I talked with a businessman who owns several stores in different cities. He stated that his goal was to be a large chain of stores like his competitor is. I briefly talked with him about his stores and my own experience and that of others who notice clearly that there is not a consistency of experience. There is nothing other than similar name to tie them together. They operate differently and they have a different atmosphere. That issue needs to be resolved to begin to create a chain.
A chain afterall, is individual links fastened together and in most chains, the links are the same. Think about McDonald's Restaurant. It is one of the largest chains in the world and if you happen to like McDonald's food, you can trust that as you travel throughout the country, you will have a consistent experience: good food, cooked in the same way, served in the same way and a clean restaurant with clean rest rooms and well lit spaces and so on. Consistency counts.
I went to Sydney, Australia for a couple weeks a few years ago and the first place we stopped after leaving the airport in our right hand drive car was McDonald's. We wanted to see what was different about McDonald's from the way it was in the U.S.. It was so very similar that I would have to say it was a consistent experience. They had a couple of items on the menu that you wouldn't find in the U.S., but other than that, the experience was the same.
Another way to look at this if you don't have and don't intend to have multiple locations is to think about the consistency of the customer experience in each visit to your store. That is very important to convey to the customer that they can expect a certain level of experience each time they come in. This will speak to displays, atmosphere, employee training and so on. People want to feel comfortable and they want to know that they will feel comfortable again should they have the opportunity to return. I know that I do and I choose places based on how I feel when I am in their store. How can you give your customers a consistent experience?