Location may still be king, but in today’s restaurant real estate market, strong business intelligence must support curb appeal.

It’s a small but growing practice that’s satisfying some chains’ need for speed and uniformity.

It could be said that behind every successful restaurant brand is a crack legal team working to defend the concept, protect intellectual property, draft critical documents, ensure compliance, negotiate with regulators, manage franchise relations, and anticipate and manage disputes. Chicago-based Cheng Cohen is a leading franchise law firm and its co-founder Amy Cheng is an award-winning lawyer: She was recently honored as Best Lawyers 2014 Chicago Franchise Law "Lawyer of the Year." rd+d tapped Cheng for an update on some of the thorniest legal issues franchisors face today — and a little pro bono advice.

Sure, it's good for what ails you, but soup can also be good for business — at least in the hands of creative entrepreneurs with a reverence for the perfect bowl of soup. From burgeoning fast-casual chains to funky food trucks to urban microsouperies delivering weekly "soupscriptions," soup-centric concepts are popping up all over.

Sumeet Mittal

Headquartered in Vancouver, British Columbia, Earls Kitchen & Bar is a well-established premium casual dining concept with more than 60 units throughout Canada. While it has dipped its toes into U.S. waters during the past decade, the 30-year-old privately owned company's presence here to date has been minimal — just 4 units by the end of 2013. That's about to change, however. Earls has kick-started development in key U.S. markets, beginning with Miami, where it will open in February in the newly expanded Dadeland Mall. Boston and Chicago represent the next markets on the docket. Retail development pro Sumeet Mittal joined the company a year ago and is helping lead the charge.

The Plant

How Flexible-Format Models Recreate the Dining Experience

Bojangle's

Delays and unforeseen regulations can hold development projects hostage. But meticulous preparation and local allies can forestall troublesome permitting issues.

Michael LIngerfelt

Michael Lingerfelt spent 16 years as a Walt Disney imagineer, before establishing his own company. Today he provides LEED consulting on sustainable projects for clients including Darden Restaurants and Chick-fil-A as well as early concepting for major themed developments. He was an early adopter of virtual design and construction and building information modeling (BIM), and says integrated project delivery (IPD) will have an even greater impact on project management, cost and quality.