The endless hunt for publicity and promotion has driven entrepreneurs to do many daring things. But the person who features their business or franchise on a reality TV show is truly brave. All kinds of unforeseen things can happen while the camera is rolling, and unlike the service they provide, the franchisor and franchisee have no say in the final product that TV producers dish out.
The issue of reality TV's shows and franchises pertains largely to food franchises. America's growing hunger for chef-related television has led to a glut of food programming - with everything from 'Hell's Kitchen' to 'America’s Next Great Restaurant' to 'Famous Food' entertaining viewers. As producers to create new reality show concepts, we've seen the blossoming of a certain reality show genre - the restaurant makeover. Perfected by Gordon Ramsey on 'Kitchen Nightmares', in this kind of show, a celebrity chef visits a stuttering restaurant and shows it how to shape itself up.
Now undoubtedly, being on TV is a great outlet for publicity, but is the ideal way to promote your franchise? The first problem is that you'll have to admit that your business is slumping. The producers of the show will also show your business in the most unsavory light and subtly question the competency of many of the staff and possibly the management. The upshot is the narrative is generally one of redemption for restaurants, after the celebrity chef shows them the light.
While most of these shows feature independent restaurants, it is possible for franchises to appear on reality shows. I recently read a blog post offering 5 tips for getting your restaurant on a reality show, so it is possible with the right TV show concept and consent from corporate level. I expect this redemption narrative will soon crossover to different business concepts.
Interestingly, Janet Forgrieve outlined the pitfalls of reality TV shows for restaurants in a recent article. TV publicity does not guarantee success in the slightest. Jamawn Woods, winner of 'America’s Next Great Restaurant', recently closed the doors on his three Soul Daddy restaurants. There was a kind-of multi-unit, franchise feel to Soul Daddy, but ultimately the restaurants faltered. Sometimes, a bit of ingenuity and hard work can go a lot further than free publicity.