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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Familiar chains that look like giant corporations are often independently owned small businesses that are getting wrecked by the pandemic alongside local mom-and-pops.

The big picture: Franchising has exploded in recent decades, with 733,000 franchise establishments employing more than 7.6 million Americans. The coronavirus closed 74% of them, according to a survey by the International Franchise Association.

Be smart: Fewer than half of all franchises are restaurants. The rest are in sectors like home health care, business services, hotels, auto repair, child care, dry cleaning, gyms, salons and spas.

  • They pay a one-time fee — usually tens of thousands of dollars — to buy a franchise, then give a percentage of their sales to the parent company in exchange for national advertising support and the right to use their brand and processes.
  • The franchisee is responsible for day-to-day operations, including staffing.

What they're saying: “We like to think that franchisees have these huge war chests of money, but they’re boot-strapping it. They’re small businesses that don’t have a lot of money,” Jania Bailey, CEO of franchise consultant group FranNet, told Restaurant Dive.

  • “Many [franchisees] will put everything on the line — they do a 401(k) rollover, they invest their retirement fund, take second mortgages on their homes — anything and everything to get that business open. And they scrape together to get it up and operational and get cash flowing positive, and they’re starting to see a little bit of profit, and then something like this happens and it just wipes them out.”

Go deeper

59 mins ago - Technology

Scoop: Google won't donate to members of Congress who voted against election results

Sen. Ted Cruz led the group of Republicans who opposed certifying the results. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Google will not make contributions from its political action committee this cycle to any member of Congress who voted against certifying the results of the presidential election, following the deadly Capitol riot.

Why it matters: Several major businesses paused or pulled political donations following the events of Jan. 6, when pro-Trump rioters, riled up by former President Trump, stormed the Capitol on the day it was to certify the election results.

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Minority Mitch still setting Senate agenda

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Chuck Schumer may be majority leader, yet in many ways, Mitch McConnell is still running the Senate show — and his counterpart is about done with it.

Why it matters: McConnell rolled over Democrats unapologetically, and kept tight control over his fellow Republicans, while in the majority. But he's showing equal skill as minority leader, using political jiujitsu to convert a perceived weakness into strength.