Liverpool John Lennon, Heathrow, Gatwick, Glasgow and Stansted airports, and near train stations around London, Leeds, Liverpool and Glasgow.

- Meal deals: Wetherspoon offer some great meal deals which are extremely popular. They include the initial Curry Club and Steak Club, Chicken Club, Fish Friday and Sunday Brunch and offer a drink alongside them.


What can we learn from this?

People respond well to great offers and good locations. Wetherspoon have succeeded most by being flexible and adapting to their environment.


The cars: Lookers Group
The story behind the business

In 1908’s Manchester, Mr. John Looker sold bicycles, parts, and a few used cars. By 1910, the business had forged with a garage owner in the centre of Manchester. Primarily a Ford dealer until the First World War, the company was thriving so much that the garage had to be rebuilt in 1911 to accommodate all the business that it had generated.

Lookers steamed on ahead with its appointment of Austin motor distributor in 1918, going on to acquire numerous garages in Cheshire and Lancashire. John Looker retired in 1929, but the business didn’t falter. During the Second World War the Austin factory was committed to the war effort as the country fought.

Their first big acquisition occurred in the 1960s, following the firm’s move to Yorkshire. By 1973, their headquarters had moved from Hardman Street to Chester Road – their current base today. At the same time, the company became a listed company on the London Stock Exchange.

As one of the UK's top three retailers of motor vehicles, Lookers now offers a range of car servicing parts, along with representing 32 manufacturers and having 150 franchised dealerships.

Important business factors

- Value your people: the Group received top employer UK 2017 and 2018 accreditations and recognises that you must look after your own to be a success. 

- Keep the local heart: by acquiring several local businesses, including Benfield, the Group understood the need to keep the local feel of the businesses while softly implementing their own touch.


The food: Greggs
The story behind the business

Greggs began its life upon the pushbike of one John Gregg in the 1930s, as he brought eggs and yeast to families across Newcastle. It was after having this delivery service that helped local families bake their own bread for over 10 years that John Gregg opened a small bakery on Gosforth High Street in 1951. It was a single shop with a bakery at the rear. This allowed Greggs to begin baking quality bread with flour that was milled from specially selected wheat for that distinctive Greggs taste and texture.

In 1964, Ian Gregg inherited the family business after his father’s death. Under Ian's leadership, Greggs developed a good reputation for selling products which were quality and of great value. The company also started to grow in size by buying regional bakery retailers across the United Kingdom and, by the 1970s, they had shops in Scotland, Yorkshire and the North West.

The firm grew throughout 1984, with over 260 shops in four parts of the UK. For the first time ever, Greggs was on the Stock Exchange and they continued to expand, opening shops in the Midlands, Wales and North London.

The business grew even further through the noughties. By investing in a large Technical Centre, the company was able to focus on developing an array of new recipes while improving old favourites.

Important business factors

- Local support: Today, Greggs has almost 1,700 shops nationwide, while still being rooted in their local communities. That means that, while there is the popular national range, regional favourites can be found in their stores depending on where you are.


This is just a snapshot of the success that can be found in franchised business, and there's a huge variety of sectors within franchising. By providing you with a ready-made business model and allowing you to keep your skills sharp while joining an already thriving business, you may feel as though you have a greater chance of success. So, budding business owners out there, make sure you research any possible franchises that could be of interest to you before jumping in feet first with your idea!

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