The McDonald’s Franchise Fee keeps People returning to McDonald’s

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 26th, 2014

Week in Review

Minimum wage workers are trying to raise the wage in fast-food restaurants.  Like McDonald’s.  They say it’s only fair as the company makes billions a year.  And can afford higher wages for their workers.  But most McDonald’s are independent franchises.  Operated by a small business owner on very thin margins.  For a large portion of their earnings go to the corporate office in franchise fees.  Which does all the work that allows a franchise owner to open for business and have a thriving business from day one.  Because of all they do with those franchise fees (see McDonald’s Says Its Restaurants Got Too Complicated by Julie Jargon posted 1/24/2014 on Yahoo! Finance).

McDonald’s executives say they have learned from their mistakes of the past year and are moving to correct them. The company rolled out numerous menu items in quick succession, creating a bottleneck in the kitchens. They also rolled out products that were too expensive for many consumers, including chicken wings that were priced far above competitors’ offerings, leaving the chain with approximately 10 million pounds of unsold wings, according to a person familiar with the matter…

The chain is revamping its kitchens to include expanded prep tables to give employees more space to assemble food. It also plans to add more employees at peak hours and during weekends.

Mr. Thompson said the marketing needs to reflect efforts to improve its menu. McDonald’s on Wednesday announced the appointment of Deborah Wahl, formerly chief marketing officer of home builder PulteGroup Inc., to be its new chief marketing officer for McDonald’s USA…

For 2014, McDonald’s is budgeting for $3 billion in capital expenditures, which will cover up to 1,600 new restaurant openings and the refurbishing of more than 1,000 existing locations.

A small business owner doesn’t have the time or resources to develop new menu items to attract more customers to their stores.  Pay for costly mistakes.  Or spend billions each year to build new stores and renovate existing ones.  So that wherever you are in the world when you walk into a McDonald’s you are home.  In familiar territory.  With the same delicious food you enjoyed back at home.  When you weren’t homesick in a strange world.  This is what corporate does with that franchise fee.  It makes the McDonald’s experience what it is.  Not the minimum wage workers.  They help.  As does the franchise owner.  But it’s those franchise fees pouring into corporate that get reinvested into McDonald’s that keeps us wanting to return for the comfiest of comfort foods.  The food of our childhood.

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California raises their Minimum Wage, condemning some to Remain in Dead-End Entry-Level Jobs Forever

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 28th, 2013

Week in Review

Those who don’t understand economics always want to raise the minimum wage.  Because they think it will help unskilled workers.  But it actually hurts unskilled workers.  For a couple of reasons.  It will increase the cost of business.  Especially for small business owners who survive on thin margins.  If they have a few minimum wage workers an increase in the minimum wage may force the owner to lay off one of them.  Or more.  It is often that or working at a loss.

Another way minimum wage workers get hurt by a higher minimum wage is that it will keep them in a minimum wage job.  Where they never will earn much.  Causing them to struggle throughout their life.  You see, minimum wage jobs are entry level jobs.  Unskilled jobs for the unskilled.  So they can get some working skills when they have little to offer an employer.  Which is why historically high school kids and college students work these jobs.  Gaining useful job skills to apply to a future career.  Where they will earn a lot more.  Allowing them to raise a family.  It’s why people go to college.  To earn more money.  As they didn’t expect to get a ‘living wage’ without this higher education.

So raising the minimum wage is not in the best interest for minimum wage workers.  Unless they want to remain in dead-end jobs for the rest of their life.  After all, these jobs are often referred to contemptuously as ‘hamburger-flipper jobs’.  But state governments are always willing to keep people in these ‘hamburger-flipper jobs’.  Why?  For the votes.  Which is why California is raising their minimum wage (see California raises minimum wage to $10 by Melanie Hicken posted 9/25/2013 on CNNMoney).

The state’s minimum wage will gradually rise from $8 to $10, under the law signed by Governor Jerry Brown Wednesday morning. The hourly rate will increase to $9 on July 1, 2014 and to $10 on Jan. 1, 2016…

More than 90% of minimum-wage workers in the state are over the age of 20, while nearly 2.4 million of the state’s children live in a household with a parent who earns minimum wage, according to the statement. The pay bump would boost a full-time worker’s income by about $4,000 to around $20,000 a year.

The next time you go to a McDonald’s count the people working there.  There are a lot people.  Sometimes 8 or more.  Let’s look at that additional $4,000 in a worker’s income.  Which if you add taxes and other employee expenses let’s say it costs the employer $6,000 per worker.  If there are 5 employees that’s an additional $30,000.  Most McDonald’s are franchises.  Basically small business for one single small business owner who pays a whopping franchise fee.  For the privilege of having to do no marketing to get people to walk through their door.

Let’s assume an owner clears $100,000 in profits for his or her own salary.  And works 80 hours a week to earn that.  So his or her spouse can be a stay-at-home parent for their children.  Who bought the business so the two of them didn’t have to work.  Each earning $50,000 to make the house payment in a nice neighborhood with an excellent school system.  With the raise in the minimum wage this business owner will take a $30,000 pay cut.  Making it difficult to pay his or her bills.  Which will force them to lay off some workers and work more hours.  Or close the restaurant.  So they can get a job.  The spouse, too.  So they can afford to stay in the house they worked so hard to afford.  And keep their kids in the school they worked so hard to put them in.  Turning their kids over to daycare as they become working, part-time parents.

Business owners are not all getting rich.  More businesses fail than succeed.  Some make a lot of money.  Some lose a lot of money.  While every month is a struggle to meet their cash-flow needs.  And increases in the minimum wage won’t make this any easier.  It will just increase their costs.  Making it harder for them to stay in business.  And if they go out of business then that higher minimum-wage won’t help those minimum-wage workers.

Of course the question that just begs to be asked here is this.  Why is it that so many families have to rely on entry-level jobs to raise their families?  Is it because the Californian educational system failed them and they’re unable to go on to college?  Is it because the taxes and regulatory costs in California are so onerous that it is hindering job creation in better paying industries?  Or is it because people are so sexually active in high school that they’re having babies before they have an established career?  Or is it because they choose to remain in these hamburger-flipper jobs because the minimum wage plus a generous welfare state is enough to make life comfortable?  This is the more important problem to resolve.  What is putting these people in these dead-end hamburger-flipper jobs to begin with?  For these people would be far better off advancing out of these entry-level jobs than staying in them forever.

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McDonald’s 2012 Annual Report

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 6th, 2013

History 101

The Benefit of a McDonald’s Franchise is getting the Benefit of their Years of Building their Brand

Recently a late-night comedy show attacked McDonald’s for being greedy.  Because they don’t pay their minimum wage workers a living wage.  Because what were once entry level jobs are now the primary support for some families.  And why have entry level jobs come to support families?  Because the anti-business policies of the current administration have destroyed better-paying jobs.  But they don’t attack that on late-night television.  They attack a company actually providing jobs in a jobless economy.

Today McDonald’s is huge.  You can find them pretty much anywhere in the world.  Which can be a welcome site for a weary traveler.  For they know they can walk into a McDonald’s wherever they are and have the comfort of a meal exactly like that at home.  Which is pretty amazing if you think about it.  And why McDonald’s is so successful.  The sight of those Golden Arches can attract a foreigner in a strange land or a construction worker on a new project in a distant city.  They know exactly what they can get at that McDonald’s.  What it will taste like.  And what it will cost.  Even if they’ve never been in that McDonald’s before.

This is because McDonald’s has very successfully built their brand.  Which is one of those intangible things.  It has great value.  But you can’t physically touch it.  Those who own a McDonald’s franchise can enjoy a thriving business.  From day one.  Without doing any marketing to get people to walk into their restaurant.  They don’t have to.  Because McDonald’s has already done it.  And continues to do it.  This is the benefit of the franchise.  You get the benefit of all those years of hard work McDonald’s did to build their brand by simply paying a franchise fee (see Restaurants and Franchises posted 8/5/2013 on Pithocrates).  It’s not cheap.   But it’s such a fair deal for both franchiser and franchisee that McDonald’s had 27,882 franchised stores in 2012 (see McDonald’s 2012 Annual Report, page 11).

Owning a McDonald’s Franchise allows you to own a Restaurant that has been Successfully in Business for 72 Years

In addition to the intangible value of the brand the franchise fee also includes rent.  For McDonald’s “owns the land and building or secures long-term leases” for the franchisee’s store (see McDonald’s 2012 Annual Report, page 11).  While the franchise needs to foot the bill for the “equipment, signs, seating and décor.”  This makes sure all stores are modern and up to date and uniform.  Helping to maintain that comfortable familiarity for the customers.  While splitting the capital costs between the franchisee and franchiser.  So both parties have a major investment in the business.  And each shares in the profits of the business.  Perhaps the best of the deal for the franchisee is getting a mentor.  And a detailed operating manual telling them everything they need to know and do.

Owning a McDonald’s franchise is costly.  But you get to step into a restaurant that has been successfully in business for 72 years.  Give or take.  Considering that half of all restaurants fail within the first five years of business this is a HUGE benefit for the franchisee.  And something well worth the franchise fee.  As evidenced by 27,882 franchised stores in 2012.  So what is that franchise fee?  And how much money does the franchisee get to keep after paying the franchise fee?

Well, if you do a little number crunching with the financials included in the 2012 annual report you can get an approximate number.  McDonald’s also has stores they own and operate.  In 2012 they had 6,598 company-owned stores.  The average per store revenue was $1,358,594 (calculated by dividing the total revenue from the company-owned stores by the number of company-owned stores).  A similar calculation gives an approximate $667,205 franchise fee per franchised store.  Subtracting the typical franchisee fee from the typical store revenue (assuming all stores have the same average revenue as the company-owned stores) gives the franchisee an annual income of $691,389.  From this income the franchisee has to pay for food, labor and overhead.  And whatever is left over is profit.

High School Kids and College Students work at McDonald’s because they need no prior Restaurant Experience

The rule of thumb in restaurants is that costs are broken down into thirds.  One third is food cost.  One third is labor cost.  And one third is overhead and profit.  So if we divide that $691,389 by 3 we get an annual food cost per franchised store of $230,463.  Ditto for labor.  And overhead (gas, electric, water, insurances, taxes, licenses, fees, waste disposal, light bulbs, toilet paper, soap, garbage bags, etc.) and profit.  Let’s look at the labor cost more closely.  To see if McDonald’s is greedy when it comes to paying their employees.

The benefit of owning a franchise is that it comes with very explicit instructions.  A McDonald’s distributor delivers prepared food ready for the grill and fryer.  As delicious as it is, though, it doesn’t take a highly skilled chef to prepare it.  As the franchisee operating manual has it down to a science.  Which is why high school kids and college students work at McDonald’s.  They need no prior restaurant experience as it is an entry level job.  Typically their first job.  Where they learn what it’s like entering the workforce.  The importance of being on time.  Following instructions.  Being responsible.  Skills that they will use in later jobs.  Which most do.  As there is a high turnover of employees at McDonald’s as there is for all fast food.  Because these are entry level jobs for unskilled workers.  Who learn the skills they need on the job.  So let’s assume a restaurant that is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Assuming an hourly rate of $8.50 and an overhead of 40% for direct labor costs (workers’ compensation insurance, unemployment taxes, health insurance, uniforms, training, etc.) the average hourly labor cost comes to $11.90.  Dividing the labor cost of $230,463 by this hourly cost gives us 15,758 annual labor hours.  Or about 53.06 hours per day.  Or 17.69 hours per 8-hour shift.  Giving us an average of 2.21 workers per 8-hour shift.

During the breakfast and lunch rush a typical McDonald’s may have between 5-8 people working.  With fewer working in the evening.  And a skeleton crew over night working the drive-thru.  So the labor fluctuates during the day to correspond to the amount of business.  Which is why there are a lot of part-time workers at McDonald’s.  Ideal for high school and college kids.  In addition the owner typically works during those busy periods to help with the rush.  And works on paperwork during the slower times.  Putting in about 12 hours a day.  If you assume an overhead rate of 18% and multiply that to the franchisee annual income of $691,389 we get an overhead expense of $124,450.  Subtracting that from the $230,463 (overhead & profit) leaves an annual owner income of $106,013.  Or, based on a work week of 84 hours (12 hours a day X 7 days a week), the owner earns about $24.27 an hour.  A rate a lot of people can earn working for someone else without the headaches of owning a business.

That late-night comedy show attacked McDonald’s for being greedy.  Saying they should increase their pay rate to a living rate.  Like picketers were asking for.  $15/hour.  A labor cost increase of 82.6%.  Or an additional $190,382 each year.  Which would bring the franchisee’s annual income from $106,013 to an annual loss of $84,369.  So are these McDonald’s franchisees greedy because they refuse to pay a living wage?  No.  They simply can’t afford to pay more than the minimum wage for these minimum wage jobs.  Unless they can get people to spend $6-$7 for a Big Mac.  They are delicious.  But are they $6-$7 delicious?  And can a low-income family afford to take the family to McDonald’s when they are charging $6-$7 per burger?  Probably not.  No.  McDonald’s is just fine.  What we need to do is to un-do the anti-business policies of this administration that is killing those higher-paying jobs.  And forcing the primary earner in some families to work a minimum wage job.  Because that’s all that is available in this jobless economy.

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If it weren’t for High Labor and Regulatory Costs there would be no need for Currency Manipulation

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 2nd, 2011

Minimum Wage Earners only become Valuable after Costly on the Job Training

Minimum wage jobs are entry level jobs.  And they’re starting to get that in the UK (see Minimum wage harming job opportunities for young by Richard Tyler and James Kirkup posted 10/2/2011 on The Telegraph).

Firms may be reluctant to create jobs by recruiting inexperienced staff because they are put off by the increased wage bill, the Low Pay Commission has suggested.

The Commission’s intervention comes amid calls from businesses for minsters to freeze or even cut the rate to enable more young people to find work…

Official figures last month showed that almost 1 million of the 2.5 million people officially counted as unemployed in Britain are aged between 16 and 24.

Almost 220,000 have been out of work for more than a year and some economists fear a “lost generation” of young people who never learn the habits of work and face a lifelong struggle ever to find employment…

“The concern is that the current rate is discouraging some employees from taking on young people and giving them a chance to get into the workplace,” he said. “Some companies are finding the rate is a real problem.”

The New England Patriots pay Tom Brady more money than the Detroit Lions pay Mathew Stafford.  Stafford was the number one draft pick.  Brady wasn’t.  But Brady has 3 Super Bowl rings.  Stafford doesn’t have one.  Yet.  He may have one soon, though.  He’s having a very good season.  Undefeated through 4 weeks.  But Brady is better.  Because of his 3 Super Bowl rings.  And his experience.  It’s that experience that makes him worth more.

What’s true for quarterbacks in the NFL is true for workers everywhere.  Experience makes a worker worth more to an employer.  Inexperienced workers are worth less.  So they’re paid less.  Just like in the NFL.

The New England Patriots pay Brady a lot of money.  But they can’t pay everyone that amount of money.  Most players will make less than him.  Just like in the workforce.

Key employees are paid more.  And less critical employees are paid less.  Entry level workers with the least skill and the least experience get paid the least.  These are the minimum wage workers.  Who are just starting their working careers.  Most of who are grateful for the work experience.   Because they know if they show ability they can move up.  Gain more experience.  And earn more as they become more valuable to their employer.  Or to their employer’s competitor.

So of course employers oppose high minimum wages.  Because minimum wage earners only become valuable after costly on the job training.  That’s why they’re paid the least.  They come in with nothing.  And don’t provide any value until the employer gives them value through training.  Mentorship.  And experience.

If you Protect your Markets too much from Imports you will Hurt your own Export Markets

Costs are costs.  And labor costs are some of the more expensive costs.  Because there are a lot of other costs attached to wages.  They add up.  And often are a percentage of an employee’s wages.  The higher the wage, the higher these other costs.  Which makes it harder for a business to be competitive.  And in today’s competitive global economy, nations will help their businesses be competitive any way they can.  To try and make up for all those onerous regulations they impose on their businesses (see One more such victory posted 10/1/2011 on The Economist).

A YEAR ago Brazil’s finance minister, Guido Mantega, declared that the world had entered into a “currency war”. He worried that in a depressed global economy, without enough spending to go around, countries would sally forth and grab a bit of extra demand for themselves by weakening their currencies. The dollar, for example, fell by 11% against Brazil’s real in the year to August 2011, much to the chagrin of Brazil’s manufacturers. Like other emerging economies it fought back by imposing taxes and other restrictions on foreign purchases of local securities…

A cheaper real, zloty and rupee will help emerging economies win a bigger share of global spending. But that is small consolation if global spending declines…

Falling export orders was one of the complaints voiced by Chinese manufacturers in a preliminary survey of purchasing managers published by HSBC last week.

Yes, a cheaper currency gives you an advantage.  So a nation wants it.  But so do other nations.  And what’s more, these other nations don’t want your nation to have a cheap currency.  Because a cheap currency means more exports.

But a currency war is a double edged sword.  If you protect your markets too much from imports you will hurt your own export markets.  Yeah, you may succeed in having a cheap currency but little good that will do if your primary export market slaps a punitive tariff on everything you sell there.

And then there’s the danger of releasing the inflation genie from its bottle.  If you devalue your currency too much your own manufacturing costs will rise.  It’ll take more dollars to buy the stuff you need to manufacture the things you sell.  Which means you’ll have to raise prices.  And anyone who buys from you will have to raise their prices.  And so on until this inflation ends in a recession.  Which will slash overall consumer spending.  Making any win in a currency war a hollow one.

The Senate Bill to Punish China for Currency Manipulation is nothing more than Pandering to a Recession-Weary America

So rational thinking bets against any currency war.  Or antagonizing any trade relationships.  Of course, in an election cycle, rational takes a back seat to winning an election (see Senators court 2012 voters with China currency bill by Doug Palmer posted 10/2/2011 on Reuters).

For lawmakers eyeing their re-election prospects next year, this week provides a chance to show they mean business about cracking down on China’s currency practices and returning jobs to America…

“It is very easy to say that China is the bogeyman,” said Doug Guthrie, dean of business at George Washington University. He said the bill would do little to help U.S. jobs and would raise U.S. import costs, but said it might yet pass…

The Senate bill is the wrong approach because most of the goods the United States imports from China are no longer made by U.S. industry, Frisbie [president of the U.S.-China Business Council] said.

“I’ve always been of the view that, if the Chinese currency were to appreciate, we’re not going to get those jobs back in the U.S. They will migrate to Indonesia or Vietnam or Bangladesh perhaps Sub-Saharan African — the lowest next lowest cost place,” Lardy [a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics] said.

So this Senate bill is nothing more than pandering to a recession-weary America.  It won’t help the economy.  And probably will end up making things worse.  By making life that much more expensive for the American consumer.  By replacing those cheap Chinese goods with almost as cheap goods from Indonesia, Vietnam, Bangladesh or Sub-Saharan Africa.  All the while creating zero American jobs.   It will just make life more difficult.  But it may elect a politician or two.  And really, now, isn’t that what’s really important?  I’m jesting, of course.

Why Exactly is the ‘Made in USA’ Stamped Stuff more Expensive?

Perhaps it isn’t the Chinese.  Or the other emerging economies.  Perhaps it isn’t the weak currencies of our trading partners.  Maybe it’s us.  I mean, why do we play with the currency in the first place?  To make our goods cheaper.

So the issue we should be addressing is why are our goods more expensive in the first place.  Why exactly is the ‘Made in USA’ stamped stuff more expensive?  Higher labor and regulatory costs.  Such as the minimum wage.  And the hundreds of other costly regulations American businesses have to comply with.  Remove these and America can be competitive again.  With anyone.  Anywhere.  And in any industry.

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