We chatted to Aasia Baig, Founder and Managing Director of Centenary Lounge, to find out more about this exciting new franchise concept.
What made you decide to franchise your unique business?
The answer is in the question – Centenary Lounge is totally unique and there’s nothing like it currently on the market. The concept has a great, eclectic mix of romantic and iconic heritage railways, 1930s Art Deco design and a carefully planned, all-day, inclusive menu that offers something for everyone.
Centenary Lounge first opened in 2009 with its Express Lounge. Since then, we’ve introduced two other concepts that we’ve refined over time, to create three very profitable and flexible models. Now, we offer an impressive ROI and exciting proposition to potential franchisees.
What are some of the biggest hurdles you’ve overcome so far?
One of the biggest challenges was refining the menus to suit each location and concept. The menus are creative, fresh and delicious, but our dishes do not need to be prepared by a chef, as the entire process of creating them has been simplified. This makes it a much smoother, easier and cost-efficient operation for the franchisee to run. The other biggest hurdle was to actually create the all-important Operations Manual. Documenting each task and each little detail is worth its weight in gold, but it was such a mission to complete!
What’s the most challenging part of welcoming new franchisees into the business?
I think, firstly, it's about getting to know them and seeing if they are the right fit for the franchise. The challenge we encounter most often is making sure our potential franchisees are able to stick to the concept, model and systems. The franchise network only works if there’s consistency, so it’s my main concern.
Why did you decide to launch three exciting business models?
We opened our Express Lounge in 2009. The next opportunity that presented itself wasn’t suited to a business the size of Express Lounge, so the kiosk was introduced. It was an ideal solution for the location.
The next property we identified was on a High Street close to the station. For this location, we felt a First Class experience would be a better fit, as we wanted to make it feel just as the railways did with their restaurants in the 1930s. We realised that the Centenary Lounge concept requires flexibility according to location, demographics and size of unit, so we decided to introduce that into the franchise model.
How would you describe the perfect Centenary Lounge franchisee?
Our perfect franchisee is someone who:
1) Believes in the concept and can stay true to the brand
2) Has a customer-centric personality and can get on with people from all walks of life
3) Possesses the sheer determination to be successful
4) Can work with the Head Office to make the brand and themselves a true success, creating a win-win situation.
Why is your franchise a great opportunity for entrepreneurs?
Ultimately, entrepreneurs want to be successful, and our franchise model can provide a great opportunity with calculated risks and support. The franchise model also allows them the flexibility to be their own boss and to take on more stores over time, offering a strong growth and expansion strategy from day one.
If you could offer one piece of advice to anyone thinking of becoming a franchisee, what would it be?
Do your research and remember it is not easy to become a franchisee. There’s a lot of hard work and commitment involved to make the franchise a success.
First, research what it is you’d like to do. What do you have a passion for? Do you have any knowledge or any expertise in the field you are looking into? Once you know the type of franchise you’d like to invest in, do your research into the franchisor, the support team and overall concept, so you know that they are truly invested in your success as well as their own.
Where do you see Centenary Lounge in five years’ time?
We see Centenary Lounge as being well established in the UK, with a realistic target of 30 branches. By that time, we will have also launched our plans to take the brand internationally to countries where our brand and concept is relevant, like the USA and Canada, among others.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
To provide potential franchisees with some assurance and knowledge about myself, I’d like to share my experience. I have been in business for over 28 years, with a proven track record of starting several retail businesses and successfully building them from the ground up.
As I have a natural passion for hospitality and design, I knew this was the industry I wanted to be a part of. After extensive research into the 1930s and Art Deco period, which I love, Centenary Lounge was created. I will personally be involved with our successful franchisees throughout the entire process. It’s important for franchisors to remember that we can only succeed if our franchisees succeed.
I’ve also been approached by Worcester BID to become a board director. I was delighted to accept, and I’m now a Board Director for Worcester BID representing the hospitality sector.
Sophie Cole, Point Franchise ©