For Restaurant Chains, A Homespun Challenge

Franchises get a bad rap from people who are committed to supporting independent businesses or who have embraced the “buy local” movement. Even though most franchises are owned and operated by community entrepreneurs, it’s probably true that franchising is the antithesis of localism. When a company decides to jump through the regulatory hoops and pay the upfront costs needed to set up a franchise system, it’s sending an unambiguous message: We’re not interested in sticking with our hometown.

Still, most national chains started out as the type of locally cherished independent restaurants adored by franchise-phobes. Why did these eateries decide to franchise? Because passionate customers asked them to expand to their neighborhoods or towns. Think about it: At one time, there was a single Subway–with Fred DeLuca spreading the mayo–before there was unit No. 30,000.

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