Over the last 10 years or so, franchisors have begun including performance standards, minimum gross sales requirements, and minimum royalty rates in their franchise agreements. Whatever vintage they are (sales requirements, minimum sale or royalty), the whole rationale is this: The franchisor wants to make sure that the franchise territory is not tied up, underperforming, or underutilized.
The performance standards, minimum gross sales requirements, and minimum royalty rates are commonly stated in straight dollar amounts. Those dollar amounts may seem a bit measly, when the franchise agreement comes up for renewal 10 years later.
The franchisor can up the dollar amounts at the time of renewal. Right? One franchisee argued no way, no go. The case is Home Instead, Inc. v. David Florance et. al. The franchise agreement in question stated, in pertinent part, “The franchisee must maintain minimum gross sales of $30,000 per month after the end of the fifth year of operation of the Franchised Business through the end of the term of this Agreement or any renewal term of a renewal Franchise Agreement (the Performance Standard).”
In this case the franchisor wanted to raise the $30,000 to $70,000, a more than double increase of the Performance Standard. The franchisee read the franchise agreement to say that the $30,000 would run forever over all renewal periods. The court called this a “strained reading” of the franchise agreement. The court went on to say that “This reading places a permanent ceiling on the Performance Standard.” The court honed in on the word “minimum.”
The court found that the $30,000 stated in the initial franchise agreement “creates a floor, not a ceiling.” “Nothing in [the franchise agreement] §2.F prohibits the franchisor from raising the minimum amount.”
Lesson from the Court: Each word has meaning, make sure to heed the meaning.
Minimum performance standards are disclosed in several item numbers of the franchise disclosure document.