Why You'll Never Own A White Castle Franchise

Considering how the film Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle has, for certain groups, made the brand as iconic as the McDonald's arches, it's only natural that one would want to open a White Castle franchise to capitalize on that status. However, you can't. The issue with opening a White Castle franchise, unlike with other chains, isn't that it's too expensive for most to open — it's because White Castle doesn't offer franchise agreements to begin with, a fact easily verified with a quick look at their website, which lacks the usually-present franchise information page.

When asked why White Castle doesn't franchise by Forbes in a 2020 piece celebrating White Castle's nearing centennial, Jamie Richardson, vice president of Marketing, simply stated, "Being family-owned, our philosophy has been to not worry about being the biggest, but focus on being the best we can be." Similarly, Lisa Ingram, President, CEO, and great-granddaughter of White Castle founder Billy Ingram, told CNBC in 2019 that the loss of control wasn't something that interested the company. 

Perhaps the refusal is a posturing before the fact that in terms of restaurants, White Castle is microscopic when compared to other burger chains. However, as White Castle has been going for over a century now and has achieved a fame that, if it fails to equal McDonald's and Burger King, at least receives mention. So the restaurant chain doesn't have too much to really prove. 

White Castle may still want to deal with you

To conclude from this anti-franchise stance that White Castle has no interest in growth would be a mistake, however. On March 16, 2021, Restaurant Business noted that White Castle would soon open a new location in Orlando, Florida. Nor is this an abnormality, as in 2019, White Castle opened a restaurant in Scottsdale, Arizona — the first White Castle in the western half of the United States. While the opening of a couple of restaurants may not sound like news for a branded burger chain, it's worth remembering that when the Forbes piece came out in January 2020, White Castle only had 345 restaurants.

To facilitate further openings, White Castle includes a real estate acquisition process on their website. In it, they explain that they are looking for 20,000- to 40,0000-square-foot areas within certain markets. The population in a surrounding 2,5 mile radius has to be at least 35,000 with an average income of $55,000. Another option listed in the packet is that convenience store owners who want to use their extra space could rent a leased White Castle, which would not operate as a franchise.

So, White Castle will never offer you a franchise, but in their interest to continue growing at a sustainable pace, they will work with you if you have the land to offer.