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Focus has restaurants in Brazil, Russia, India and China, but it is growing rapidly in other countries as well. Is the international growth story still one of the BRICs being far ahead of other emerging markets?

Everybody’s still going to look at the BRICs, and so are we, but the reality is they aren’t what they were a few years ago in terms of immediate opportunity. In general, Russia, India and Brazil have slowed considerably and their currencies are taking a beating. There are elections coming up in India and Brazil, which takes a little steam out of those markets in our opinion. When you’re selling master franchises, anywhere you’ve got economic uncertainty or political uncertainty, it’s a little harder to sell into. Russia depends so heavily on oil, and it impacts their entire economy.

There are a lot of opportunities in Asia. We have a good presence for Auntie Anne’s in Japan, Korea and Southeast Asia. In the Philippines, we have a lot of room for center-of-the-plate brands, as well as Cinnabon. In the Americas, Auntie Anne’s is underpenetrated. We’re not in Colombia, but we are in Venezuela, and we think Peru, Chile and Brazil are all good markets. There are big opportunities out there for Moe’s, Schlotzsky’s and McAlister’s Deli, which we just added.

How hard is it to recruit and train the right franchise partners for international expansion?

Finding the right partners is still difficult. We have a couple of approaches. One of the best things for us is working with the U.S. Commercial Service over the past 10 to 15 years. Through their trade missions or Gold Key Matching Service, you take a brand or two to them and brief them on it, and they help you find those target markets. What’s really on the rise but requires sifting are Web-based inquiries.

Training is always a challenge. We look at the true leaders in our franchise community and work to establish training centers in their regions. It’s costly to fly somebody into the U.S. for training, and we’re starting to put more training directors in our regions and building out our regional teams, not just for operations, but also for marketing, training and development services.

Contact Mark Brandau at mark.brandau@penton.com.
Follow him on Twitter: @Mark_from_NRN