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Franchising: Rigorous compliance system is key to sustaining standards —DMD, Tantalizers

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By UCHE AKOLISA
The quick service restaurant (QSR) industry in Nigeria has in the last few years been passing through throes of rebirth with declining human traffic(due to constriction in the spending power of consumers),food safety issues and challenges of consistency in standards, especially as many of them are delving into franchising as an expansionist strategy. 
In this interview with UCHE AKOLISA, the Deputy Managing Director Tantalizers Plc,  GbolahanLabijo shares nuggets of wisdom on how the leading  food company has been beating the odds:
Tantalizer is one of the major sponsors of Nigerian Idol. Why does it identify with the Nigerian Idol?
One of the key initiatives we sponsor is anything that has to do with youth empowerment.  It is important to us because, the Nigerian Idol is associated with the youths. It encourages and enhances their talent. Our involvement is part of our objective and social initiative.
What value does association with Nigerian Idol add to the Tantalizers brand? What you do want to achieve with support of Nigerian Idol?
First: association with the base brand. Secondly:  association with the youth. You have to be where your audience is. Our target audience is age 16 to 37 and this target group is watching Nigerian Idol so we have to support them and at the same time encourage the youths. The way Nigeria Idol works is that you get raw talent and develop them and they might become future stars. It is at this development that Tantalizers is involved.
How does your support translate to economic gains?
Through our support we are reaching our target audience through communication. For example, one of key sponsorships that we do with Nigerian Idol is our meal voucher and gift certificate. Our gift certificate is being sold in all our 53 restaurants and we are the first to introduce it in Nigeria. So, by association with the right group. They(youths) want to give their boyfriend or  girlfriend gifts and we encourage them to buy the gift certificate and in return, they visit our restaurant and increase traffic to our restaurants.
How long have you been doing it?
We started last year. Our intent is to be with them for the next five years, until their initial license with American Idol expires.
Tantalizer has gone into franchising, lately. One of the Achilles’ heel of franchising is diluting the equity of the brand, because, with your license people try to replicate you, so,the issue of maintaining standards comes in. How is Tantalizer dealing with that?
You don’t go into franchising without having a compliance team on ground.
For you to be a Tantalizer franchisee, you might be rich but you must undergo a three-week training in order to understand our system. We have three measurement gaps we try to put in place. Number one: We have a compliance team that visits once a month and they do what we call, ‘quality audit.’ Any deviation, they(the franchisee) have 24 hours to correct it. We hire a third party agency which come from outside and visit our restaurants on monthly basis. They are the mystery shoppers.
They send their report to the corporate centre. We react to any violation of our standards within an hour. Thirdly, we have people we call franchise business managers who are responsible for each outlet in consortium with the franchisee. So, that rigorous system enables us to ensure consistency throughout our system.
Bird flu has been a recurring challenge not just to farmers but players in the quick service restaurant industry because you serve chicken as part of your menu. Recently, we had an outbreak in different parts of the country.
How do you contend with this challenge in your business?
From time to time, you are going to have some incidents in the farmers’ poultry industry but we have alternatives; we have fish and beef. During the outbreak, it did not affect us because it didn’t affect any our poultry farms.
You people have a poultry farm?
No, we have collaboration with four major poultry farms; Obasanj o Farms, Zartech, Country Fresh in Ilorin and Globus. Those are the four largest in the country. Since they were not affected, we were not affected.
We don’t pray for a situation like what we had years back where the outbreak was so widespread that people had to go off chicken, if such a situation occurs, what would be your response?
Our response would be to sell a lot more fish and beef and goat meat.
Recently, we have had safety issues in some food companies in Nigeria. Maggots were found in a ice-cream product and in another instance, dirt in a beverage product. What is Tantalizers’ protocol as regards safety to prevent such an occurrence?
Safety is everybody’s major focus at Tantalizers that is why we take all our staff on orientation on quarterly basis with focus on safety mechanisms. Some of our foods come from our central kitchen which is where we produce them. That process is hygienically sound. Since one of our shareholders is IFC, safety is paramount thing for them. So, we always make sure we stay above board. Also in all our restaurants we encourage our customers to be safety-conscious.The biggest challenge we have is transporting germs from one person to the other and the only way you can transfer germs is through your hands, that is why we have Purrel Sanitizers in all our outlets.
According to your protocol, how often do your attendants have to wash their hands?
They are required to wash their hands every 30 minutes and when they change job positions. In the sense, if I am sweeping the floor and change to go to the back, I must wash my hands.
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