Ram C. Rao and Shubashri Srinivasan

Why Are Royalty Rates Higher in Service-type Franchises?

Royalty payments from a franchisee to a franchisor serve as incentive for the franchisor to provide appropriate levels of quality and brand, name investment. However, since they also distort the service provided by the franchisee, we should expect relatively lower royalty rates in franchises that are primarily service-oriented. Casual examination of royalty rates across product-oriented and service-oriented franchises shows that the opposite is true, with service-type franchises enjoying higher royalty rates. We resolve this apparent puzzle. The basic argument we put forth is that in product-type franchises, a franchisor can charge a wholesale price on goods transferred to the franchisee, thus using an alternative instrument that also serves as an incentive for the franchisor. Moreover, in general, a franchisor will use both wholesale price and royalty to minimize distortions in retail price and service at the retail level. We then test the predictions of our model on different industries and find confirmation for the same.