The Growth Of Franchises Over The Years

growth of famous franchises

Whether it’s an automotive company, a fast-food establishment, or a chain of pubs, many business hopefuls use franchising as their route to market. There’s no surprise that franchises are popping up everywhere. There are currently over 120 industries that have franchised companies, with the franchisee normally receiving help with their site selection and development support, operating manuals, brand standards, quality control, training and business advisory support from the franchisor. 

Here, we look at some of the UK’s top franchises including Lookers who offer a wide range of car servicing plans, discuss how they got there and what we can learn from them: 


Key Business Features 

One of Lookers key business features is how well they value their employees. In fact, the group received the top employer UK accreditations and recognises that you must look after your own to be a success. Lookers done this by acquiring several local businesses, including Benfield, the Group understood the need to keep the local feel of the businesses while softly implementing their own touch. 

Historical Values 

In this first instance, John Looker initially sold bicycles, parts and accessories and the odd car when he founded Lookers Group in Manchester in 1908. By 1910, the business had forged with a garage owner in the centre of Manchester. 

Primarily a Ford dealer until the First World War, the company was thriving so much that the garage had to be rebuilt in 1911 to accommodate all the business that it had generated. It was appointed a distributor of Austin motor vehicles in 1918 and continued its growth by acquiring a number of garages in Lancashire and Cheshire. John Looker retired in 1929, but the business didn’t falter. During the Second World War the Austin factory was committed to the war effort as the country fought. 

The business’s first major acquisition took place in the 60s when the Group moved into Yorkshire after a few decades had passed. By 1973, their headquarters had moved from Hardman Street to Chester Road – their current base today. At the same time, the company became a listed company on the London Stock Exchange. 

Lookers is now one of the top three motor vehicle retailers in the UK with a host of Motability deals, representing 32 manufacturers and selling car types at 150 franchised dealerships. 



Initially named Martin’s Free house, the first Weatherspoon was opened from a former bookermakers’ store in North London in 1979. Before changing its name to Wetherspoon earlier the following year. The company’s chains initially only expanded in North London. 

In 1991, the company opened its first pub which had a no-smoking bar in 1991 in North Finchley, before moving more into Central London, with their first pub in Liverpool Street Station. The following year, the first airport pub was opened in Heathrow and in the same year they were also named J D Wetherspoon plc, opening their 50 th pub. 

Expanding to areas such as Bracknell and Norwich, things started to move even faster for the ever growing chain in 1993. By 1994, the chain had reached an impressive 100 pubs and ventured as far north as the Midlands. The business kept expanding and moving into new territory throughout the 90s, with further establishments opened in Manchester, Wales and Scotland. 1998 saw the 300th pub open and its rapid expansion saw them reach 500 pubs being open by 2001. The 600-mark was reached in 2002 as the breakfast revolution got underway as all pubs opened six days a week to serve the first meal of the day. 

In 2008, the 700th pub was launched, with the 800th following in 2011 and 900th in 2013. The company proved it was adapting to change when they added free Wi-Fi to all of their pubs, and in 2007 the first wedding was held. Nowadays, the company employs over 35,000 staff, and owns 948 pubs and hotels. 

Key Business Features 

Wetherspoon is a traditional, British chain that is incredibly popular. The chain offers a wide variety of appealing deals to cater to a range of people and backgrounds. 

Key travel locations: Train stations and airports are an ideal location for a Wetherspoons to pop up, as one of their aims is ensuring that they are located nearby transport links. You can currently find them in Aberdeen, Birmingham International, Doncaster, Edinburgh, Liverpool John Lennon, Heathrow, Gatwick, Glasgow and Stansted airports, and near train stations around London, Leeds, Liverpool and Glasgow. 

Festival spirit: Wetherspoon is a great advocate for embracing the festival spirit. They Currently involved in a biannual beer festival with 60 beers on tap, Wetherspoon is a great advocate for embracing the festival spirit. 

What Can Businesses Learn From Wetherspoon? 

Wetherspoon’s have succeeded most by being flexible and adapting to their environment. We see that location is crucial and people absolutely love offers. 



John Gregg began a delivery service in the 1930’s, delivering eggs and yeast on his pushbike to families in Newcastle upon Tyne. 

After 10 years, John Gregg opened a small bakery on Gosforth High Street in 1951. It was after having his delivery service began to help so many local families bake their own bread that he was able to open his own. This allowed Greggs to begin baking quality bread with flour that was milled from specially selected wheat for that distinctive Greggs taste and texture. 

Ian Gregg took the reins of the family business in 1964 when his Grandfather died. Under Ian's leadership, Greggs developed a good reputation for selling products which were quality and of great value. The company also started to grow in size by buying regional bakery retailers across the United Kingdom and, by the 1970s, they had shops in Scotland, Yorkshire and the North West. 

In 1984, the company’s expansion was well underway. There were more than 260 shops in four areas of the country. For the first time ever, Greggs was on the Stock Exchange and they continued to expand, opening shops in the Midlands, Wales and North London. 

By investing in a large Technical Centre, the company was able to focus on developing an array of new recipes while improving old favourites. During the noughties, Greggs continued its rapid growth. 

Key Business Features 

Keep it local: On a nationwide scales, Greggs has almost 1,700 shops while still being rooted in their local communities. That means that, while there is the popular national range, regional favorites can be found in their stores depending on where you are. 

While these are just three examples from a huge pool of successful franchises, it’s clear that the franchise world is going to continue growing, regardless of the industry you choose. By providing you with a ready-made business model and allowing you to keep your skills sharp while joining an already thriving business, you may feel as though you have a greater chance of success. So, budding business owners out there, make sure you research any possible franchises that could be of interest to you before jumping in feet first with your idea! 

I hope you enjoyed this article about the growth of franchises like Greggs, Wetherspoon's and Lookers Group.

Interested in more articles about growing your business?

Read My Posts:

- How To Expand Or Franchise Your Business

- The Current State Of The UK Pub Scene

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