The 7 Best Restaurant Franchises to Own

Breaking down the costs and benefits of some of America's most popular and up-and-coming restaurant franchises.
January 7, 2021, 11:23 PM UTC
The 7 Best Restaurant Franchises to Own

So you want to franchise a restaurant? Understandably, there are tons of benefits to owning a piece of an existing chain. It’s less risky, for starters, as it provides an established brand and corporate framework. But not having to start a restaurant from scratch comes at a price.

As you can imagine, buying into an existing chain doesn’t come cheap. Choosing which one is worth the cost and energy is just as important as, say, successfully reopening a restaurant during a pandemic.

And since there are an overwhelming amount of options when it comes to restaurant franchises, we went ahead and sifted through them for you. The lineup below has proved themselves in spades to be some of the most popular, and of course lucrative, in the industry.

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McDonald’s

Just like their slogans, Micky D’s franchises tend to stick with you. It is, after all, the most popular fast-food restaurant in the world. And since nearly 90% of McDonald’s in the United States are owned and operated by franchisees, let’s just say when it comes to success rates, the proof is in the pudding (McFlurry?). So if you’ve got the funds—at least $500,000 in liquid assets—this is a solid choice. Serious prospects who make it past the application process (no easy feat!) will have a rigorous 12-18 month training program to complete before receiving the keys to the golden arches. And it all has to be done solo (read: no partners, not even family). Sure, there are a lot of rules—and upwards of a $2 million investment, including a $45,000 fee to be paid to the franchisor off the jump—but your reward is being part of the world's highest-grossing fast-food chain.

Taco Bell 

Thinking outside the bun is easy when more than 7,000 Taco Bells pepper the country. With 50 years of experience slinging fast food Mexican fare, they have also proven to be one of the most reliable restaurants to franchise with a community of nearly 350 experienced franchisees. They’re also one of the most expensive. To make one your own, you’ll need to have previous experience in quick-service as well as prove you have the cheddar (not cheese). Depending on the type of establishment (traditional, express, etc.), the initial investment for opening a Taco Bell franchise can run you between $530,000 and $3 million.

Sonic 

Takeout and 2020 have been a quintessential power couple, and “America’s Drive-In” is growing accordingly. Sonic's 3,500 locations were already known for exceptional operations and customer service, with interactive menu boards and seamless online delivering applications. The license fee for traditional Sonics starts at approximately $45,000, with a total upfront investment between $1.25 million and $3.5 million.

Auntie Anne’s

Sure, Auntie Anne’s initially found success in malls—a concept that may be dying out. They've since evolved into airports, kiosks, free-standing brick-and-mortars, and even food trucks to sling pretzels at events and campuses. All of these options are available for potential franchisees. Plus Auntie Anne's is in the Focus Brands portfolio, which means your franchise purchase comes with the option to integrate a built-in team that includes real estate pros, operations managers, and marketers. Those perks come with a range of buildout options, allowing you to start with a relatively modest initial investment of under $200,000.

Ben & Jerry’s 

Socially conscious franchisees may be drawn to Ben & Jerry’s. Its foundation is known for its large-scale community support, fighting injustice, and letting its employees steer grassroots campaigns. It adds up to a good fit if you're looking for a less corporate, more entrepreneurial, even activist feel. To get a Ben & Jerry’s franchise you'll need at least two years of management experience, a net worth of $350,000, and $100,000 in cold hard cash: you can expand this ice cream empire for an initial investment of just over 100k. The company also looks favorably on having a college degree, as it supports sustainable growth and education.

Chicken Salad Chick

Who knew a chicken salad would grow this fast? Someone in Auburn, Alabama, the flagship location of the rapidly expanding Chicken Salad Chick, which sells homemade chicken salad in an array of flavors and combos. The chain hit its 100-store mark in 2018 and on pace to reach 300 in 2021. Why is it so popular for franchisees? Well, a lot of volume for one, as well as a strong catering revenue and having to kick up only 5% of royalties to corporate. All-in, you can get started with one of these babies for under $500,000.

Jersey Mike’s

Jersey Mike’s, known for strong branding and unwavering quality, prides itself on taking care of its franchisees. A staggering 70% of new-store development comes from within its existing franchise network, a number that speaks volumes about people’s success. If you want to be part of the newbie 30%, you can go all-in on your own for less than $250,000, with no renewal fees (as long as you remain in good standing). You can see why people are having it “Mike’s Way” at 2,000 locations and counting.

[Photo by Alexandro David from Pexels]