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Why Doesn't Chipotle Franchise?

Burrito and Chips

I’m a huge Chipotle fan and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I love a big fat carnitas burrito with every possible topping (is that even the right word for what you put on a burrito?) on it, especially guac. But every time I’m outside of New York I wonder why there aren’t more Chipotles out there. Sure there are a bunch (at the end of 2014 there were more than 1,700) but their numbers pale in comparison to other “fast food” giants like McDonald’s or Subway (they have more than 36,000 and 43,500 restaurants respectively). So why hasn’t Chipotle followed suit and gone the obviously successful franchising route?

A Brief History of Chipotle

The first Chipotle was started in Denver, Colorado in 1993 and the second store opened two years later solely on the cash flow from the first restaurant. By 1998 they had expanded outside of Colorado and McDonald’s invested into the growing restaurant chain. Despite the franchising giant’s investment Chipotle never followed suit and continued to expand through their direct ownership model.

So Why Don’t they Franchise?

Even though they could likely open many more restaurants, the reason Chipotle doesn’t franchise is pretty simple. Chipotle just doesn’t think they need to. In fact, they think that it would non-beneficial for them to franchise. They have traditionally maintained tight control over their restaurants and franchising would limit their ability to control the operations of all their locations. From a financial perspective, they also don’t have a pressing need to, with an operating income of nearly a half billion dollars.

Going Forward

Sorry to all of you barbacoa-loving franchise hopefuls out there but Chipotle doesn’t franchise now and it doesn’t look like they are going to anytime in the near future. They’ve stuck by their model for the past two decades and have been very successful in doing so. But the good news for you is that they aren’t the only options for food franchising out there. There are a ton of great restaurants that are looking for franchisees. If you’re interested, check them out here!

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Getting into Baby Boomers Wallets

Savvy businesses have been marketing to the Boomer generation for years. But interest is accelerating now that Boomers are approaching their 60s. In this day and age, no business can afford to ignore the economic realities of this phenomenon, with one in three adults currently at least the age of 50. The target audience for these marketing schemes should be adults aged 54 to 64. They have the deepest pockets, with an estimated average net worth of $210,000 -- higher than any other age group.

Strategic and Structural Alternatives to Franchising

These are difficult decisions. The solutions are not clear cut from a business or from a legal perspective. It is critical that a company in this position work with qualified counsel to identify an alternative that will have a reasonable basis for an exemption and still make sense from a strategic perspective. The balance of this chapter will look at the many alternatives currently being tested by many U.S. and oversees companies. As you can see, the lines of demarcation are not always clear. The differences between many of these alternatives may in fact be in name only. Some of these concepts are truly innovative and have not been truly tested by the courts or the regulators. In these borderline cases, a regulatory “no-action” letter procedure is strongly recommended. Other concepts are not very innovative at all and merely borrow from long-recognized and analogous legal relationships such as chapter affiliation agreements in the non-profit arena or network affiliation agreements in radio and television broadcasting.

Know Before you Go – Non-Compete Provisions in Franchise Agreements

In general, non-compete provisions state that the franchisee will not, during the term of the franchise agreement and for a reasonable period thereafter (typically two or three years), own or be involved in any “competitive business.” What constitutes a “competitive business” will vary from franchise system to franchise system, but most franchisees can generally expect to be prohibited from taking part in any business that offers goods/services that are either identical to or competitive with the goods/services offered under the franchise system. Non-compete provisions must be limited in geographic scope, and generally cover a set radius (usually somewhere around 5 to 25 miles) around the former franchised outlet, and possibly also the outlets of other existing franchisees.