My latest video is on “Understanding a Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD).”
What’s a Franchise Disclose Document? Learn more here, in just over three minutes.
View this video on YouTube. Find my YouTube channel with this and other important franchise-related videos here.
Kim Marinoff presents “Understanding a Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD),” including key areas to pay attention to.
Franchising in the U.S. is governed by FTC, or Federal Trade Commission.
Every franchisor must give every prospect a franchise disclosure document, which mirrors the franchise agreement and provides detailed information on many different areas of the franchise, its costs, and how it operates. The FDD has 23 templated sections, and each franchisor populates those templates with their own information.
A completed FDD can be as long as 200 or even 300 pages. At the end, you should find the actual franchise agreement. It’s important, as a prospective franchisee, that you understand the entire franchise disclosure document in its entirety.
Some particularly important sections of the FDD include:
Item 6: Which lists all ongoing costs/expenses to operate a franchise. That can include royalties, advertising costs, software, and more.
Item 7: Details all of the expected costs to get a franchise location open. It provides a range, with a low and high end, itemized.
Item 12: Here, the franchisor shares how it defines territory. That territory should be exclusive. They should also share details on how they define territories (for example, by populations), and what demographics they have considered in each territory to make that territory not just viable but valuable.
Item 19: You will find financial information here, including the franchisor’s earnings claims. What kind of performance numbers are existing units reporting, what they are producing, and how are they doing that. Some FDDs don’t populate this section. That might be because the franchise is a startup, or they want you to be in touch directly with franchisees, and getting numbers from them.
Item 20: This section gives details on franchise outlets that have opened, terminated, and ceased ops. You will find information here on every franchisee, along with their contact information.
The FTC Advises:
“Before you invest in any franchise, get a copy of the franchisor’s Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD). Under the Franchise Rule enforced by the FTC, you must receive the document at least 14 days before you are asked to sign any contract or pay any money to the franchisor or an affiliate of the franchisor. You have the right to ask for — and get — a copy of the FDD once the franchisor has received your application and agreed to consider it. Indeed, you may want to get a copy of the franchisor’s FDD before you spend any money to investigate the franchise offering. The franchisor may give you a copy of its FDD on paper, via email, through a web page or on a disc. The cover of the FDD must provide information about the available formats. Make sure you have a copy of the FDD in a format that is convenient for you, and keep a copy for reference.
Read each of the 23 numbered “Items” in the franchise disclosure document. Don’t be shy about asking for explanations, clarifications and answers to your questions before you invest.”
Here’s a link to the FTC’s page “A Consumer’s Guide to Buying a Franchise,” with detailed information on the franchise disclosure document.
They also have a useful PDF version here.
The complete franchise disclosure document includes these sections: