The Patterson File: Snack in the box - A franchise with a future

Following a management buy-out, Snack-in-the-Box has three new directors: Managing Director Bill Owen, Operations Director Mike Funston and Sales Director Matthew O'Neil. Gordon Patterson interviews the new leadership on the future direction of the franchise

Gordon Patterson: How many years of combined experience in franchising have the three of you built at Snack-in-the-Box (SITB)?
Mike Funston: Bill Owen has been a founder member of the Head Office Team since the franchise was launched in 1996. I was one of the first franchisees and joined the Head Office Team shortly thereafter. Matthew O'Neil subsequently joined the team almost six years ago. Our collective franchising experience therefore spans 24 years as Managing Director, Operations Director and Sales Director.

GP: I understand that you operate two franchise systems?

MF: For six years we were exclusively involved in a snack delivery franchise operating the 'self-service' snack box business, which was designed to cater for the needs of premises having between two and 20 members of staff. Having developed a mature franchise network offering this service, it became apparent there was a niche marketplace above and separate to the box business.

GP: How did you approach servicing this niche market?
Matthew O'Neil: We identified specialist slim-line vending equipment for the medium size workplace. This niche market was too small for conventional large vending machines and inappropriate for the self-service box.

Two marketplaces requiring a service by two snack delivery systems gave us another opportunity to be associated with Cadbury, servicing and developing an even larger market.

GP:How does Cadbury view the association with Snack-in-the-Box?
MF: Very positively indeed - so much so that the company is re-investing to upgrade the originally allocated equipment and financially supporting a programme of vending machine enhancement over the next three years.

Cadbury has great confidence in the future of SITB and has pledged continued use of its corporate image in the future.

GP: What is the advantage of franchising for a major brand?
Bill Owen: The systems and controls that franchising allows enable the brand to feel totally comfortable that the use of its trademark will be respected. In effect, franchising with SITB has provided Cadbury with an additional 18,000 outlets that it would not otherwise be able to access. SITB franchisees are reporting back accurate information on product sales generated at each of their sites, which is also invaluable to a major brand.

GP: Why the management buy-out?
BO: It was initiated by the desire of two of the former board members to retire. We recognised that with our expertise and understanding of the business concept, the acquisition of SITB was a logical progression and would provide the springboard to launch new franchise opportunities.

As a team we had a strong desire to preserve our working relationship and build on knowledge that we had acquired over 24 years. We want to consolidate SITB and ensure the future success of its franchise network.

GP: What is your vision for the future?
BO: We are currently evaluating a number of potential franchise opportunities with established household names. It is our intention to bring to the franchise market new business systems that will be modelled on the success formula developed through SITB.

GP: It sounds like you intend to become an even more powerful player in franchising in the UK.
MF: By developing multi-brand franchise systems we will be able to build further networks that offer prospective franchisees a range of investment opportunities in association with major household names.

GP: What is the next concept you will bring to the market?
MO'N: A major brand and manufacturer of short shelf-life chilled products has a strong desire to increase its market share through vending. Our experience in dovetailing franchising with vending has convinced this brand that SITB can provide a unique and safe route to market.

GP: Are you likely to change the location of Head Office location as the new shareholders?
MF: SITB has just moved into a new purpose-built modern Head Office. This new facility has been designed for future growth and we are looking forward to launching our new franchise opportunities from here, as we are well catered for in the long term.

GP: As your multi-brand operation grows and develops, you must have plans to add to your Head Office team.
MF: We are totally committed to maintaining and supporting our existing franchisees. We are therefore, currently investing in additional key personnel to assist in developing the new opportunities.

GP: You come across as people who are very professional.
BO: We recognise that as individuals we each have different skills and experiences within franchising. The success of SITB has demonstrated that these qualities have combined to make an effective franchisor team.