Franchising 101: What is a Franchise Operations Manual?

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The importance of the operations manual in franchising

If you’re new to franchising, you’re probably wondering what a franchise operations manual is and why it’s so important. In this article, we’re going to take you through the basic elements of one and how it can make all the difference to your franchising journey.

When you become a franchisee, you’ll be given plenty of information about how to run your new business. One of the most important documents or sets of documents you’ll be given is the franchise operations manual. Containing everything you need to know about running your new business, it can often feel like a lifeline, particularly during the tricky first few months. But what exactly is it - and why is it so important? Let’s find out more about the franchise operations manual … 

What is a franchise operations manual?

The franchise operations manual is a document written by the franchisor for the franchisees who buy into the business. It details the rights and responsibilities held by both the franchisor and franchisee and explains how the franchise’s business model works.

When a franchisor invites franchisees to run branches of a business in new territories, they’ll expect to be given all the information and tools they’ll need to set up and run the business correctly. The operations manual is probably the most important of these tools. Without it, there would be no standardisation across the franchise system, and franchisees would be able to run their unit in any way they wanted to.

Why do you need a franchise operations manual?

A well-written set of manuals will support the franchise agreement in areas that need to be followed to protect the integrity of the brand. It doesn’t matter which franchise customers visit, the experience should be entirely consistent. Each franchise location should deliver a uniform product or service. It is through consistency that a robust and reputable brand is established.

For the franchisor, it is a way of documenting all the knowledge and experience that they've built up while developing their business. As this priceless information is detailed in a simple to follow format, the franchise becomes more valuable as franchisees can replicate it more easily. It is also a blueprint for the standard that’s expected for the franchise.

Similarly, franchisees also benefit from a good operations manual. A proven business system and brand are the reasons why franchise investments are so appealing to prospective franchisees. Rather than creating a business from scratch and having to learn from mistakes as they go along, a franchisee has the benefit of simply being able to follow the operations manuals.

What is included in a franchise operations manual?

No two operations manuals are the same and will differ from franchise to franchise. It’s essentially up to the franchisor what they include, but they will need to make sure there is plenty of detail about the very basics of running a consistently-branded business. You can expect to see topics including:

  • Outline of the franchise and its goals
  • Roles and responsibilities of the franchisor and franchisee
  • Location selection and fit out
  • Operating standards and policies
  • Stock suppliers and ordering protocol
  • Opening and closing procedures
  • Full job descriptions
  • Employee recruitment and training
  • Administration, accounting, and reporting requirements
  • Correct use of the brand
  • Local marketing initiatives and advertising templates
  • Cleaning and hygiene expectations
  • Legal requirements

There may even be more than one operations manual for each different area of the business - one manual for training, another for management of employees, and another for marketing, for example. Generally, the larger and more established the franchise, the more extensive the franchise operations manual(s) will be. 

Updating the franchise operations manual 

As a franchise business grows, so will the operations manual. These documents will evolve and become more comprehensive as policies and procedures are polished and improved over time. Operating protocols are also likely to change with the introduction of new technology and operating systems. 

If you’re a franchisor, you should aim to review and update these documents at least once a year. Make sure you have them saved online or on a computer so they’re easy to update and redistribute among your network. 

How to use the franchise operations manual

You’ll need to follow the franchise operations manual to the letter. In the franchise agreement, it will state that complying with the operations manual is part of the franchisees’ responsibilities. Deviating from guidance can put the reputation of the brand at risk, so franchisors take lack of conformity very seriously.

Also, as the operations manual outlines how to run the franchise successfully, its contents are fundamental and valuable. It’s best to keep it safe and not share its contents with anyone else, as no franchisor will want their confidential, labour-intensive manual shared with people who haven’t paid for the privilege. 

The manual should be viewed as the informative and valuable document that it is. If used probably then it can lead to success for all involved in the franchise. Brand awareness is increased through standardisation, customers receive a consistent and quality service whenever they encounter the brand, and the franchisor and franchisee reap the rewards of a lucrative business.

Franchisees should always try to refer back to the operations manual when they have questions, as it’s likely the answer is just a few pages away. It can save time and hassle, as the franchisor won’t have to constantly take calls and emails about minor franchisee queries. 

How do I write a franchise operations manual?

You’ll need to spend plenty of time writing your franchise operations manual, as it is essentially your ‘brand bible’ and a core foundation for your franchise. If you rush it and leave many areas open to franchisees’ interpretation, your carelessness is likely to show up as an inconsistent franchise brand, way of operating or other negative quality across your network. 

We’ve covered this topic in detail in our step-by-step guide for writing an effective franchise operations manual, so head over there if you’d like to know more. If you’re really unsure about where to start, though, you may benefit from talking to a franchise consultant or established franchisor to understand how your unique franchise operations manual is going to look.

>> Read more:

Build a strong franchise

We hope this has given you a better idea of what the franchise operations manual is and why it’s a key part of the franchisee-franchisor relationship. If followed properly, it will protect the franchisor’s brand and allow franchisees to quickly and easily build a successful business from a clear, proven concept.

Looking for more advice? Head over to our articles page for more informative content for franchisees and franchisors. And if you’re looking to become a franchisee, you’ll find hundreds of exciting opportunities in our UK franchise directory

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