Michel’s Patisserie franchisees take honours despite tough year

By Nick Hall | 09 Sep 2019 View comments

A tumultuous year for Retail Food Group (RFG) branded café chain Michel’s Patisserie hasn’t impacted New South Wales operators, Greg Stevens and Annie Li. The Toronto Michel’s Patisserie franchisees took out the Franchisee of the Year award at the National Retail Association’s (NRA) annual gala last week.

The seven-year network veterans were praised for their on-going commitment to customer service and outstanding business practices.

The Toronto Michel’s Patisserie franchisees said national recognition was a testament to the whole team behind them.

“Our promise has always been dedicated to promoting the Michel’s brand, building a strong team and encouraging them to actively engage with our customers which would give everyone a sense of belonging to our business,” Stevens said.

“Annie and our team have strived for continuous improvement and have focused on making ourselves attractive to new customers and their buying behaviours along with providing competitively priced products amongst the competitive retail market.”

Toronto Michel’s Patisserie franchisees

It’s not the first time Stevens and Li have claimed honours either, crediting a consistent approach to innovation as critical to their success. In fact, despite picking up a major accolade, the Toronto Michel’s Patisserie franchisees were already looking at ways to improve their business.

“We’re really proud of this award – the sixth major business award, and once we’ve taken some time to drink it all in, we’ll continue looking at ways to reshape the industry for greater outcomes again,” Stevens said.

Sean Fitzgerald, Michel’s general manager said the entire team was inspired by the efforts of the franchise veterans.

“Our team has been inspired by Greg and Annie for many years and it has been very rewarding to see them acknowledged on a national stage by the NRA,” Fitzgerald said.

“Recent product and marketing initiatives have gone a long way towards strengthening the visibility and success of Michel’s franchisees, but it’s the people behind the counters that bring the brand to life and create ambassadors in their customers.”

Brand concerns

The success of Stevens and Li couldn’t come at a more poignant time for Michel’s. Earlier this year, the café chain was rocked by allegations of franchisee exploitation, resulting in a proposed class action against the brand.

Law-firm Corrs Chambers Westgarth is driving the class-action, alleging potential breaches to the Consumer Law Act. At present, the firm is engaging in a series of roadshows, giving disgruntled Michel’s Patisserie franchisees the opportunity to voice their concerns.

While the latest win is certainly a positive step forward for the brand, it has been largely overshadowed by looming concerns over parent company Retail Food Group. Just last week, the embattled franchisor reported that profits have halved compared to the prior period’s result.

According to chairman Peter George, the company is focusing on reducing the high level of debt, starting first with a culture-shift.

“RFG is making solid progress… and expects to see stabilisation and future growth through the strategic initiatives underway,” George said.

“The new management team is rebuilding the culture of RFG and will continue to strengthen our franchisee-first focus and position the group for growth in the medium term.”