Major restaurant chains have long relied on computerized sales forecasts or old-school human analysis to determine whether or not to invest in a new location. Now many franchised brands are learning that one of the byproducts of such research can help defuse a powder keg: encroachment fights with franchisees.Chain executives, industry leaders and industry consultants say that the results of old-fashioned customer surveys and sophisticated statistical forecasting techniques—called “impact ...

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