What began as a waitering job at Welkom’s Indiana Spur in 1989 has turned into multi-franchise ownership for Donald Clarkson, who now owns nine Spur restaurants and several other outlets. And with the continued support of Nedbank, Clarkson has already set his sights on acquiring more Spurs in the coming months.
During his time as a waiter, through to a junior manager, and eventually working himself up the ladder until he bought his first shares in Tucson Spur in Kempton Park, Clarkson has seen quite a few changes in the South African franchise market in the almost three decades he has been part of it.
“The market has become far more proliferated and competitive. It also has a greater international brand representation. In the past, the number of national franchise brands in the country were limited but this has changed. Today, brands have grown significantly with customers looking for even more unique offerings.”
A proud tradition
For this multi-franchise owner, Spur was a natural choice.
“It is an iconic brand in South Africa and has been around for more than 50 years. The support provided by Spur head office to franchise owners is invaluable. This includes assistance with daily operations, marketing, staff training, improving the quality of products and experience the brand has locally. The intellectual properties of Spur and its solid business relationships help franchisees succeed,” he says.
Clarkson includes community development as a key part of his business approach to the franchises.
“My outlets focus on the local community surrounding each store. Spur head office also encourages us to think outside the box and keep reinventing ourselves to offer our customers the best possible experience. In a competitive South African market, this is vital.”
As with any business, it has not always been smooth sailing.
“In the restaurant industry, we have to ensure the quality of food and service remain high. To this end, we have recently moved away from mass discounting and are focusing on food quality. At first, we felt it in our turnover. But, over time, it has resulted in better operations, higher quality product, less complaints and lower staff turnover. More importantly, it began to show in our franchisee margin and the increase in the number of happy customers.”
Clarkson admits that Nedbank has been an important partner in helping overcome some of the local challenges in the franchise market.
“Nedbank has always been there to help grow our business. We can rely on the bank to fund at least half of our total set-up cost or purchase price on any new venture. We are always looking for growth whether it be buying an existing business or setting up a new business from scratch. Knowing that Nedbank is there for funding as well as a bank guarantee for the landlord, the opening of new bank accounts, and of course credit card machines, makes it a much smoother process.”
While daunting, entering the franchise market does provide significant rewards. Clarkson says that a new franchisee must understand what is required to manage the daily running of a Spur.
“They should speak to new as well as old franchisees to get a feel of how things work and have changed over the years. One needs to know what you are in for as well as understand the challenges that lie ahead.”
Asked if he would do things differently from the beginning if he had the chance, Clarkson said he would have created a strong relationship with Spur HQ. “I believe their input and support is paramount to running a successful business. Over the last few years, I have realised that we both have the same goals and objectives. Working together is beneficial for all of us.”
Brought to you by Nedbank Franchising.