As someone who worked for DD, I can confirm that it's definitely a franchise that has a LOT of rules and regulations.
But at the same time, that means the owners pretty much have zero responsibilities, if they want. There's a regional manager who will handle any issue concerning the brand, from customer complaints to employee discipline (if it's anything close to severe enough that an owner would have gotten involved). You don't have to handle marketing. All the logistics stuff (schedules, payroll, etc.) is so minor that a single manager can effectively handle it and spend most of the week bored, particularly because Dunkin has an automated payroll system.
The guy I worked for owned, iirc, 12 of the stores. I'm sure he was making quite a bit of money, for essentially no effort. I'd wager he spent a maximum of two hours a week doing anything related to his stores (plural). In the four or five months I worked at mine, he visited maybe twice. And he was relatively local.
That's not to say that there isn't more payoff for more time spent. There is. A more active owner would probably grow a larger community presence, would be able to more effectively optimize hours (Dunkin has certain hours of operation requirements, but you can expand past them if you wish), do more effective market research so he gets the most out of each order.
But doing NONE of that is still going to make you money if:
-the franchise is doing well.
-your store is clean and efficient.
-your staff aren't @#%^s.
That's why a franchise is attractive. So I have no interest in listening to the complaints of a store owner. You don't get to open a business piggy-backing off someone else's brand, which they have licensed to you, and then complain about their brand choices. Newsflash: you don't own or have any authority over the brand. Your choice to associate with the brand was just that - your choice.
If you want to have a say in the company, reinvest your profits in stock. You'll get to take part in the shareholder's meetings, which are now required to be available online in the US. The more you grow your own businesses, the more DD is going to take note of your successes (and thus use you for research, which I believe has a financial bonus to it). The more success you have there, the more stock you own.
I DO agree that not being able to pass on the business to an heir could be a serious issue. But I can also see the franchise's side of things - that takes away their ability to police who has access to their license. Maybe the answer is for them to be required to award the license to or buy out the heir.
What that would actually mean, I have no clue. But there IS a version of this I can see that is extremely problematic:
Some parent takes out a loan to open a franchised shop - leases the space, pays for the license, buys all the equipment (which is typically EXTREMELY expensive - a BR soft ice cream machine probably costs at least 10k, if not 15+). He dies suddenly, and now his kids are saddled with his debt. They have a lease on a space that can't be used as a Dunkin Donuts anymore, they own equipment designed for use with DD items (smoothie machine, for instance), and I bet a fair amount of that came with licenses that it CAN'T be used with anything but approved DD goods.
They're essentially @#%^ed. They're saddled with all the debt, with no way to repay it, simply because they don't have the right to keep their doors open. That's an issue to me.
But if DD was required to buy them out, IF they don't approve the license (so the people can't just demand the cash), then it at least zeroes out the debt to the heir.
It'll be close, but Romney has the momentum.