#107 The End of a Monarchy: Burger King in Germany

Although Burger King has had its fair share of failures in international markets, things haven’t been going all that bad for the fast food giant over the last decade. Last month, however, the King was (partially) deposed in Germany. After repeated reports of poor hygiene and sub-standard working conditions, Burger King has terminated the contract with its largest franchisee in Germany. Over night, franchisee Yi-Ko Holding was ordered to close 89 stores or more than 10 % of all Burger King stores in Germany. Approximately 3,000 employees all over Germany were let go. What had gone wrong? In bare bone terms, investigative reporters had reported on severe breeches of the franchise agreement. The franchisee allegedly had ordered employees to alter the expiration dates on food products. Also, according to the reports, some of the restaurants didn’t even have the most basic restaurant equipment like dishwashers or garbage disposals. So much for the facts. But what has happened behind the scenes? If a franchisee of a global brand is in severe breech of the most basic stipulations of a franchise agreement, then the blame is often shared – particularly when it takes investigative journalism to uncover such a massive failure. It is hard to tell at this point, but in general it is the franchisor who sets the stage for success or failure. Successful global franchising starts by setting clear performance expectations and unambiguous language about contract enforcement. Another critical issue is the selection of the right franchisee who understands the culture of the global brand and has the capacity to implement the franchise system. If the franchisee acquires a master-franchise, then contractual arrangements, ability, and trust become even more important as the master-franchisee has the right to appoint sub-franchisees, leaving the brand owner even more removed from the market. And then there are training, permanent quality control and enforcement. In the recent case in Germany, it is almost certain that Burger King headquarters must have failed in some aspect. Once again, it has suffered from a disease that many global brands suffer from, a certain inability to transfer competitive advantage coming from a global brand and a well-oiled defined business model. So in some way, the King was not deposed in Germany. He has abdicated.

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