Confiserie Leonidas is a family owned company of 110 years standing which has now morphed into a major Belgian chocolate franchise right across the globe. Belgian chocolate is royalty among chocolates. Since 1913 it has developed a reputation for excellence that helps all its brands. But Leonidas was distributing Belgian chocolate long before it became a fashionable product. It’s a long established brand which is well entrenched in the market offering a mark of quality to all potential franchisees. Franchising.eu spoke to its Business Unit Manager Philippe Seigle.
What is the strategy the company is following for developing the franchise?
Philippe Seigle: Even though we are active in more than 30 markets across all continents, our primary focus is on European markets. In the past 5 years, we have established ourselves in new countries such as Romania and Portugal through our dynamic partners, and we are now looking for openings in new Northern and Eastern markets such as Poland, Sweden, Norway, Hungary and Serbia.
What would you say is the unique selling proposition or distinguishing features of your franchise?
We are a soft franchise, i.e. we do not have entry fees, royalties nor advertising fees. We are basically a Belgian family-owned company which is producing Belgian pralines, looking to work with other families as distribution partners in their own territories. We provide a sales and marketing "toolkit" with only a few rules e.g. following our retail concept, so this business model is for true entrepreneurs willing to build their own local business empire. We don’t offer geographical exclusivity as we do not want to tie ourselves down and limit the potential for growth through competition.
What is of greatest interest to franchisees when they consider your brand?
Chocolate is passion! Passion to bring moments of happiness for all. Consumers enter a Leonidas store either for finding a delicious gift for their loved ones or for indulging themselves, so it is always a joyful experience for all. Of course franchisees are interested in the terms of the franchise and for some the fact that we don’t offer exclusivity may be a turn off. However, what we offer is a high quality asset in the brand. Location is obviously an issue There is no need for the store to be on a high street and we are not dependent on tourist traffic as tourists are rarely focused on our range of products when on visits. Nor do we find that shopping malls are the best venues. We do better from the chocolate cafe traffic.Finally, they want to know about profitability. We find that October-April with peaks around Christmas and Easter is our best selling period for pralines. The good news is that we have enjoyed 26% growth on 2018 while experiencing a 10% growth of the network, meaning that volume of sales across the franchise has grown organically.
What does the franchise want to know the most about potential candidates for being a franchisee?
We work under "intuitu personae" which means that we partner with an identified person who must own at least 50% + 1 share of his/her company. Therefore, the first thing we want to know is with whom we will be working together in the next few years. It is also critical to make sure that the candidate understands the basics of a business by preparing a simple P&L, i.e. a financial plan for the next 5 years. We have become a little stricter about the selection of candidates to partner with. We want to avoid business failure as these are painful for both the brands and the individuals who lose out. We also want individuals who want can make the necessary investment and we’re flexible about being prepared to amplify that investment when we see potential and financial commitments from the partner.
What do you think is the critical factor which in your view will determine the success for anyone taking on the franchise?
The successful candidate must be an entrepreneur, passionate about their business... and about chocolate! A strong knowledge of sales & marketing, as well as experience in a retail environment are strong assets, yet they will not be sufficient if the franchisee is waiting for the Leonidas HQ to run his/her own business. Dynamism and initiative are the most important qualities! One thing is certain, an owner of one of our stores can’t be a ‘dreamer’ who just hides behind the brand and the counter. The business requires a proactive attitude on B2B and marketing and to get the most out of this brand you have to be prepared to put in the effort.
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