That's too bad... It truly would be a good choice for your project and certainly is the best performer and most capable amongst the "big three".
I used to loath Drupal too but now I've been using it for about 5 years and can appreciate it for what it can do. The good and bad thing about Drupal is that it's a blank slate... It can be whatever you want it to be but you have to install the modules and configure it to your liking and for that, you have to invest time to know the system.
I basically would like to know which would be the most intuitive easiest route for someone who has little to no web programming experience. Ultimately we would like for this system to be something the customer can set up for their franchisees very easily. We want to give them as much control as possible in this situation.
I'm not sure how you would do this with another system but with Drupal I would set up a multi-site installation and then add a new database for each franchise. You could run it all off one but that's risky and why cheap out. Your franchises would be:
You could set up a nice franchise theme, use TinyMCE or FCKEditor with limited permissions and it would be simple enough to manage. The key with Drupal is to limit editor and staff roles to what they need to access. Then use the "Admin Menu" module and turn off the main admin navigation that shows up on the left side column so that it's easy to get at what you need without introducing all sorts of garbage. If you do that, I garantee you'll be much happier with Drupal's back end.
I also make it a policy to include at least two sessions of tutorials to show clients how to use the system. Once right at launch or just before and then a few weeks later once they have used it for a while so we can fine tune it to their liking.