Why family is at the heart of the Shingle Inn franchise

By Sarah Stowe | 08 Jun 2018 View comments

Inside Franchise Business: Shingle Inn's Bellchambers familyHeading up the Shingle Inn cafe chain, the Bellchambers have been running family businesses for many many years – you could say it’s in their blood.

The business has family values through and through and wanted to allow other families to have a chance to run their own business. In December 2009 they franchised three of (then) eight company-owned stores, as well as two greenfield sites, to start their lives as franchisors with 10 Shingle Inn cafes.

Peter and Andrew have been involved the family business their whole lives. Business really is second nature to them.

“I don’t think the franchising element has changed our approach to the business, however, it has given us an appreciation for the fact that many of our franchisees are in family businesses themselves, working with their wives, husbands, brothers and sisters and children,” says Andrew Bellchamber.

“Both Peter’s wife, Noelene, and my wife, Louise, work in the business and Peter’s daughters have also worked in the cafes at various times during their school and university lives. My first child was born while our first franchisees were in training!”

The franchisor says Shingle Inn has been the backdrop for many family traditions for generations, especially in Queensland.  

“It doesn’t matter where in Australia we open a store, without fail someone approaches me to recall visiting the original store with a grandparent or being taken there by their parents for a special occasion,” says Andrew Bellchamber.

The brother duo say that they appreciate the celebrations and challenges that come with operating a family business and the way this translates to the families that run their businesses within the Shingle Inn network.

How to run a family business

“It can be important to create boundaries around work so that you don’t solely operate as a work-unit and can have family time as well. As a whole, our family has always utilised birthday celebrations and special occasions like Mother’s Day to get together and enjoy each other’s company,” says Andrew.

“It wasn’t a ‘rule’ not to talk about work at these functions but we rarely do. We use these opportunities to catch up on life outside of work, particularly the milestones our children are celebrating.

“Like many family business owners it is difficult to switch off as you tend to be constantly thinking about what needs to happen the next day, week, month, or even next year. As a consequence, I try to have at least one day during the week that I don’t do any work at home and I like to spend that time outdoors with the kids and exercising as I find that helps to clear my mind.”

The Bellchambers say they are not a confrontational family and have always had a structure to the way they approach work with monthly director’s meetings and an appreciation of what everyone brings to the table.

“Our skill sets are very different too which I think helps. Peter and Noelene are both accountants, while Louise and I have communications, business management and HR degrees,” says Andrew.

“It’s a rare occurrence that we’d be upset with each other and even rarer that we’d show it. We each have our roles and we get on with the job. It is an ethos that was instilled in us at a very early age.

“In any family business there’s generally a common goal; you all want a mutually beneficial outcome – a successful business. We have common values, a common work ethic and a vision that’s heavily aligned.”

Family culture in a franchise

The franchisor says a clear advantage has been employee retention.

“Our family culture has helped us retain team members for long periods, including one employee who has been working for us for over 35 years and a raft of others who have worked in the business for 10, 15, 20+ years,” says Andrew.

“This has always been a feature of our family business and it definitely benefits our franchisees as we’re able to offer continuity and an in-depth knowledge base from our team. We truly understand the long hours and the pressure of separating work and family time.

"I think [being a family run franchise]  gives us a level of insight and compassion that may not be afforded to franchisees in businesses where the stakeholders are not directly involved.

“Many new franchisees tell us that the family component is one of the key reasons for joining the Shingle Inn network.”

Family culture is one of the cafe chain’s brand values. The Bellchambers want franchisees to feel like part of the family and use that vocabulary often. The quarterly group meetings are referred to as family forums.

“Franchisees pick up very quickly on the family dynamic so anyone who embraces that environment will tend to feel very comfortable from the initial stages of engaging with our brand,” says Andrew.