CEO of MTY Food Group Discusses Future of Franchisees in Papa Murphy’s Podcast

Eric Lefebvre shares his thoughts on iconic pizza franchise’s first ever podcast episode

If you love the convenience of quick service and great tasting food at an affordable price, then you’ve heard of brands like Papa Murphy’s take and bake pizza franchises, Cold Stone Creamery®, Pink Berry, Grab a Green, Sushi Shop, and Thai Express. But you may not have heard of the franchising moguls behind-the-scenes stirring up the success of all your favorite places: MTY Food Group.

head shot of CEO of take and bake pizza franchises parent company, MTY Food Group

MTY Food Group, the parent company to Papa Murphy’s take and bake pizza franchises, is a family whose heart beats to the rhythm of its brands and supports the business dreams of entrepreneurs all across North America and around the world. The CEO of MTY Food Group, Eric Lefebvre, recently appeared on the first ever episode of the iconic pizza franchise’s podcast.

Lefebvre has worked with MTY for over 11 years, starting as the VP of Finance and Controller and later growing into his role as CFO. When the company’s founder retired in 2018, Lefebvre moved into the position of CEO.

Today, MTY Food Group is one of the largest franchisors in the world, acquiring restaurant chains for the last 15 years. The franchisor is growing its network and resources at a massive rate – three or four chains each year. As a result, MTY Food Group is capable of leveraging their assets to benefit their franchise partners.

In the Papa Murphy’s podcast episode, Lefebvre discusses the value of a franchise system to entrepreneurs exploring their options. Having spent the last year helping franchisees navigate the crisis, Lefebvre and the MTY Food Group have proven to be invaluable to their brands and franchise owners. Their dedication to innovation is something that unites the MTY Food Group brands and allows their franchise partners to continue to grow, stay relevant, be profitable, and win new customers.

In the recent podcast, he shares his thoughts on how MTY helped franchise owners make it through the crisis of the global pandemic, the brand’s commitment to investing in technology to support franchise owners, his vision for the future, and much more.

Read the highlights from our conversation below, or check out the full podcast here:

You happen to become the CEO right when the pandemic hit. How did you help your brands and franchisees recover?

Lefebvre: The pandemic was hard for everyone regardless of whether you were part of the MTY network or not. But we have certain advantages that are attributable to our size. We’re in a better position to communicate effectively with our franchisees so we find them tools and get them all the assistance that we have available.

From a communications aspect, we quickly adjusted our marketing strategy. Marketing has become very digital, shifting from traditional landscape media like TV, radio, or billboards. It is about being where your customers are going to be. So, we’ve been able to support our franchise owners by utilizing new platforms and marketing media, which helped us generate good revenue.

This way, our franchise partners could keep their investments full because, ultimately, a franchisee is operating their restaurant but also investors that are in it for a return. The last thing we want to see is investors losing their investment. So, we’re doing everything we can with the resources we have.

Their success was our top priority. That’s what being a part of the MTY food group means – our franchisees and brands have a big advantage with our support infrastructure in place.

Cold Stone Creamery and Papa Murphy’s, in particular, rebounded incredibly quickly. What do you think it is about these brands that enabled their success?

Lefebvre: Both Cold Stone and Papa Murphy’s take and bake pizza franchises are takeout operations by nature. Obviously, that avenue prepared them to handle the pandemic better than most. The takeout and e-commerce wave certainly grew and these brands were positioned to capitalize on that market.

Just before the COVID-19 pandemic, MTY completed important phases of our e-commerce platforms with Cold Stone and Papa Murphy’s take and bake pizza franchises. Online ordering was made more efficient, websites were revised, apps were upgraded, and the brands’ loyalty programs were deployed at just the right time. They saw major benefits from those investments and their sales increased over the last ten months.

Why do you think it’s important to continually invest in technology?

Lefebvre: Because it’s proven to benefit our franchisees, and if anything, we see that this is the way of the future. I think the trends today will have lasting impacts on customer behavior and expectations. So, more than ever, we need to accelerate investment in technology.

Technology can be a lot of different things: how we market, how we drive our loyalty program, how we make it easy for customers to order, how we make it easy for them to skip the line in the store, or how we make it easy for them to pick up their orders. What’s important is that we make it seamless and simple for them. We want to improve customer satisfaction every time.

What matters more than the customer’s current order is their intent to return. Now, our return customers are driven by the online platform and the interaction is with the technology we put in place. It’s a different way to look at the customer relationship and we’re invested in innovations that make their experience memorable.

What value do you think franchise owners see in the continual increase of support from the MTY Food Group?

Lefebvre: Making sure that our franchisees are profitable is what we do – but it isn’t all we do. All our efforts and investments are meant to benefit our franchise partners. If we want to be successful, we need our franchisees to see our value to their business and that starts with helping them generate high returns. That involves over 800 people in the company putting their minds together and trying to make sure that our franchise owners have what they need to succeed.

Independent ownership is hard – and you often feel alone and uncertain. The COVID-19 crisis is like driving a bus without a steering wheel for many of them. It’s tough mentally and it’s tough on your business.

But that is where MTY made all the difference for our franchise business owners. When you have a team of 800 people helping you steer in the right direction, you don’t feel out of control and you aren’t alone. We can support your endeavors. As a large group, we can design forms of relief for franchisees. I think there’s a lot of power in having a collective whole helping an individual franchise owner.

What is your vision for MTY Food Group going forward?

Lefebvre: The vision is always to keep expanding, be relevant for our customers, and continue to grow the business. We’ve grown to 7,000 locations. There’s no stopping us.

I look at how deep this market is, specifically in the US, and there is still tremendous room for us to grow.

We have a portfolio that is able to address the needs of our customers and franchisees alike. During the crisis, we focused all of our attention on our existing franchisees. But as restrictions are lifted and our country recovers, we will resume our efforts in acquiring new brands and being more productive by increasing efficiency and our footprint in North America.

Want to know more about opportunities with MTY Food Group?

For over 35 years, MTY has been increasing its presence in the quick service industry through acquisitions and strategic alliances. By combining new trends with operational know-how, the brands forming the MTY Group touch the lives of millions. We encourage entrepreneurs seeking a supportive collective to join our team and grow to new heights year after year.

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