Paris Baguette is rising above the Franchisee training mold: Q&A with chief development officer Larry Sidoti

For some restaurant brands, the franchising model leads the way to success. We’ve seen big names such as Wendy’s and McDonald’s working their way to having 95 percent of their locations operated by franchisees, leaving only a small percentage to the companies themselves, and the ADP National Franchise Report showed that restaurants in the franchise sector offered an increase in job opportunities, suggesting its strength in the industry.

Still, franchising comes with its cricks and challenges. Aside from the capital and time it takes to build a solid infrastructure for operations and a solid relationship for all of those involved, most brands sitting on the fence of whether or not to jump on the franchisee bandwagon are concerned that their concept’s passion, mission, and values may not carry throughout in this model. The secret all lies in adequate and consistent training.

Looking for a little inspiration? Here is how fast casual bakery-café Paris Baguette is rising above the franchisee training mold — and trust us, their solution is no half-baked idea. In fact, their new training model may be the best thing since sliced bread.

Getting With the Program

While other brands typically have one corporate office and test kitchen that doubles as a training facility, and perhaps a few weeks or courses of franchisee training, Paris Baguette has invested in four training centers across the United States. According to a release, the centers are equipped with a test kitchen, lecture hall, training rooms specific to each product category, a demo store, and each center is bigger than most headquarters of even the largest 500+ location-chains at approximately 12,000 square feet.

Paris Baguette offers 14 weeks of training, 10 of them being in baking and cake decorating instruction, three dedicated to sales, and one focusing on sandwich-making. These facilities also act as product-testing and development centers, so the staff never stops innovating. (The famous “Nutella Croissant Muffin” came to life in their test kitchens!)

The centers are in Commerce, Calif.; Moonachie, N.J.; and are being developed in Atlanta, Ga., and Santa Clara, Calif.

Q&A With Chief Development Officer Larry Sidoti on Franchisee Training

Larry Sidoti is a proven force when it comes to brand development. Before making his bread and butter with Paris Baguette, he provided strategic leadership as the vice president of development at several major brands, including Ruby’s Diner, Inc., Yogurtland, TCBY and Mrs. Fields Franchising, and he founded retail juice and smoothie chain Juice It Up!

1. In your experience, what have been the biggest challenges in franchisee training and support (or lack thereof)? How do your training centers combat this?

Larry Sidoti: There are two main challenges that most food-related franchises face in regards to training — absolute focus from franchisees, and driving home the overall mission and philosophy of the brand while helping franchisees understand the physical, day-to-day aspects of the business.

Focus is a critical component throughout the training period. Our rigorous 14-week training program requires franchisees to be extremely attentive to detail. Seeing as how our program is significantly longer than the standard in the franchising industry, we try to eliminate as many distractions as possible during training (such as by asking franchisees to leave their phones behind, etc.) We are changing people’s careers while teaching a very specific skill, which is not something one can easily pick up in a few days.

While baking is a major component of the training program, it’s important that our franchisees leave with a comprehensive understanding of why we do things the way that we do — understanding that reasoning and rational is key for franchisee buy in, and while it may be a challenge to execute, our training program is designed to educate franchisees on multiple levels.

2. How did the idea for these four support centers come about and what steps did your team take to implement the new program?

LS: Our tremendous training team has been implementing this program since we first began franchising in the United States in 2015, and we continue to improve upon the process daily. The way we conduct our training is how Paris Baguette operates internationally, and we want to continue to replicate this proven process here in the United States.

3. What elements and team members involved make Paris Baguette’s franchisee training program so unique, especially when it comes to operational support and logistics?

LS: We go in with a mindset that we’re not training franchisees – we’re training people to become professional bakers. While everyone who goes through our training program will end up in a certain position, whether its franchisee, store manager or operator, the main focus is teaching the techniques necessary to become an expert baker, and this approach is different from any I’ve witnessed in this space.

We wanted to invest in four regional logistical and operational support facilities and two training centers to make the entire training process less burdensome on our franchise family. While everyone may not live close a training facility, we’re aiming to make the process as seamless as possible by broadening the areas we can host the training program in.

4. What successes and growth have you seen since this started?

LS: The largest indicator of the training centers’ success is the overall success of our franchisees. Our franchisees are operating as good, if not better, than our corporate stores, and have experienced impressive average unit volume numbers that have surpassed our corporate stores.

5. What three words would you use to describe Paris Baguette’s passion and mission?

LS: I can do it in two — deliver happiness. That’s our mission on a worldwide scale. We simply want to make people happy. In the United States, the “experience” in a food concept is often missed. The actual product may not match with the experience, or vice versa. At Paris Baguette, we believe we’ve done a great job of striking that perfect balance, and pride ourselves on offering superior products while providing pristine customer service.

6. How do you hope for franchising in foodservice to improve as a whole? Any words of wisdom you can share about the importance of training and support?

LS: No matter the concept, it has always been my belief that franchisees will typically outperform corporate-run locations as they have skin in the game. Food brands today have become much more specialized, therefore training needs to become more comprehensive. Franchisees need to be exposed to the physical elements of the brand (execution of the product, day-to-day operations, etc.) while also understanding the company’s core values, mission, and purpose.

I truly believe franchise systems would experience greater success overall if more brands, especially emerging concepts, implemented more robust training programs that not only emphasize concept execution but indoctrinate franchise partners into the brand values, beliefs, and purpose. Restaurant franchises in particular are becoming more of an investment vehicle than a passion project, which does not deliver the same results as a devoted franchisee. The more franchisees believe in the company, the more cohesive your system will be. This stems from the very beginning, and training plays a crucial role in setting up franchisees and your overall system for success.

  • Interior stock image
  • Interior stock image