Tag Archives: franchise

awards: national vegbox scheme riverford is recognised at the franchising oscars

franchisee awards

Designed to celebrate the country’s most exceptional franchisors, the British Franchising Association’s annual awards counted an organic farm on its shortlist this year. National vegbox scheme Riverford delivers across most of England and South Wales through a network of franchisees, known as ‘vegmen and vegladies’, who know and support their customers in the use of their fruit, veg, dairy and farm shop items.

“We were impressed by Riverford’s thorough, eight-stage recruitment process. Prospects must know the company’s ethos as well as their products,” said the BFA judges report. “Offering full disclosure, Riverford staff and the whole network are made available to help prospects with information like business planning templates and P&L forecasts. The process is robust. And the result is that they haven’t had a business failure in 15 years’ franchising – confirmation that their approach works.”

It is the first time that Riverford have been nominated for this award, and the team are understandably delighted. Riverford’s Franchise Services Manager Nicky Morgan says, “Riverford takes pride in working with franchisees who mirror our ‘good food, good farming, good business’ ethos. We have refined our recruitment process to ensure that the right people are selected based on their business acumen, personal qualities and a genuine desire to work towards a common goal in what is essentially a fairly niche market. It is a huge accolade to have had this process recognised by the BFA in our recent nomination as finalist in the Franchisee Recruitment category of the 2014 Franchisor Awards.”
The awards were held at a black-tie gala dinner at Heythrop Park in Oxfordshire.

guy’s newsletter: the f word & togetherness

Twenty years ago my evenings were spent chugging around south Devon in a beaten up Transit van, delivering to our early vegbox customers. Our offering was pretty basic but the reception was rapturous and we never looked back. It certainly beat being abused by supermarket buyers. As customer numbers grew, I bought more clapped-out vans, employed wayward drivers, and started getting complaints about service, bruised veg and bad driving. It made sense to contract out the delivering and go back to what I loved and was good at: growing the veg. What started as a loose agreement with musicians and misfits with underutilised vans evolved into a franchise by the late ‘90s. We now have around 70 local franchisees delivering anything from 100 to 1,400 boxes a week, along with great customer service. You’ll know them as your local vegmen and ladies.

I never meant to get into franchising. For years no one could mention the f word; to me it meant bad burgers and a wired-back, ‘have a nice day’ smile. Some franchises are exploitative schemes to make a quick buck, but ours is different. Most Riverford vegmen joined because, like me, they love good food, believe in organic farming, good business and making the world a better place. We are totally dependent on each other and on the growers that supply us.

Last month we gathered at Sacrewell, our farm on the edge of the Fens, to share experiences and innovations, to plan, drink, eat and make merry. Since the recession hit in 2008 it has been harder to win and keep customers. A few franchisees left, but mostly we’ve collectively adjusted to a much harder market with a renewed determination to do better. The feeling of togetherness was wonderful and left me full of optimism for the future. Good business, like many good things in life, is all about nurturing long-term relationships. Selfishness and greed can be good drivers for lazy managers to achieve short term gain; a sense of shared purpose and an innate desire to do things well is harder to harness, but potentially much more powerful. In the early hours, outside a tent full of dancing franchisees, I felt happy that the f word could be good.

Guy Watson

Riverford franchise conference

Riverford franchisees gather in a teepee at our franchise conference