Robin Stenhouse is the Managing Director of Baguette Express, the company he founded with his brother Billy in 1999. A former soldier and haulage business owner, Robin is not afraid of hard work and spent many years perfecting the Baguette Express franchise model before rolling out his brand across the UK and now Dubai.
BeTheBoss: Tell us about the Baguette Express concept.
Robin Stenhouse: I think the concept can be described with one word: simplicity. Take a good selection of tasty and healthy ingredients, breads baked on the premises and let customers choose exactly what they want for one great price. Our brand is strong and our store-fronts are a quality, eye-catching addition to any high street or shopping mall. Our business model is refined and streamlined, and our investment level is comparatively low, giving the franchisee a great opportunity to reach profitability much sooner than with other competitor brands.
BTB: How and when did you become involved with Baguette Express?
RS: In 1999 my brother Bllly and I opened a sandwich shop in our home town and that is where the Baguette Express concept was developed. Fantastic results led to fairly organic expansion and by 2004 we had grown to 7 shops. It was obvious to us that Baguette Express had the potential to become a National brand, however until that point we had not considered franchising the business. We reached out to some of the top franchise consultants in the UK and very carefully positioned the company as a franchise opportunity – now we have over 60 outlets under the baguette express brand in the UK and in Dubai.
BTB: What was your background prior to joining Baguette Express?
RS: I served in the Army and then ran my own specialized road haulage business for 6 years, both of which were great, but I think everything I did before was simply leading up to the moment when my brother Billy and I started on our Baguette Express adventure. Building up the business and launching it a franchise is where I have learned the most.
BTB: What are some of the advantages in being a Baguette Express franchisee?
RS: Well, in terms of investing in a Baguette Express franchise as opposed to starting up on your own, I’d say there are many. For a start, we have been perfecting the business model for 15 years and have rolled it out more than 60 times in as many different locations, so your set up should come with no big surprises or unforeseen costs. Our business stopped being about sandwiches as soon as we became a franchise – since then all our efforts are directed at supporting the franchisees, master franchisees and regional developers in our network.
BTB: Who is your ideal franchisee?
RS: Someone with a passion for business, a great leader of people, a decision maker, someone ambitious enough to want to develop a multi-unit portfolio, someone smart enough to follow a proven system and not cut corners.
BTB: Tell us a little about the Food to Go Market?
RS: It’s certainly a buoyant market in all the territories that we operate in. People will always need to buy food when they are at work or on holiday or just out shopping. What changes are peoples tastes and peoples budgets. You will always have people who simply can’t afford to buy food on the go at any price and you will always have people who have the time and resources to go to a restaurant when they are hungry. Sandwiches are about as convenient method of eating on the go as you can get. Easy to transport, easy to eat on the move, they will keep you busy…. Baguette Express customers are people who want to choose from a variety of top quality, healthy and fresh ingredients to make a sandwich of their choosing, served quickly in a bright, welcoming and clean environment for a good price with no hidden costs – I’m confident that that represents the majority of people in the majority of towns and cities across Canada.
BTB: What are some of the greatest lessons you’ve learned in growing this franchise?
RS: That it’s important to have a good team around you and recognize that you can’t be good at everything, everyone in our team brings an important element to the business, you can never do enough marketing and dedication and hard work does pay off!
BTB: Do you have a mentor and is there someone you use for inspiration?
RS:I don’t have a mentor as such but I have taken inspiration from my Father who was a fantastic salesman and had the ability to win over the greatest critics, I also admire Warren Buffet whose in depth knowledge and understanding of companies from all different sectors is phenomenal, I would be happy to have a fraction of that knowledge and wisdom.
BTB: What advice do you have for someone looking to acquire a Franchise?
RS:It’s a huge decision and you will need to a mammoth amount of research and due diligence. Be really honest with yourself about what you want to achieve and how hard you want to work. Buying a franchise means buying a business, not buying a salary. No matter how good the model is or how successful the other franchisees have been, you will have to put in the hard work if you want to get the benefits. Equally, you are committing to run the business to a certain minimum standard for at least 5 years, so it’s not something you can just pick up and put down when you fancy. Also, make sure you trust and like the franchisor – if it doesn’t feel right don’t do it; same thing goes for the franchisor, I won’t let anyone have a Baguette Express franchise unless I feel really confident that they will make a success of it and follow the system.
BTB: In your opinion, why do you think that Baguette Express franchise would be a great opportunity for someone?
RS:Our franchisees get a brilliant idea, a great brand, a proven business model, training on every aspect of running the business and the ongoing support for the entire life of the business – that sounds like a great opportunity to me! To be fair that’s what you should expect from any great franchise, but if you want the chance to bring a brand new brand into Canada and build a large network of franchised outlets that offers customers something exciting and new then Baguette Express should really be at the top of your list of people to talk to.