San Francisco’s Chain Store Restrictions Targeted Starbucks. They’re Now Screwing Over a Local Burrito Joint.
Well, that’s a wrap. San Francisco’s restrictions on chain stores will stop a local burrito business from opening another location unless it makes sufficient changes to its signs, menus, or other branding materials.
On Thursday, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that the city’s Planning Department had ruled that El Farolito—which has been serving up its “Mission-style” burritos since the 1980s—can’t open its planned 12th store in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood.
That’s because the city’s “formula retail” restrictions prevent businesses with 11 or more locations from opening in some of San Francisco’s designated Neighborhood Commercial Districts—including North Beach.
There was an open question of whether El Farolito—whose owners have 11 locations throughout the Bay Area—met the definition of formula retail, which turns on whether a business has standardized menus, signage, facades, employee uniforms, color schemes, interior décor, or trademarks.
(A business is considered formula retail if it has two or more of those features standardized across at least 11 locations.)
El Farolito’s owners had argued in a document submitted to the Planning Department that several of its locations were called El Favorito. Their planned North Beach location would only be the ninth El Farolito, and thus under the formula retail threshold.
A Mission Local article from August pointed out that some of the El Farolito–branded locations had different signage as well.
That apparently wasn’t enough to clear the high hurdle established by the city’s exacting chain store restrictions.
“Given the code’s prohibition of form
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