The growth of franchises

There are franchises appearing all over, and in fairness, that’s the whole point of them! From fast-food restaurants to pubs, many people try their hand at a franchise as a route into the world of business. Currently, there are more than 120 industries that have franchised companies. Usually, the franchisee would receive help with their site selection and development support, brand standards, quality control, training, operating manuals and business advisory support from the franchisor.

Here, we delve into the workings of some of the UK’s top franchises and what we can learn from them:



John Gregg set up a delivery service in the 1930s. He delivered yeast and eggs on his bicycle to communities in Newcastle upon Tyne.

After over 10 years of running this service, 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.

When his dad passed away, it was up to Ian Gregg to take over the family business in 1964. 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.

By 1984, the business’s expansion was well under way and more than 260 shops were located in four areas of the country. 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.

During the noughties, the company’s rapid growth continued. By investing in a large Technical Centre, the company was able to focus on developing an array of new recipes while improving old favourites.

Key business features

Stay local: Nowadays, Greggs has close to 1,700 shops across the nation and all are rooted to their local communities by offering regional favourites alongside their popular national range.

Lookers Group


When John Looker founded the company in 1908 in Manchester, he initially sold bicycles, parts, accessories and the odd used car. 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.

In 1918, it was appointed as a distributor of Austin motors and continued to grow by purchasing a number of 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.

Moving forwards several decades and the business’s first major acquisition happened in the 1960s when the Group arrived in 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.

Today, the Group is recognised as one of the top three motor vehicle retailers and Motability dealers in the UK, representing 32 manufacturers and selling car models at its 150 franchised dealerships.

Key business features

Value your people: in Lookers were awarded top employer UK 2017 and 2018 accreditations which shows that they recognise the importance in looking after your own if you want to be a success.  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 original Wetherspoon came in the form of a former bookmakers’ store in North London in 1979. 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.

The company’s first pub with a no-smoking bar was opened in North Finchley in 1991. Then, they moved more into Central London, with their first pub in Liverpool Street Station. 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.

It was then that things began to move even faster as they moved out of London in 1993 to open chains in Bracknell and Norwich. 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.

When the company added free Wi-Fi to their pubs, they proved they were adapting to how the world was changing. By 2007 the first wedding was held. 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.

Key business features

Festival spirit: The chain is a great advocate for getting into the festival spirit and at present they are involved in a biannual beer festival which has an impressive 60 beers on tap.

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

Key travel locations: The chain is cautious to position its pubs in busy 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.

What can businesses learn from Wetherspoon?

It’s clear that their success has indicated that location is crucial, and people seek out offers. Wetherspoon’s have succeeded most by being flexible and adapting to their environment.

The above are only three examples from what is a massive pool of successful franchises. However, it’s clear that the franchise world is going to continue growing, regardless of the industry you choose. 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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