Jim Johnstone - GM of Baskin Robbins UK


Feb 10, 2017

Baskin-Robbins was founded in 1945 by Burton “Burt” Baskin and Irvine “Irv” Robbins. Today, over 60 years later, Baskin-Robbins sells in excess of 300 million scoops of ice cream each week across 6,700 stores in 50 countries. Since their foundation they have introduced over 1,000 unique, fun and much-loved ice cream recipes, frozen drinks and ice-cream cakes.

FranchiseExp: What’s the story behind Baskin Robbins?

Jim Johnstone: Baskin Robbins is a global brand with over 6000 stores in 50 countries. We started in 1945 with just a few stores and expanded quickly across California and then the rest of the world including Japan, Korea, Russia and of course the UK.

FE: What made you decide to franchise?

Jim: The founders, Burt Robbins and Irv Baskin, realised that their strengths were in developing a great brand through focusing on product innovation, marketing strategy, operations excellence and a robust business model. They decided to franchise the stores to enable rapid growth of the Brand.

FE: Tell us a little about the ice cream market?

Jim: It’s huge but has lots of competition. Other large brands have decided to focus on the take home ice cream market while we are focusing on the whole experience in store. As Burt Robbins said, “We don’t sell ice cream, we sell fun”

FE: What have some of the challenges been in growing your franchise?

Jim: Reaching the decision that the right approach is to offer development areas and not single stores as a franchise in the UK. There are lots of very capable single store operators out there but I made the decision to go with multiples of 5 or 10 area operators to ensure we grow the brand across the UK, not just individual stores.

FE: Who has been your greatest inspiration?

Jim: A CEO of a major company I worked for as a Regional Director. He was asked a question at a conference, if he knew for sure - 100% - that his strategy would work. He replied “No of course not, how could I? But ask me if I believe 100% that it is the right thing to do...absolutely I do” For me this demonstrated real leadership as he had confidence in himself that gave us confidence in him.

FE: What are some of the advantages in being a Baskin Robbins franchisee?

Jim: The investment at store level is low. You can open 10 Baskin Robbins stores for the same cost as one Drive Thru in the QSR sector. You then spread your investment rather than relying on one location. Also, our some of our products are almost unique. Ice Cream Cakes made in Store for any occasion, Milkshakes blended in front of you from any of our 31 flavours on sale at any one time. We bring in a new flavour every month, true innovation!
Finally, we have a great team here in the UK who are dedicated to helping franchisees grow their sales and profitability.

FE: What “Gadgets” (Blackberry, Iphone, Ipod, etc) can’t you live without?

Jim: Sat Nav in the car I’m afraid. I know the UK like the back of my hand and have lived and worked in many areas, I just don’t know how to get anywhere now without entering the postcode or “POI” first.

FE: What do you do in your spare time?

Jim: Look after our 2 young girls, go down the pub every Thursday night if I’m not away,and all other evenings, I pretend I’m not watching reality TV with my wife. I used to play golf but gave up when we had children. My clubs sit next to me in my office, waiting for the day that they can go outside again.

FE: What advice do you have for someone looking to acquire a Franchise?

Jim: You should look at a Franchise as a long term investment, which is why we offer a 20 year franchise agreement. Also, be prepared to work in partnership with the franchisor. We respect the fact that you own your own business, you need to respect that we own the brand.

FE: In your opinion, why do you think that Baskin Robbins would be a great opportunity for someone?

Jim: It’s a brand with real heritage and with over 6000 stores has a huge support network not just in the UK but around the world and in our global headquarters in Boston. We have passionate and experienced chefs, international marketeers, true leaders in operations excellence and a highly committed training team. All these people are there to support franchisees as that is our business model – 100%.