UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Franchising as a share contract : an empirical assessment Lafontaine, Francine


Contractual arrangements have been the subject of a substantial body of economic research. In particular, economists have sought an explanation for the existence of share contracts. Under this kind of contract, two or more parties share in the output of the production process. These contracts present a problem to economists because they imply more than one residual claimant. Thus incentives are diluted and inefficiency is expected to result. But this type of contract has existed for centuries and continues to be used today. Why is that if they are inefficient? The answer is that under conditions of uncertainty and imperfect information, share contracts can be preferable to fixed-wage (vertical integration) or fixed-rent (market transaction) agreements. In fact, many explanations for the existence of share contracts and their coexistence with fixed-wage and rental arrangements are found in the theoretical literature. While the theoretical literature on the subject of share contracts has flourished over the last decade, empirical analyses of these models has lagged behind. This thesis aims to rectify the situation somewhat. More precisely, recent advances in the theoretical literature are applied to the analysis of franchise contracts. An empirical model of franchising based on profit-maximizing behavior is developed which makes it possible to examine whether the factors theorists have suggested as potential explanations for share contracts are relevant when it comes to explaining what one observes in the context of franchising, and whether their effects are consistent with predictions from the various theories. Both the contract mix, i.e. franchisors' decisions concerning the proportion of stores they want to operate and franchise, and the terms of the franchise contract, fixed and variable fees, are examined. In order to carry out the analysis, data on a cross-section of 548 individual franchisors in 1986 were gathered. These franchisors are involved in a variety of business activities in the U.S., such as Fast-food Restaurants, Business Aids and Services, Construction and Maintenance, and Non-food Retailing. Censoring problems arise from the fact that a number of franchisors in the sample franchise all of their outlets. Also, some firms require no variable or no fixed fee. For these reasons, the maximum likelihood Tobit estimator is used. Empirical work in an area such as this, where theories rely on concepts that are not easily quantifiable, can hardly provide unambiguous answers about the validity of the theories. Nevertheless, the following results emerge from the empirical analysis. First, the effect of risk, measured either by the proportion of discontinued outlets or by the variance of sales in the sector, is found to be the opposite of what pure risk-sharing and one-sided hidden-action models would predict. Second, firms resort to franchising more often when monitoring downstream operators becomes costlier, and use it proportionately less when the value of the inputs they themselves provide increases. This is consistent with two-sided hidden-action models. Results with respect to capital-market-imperfection arguments are rather inconclusive. It appears that franchising relaxes some form of constraint franchisors face in trying to expand their operations, since they use it more when they are growing faster, but whether this is a financial constraint remains unclear. The explanatory power of the model is greater with respect to the proportion of franchised stores than it is for any of the two fees. Thus, in response to changes in the exogenous variables considered here, franchisors, who have a choice between modifying the terms of their franchise contract or changing the proportion of stores they want to franchise, tend to do mostly the latter. Contrary to what one would have expected on a theoretical basis, the observed royalty rates and franchise fees are not negatively correlated in this data set. Combined with the fact that the model is less satisfactory relative to the fees, this suggests that there are considerations in the determination of the royalty rate and the franchise fee that have not been taken into account in the theories. One possibility in the case of the fixed fee is that it may include the price of services provided by the franchisors. It also appears that franchisors use input sales as another means to extract rent from franchisees. This may contribute to the lack of correlation between the two fees. Finally, the equation for the franchise fee was derived under the assumption that all remaining surplus at the downstream level, given the royalty rate, should be extracted through the franchise fee. The lack of relationship between the fees could be an indication that this assumption is incorrect, and that there are in fact rents left at the downstream level. This would be consistent with the existence of queues of potential franchisees in many franchise chains.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


For non-commercial purposes only, such as research, private study and education. Additional conditions apply, see Terms of Use https://open.library.ubc.ca/terms_of_use.