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How to Buy a Franchise: What Is an FDD?

1851 Franchise’s “How to Buy a Franchise” Masterclass breaks down the essential elements of a Franchise Disclosure Document to help prepare you to make an informed decision.

By Jeff DwyerStaff Writer
Updated 8:08AM 01/25/24

Throughout your franchise research, you’ve most likely heard of a Franchise Disclosure Document, commonly referred to as an FDD. But what exactly is an FDD? And why is it so important? 

In this episode of the “How to Buy a Franchise” Masterclass, 1851 Franchise publisher Nick Powills elaborates on the elements that make up this crucial document. 

What Is the FDD? 

In short, the FDD is a legal document that franchisors are required to provide to potential franchisees. It serves as a comprehensive and transparent record that contains detailed information about various aspects of the franchisor-franchisee relationship. It’s a useful resource for entrepreneurs who are considering entering into a franchise agreement as it showcases the brand’s history, financial health, legal standing and more. 

To help you along your franchise journey, we’ve broken down each section of the FDD below: 

Item 1 - The Franchisor, Affiliates, Parent Company and Predecessors

This section provides information about the franchisor itself, including how long it’s been in business along with a complete history. Item 1 also covers  any specific laws to the industry and any permits that you may need to operate the business. 

Item 2 - Business Experience and Identity of Leadership 

This section delves into the leadership team behind the franchise. It outlines the experience, qualifications and backgrounds of key individuals in the company and explains what roles they play. 

Item 3 - Litigation

This item sheds light on any past legal issues involving the franchisor. Potential franchisees should carefully review this information to gauge the level of legal risks associated with the franchise.

Item 4 - Bankruptcy 

In this section, you will see any bankruptcy filings by the franchise or any key executive within the past decade. If the franchise you’re interested in has filed for bankruptcy, you should carefully review this section as it’s crucial to understand the overall financial stability of the franchise. 

Item 5 - Initial Franchise Fee

This section outlines the initial fees and any other charges associated with starting the business. In most cases, the franchisee is required to pay these fees before being allowed to set up shop.

Item 6 - Other Fees and Expenses

This section provides information related to the ongoing costs associated with owning a franchise, including training, marketing, software, advertising and more. 

Item 7 - Initial Investment (Estimated)

This item provides a detailed estimate of the total initial investment required to establish and operate the franchise successfully. This includes not only the initial franchise fees, but other costs including equipment, inventory and leasehold improvements. 

Item 8 - Restrictions on Sources of Products or Services

This section outlines any restrictions on where franchisees can source their products and services. This is crucial for maintaining consistency in the brand and ensuring uniform quality standards. 

Item 9 - Franchisee Obligations

This section details the day-to-day responsibilities and obligations of a franchisee. Understanding these expectations is vital as it will help you assess whether or not you’re able to meet the requirements of operating the business. 

Item 10 - Financing

This section addresses the options available for financing the franchise. It provides information on whether the franchisor offers any financial assistance through loans, installment plans or leasing arrangements. 

Item 11 - Franchisor Obligations

This section covers the support provided by the franchisor, including advertising, computer systems and training. Training is particularly important as it indicates the franchisor’s commitment to preparing franchisees for successful business operations. 

Item 12 - Territory

This section defines the territory or geographical area granted to the franchisee. It will also elaborate on whether or not you have an assigned, protected territory. 

Item 13 - Trademarks

This section outlines the trademarks associated with the brand and the rights granted to franchisees. It provides clarity on what elements of the brand franchisees can use in their operations. 

Item 14 - Patents, Copyrights, Proprietary Information 

Similar to Item 13, this section expands on the intellectual property, including patents, copyrights and proprietary information that franchisees have access to. 

Item 15 - Obligation to Participate in the Actual Operation of the Franchised Business

This item clarifies the level of involvement expected from franchisees, from semi-absentee to full-operational models. It also specifies if a franchisee can participate in other business ventures while under contract with the franchisor. 

Item 16 - Restrictions on What the Franchisee Must Sell

Similar to Item 8, this section outlines the specific products or services that franchisees are allowed to sell. This ensures consistency in the brand offerings across all franchise locations. 

Item 17 - Renewal, Termination, Transfer and Dispute Resolution

This item covers the terms and conditions related to renewing the franchise agreement, termination clauses, the process of transferring the franchise and the procedure for dispute resolution. 

Item 18 - Public Figures

This section discusses any public figures associated with the franchise including celebrity endorsements or partnerships. 

Item 19 - Financial Performance Representations 

This item is one of the most important pieces of the FDD. It provides information on the financial performance of existing franchise units and allows potential franchisees to assess the potential profitability of the business based on historical data. 

Item 20 - Lists of Franchise Outlets 

This section contains information related to all the franchises that have opened, closed or transferred in the past three years, including the names of the franchise owners. 

Item 21 - Financial Statements

This section provides information about the company’s financial status, including audited financial statements. This is an important section as it will showcase the overall health and growth of the business. 

Item 22 - Contracts

This section includes the contracts that you’ll be required to sign if you decide to invest in the franchise. This includes the franchise agreement, as well as any confidentiality agreements, leases, finance documents, purchase agreements, and service and software agreements. It’s important to review these documents with a franchise lawyer before taking the next step. 

Item 23 - Receipt

The final item, Item 23, is the acknowledgement that the franchisee has received and reviewed the FDD. This acts as a confirmation that the potential franchisee has been provided with all the necessary information needed in order to make an informed decision. 

Ready To Move On

Congratulations! Now that you understand the essential components of the FDD, you’re well-equipped for your next steps on the journey to franchise ownership. To ensure you haven’t overlooked any details in this large and complex document, you should consult with a franchise lawyer so you’ll be prepared when it comes time for you to invest in a franchise. 

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