I feel a rant coming on: No, national chain restaurant franchises are not local mom ‘n’ pop shops.


On more than one occasion the past week there have been reminders from the local owners of national chain restaurant franchises that they’re mom and pop shops, too.

Jeeebus, this gets tiring. For background see the charts above and below, and then allow me to pound the desktop for a moment.

Taco Bell, Burger King, Culver’s, McDonald’s — whichever, whatever — are not chains, they yell, because they’re franchises, and because the franchises are locally owned they’re not chains at all, and therefore, this 1,298th location cut from the same template is no different from Aladdin or Lady Tron’s.

We’re locals just like you indies! We’re mom and pop!

By the same mangled logic, the 2009 Ford Fusion that I inherited from my mother, which I believe was manufactured in Sonora (Mexico), magically becomes a “local” New Albanian automobile because I drive and operate it locally … and because of this, I can take credit for building it by hand.

Uh huh. Look, you substituted money for creativity and bought a fully developed restaurant designed and programmed by others. You cannot change the menu on whim by substituting Frito Bandito Hot Browns for Roadkill Chalupas, but you’re quite happy to reap the benefits from national saturation advertising and sponsorship campaigns of the sort almost never available to genuine indie innovators.

Yes, it’s true that you must have enough money to buy the franchise and sufficient moxie to run it, but I’m guessing that bankers are far more cooperative with proven franchise financing than start-ups from scratch, and of course the entire point of franchising is to adjust the risk factor downward compared with start-ups by applying the sheer weight of huge and bland pervasiveness.

Which the public adores, even those who ought to know better.

It’s ever harder to discuss matters like this without unleashing f-bombs. Franchisees are almost as annoying as those wealthy kids born on third base, convinced they hit a triple. It’s more like paying the umpire for a base on balls, trotting to first, and claiming to have been hit in the face by a pitch.

And, as a side note, genuine independent local small business owners know exactly what being hit in the face by a pitch feels like; it’s how we learn, daily, without a safety net extended lovingly by a multinational.

All in it together? In terms of the pandemic, yes. But as it pertains to this idiocy about franchises being local, no, not really. Think you might stop pretending?