A Bermuda Short Story
Bermuda is an odd choice for a franchise writer to be visiting, since there is more public art than franchises. The government prohibits foreign franchises, with the exception of franchised hotels, our cab driver gleefully told us. (I did doublecheck that on the U.S. Commercial Service website and it’s true.) In addition, the Prohibition Restaurant Act of 1997 forbids the opening of food franchises on the island. The one KFC on Queen Street in Hamilton was grandfathered in.
The reason for the prohibition our cabbie told us is that they want to preserve the island culinary culture. Which is ironic, because no one could tell us exactly what that cuisine was. There’s a Bermuda fish chowder made with sherry peppers and topped with black rum and an island breakfast which includes boiled cod, boiled potatoes, sautéed onions and hard-boiled eggs, and plenty of pleasant-looking pubs and bars featuring Barcardi rum.
There are a few franchises allowed to be part of other retail operations, such as Marks and Spencer, Gap (clothing) and Body Shop products, according to the U.S. website, export.gov. The typical fast-food signage doesn’t overwhelm the landscape of Easter-egg colored two- and three-story buildings and an ocean so turquoise it’s as if someone added food coloring to it.
There are also no car rental places at the one airport, because tourist aren’t allowed to drive cars here. Another cabbie told us there were 600 cabs in Bermuda, one for every hundred people. There’s no Uber, but there is a similar ride-sharing company and a few renegade jitney drivers. I don’t know about the other 594 drivers, but the ones we rode with could have collected a second paycheck from the tourist bureau. Everyone in Bermuda was a brand ambassador.
Bermuda is expensive because almost everything is imported. At KFC, I ordered one piece of chicken, a side of peas and rice (which is actually rice and beans) and a small drink for $6.55. Two doors down the street was a local version that looked similar except its décor was blue instead of red.
What makes Bermuda an easy place for U.S. citizens to visit is that the official language is English, with a charming British accent, and although Bermuda has its own currency, U.S. dollars are accepted everywhere. Since the conversion rate is one-to-one, change is returned in either U.S. or Bermudian dollars.
We expected to see men at the resort wear Bermuda shorts with a blue blazer or a shirt and tie, but were still a bit surprised to see some businessmen in the capital of Hamilton going to work in shorts. Women didn’t seem to take advantage of an equal opportunity to wear Bermuda shorts.
So why visit Bermuda if it’s devoid of franchises? What better way to get away from your daily grind and still be able to write off part of your trip?