In his book City, David Macaulay creates a fictional Roman city called Verbonia to show how a 'typical', planned Roman city was started from scratch. Although Verbonia and thus its characters are fictional, the book relates how Romans planned and constructed a city. On page 81, I found this passage:
Most of the eating places were owned by Servius Vitellius, who also owned a chain of them in Ariminium....each contained a concrete counter decorated with pieces of coloured marble....A row of clay cups with Servius' name stood on a marble shelf next to the counter.
After some googling, I came across Joe Carlen's 'A Brief History of Entrepreneurship which seems to confirm the above. Referring to 'less respectable residents of Rome' (equestrian class, slaves and freedmen), the author states:
...these were the people who not only established and operated new businesses but, in some instances, even expanded them into something akin to chain stores
Unfortunately, there are no details. It would not be surprising if there were entrepreneurs who had several outlets in a city, or outlets in several towns or cities, but the excerpts above are implying something more than that.
A 'chain outlet' would usually be defined as one of a number of stores or restaurants owned by one company or individual and selling the same or similar merchandise or providing the same or similar services. They also usually have similar decor.
What evidence is there for the existence of chain stores and chain restaurants in Ancient Rome (including other cities in Italy)?
Did stores or restaurants have a 'brand name' or some kind of sign on the store front that would identify them as being part of a chain?
One possible (perhaps the most likely) source of evidence might be inscriptions.