Much of the research on franchising as an organizational form relies on an agency theory explanation. In short, it assumes operators of local franchise establishments will have greater incentive to operate efficiently if they are owners of the establishment (i.e., franchisees) rather than managers employed by the franchisor-owner. However, there isn’t a lot of empirical research substantiating that assumption. Matt Sveum and my recent working paper finds that there does appear to be a franchise effect–but it depends on the nature of the business format. We use US Census data for essentially all limited- and full-service restaurants in the US and find franchising explains differences in establishment performance for full-service, but not for limited-service, restaurants. The abstract follows:
While there has been signiﬁcant research on the reasons for franchising, little work has examined the effects of franchising on establishment performance. This paper attempts to ﬁll that gap. We use restricted-access US Census Bureau microdata from the 2007 Census of Retail Trade to examine establishment-level productivity of franchisee- and franchisor-owned restaurants. We do this by employing a two-stage data envelopment analysis model where the ﬁrst stage uses DEA to measure each establishment’s eﬃciency. The DEA efficiency score is then used as the second-stage dependent variable. The results show a strong and robust effect attributed to franchisee ownership for full service restaurants, but a smaller and insigniﬁcant difference for limited service restaurants. We believe the differences in task programmability between limited and full service restaurants results in a very different role for managers/franchisees and is the driving factor behind the different results.