Chains, franchises, locally owned, oh my!

By Candace Nelson - 8:00 AM

Walking into the Princeton Dairy Queen was different from all the other Dairy Queens I've been in, which is probably a lot. I noticed the commercialized Blizzard logos and designed boards full of ice cream goodies to the right. But on the left was a plain yellow board, with black writing for the food. And the items on the food menu weren't what I was used to: pulled pork sandwich? I didn't understand why the ice cream side looked like a regular DQ, but the food side looked like something someone just made up.

Because it was. Kind of. I ordered a burger, and it was unlike a burger I had ever gotten from DQ before. It was huge, like my dad used to cook. And the bun was pouffy, sans sesame seeds, and a large crisp piece of lettuce and a thick tomato sat atop the thick patty. It looked … homemade. Not commercial. This was a pleasant surprise.

On another occasion, I ordered a chicken strip basket. What I got was a few overprocessed (with rib meat) chicken strips - not what I was used to. And this wasn't good. I expected the nice, tender strips. Not the knockoff version that you can't even see the striations in the meat. It was simply some sort of meat mashed together. It was terrible.

They are under new management now, though, and I hear their chicken strip baskets have improved. They do, however, still serve the same types of food - on that yellow background menu with black lettering.

But how can they do this? Why don't they serve the food that I'm used to DQs serving? I thought I could get a burger at DQ, drive to California, and get the same burger there?

I dug to find some information about locally owned vs. chain vs. franchised restaurants. I generally try to eat at local places because I want to supper them, and I want that money to go back into the local economy. But the story isn't quite as black and white as that. Franchises can be owned by locals, too.


So, local restaurants are those that are created by locals, through and through.

Chain restaurants are a group of one or more stress that have the same name, sell the same products and follow the same corporate policies. When the chain is owned corporately, the parent corporation owns all of the stores and units. It also runs the business day-to-day and the profits belong to the corporation.

Franchises are owned by an outside invester. Each franchise must follow certain guidelines set by the parent company, which usually includes the types of products to sell, etc. Why do this? Because a franchise allows a person to own a business, but use the name of an already successful corporation, etc. This gives them a proven business model, and brand awareness already.

So yes, franchises can be part-corporate, part-local. They are locally owned and operated. There are varying degrees of gray here, from being completely local to being completely corporate, to being somewhere in-between. This issue came up with the BP oilspill, when people were boycotting locally owned and operated BPs. Those local folks don't have much to do with the price of gas or the oilspill, but they felt the effects. This is all new to me, so please let me know if you have anything to add.

Can you add anything that helps clarify here? Or had any similar experiences?

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