growth

The Sporting Globe shoots, scores: Sports bar franchise heads interstate

Eloise Keating /

Co-founders of The Sporting Globe, James Sinclair and Brad Harris

Sports bar chain The Sporting Globe will break ground on its sixth Victorian store next month and will take its growing business interstate for the first time later this year when it opens an outlet in Western Australia.

The chain, which was founded in the regional Victorian city of Geelong by James Sinclair and Brad Harris in 2010, has grown in leaps and bounds in the last 12 months, opening two new venues and now turning over between $15-20 million annually.

So what’s the key to The Sporting Globe’s growth? According to Sinclair, a decision to franchise the chain has paid off.

The first Sporting Globe franchise was opened in the Melbourne suburb of Richmond last year, joining company-owned venues in Geelong, Moonee Ponds and Fountain Gate.

A franchise at Watergardens in Melbourne’s north opened in October 2014 and discussions are underway with potential franchisees for a new venue in Werribee, construction on which will commence in February. The venue is expected to open by May.

The Sporting Globe is looking for a franchisee to take over the Fountain Gate store and will also look to franchise the Geelong store once renovations are completed in March.

And later this year, the first interstate Sporting Globe franchise will open in Rockingham in Western Australia.

Sinclair says the decision to franchise the Sporting Globe was based on securing the company’s key asset: its people.

“Our business is all about people,” says Sinclair, who says each venue employs between 30 and 50 people.

“We found we had quite a lot of staff involved in managing our venues and the key thing to going well was to get the right people involved, motivated and doing a good job.”

Sinclair believes attracting high quality franchisees is about building a supportive business model.

“Our whole model is based on supporting franchisees to focus on exceptional customer service and to stay in touch with their customers,” he says.

“For each new store, we find the site, procure the deals, work with contractors to fit out and build the store, and conduct training with franchisees and staff. Once the venue is up and operational, we continue that support, with operational support each month, audits and ongoing training.”

The Sporting Globe head office also handles franchisees’ accounting and bookkeeping, a function that Sinclair says he took from the business model of convenience chain 7-11.

“On top of our franchisees’ immediate KPI reporting, we also do their monthly accounts and profit and loss,” he says.

“We also have a joint bank account with franchisees and we process their payments once a week. It means they are paid reliably and don’t have the headache of doing their own bookkeeping. All they have to do is approve their bills.”

The system means The Sporting Globe is always aware of the financial position of its franchisees and at the same time, the franchisees “always know where they stand”, Sinclair says.

“We know we’re they’re at and we can see first-hand and fast if things are going downhill.”

While multiple Australian franchises have recently come under attack for their treatment of franchisees, Sinclair says the key to making it work is transparency between franchisor and franchisee.

“Everyone wants to make the business successful and the more systems you have in place, the better it is for everyone,” he says.

However, Sinclair admits switching over from a network of only company-owned stores to a franchise network is not without its challenges.

“Training is the biggest challenge,” he says.

“When you’ve got a company-owned model, typically employees have come through the system, starting as supervisors and then managers, then venue managers. They are well-trained and au fait with the culture and how the system works.”

“But franchisees come from all sorts of backgrounds and you have to get them up to speed with the processes and culture. It means spending a lot of time with them early on.”

A growing staff at the Sporting Globe head office has helped with this, with the company making new hires in marketing, accounts and communication and events over the past 12 months, as well as bringing Brad Dekkers on board as franchise development manager.

“Brad came out of franchising at PwC and his hire was an important step for us,” Sinclair says.  “He is responsible for helping to educate people who may be interested in the brand as well as recruiting franchisees who are the right fit.”

Looking ahead, Sinclair says he can see a day when there are Sporting Globes venues in more Australian states and territories, but for the time being is focused on making the expansion to WA work.

“We are working on really establishing WA properly and there is quite a lot of support involved in being a franchisor,” he says.

“It’s important to build a strong support network to make sure [the venues] work in that state first before branching out to other states.”

But when the time comes to open more venues, Sinclair and his team will be on the lookout for high traffic, highly populated areas that are home to people who enjoying eating, drinking and watching sport and franchisees who want to be part of the Sporting Globe brand.

“I think we’re lucky because we’re in a very attractive industry,” he says.

“A lot of people like the idea of owning their own business and who hasn’t sat around in a beer, having a beer with their mates, and thought, wouldn’t it be great to open a sports bar?”

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Eloise Keating

Eloise Keating is the editor of SmartCompany. Previously, Eloise was news editor at Books+Publishing, the trade press for the Australian book industry.

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