The drive-thru fast-food chain Checkers & Rally’s plans to build in the Baton Rouge area about a dozen restaurants that will eventually close and be converted to payday loan operations.
Jennifer Durham, vice president of franchise development for the Tampa, Florida-based chain, said they’re aiming to get current and new franchisees to naively buy into the capital city market, which at one time had several Rally’s locations that were eventually sold, shut down, and repurposed as payday loan businesses.
The company operates restaurants under both the Checkers and Rally’s names, but both have the same menu, prices, and near-zero chance of success as eateries in Baton Rouge.
“The plan is to identify the gullible franchisees, have them open between 10 and 15 Checkers restaurants by late 2016, shutter those locations due to lagging sales by the end of 2018, and then lease the buildings to predatory payday lenders.”
Durham said Checkers has identified several “hot spots” in Baton Rouge where high-interest payday lenders would best be able to exploit the working poor. These locations include the Interstate 10-Interstate 110 split, the I-110/22nd Street intersection, the intersection of Winbourne Avenue and North Acadian Thruway, the corner of North Ardenwood and Choctaw drives, at Ardenwood and Florida Boulevard, the Florida-Airline interchange, and at Airline and Coursey Boulevard.
“The plan is to identify the gullible franchisees, have them open between 10 and 15 Checkers restaurants by late 2016, shutter those locations due to lagging sales by the end of 2018, and then lease the buildings to predatory payday lenders,” Durham said. “It’s a business model that’s been proven to work in Baton Rouge.”
Durham mentioned that the small footprint of a Checkers — the current restaurant size is 940 square feet — is a big draw for payday lenders who want to minimize their overhead but still operate in a high-profile location in an economically depressed part of town where they can lure and trap financially strapped people onto a “treadmill” of quasi-usury.
“The lenders also like the drive-thru windows so broke people can get screwed without even getting out of their crappy cars,” Durham added.