In my story there is a generic fast food restaurant that is well known and otherwise normal. In the last year, new franchises have opened up. They are completely legal, licensed, owned, incorporated, etc.. The paper trails exist for a lot of documents and are too good to be forgeries, but as far as witnesses are concerned they could have been planted after the fact. However, there is no evidence some of the ones made this year were actually made. There is no evidence that money was paid to create them. There was never a construction site, it was always a lot yesterday (occupied by unrelated business or abandoned) then a renovated or fully built, staffed, and opened restaurant the next day.

What organizations (e.g. FBI, FDA, IRS, Insurance, etc. real and/or fictional) would notice this (occurring once or as a pattern) and investigate? What sets them off?

The year will likely be between 2000 and 2040 and there is no public knowledge that anything supernatural exists (indistinguishable from the real world). The emergence of some of the new restaurants this year are supernatural in origin but organizations not associated with looking for supernatural phenomena will 99% of the time not even consider supernatural explanations.


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    $\begingroup$ "There is no evidence that money was paid to create them": that's not possible. There is a real estate register, whatever it's called in the relevant city or country; a building does not simply appear on it out of nowhere. (A building which is not registered in the real estate register will attract immediate attention from the authorities, unless it is in a very rural area or in the slums.) There must be either a record of title transfer, or a building permit followed by inspections of compliance with the relevant codes. In both cases there must be records of payment. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Feb 7 at 20:19
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    $\begingroup$ And you may be severely underestimated the speed of modern construction techniques. Here is a nice video (YouTube) of a 15-story hotel being built in Japan in a couple of days. That crew would likely build a mere restaurant in a few hours. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Feb 7 at 20:20
  • $\begingroup$ What country's rules are you looking at here? Mongolian desert is radically different from downtow New York. $\endgroup$ – Agrajag Feb 7 at 20:51
  • $\begingroup$ The locals would be the ones to notice. $\endgroup$ – Cyn Feb 7 at 21:22
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    $\begingroup$ I think the confusion seems to be related to which documents are present, and which are not. Specifically, these statements "They are completely legal, licensed, owned, incorporated, etc." and "There is no evidence that money was paid to create them." are contradictory, both can't be true, because the existence of one requires the existence of the other. In order to be " legal, licensed, owned, incorporated, etc.", there must be evidence of payment. The evidence of payment is a necessary part of becoming " legal, licensed, owned, incorporated, etc." $\endgroup$ – Dalila Feb 7 at 21:36

Fond as I am of the Little Shop That Wasn't There Yesterday trope, the answer, particularly for a restaurant, is everyone.

The Health Department for a city doesn't generally rotate inspectors too often, so the next time an inspection is due (unless the magic force involved also perpetually fills out health inspection forms and advances the "next" date?), the inspector is going to notice that his name on the inspection sheet doesn't make sense, because he never inspected it before.

Building inspectors are going to find names that they either don't recognize (unlikely for a new build) or that they do and can verify were not involved. Every thread that gets tugged on will raise flags further up the municipal bureaucracy. Unless the supernatural influence continues to operate, modifying records so that the periodic inspections never happen, all of those will accumulate, and quickly. You'd probably have a few weeks where no one outside of locals might notice.

In a major municipality, however, you'd also have CCTV, Google Streetview, and other periodic monitoring services that would reveal major discrepancies as soon as anyone did any investigation, even on their own time.

Local unions are going to wonder about the workforce in the restaurant, and make inquiries that likewise will result in further mysteries.

And ultimately, that will also be the case with the "too good to be forgeries" documents. The people who sign and notarize official documents are people. Unless their memories are also altered, you can call them and say "Did you approve a restaurant at 5th and Maple?" They will say no. The investigation will intensify.

If, as in Pratchett, the restaurant contrives to convince anyone investigating it that it was always there, and fills in the blank spaces in the memories of those who supposedly inspected and approved of it, then it's probably proof against any investigation. But otherwise, it's a house of cards.

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    $\begingroup$ "If, as in Pratchett, the restaurant contrives to convince anyone investigating it that it was always there, and fills in the blank spaces in the memories of those who supposedly inspected and approved of it" Douglas Adams had a version of this as well, his "somebody else problem field". $\endgroup$ – Pelinore Feb 8 at 22:04

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