Sometimes it takes the addition of a franchise to a city to make residents feel they're living in a "real" town. Anyone who's ever lived in a town without a Subway or McDonald's surely knows people who eagerly anticipate traveling to other towns that offer the American experience of shopping at a franchise store. But how do franchise companies ensure the shopping experience at a store in Alaska is the same as the experience shopping at the same store in Los Angeles or Miami? By requiring strict adherence to building plans, operational plans, and product sourcing, of course.
So strict, in fact, that some companies are prepared to drop a franchisee over sign placement or the type of wood used in the interior of their store, says Jack Lewis, who's behind the BurgerFi restaurant at the Sears Mall, as well as the new BurgerFi and Krispy Kreme restaurants anticipated to open next summer as part of the Creekside development under construction near the corner of DeBarr and Muldoon roads.
"I did almost run into an impasse with Krispy Kreme because of the 'Hot Donuts Now' sign," Lewis says. "We have a very strict signage law in Anchorage and [not having the sign] was actually a deal-killer. That's how strongly they felt about their branding." In the end, Lewis says he was able to meet the Municipality of Anchorage sign law requirements with no problem. But he said it was surprising to learn that his chance to bring Krispy Kreme to Alaska could have been sidelined by a sign law.
"They were quick to say if we don't meet these certain minimal requirements, [Krispy Kreme] will not issue the franchise, even if it's a wonderful market, even it if means little [in terms of lost revenue]," Lewis says.
Franchises, from restaurants to tire shops and gyms, vary in how much freedom they allow franchisees to have. The construction process is frequently very strict to ensure homogeneity. But most allow franchisees to hire their own contractors to build or remodel the stores. Maintenance is frequently left up to the franchisee as well, although some companies stipulate that the work fit into a preset financial model.
Lewis is behind several restaurants in Anchorage, including Peanut Farm Bar and Grill, Sourdough Mining Company, McGinley's Irish Pub, and two Firetap Alehouses, one near O'Malley Road and one at Tikahtnu Commons in northeast Anchorage. Bringing franchise restaurants to Alaska is an exciting challenge, he says, and definitely a...