We explore one prolific type of service triad, the franchise triad, involving three primary stakeholders: the franchisor, the franchisee and the customer. In this triad, franchisees use their affiliation with the franchisor’s brand to attract customers to their local outlets. In exchange for the right of assuming the identity of the brand, the franchisee pays the franchisor royalties and retains residual profits. Applying Agency Theory, this paper examines the inherent conflict of interests between a principal (i.e., franchisor) that controls and manages brand equity as a shared resource and an agent (i.e., franchisee) that retains pricing right and profits from the identity of the brand by interacting directly with customers. We empirically isolate the effect of triad structure on outlet performance by matching two unique datasets. One set of data captures operational performance in the form of aggregated online review scores and the other financial performance including average daily hotel rate and revenue per available room. We find that franchisees charge higher prices than their corporate counterparts even when controlling for operational performance. Even though franchisees charge higher prices they maintain similar financial performance in terms of revenue per available room. These results suggest that the triad structure plays a significant role in franchisees' ability to free-ride on shared brand equity and have important managerial implications for effective outsourcing, contract design and performance evaluation for a wide range of service industries.
Zhang, J. J., Lawrence, B., & Anderson, C. K. (2015). An agency perspective on service triads: Linking operational and financial performance [Electronic version]. Retrieved [insert date], from Cornell University, SHA School site: http://scholarship.sha.cornell.edu/articles/824