Most of the existing empirical literature on franchising investigates the share of company-owned versus franchised establishments within large retail firms. This literature typically has not considered the decision of a business owner to operate an independent business or to become a franchisee. This paper empirically analyzes what determines whether independent ownership or affiliation is observed, using data on the affiliation status of 2,293 motel establishments located throughout the United States. Heterogeneity in the underlying economic environment helps explain affiliation choices at the establishment level. The results also suggest that failure to consider independent establishments may explain the puzzling negative correlation between risk and vertical integration commonly found in the empirical franchising literature.