Monday, May 18, 2009

Food: Franchise Misfires

The decision to franchise your restaurant must be a momentous one. Essentially, you're farming out your name and your goodwill to someone else, a stranger in most cases. Here's a couple restaurants that opened up here in Gainesville that should provide a note to caution to anyone thinking of becoming a franchisor:

The Flying Biscuit Cafe

This chain started in Atlanta, and the Gainesville location is the first "Flying Biscuit Cafe" ever to be opened in the state of Florida. The story of the Flying Biscuit is almost archetypical: a small-time chef cooks some awesome biscuits in her cafe, the cafe thrives based on rave reviews and becomes a local favorite, and soon locations start spreading all over the country.

The Gainesville FBC illustrates the biggest problem with franchising - you lose control over your food. FBC Founder and chef Delia Champion attended the grand opening of the Gainesville FBC, but it's woefully clear that she isn't the one in the kitchen. Instead, others merely follow her recipes, with none of the pride and care an owner takes.

The result? Soulless soul food, stripped of the things that made the FBC such a fixture in Atlanta. The biscuits at the Gainesville location are hard, dense, and flavorless. Most of the entrees are edible, but uninspiring; you can see the influence of Champion in the fried green tomato BLT sandwich (the goat cheese and cashews are a good combination), but the end result is merely good instead of special.

The famous Flying Biscuit breakfast is reduced to goopy grits and cold bacon instead of something that delights the senses. Compared to a typical Denny's breakfast, it stands up well enough, I suppose, but it's blown out of the water by something like John G's. When you consider the prices you are paying, the mediocre food and pseudo-kitsch atmosphere become almost too much to bear...

1/4 stars

Woody's Bar-B-Q

The other restaurant in today's pair of cautionary tales is "Woody's Bar-B-Q", a barbecue chain spread across the southeast United States. A Gainesville iteration of this chain opened in a strip mall recently, and I decided to take a look.

I predict that "Woody's" won't be a big hit in Gainesville, but not strictly because of the execution of the franchisor's menu. Rather, "Woody's" shows how franchising a restaurant can expose it to more competition. There are at least three or four different places where you can get better barbecue. Heck, even the existing Gainesville-based chain, Sonny's, is at least as good.

The food at the Gainesville "Woody's" is competent but nothing special. When I ate ribs there, all I could think of was how everything - the meat, side dishes, and even banana pudding - compared negatively with other Gainesville barbecue joints. I suspect most Gainesville residents will do the same.

1/4 stars


At 1:01 AM, Blogger PerfectMomentProject said...

I can't believe this is a chain.

Oh yeah. We spent a wonderful morning at The Flying Biscuit recently.
Take a look at the photos. Flying off the plate biscuits. Definitely my last meal in Atlanta:
Sometimes you just gotta have a biscuit


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