The Franchise Operations Manual | Internicola Law Firm

The Franchise Operations Manual Defined

Within a franchise system, the operations manual is a confidential manual provided by a franchisor to its franchisees. The purpose of the operations manual is to provide franchisees with step-by-step information and guidance as to all aspects of developing, establishing, and running the franchised business. The Operations manual is a “how to” guide for franchisees. In addition to serving the critical business function of training, informing and educating franchisees, the operations manual serves as an important legal instrument where a franchisor may institute and implement operational requirements to be followed by franchisees. Since the operations manual contains confidential information that only a franchisor shares with its franchisees, the operations manual is not disclosed in the FDD. However, the FDD will include a copy of the table of contents to the operations manual and information about the number of pages contained in the operations manual.

What Start-Up Franchisors Need to know About the Operations Manual

As a start-up and emerging franchisor your operations manual will serve an important role in your franchise system. The operations manual will be a critical tool for you to utilize in organizing and evaluating the operational components of your franchise system and will be critical to properly train and educate your franchisees. Within your FDD and franchise agreement will be numerous references to your “confidential operations manual” and your FDD and franchise agreement will state that the systems and standards associated with the franchise system are set forth in the confidential operations manual and that the franchisor reserves the right to supplement and modify the systems and standards contained in the operation manual. In addition to being a critical business tool for training, educating and instructing franchisees, the operations manual is also an important legal tool to assist franchisor’s in maintaining control over their franchise systems.

Who Prepares the Operations Manual

When developing and starting-up a franchise system, the operations manual, along with the FDD, represents one of the most critical franchise development documents. Many start-up franchisors spend the time to prepare their own operations manual and others rely on the assistance from franchise development professionals. Whether you prepare your operations manual yourself or work with a franchise development team, your participation in the development of the operations manual will be critical because your operations manual needs to reflect your business and your systems. When it comes to developing your operations manual it is critical that you avoid the generic and get to the heart of what your business is all about and how franchisees can duplicate your brand and success. When working with franchisors in our Franchise Launch Program, we have programs where our clients prepare their own operations manual and one where our team works closely with our clients and we lead the way in developing your operations manual.

Type of Content That Should be Included in Your Operations Manual

Consider that the goal of your operations manual should be to accomplish the following objectives:

Below we have identified some but not all of the information goals that your operations manual should accomplish and a sampling of what a portion of the table of contents may look like:

Information Goal 1: Your Story and Mission

The first information goal that your operations manual should achieve is to convey “your story”, “the story of your business and the business that they are about to invest in“. Don’t underestimate the significance of communicating your story as part of the franchising process will be to empower your franchisees to duplicate your brand. In many ways franchisees will, in certain aspects but not legally, be your business partners and it is important that they share the same “mindset” as to the business, customers and the unique selling proposition of your business. As to this topic, a sample table of contents, may include:

Information Goal 2: What The Business Does and How It Does It

The second goal that your operations manual should achieve is to educate (not merely describe) the services your business provides, the products that you offer and how you deliver or provide these services and/or products. This second section is the “how to” section and should be extremely detailed. As to this topic, a sample table of contents, may include:

Information Goal 3: Marketing and Business Development

The third goal that your manual should achieve is to educate your franchisees about their obligation to market and develop their business. This is a critical section since, much more often than not, successful franchisees are not those working “in the business”, i.e. providing the service or selling product but, rather, those continuously working to market, promote and manage the franchise business. That is, teaching franchisees to work “on their franchised business” but not “in their franchised business”. As to this topic, a sample table of contents, may include:

Information Goal 4: Approved Products, Suppliers and Suppliers

The fourth information goal that your manual should achieve is to provide franchisees with complete detail as to establishing and operating their franchised business. This section should include detail and lists relating to issues such as approved build-out plans, requirements and restrictions for signage, lists of approved suppliers, recipes and step-by-step instructions for services and/or products. Basically a reference tool. As to this topic, a sample table of contents, may include:

Of course, there will be significant variation depending on your business and your industry. It is important to understand that your operations is a “living document” that, over time, will be adjusted, modified and supplemented. Developing the right operations manual will take you a long way toward establishing a solid foundation with your franchisees and maintaining control over your franchise system.

More Information

Back to Franchise Launch Program

Top Resources for Franchising Your Business

  • videoImg

    How to Franchise Your Business

    In this guide you’ll learn the basics of franchising, how to franchise your business, and how to win at franchising. We’ll also take a deeper dive into legal requirements for franchising and why they matter, steps to take before and after you launch your franchise, and even some tips on... read more

  • videoImg

    Franchising vs. Licensing Book

    When considering expanding a business both franchising and licensing are possible options. In this guide, you'll learn the differences of franchising and licensing and understand how each will affect you. read more

all guides

  • None right now

all videos

  • videoImg

    Franchising Your Business: Advantages & Disadvantages

    Are you a successful business owner? Are you looking for ways to expand your business? If so, this article will provide the answers you need to decide whether franchising your business is the right step for you. In short, franchising allows you, the franchisor, to create a relationship among several... read more

  • videoImg

    Documents To Start A Franchise

    Under federal law, prior offering or selling a franchise in any state, franchisors are required to disclose a franchise disclosure document (FDD) to their prospective franchisees. In addition to federal law certain states, including the franchise registration states, require that franchisors register their FDD with the state. The legal documentation... read more

  • videoImg

    Is Your Business Franchisable?

    For very good reasons, the questions of “is my business franchisable?” and “can my business be franchised?” come up often. Assuming that you possess the right mindset and franchise goals (a topic that we discuss in a separate article) there are core franchise factors that either your business must possess... read more

all articles

  • videoImg

    Leveraging PR & Digital Media to Jumpstart Franchise Sales

    Key strategies to accelerate franchise growth for startup and emerging franchisors In this webinar, franchise attorney Charles Internicola and Nick Powills, founder of No Limit Agency and 1851 Franchise, discuss key strategies to accelerate franchise growth through PR and digital media. Some topics include: Steps franchisors should take when it... read more

  • videoImg

    Winning Insurance Strategies for Emerging Franchisors with Michael Porpora

    One of the biggest issues for emerging franchisors is not having a plan for insurance and system-wide protection. What do emerging brands need to know when they're starting off, who should they rely on, and how can they plan ahead? Get an insurance game plan to protect your franchise system... read more

  • videoImg

    How to Build a Great Franchise Logo & Brand with Dan Antonelli

    Key strategies for developing the right logo & trade dress to drive franchise growth with branding and design expert Dan Antonelli. Dan is the author of ‘Building a Big Small Business Brand’ and is the creative director of the branding firm KickCharge Creative. Learn how to drive franchise growth and... read more

all webinars

Let's Talk

With services to make your growth strategy simple, cost effective, and with a team excited to help you, let’s talk about how we can help grow your brand. Click on the button below or call us at (800) 976-4904.

Let’s Talk

With services to make your growth strategy simple, cost effective, and with a team excited to help you, let’s talk about how we can help grow your business.

Fill out the following form and we’ll contact you as soon as possible. To reach our team directly, give us a call at (800) 976-4904.


This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

closeIcon