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    Associations That Offer Bang for the Buck

  • Six groups that are worth your money and time.

    International Franchise Association (IFA)

    Among the 1,150 franchisor members of the International Franchise Association, restaurants and other foodservice businesses comprise about 40 percent of the membership. Membership numbers are larger at about 12,000 among franchisees.

    While education and networking are the stand-out member benefits, this year the association rolled out its web-based On-Track-Performance Benchmarking for Franchisors tool, which allows IFA members to compare the performance of their franchise systems with their peers in five areas. It also members gives access to reports to see comparisons on franchise leads and closing costs, training and support costs per franchise unit, same store sales, net growth, and employee allocations.

    The new intelligence may make the annual membership fee a little more palatable for franchisor members, whose dues are based on their number of units and systemwide revenues (it can range from $1,500 to $30,000 annually). Members receive access to research studies on important topics, such as credit and capital access, and a franchise leader survey. Product and service suppliers also can join IFA for $2,900 a year.

    Membership also gives credibility to franchisors as they are listed on the IFA website and printed directory.

    “Referrals to members from IFA are pretty important,” says Scott Lehr, vice president for membership. On average, its website receives 200,000 unique visitors a month, and many find franchise opportunities among the franchisors listed.

    Within the past year, IFA launched a mentoring program called Franship, segmented by franchisors, franchisees, and suppliers.

    “It allows people to reach out to some long-time members and get connected and ask questions to create a mentor-mentee relationship,” Lehr says.

    Women’s Foodservice Forum (WFF)

    The Women’s Foodservice Forum helps women make connections and develop as leaders in the foodservice industry. Focusing on 12 core competencies women must have to succeed, WFF’s website offers free career competency assessment for members, from emerging leaders to executives, allowing them to choose programming based on their assessment.

    “The WFF’s Leadership Competency Assessment is a tool I access regularly and highly recommend to others,” says Terrian Barnes, global diversity and inclusion officer for Yum! Brands Inc., in Louisville, Kentucky.

    She has been a WFF leader since its founding in the late 1980s as a Yum! Brands ambassador, committee chair, and volunteer.

    While WFF has 3,700 members, it estimates it has touched more than 10,000 people, and its goal is to engage more than 100,000, says Gretchen Sussman, vice president of sponsor and industry relations. This happens through the annual leadership conference, webinars (which some companies use as Lunch-and-Learns), and other leadership development tools. It conducts educational and networking programs called Regional Connects in about 40 cities—made possible by members who serve as volunteers, which helps to build their leadership skills.

    The association recently announced a new partnership with the Center for Executive Women at Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University to offer WFF members enhanced educational programming leading to leadership certification.

    The $295 membership cost is in flux, as Sussman, who recently joined the staff, evaluates the cost structure, advising that the membership fee may be reduced.

    Multicultural Foodservice & Hospitality Alliance (MFHA)

    Membership in the Multicultural Foodservice & Hospitality Alliance is especially useful for foodservice operations that want to brand themselves as culturally diverse. Some 67 foodservice operations have done so, as well as 700 manufacturers and individuals who are committed to the association’s cause to help companies attract, develop, and retain diverse and multicultural talent.

    Much of MFHA’s strength is in its founder and president Gerald (Gerry) Fernandez Sr., who knows the dedication and competencies of nearly every foodservice leader and company that is committed to workplace diversity. He refers to them in phone calls, presentations, and in print, thus helping to brand them as culturally inclusive. “We are the multicultural ‘Yellow Pages.’ If you want something, you call us,” he says.

    Membership is expensive, $10,000−$25,000 for corporate members, $900−$1,500 for small companies, $5,000 for the next level up, and $75 for individuals. Besides touting multicultural corporations on its website and elsewhere, MFHA representatives are out selling the foodservice industry to multicultural schools and groups nationally and communicate with minority publications. The association also has a benchmarking survey on key issues, offers training, and helps companies build diversity programs and disaster plans in the event of a cultural faux pas. MFHA offers webinars, networking conference calls, and sets up receptions and events in conjunction with other foodservice conferences.

    Yum! Brands’ Barnes was an MFHA founding board member and remains active. “I appreciate the fact that MFHA pushes me out of my comfort zone and allows me to experience the full depth and breadth of diversity and inclusion,” she says.