How can a chain be cool?
That’s a bit of an oxymoron there, but the best way to make a chain cool is to make it seem like an independent. The most effective way is not to call it the same thing with the same products everywhere, but of course, I guess that’s what a chain is. The other strategy is to make the locale as unique to the local culture as possible.
Espresso Royale Caffe is in a few college towns, but at least they’re unique in each place, have live entertainment (which of course reflects the local talent), and have different policies (some have free internet, some don’t.) Seriously though, I have seen four Espresso Royales, and none of them look like one another, and none of them look like a chain. Which is probably a good reason why they’re always so full of people.
Well, Associated Grocer and Ace Hardware are both chains that allow (encourage, in the case of Associated) their franchisees to self-brand.
Gas stations are also (but growing less so) an example of this: my favorite gas station is Gatenburgs, across the street… only their pumps are branded “Sinclair”.