I’ve just framed a new concept in marketing: microfranchising.

Heading out of the boutique hotel this morning, K and I stopped off at a coffee shop for breakfast. The pastries looked good, but what pushed us inwards was the logo: the familiar Costa Coffee chain.

The shop wasn’t a Costa Coffee, though. The coffee shop owners had simply ‘franchised’ one tiny part of their shop – the coffee machine – and stuck a Costa logo in the window. A microfranchise.

What this means is the shop owner is getting the best of both worlds. He’s running his family cafe, with muffins and sandwiches far better than cardboard-wrapped chainstore fare, yet he also gains the increased traffic a big-name brand brings. (If you’ve ever seen a crowded McDonalds across the road from a struggling yet far better local burger joint you’ll know how powerful this effect is.)

Now, I don’t know how many cups of coffee the guy sells, but he’s undoubtedly increased his store traffic as a result, and I bet Costa is smiling too, locking him in long-term to buying their coffee like a tied pub (and probably paying for the coffee machine on credit with interest, too.) Everybody wins. And with technology, franchise accounts that wouldn’t have been economic for the franchisor twenty years ago – £500 a month, say – are worth servicing. Just another way in which technology has made the world better.

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