Matthew Haller, President and CEO of IFA and Joanna Kurowksa, VP, Managing Director UK & Ireland at IHG

This month’s International Franchise Association (IFA) seminar at ExCel London welcomed Joanna Kurowksa, VP, Managing Director UK & Ireland at IHG Hotels & Resorts (IHG) as one of their keynote speakers. Focussing on pathways to US and UK franchise development for brands and business ownership opportunities for prospective franchisees, the event brought franchising giants together to discuss benefits and challenges of cross-pollination across the two global markets.

With an impressive track record of managing this portfolio of hotel brands since 2021 in the UK and Ireland, the group’s third largest global market, Joanna represents the pinnacle of franchise success. During her 10 years at IHG, Joanna has risen through the ranks at a rapid pace and has built an excellent reputation as a team collaborator, people developer and a highly valued partner for owners. She is now responsible for driving sustainable hotel performance in the region’s estate and working with owners and investors to unlock the growth potential of IHG’s brands.

“Our owners and investors differentiate us based on our relationships with them and how we invest in strengthening our brand portfolio, enterprise platform, and creating the necessary expertise needed to help them succeed. Our established and valued relationship with owners is why we have continued to grow at pace while creating long-term, sustainable value that ultimately drives strong returns.”

At the heart of the seminar, Joanna shared her unique insights about how IHG works in partnership with owners and potential owners to determine best locations and brand choices for those locations as franchisees expand or new investors join the network. Warning against a presumption by brands crossing from the US to UK market or vice versa, Joanna talked about the political and cultural differences across the four countries that make up the UK. Breaking it down further, she pointed out that just like Paris is not representative of France, neither was London of England.


The event which included franchising, legal and financial experts highlighting the opportunities and challenges across both international markets welcomed other speakers who have navigated both markets from hospitality, education and social care franchise brands.

“I’m honoured to have been asked to contribute to this pivotal forum. Having been in franchising for well over a decade now, I’ve seen first-hand the power it has to transform lives,” Joanna ended.

Matthew Haller, President and CEO of IFA, also interviewed Scott Gladstone, CDO & President International from Dine Brands, about their choice to target the UK as a new market this year. With 3,400 global units, just 250 of those are outside the US in 17 other countries and they now plan to take a dual-branded IHOP and Applebee’s restaurant concept to UK soil.

“Our consumer research shows that there’s a high level of awareness of our brands already in the UK with about 60% of consumers aware of them. I think because of a lot of cross-cultural overlap through travel and mass media transfer, we’re able to penetrate new markets successfully. In new regions, we’ve got culinary teams who look at bringing in some local flavour profiles and we expect to do the same here. So IHOP, for example, will have our famous pancakes but maybe we’ll add baked beans and sausages!” explained Scott.

“Franchising is one of the greatest pathways to business ownership and brand expansion. One of the things people are surprised to see when they first enter the world of franchising is the collaboration between competing brands and the opportunities that are available around the world – and this is no different when it comes to the education sector. This event brought franchisors and prospective franchisees in new markets to share their expertise, form new partnerships and solidify existing friendships,” added Matthew.