Photo: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times
Black people own and operate franchises for companies like McDonald’s, Wendy’s and 7-Eleven. Since Black people are the franchisees in those instances, the question is whether their locations should be considered ‘Black owned’ businesses. Yes, a Black person receives the profits, has the ability to create jobs for other Black people and invest in the community, as a franchisee. On the other hand, the franchisee can only run the business consistent with the regulations set forth by the corporation and must give up a cut of their gross sales to it. The issue is complex, to say the least.
Outcomes matter. There are Black entrepreneurs who own their business independent of anyone else and yet, none of their employees are Black. On the other hand, there are Black franchisees for Dairy Queen who operate stores in Black neighborhoods and hire the Black people who live there. Honesty matters. Yes, Black franchisees must surrender a portion of their profits to a corporation that isn’t Black owned. On the other hand, Black entrepreneurs generally buy their supplies, inventory and other essential items for business from companies that aren’t Black owned. For example, a Black owned restaurant likely isn’t sourcing their veggies from Black farmers. The issue isn’t so straightforward and on either side of the debate, that much must be acknowledged.
Ultimately, Black ownership on every level is the goal. In a perfect world, Black franchisees would open up a Supreme Burger location and not a McDonald’s. That would complete the circle of Black ownership from the corporation to the local franchisee, fully recycling the Black dollar (especially if all ingredients were sourced from Black food producers). A perfect world, however, also requires a perfect consumer. Black franchisees are entrepreneurs who, first and foremost, must make a profit. They can’t hire or invest in the community if they don’t make money. Sadly, the Black consumer has demonstrated, historically, greater loyalty to McDonald’s and Wendy’s, than to a Supreme Burger. That dynamic must shift, if Black entrepreneurs are to safely embrace Black franchises. Black consumers cannot complain when Black entrepreneurs franchise non-Black corporations, if Black consumers won’t shift their loyalty from them.
Do franchises owned by Blacks count as Black owned businesses? The question isn’t an easy one to answer. There is a perfect world that we should work towards but in the meantime, Black franchisees can do a great deal of good and should Black consumers support them, those Black franchisees should be held accountable. Black consumers must, however, apply the same standards to every other entrepreneur they support.