COVID-19 impacts on business; KFC store shut; franchisors adapt

By Sarah Stowe | 16 Mar 2020 View comments

As Victoria declares a state of emergency for four weeks, and the ACT announces a public health emergency, how are franchisors adapting to COVID-19 impacts on business?

Just a few days ago KFC closed a Brisbane store after a staff member tested positive for COVID-19. The team member has quarantined and the Deagon restaurant will remain closed until further notice.

A statement from franchisee Collins Foods reads: “All employees who have worked recent shifts with that team member have been advised to self-isolate. The health and wellbeing of our team members and customers is our number one priority, especially in these uncertain times.

“We are working with the Queensland Health Department and are following their guidelines. This restaurant will remain closed until we are certain that there are no health risks for our employees or customers. Collins Foods will continue to implement all measures to ensure the safety of our employees and customers.”

How COVID-19 impacts on business

The travel sector has been badly hit by the pandemic. Flight Centre in Australia will shutter 100 stores in the wake of drastic drops in travel. Just a week ago the travel chain announced a four-day week to try and counter the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Cheesecake Shop has taken pre-emptive action over the COVID-19 pandemic. Ken Rosebery announced on LinkedIn a work from home initiative at The Cheesecake Shop corporate offices.

“Seventy per cent of our staff can work flexibly from home. Office365, MS Teams and our robust franchisee reporting systems are all cloud based,” he wrote.

“We have also implemented increased hygiene initiatives at both our offices and franchised stores. We think this is a sensible response for the safety of our staff, families and communities and a worthwhile experiment in accelerating the adoption of online collaboration tools.”

Home Caring which operates in the at-home care arena with elderly and disabled clients, has boosted its already rigorous hygiene precautions for frontline carers. The current pandemic however has done nothing to dent interest in investment, according to Bill Locket.

“Applications continue to come in from across the country. Now though instead of visiting prospective franchisees I will be doing recruiting through Zoom,” he told Inside Franchise Business.

Appliance Tagging Services is used to operating under strict regulations in the health and safety arena.

GM Sarah Allen told Inside Franchise Business “The situation of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is evolving rapidly. Our highest priority is to maintain the health and safety of our staff and franchisees.”

ATS is working with its IT providers to determine the most effective manner for some support office staff to work remotely, and will be conducting any one-on-one meetings with franchisees through Microsoft Teams.

In forward planning, ATS is asking all support office staff and franchisees to advise the firm of any family commitments in the event schools close and they will be required to provide supervision of their children.

At head office ATS is replacing hand towels hourly and suggesting staff may wish to provide their own hand towel. All non-essential ATS support office staff interstate travel has been cancelled to end April 2020.

Allen said “Some of our clients have advised that no trades are to attend site until further notice. This is not the majority of our clients, it is a very small few. We will continue to work with our clients to schedule our services at mutually convenient times.”

COVID-19, fitness and wellbeing

With news of a COVID-19 case at a Sydney Fitness First gym last week, there is yet more attention on hygiene measures at gyms.

Nigel Miller, franchisor at Plus Fitness, explained how the 24/7 chain is addressing current concerns.

“We have a full action plan that we rolled out last week across our network which largely focuses on an increase in our already stringent gym hygiene policies.”

Miller highlighted the need for good communication to ensure both franchisees and members are getting accurate information “so that there is no unnecessary concern around attending the gym”.

He added “We are also in the process of preparing a framework of strategies for our franchisees based on a number of escalated scenarios which may of course not occur. However, these scenarios must be considered now based on what we have seen eventuate in markets outside of Australia.”

David Wilkinson at City Cave reports the health and wellness centres are doubling down on hygiene with extra hand sanitiser and paper towels.

“We’re focused on immune-boosting services like our float and sauna services which were totally packed over the weekend. From a franchisor prospective, we’re offering all staff free services weekly to give everyone the best chance of a strong healthy immune system.

“We’re aware this isn’t a cure, however we’re making sure we’re giving ourselves, our franchisees and their staff the best chance for their health and the health of their business. and we’re currently seeing great growth across the majority of our centres.”

Lawyers advise and adjust

Marianne Marchesi, founder and principal at Legalite, told Inside Franchise Business, “We are recommending our clients set up a contingency plan – outlining a remote work policy, cyber security policy, health and hygiene for their clients and staff. Depending on the business they may also need to look at their supply contracts and leases. But most importantly, exercising self care and looking out for each other.”

For Gable Lawyers principal Jane Garber-Rosenzweig, the new reality is about adapting to working remotely with clients.

Gable Lawyers' Jane Garber-Rosenzweig's LinkedIn post

Gable Lawyers’ Jane Garber-Rosenzweig’s LinkedIn post