Retail and Foodservice Franchises Gain Popularity in Canada Despite Pandemic: Interviews

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Being a franchise owner of a brand has become an increasingly popular option for many Canadians these days despite the ongoing challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sherry McNeil

Sherry McNeil, President and CEO of the Canadian Franchise Association, said franchises are a crucial part of the Canadian economy, contributing more than $100 billion per year and creating jobs for more than 1.9 million Canadians. 

“What many don’t realize is that this sector also accounts for a substantial, if not most, of the small-businesses in the country. The pandemic has been devastating, but it has also shown us that having the support of a franchise model can help make businesses more resilient,” said McNeil.

Gary Prenevost

Gary Prenevost, a franchise matchmaking consultant with FranNet and a member of the Canadian Franchise Association board, said many people look around to become franchise owners but they only look at one business. 

“And they miss so many opportunities when they only look at one,” said Prenevost. “So we introduce three or four and we coach them all the way through the research. It’s a free service. I get paid by the franchisor. So essentially executive recruiting applied to franchising.

“We’re seeing with the pandemic that people are re-evaluating their priorities. What are their whys? They’re looking at their employment scenario differently. They’re looking at a longer term picture. Do I want to keep doing this? How many times do I want to do this career transition?

“I call a job a one to three-year strategy. If you can go longer than three years, you’re fortunate. And I call a business a three to 10-year strategy. Three years is a very short time in business ownership. Most people are looking for a longer term. So more control, more flexibility. Money is number four or five for our clients right now. It’s more about the quality of life and being purpose driven – being more aligned with purpose.”

The following are top trends in franchising for 2022 compiled by the Canadian Franchise Association:

  • Home Sweet Home: With more people working from home due to the pandemic and a shift in workplace culture, there is expected to be a  huge demand for franchises connected to the home, in particular in the home improvement and beautification space, as homeowners continue to look for ways to make their existing home, or a new space, more functional;
  • Aging in Place: Canada’s population is aging and people are living longer. With more and more people looking to age in place in the comfort of their own home, the need for franchises specializing in making seniors more comfortable has skyrocketed;
  • Education Concepts and Business Coaching: As many children these past two years have gone to online learning due to the pandemic, it has created a high demand for tutoring and supplemental education facilities. Business coaching has also become important in providing education and support to individuals who are interested in exploring self-employment as a career option through franchised business ownership;
  • Food Focus: Many food franchise models have thrived over the past few years. Healthy eating and dietary alternatives have become popular choices for consumers. Technological advancements and the need for social distancing have also played a role in what the future of food franchising will look like, with companies providing automated self-service shopping and the next evolution of grocery markets with their state-of-the-art retail experiences; and
  • Pets and Pet Supplies: With people spending more time at home and the need to support mental health, there has been a huge surge in pet adoption in the last few years. With this spike in pet ownership comes a necessity for pet-friendly franchises as well as dog daycare and grooming services. 

The Canadian Franchise Association has more than 700 corporate members and over 40,000 franchisees. 

Prenevost said it’s important for potential franchise owners to look at need-based businesses as opposed to want-based businesses.

“Things that no matter what the economy does, no matter what the pandemic does, these are services that are in demand. So we think about home improvement as an example. One of the strongest areas. Just because there’s a lot of demand,” he said. “I love the pet industry.

“If you can’t execute the brand promise, it doesn’t matter how strong a brand is, you’re not going to make it work. Hence, the importance of modeling. People look at themselves and what do I bring to the table? What are my primary resources? Finances, time and transferable skills are the big ones. The trend category once you’ve got that then which of the trends can I leverage that these skills can serve that industry.”

There have been some interesting trends in demographics for franchise owners, he added. Years ago, the vast majority of FranNet’s clients were middle-aged men in transition. Now, women are about 35 per cent of the company’s clients. Also, in the past two years, he’s seen a pattern of more husbands and wives working together. Another trend is people in their late 20s where the bank of mom and dad help them get up and running as franchise owners. And there are those people who don’t want a lifetime of careers but want to create their own stability.

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior News Editor with Retail Insider in addition to working as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Mario was named as a RETHINK Retail Top Retail Expert in 2024.

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