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A franchise market not just surviving, but thriving

A franchise market not just surviving, but thriving

A recap of the U.K.’s positive market trends and franchise business growth, despite challenging circumstances

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Further to Boris Johnson’s announcement on June 14, that full restriction easing has been postponed until July 19, we at the bfa understand how frustrating this is for those amongst our membership and the wider franchising community.

For many, this spells a (hopefully) final painful twist of the knife as they look to bring their businesses into the new normal. As much as we all acknowledge that many things will never go back to exactly how they were before, the need to bring our systems back online and revive the economy has never been more acutely felt by all of us.

With the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) anticipating the cost of the pandemic to the U.K. economy running up to £700bn, the impact is being felt across the board. Current unemployment rates are at around 4.8 per cent, meaning around one in 20 people who want a job can’t find one.

Despite that, however, there have been sectors and businesses that have not only weathered the storm of the pandemic but actively thrived during it. The obvious ones being online meeting platforms – such as Zoom and GoToMeeting among others – as well as pharmaceuticals, cleaning/ personal hygiene products, and those providing products and tools for the gardening and DIY industries.

Specifically, within the franchise sector, we have seen many success stories during the last 18 months or so. Join us in looking at some of those who have excelled in these challenging times.

“Within the franchise sector, we have seen many success stories in the last 18 months or so”

Food and beverage

Among our members who have been doing particularly well are those who have pivoted from providing a service at premises or venue to either providing it online or via delivery. And among those, the food and beverage sector has shown an incredible ability to adapt.

McDonald’s has seen a huge uptake of its McDelivery Service, Domino’s Pizza now boasts over 1,100 U.K. branches – with a further 200 on the way – and faces the challenge of recruiting the necessary staff to meet this surge in demand. Papa John’s, too, continues to grow throughout the U.K., now with more than 450 outlets and plans to open multiple more outlets over the next couple of months too. As well as launching in high street locations, the brand is working on initiatives to partner with leisure venues, sports stadiums, and holiday parks.

However, it isn’t just the big names that are doing well. Since opening its first restaurant in 2010, Camile Thai has expanded to 40 locations in the United Kingdom and Ireland and has quickly gained popularity as a tech-savvy leader in the food delivery space.

The company was an early adopter of the hot-food-at-home delivery model and currently serves over 10,000 healthy meals every day to consumers across its network of franchised and company-owned locations.

Camile Thai has also just agreed a partnership with Kitchen United which will see the brand poised to break into the United States, as it continues to grow throughout 2021 with new locations opening in Chicago River North, Pasadena, and Austin.


Set against the backdrop of an aging population and a global pandemic, the care sector continues to show massive growth, with almost all of our members in the domiciliary care sector reporting growth and strong profits.

Caremark, one of our members in this sector, stated: “The demand for care at home is an option more and more in demand, with a recent National YouGov survey showing 92 per cent of people over 50 questioned said they would prefer to be cared for at home than in a residential home.”

Outsourced services

As more and more businesses move to remote working, outsourced service providers have seen a huge uptake in their services.

One of our members, Get Ahead VA, has just recently grown into double figures, welcoming its tenth franchisee to the network. Get Ahead VA offers nationwide marketing and business support services. From bookkeeping to blogging, database management to design and telephone answering to Twitter, its team of virtual business experts delivers support on an hourly, project, or ongoing basis. It stands to reason that those services would be far more popular as people move away from fixed premises.

“Set against the backdrop of an ageing population and a global pandemic, the care sector continues to show massive growth”

Remote and flexible working solutions

Speaking of premises, one sector that has seen a large growth during the coronavirus is flexible workspaces. IWG plc, formerly Regus, provides serviced offices under several brand names, including Regus. It has seen a massive lift in demand, and in fact, this article is being written from inside an IWG space.

Julian Chambers, head of franchise at IWG – UK & Ireland, says: “The past year has seen the entire world take on the largest flexible working experiment and now, people want to hold on to the best parts of working close to home. Gone are the days when professionals wouldn’t bat an eyelid at a two-hour commute during rush hour. What we are seeing is a permanent shift to how and where we work.

“The demand for flexible workspaces shows no signs of slowing, not just in London but across the U.K. There’s a huge opportunity for franchise investors to tap into this and be a part of the remote working revolution.”


With schools a hotly debated topic, e-learning services have been in increased demand during the course of the pandemic and show no signs of slowing down as we move closer to all restrictions being removed. One example is bfa member Mathnasium, which is celebrating a doubling of turnover despite the worst trading year in living memory.

Master franchisee John Preston attributes the network’s resilience and success to being able to switch overnight to an online tuition portal. An instant success, Mathnasium’s bespoke online learning system allowed the franchisees and the network to remain in business, offering live face-to-face Maths tuition and support to students wherever they were. “In fact, our year-on-year revenue more than doubled – up by 109 per cent for the period March 2020 to February 2021.”

So, there is optimism in our membership, and in the wider business community. For some, there has been no option to pivot in this way, but for those who have had the ability and the willingness to adapt, the turbulence of this period has shown a new way to do business, and I am sure that some of that will continue long into the future.

The author

Terence Corness is head of brand and innovation at the bfa. With a background in event and video production, as well as creative content design, Terence worked with the bfa for many years before joining in his current capacity.

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