Franchises, and fast-food franchises in particular, do not mean the death of a neighborhood, as some appear to think ("Fast Food? In Our Neighborhood?" Close to Home, June 23). In fact, they often enhance a neighborhood, providing jobs and yet more choices for the consumer.
Few people realize the impact franchising has had on the U.S. economy. According the Department of Commerce, retail sales by franchises account for about one- third of all retail sales in this country, and provide employment for more than 5 million people. Furthermore, the success rate of franchises is substantially higher than that of other small businesses. It has been about 90-95 percent a year for the past 15 years, whereas the U.S. Small Business Administration estimates that 65 percent of newly established, independently owned small businesses will fail in the first five years of operation. Stable businesses create a stable neighborhood and provide stable employment for its residents.
Many times, those jobs are the first for a young person who otherwise might not have the opportunity to work during the summer months or after school. As more and more franchises are opening in inner- city neighborhoods, more and more jobs are provided for the disadvantaged youth looking for a start on the ladder to a decent life.
As a recent study by the National Institute for Work and Learning shows, most fast-food restaurant employees view their jobs as a starting point, a way to gain experience for the future and a means to save money for such things as education. Are we to deny them that opportunity?
Similarly, a franchise is in effect a local business, usually owned by a local businessman. Only the name and the business system are national.
Preserving the architectural and historical integrity of a neighborhood is essential, as writer Donald R. Dinan noted. However, one need only walk through Georgetown and see the Burger King on M Street, or through Old Town and see the McDonald's on King Street, or take the subway to Ballston and see the Personnel Pool of America outlet to recognize that franchises can and do assimilate themselves into a neighborhood in a tasteful way.
The public recognizes the cleanliness, convenience and value represented by many franchises. In a survey conducted for us last year, those three items were cited most often as the main reasons for patronizing a franchise as opposed to other types of business. In the final analysis, it will be the consumer who will determine whether a franchise stays in the neighborhood, and not a government body.