Hottest Businesses to Franchise in America

February 20, 2018 by Evan Comen

Source: lovro77 / Getty Images
Franchises added nearly 1 million new jobs in the United States over the past five years. Employment in the sector grew at an average annual rate of 2.6% over that time, far outpacing employment growth across all industries.

While the concept of franchising dates back to tax collection licensing schemes in the Middle Ages, the current franchise business model started around the mid-20th century. In exchange for an initial fee and ongoing royalties, franchisees effectively buy the rights to operate a franchisor’s business. They also receive training, support, and additional services from their parent company. By offering entrepreneurs the opportunity to open a business within an established system under a popular brand name, the franchise model can provide companies the potential for rapid growth and expansion into new markets.

Every franchising agreement is different, and the potential for success for franchisees depends on their initial startup investment and later fees, the support they receive from their franchisor, brand strength, and the financial stability of their parent company.

To determine the fastest growing franchises, 24/7 Wall St. ranked businesses on franchise establishment growth in the United States from 2012 to 2017 with data from Entrepreneur magazine. Only companies included in Entrepreneur’s 39th annual Franchise 500 ranking with at least 500 U.S. franchise establishments were considered.

Click here to see the the full list of the 50 fastest growing franchises.
Click here to see our detailed findings and methodology.

Source: Circle K

50. Circle K
> 5-yr. franchise growth: 18.6%
> U.S. franchises: 452 (2012), 536 (2017)
> Est. startup cost: $186k – $1.6 million
> Franchising since: 1995
> Industry: Beverages

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Source: Checkers and Rally's / Facebook

49. Checkers and Rally’s
> 5-yr. franchise growth: 19.6%
> U.S. franchises: 474 (2012), 567 (2017)
> Est. startup cost: $96k – $1.5 million
> Franchising since: 1989
> Industry: Food

48. 7-Eleven
> 5-yr. franchise growth: 19.7%
> U.S. franchises: 5,870 (2012), 7,025 (2017)
> Est. startup cost: $38k – $1.1 million
> Franchising since: 1964
> Industry: Food

Source: Stratus Building Solutions / Facebook

47. Stratus Building Solutions
> 5-yr. franchise growth: 20.7%
> U.S. franchises: 1,098 (2012), 1,325 (2017)
> Est. startup cost: $3k – $48k
> Franchising since: 2006
> Industry: Cleaning

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Source: memoriesarecaptured / iStock

46. Valvoline Instant Oil Change
> 5-yr. franchise growth: 21.5%
> U.S. franchises: 604 (2012), 734 (2017)
> Est. startup cost: $162k – $2.3 million
> Franchising since: 1988
> Industry: Automotive

Source: Chester's Chicken / Facebook

45. Chester’s
> 5-yr. franchise growth: 21.8%
> U.S. franchises: 917 (2012), 1,117 (2017)
> Est. startup cost: $12k – $297k
> Franchising since: 2004
> Industry: Food

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Source: Andrew Burton / Getty Images

44. GNC Franchising
> 5-yr. franchise growth: 22.0%
> U.S. franchises: 933 (2012), 1,138 (2017)
> Est. startup cost: $181k – $347k
> Franchising since: 1988
> Industry: Health & fitness

Source: Hilton Garden Inn / Facebook

43. Hilton Garden Inn
> 5-yr. franchise growth: 22.6%
> U.S. franchises: 504 (2012), 618 (2017)
> Est. startup cost: $12.1 million – $23.2 million
> Franchising since: 1990
> Industry: Travel & tourism

Source: Rusty Jarrett / Getty Images

42. Matco Tools
> 5-yr. franchise growth: 23.0%
> U.S. franchises: 1,366 (2012), 1,680 (2017)
> Est. startup cost: $91k – $270k
> Franchising since: 1993
> Industry: Retail

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Source: Dream Vacations Franchise

41. Dream Vacations
> 5-yr. franchise growth: 23.0%
> U.S. franchises: 907 (2012), 1,116 (2017)
> Est. startup cost: $3k – $22k
> Franchising since: 1992
> Industry: Travel & tourism

Source: Auntie Anne's / Facebook

40. Auntie Anne’s Hand-Rolled Soft Pretzels
> 5-yr. franchise growth: 23.6%
> U.S. franchises: 983 (2012), 1,215 (2017)
> Est. startup cost: $199k – $385k
> Franchising since: 1989
> Industry: Food

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Source: Anago Cleaning Systems / Facebook

39. Anago Cleaning Systems
> 5-yr. franchise growth: 23.9%
> U.S. franchises: 1,171 (2012), 1,451 (2017)
> Est. startup cost: $10k – $69k
> Franchising since: 1991
> Industry: Cleaning

Source: Edible Arrangements / Facebook

38. Edible Arrangements
> 5-yr. franchise growth: 24.8%
> U.S. franchises: 915 (2012), 1,142 (2017)
> Est. startup cost: $195k – $328k
> Franchising since: 2000
> Industry: Food

Source: tupungato / iStock

37. Dunkin’ Donuts
> 5-yr. franchise growth: 26.2%
> U.S. franchises: 7,090 (2012), 8,948 (2017)
> Est. startup cost: $229k – $1.7 million
> Franchising since: 1955
> Industry: Food

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Source: Rooter-Man / Facebook

36. Rooter-Man
> 5-yr. franchise growth: 27.8%
> U.S. franchises: 435 (2012), 556 (2017)
> Est. startup cost: $47k – $138k
> Franchising since: 1981
> Industry: Home services

Source: FASTSIGNS / Facebook

35. FastSigns
> 5-yr. franchise growth: 29.3%
> U.S. franchises: 451 (2012), 583 (2017)
> Est. startup cost: $182k – $268k
> Franchising since: 1986
> Industry: Business services

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Source: Courtesy of Vanguard Cleaning Systems / YouTube

34. Vanguard Cleaning Systems
> 5-yr. franchise growth: 30.0%
> U.S. franchises: 2,247 (2012), 2,920 (2017)
> Est. startup cost: $11k – $39k
> Franchising since: 1984
> Industry: Cleaning

Source: Thomas Hawk / Flickr

33. Great Clips
> 5-yr. franchise growth: 31.4%
> U.S. franchises: 3,002 (2012), 3,945 (2017)
> Est. startup cost: $137k – $258k
> Franchising since: 1983
> Industry: Retail

Source: diego_cervo / iStock

32. Visiting Angels
> 5-yr. franchise growth: 32.0%
> U.S. franchises: 435 (2012), 574 (2017)
> Est. startup cost: $78k – $102k
> Franchising since: 1998
> Industry: Senior care

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Source: Express Employment Professionals / Flickr

31. Express Employment Professionals
> 5-yr. franchise growth: 32.3%
> U.S. franchises: 538 (2012), 712 (2017)
> Est. startup cost: $130k – $206k
> Franchising since: 1985
> Industry: Business services

Source: Daniel Lobo / Wikimedia Commons

30. Merry Maids
> 5-yr. franchise growth: 35.5%
> U.S. franchises: 726 (2012), 984 (2017)
> Est. startup cost: $87k – $124k
> Franchising since: 1980
> Industry: Cleaning

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Source: budgetblinds.com

29. Budget Blinds LLC
> 5-yr. franchise growth: 35.6%
> U.S. franchises: 738 (2012), 1,001 (2017)
> Est. startup cost: $105k – $226k
> Franchising since: 1994
> Industry: Home services

Source: Batteries Plus Bulbs / Facebook

28. Batteries Plus Bulbs
> 5-yr. franchise growth: 36.4%
> U.S. franchises: 484 (2012), 660 (2017)
> Est. startup cost: $152k – $369k
> Franchising since: 1992
> Industry: Retail

Source: culvers.com

27. Culver’s
> 5-yr. franchise growth: 39.1%
> U.S. franchises: 448 (2012), 623 (2017)
> Est. startup cost: $1.8 million – $4.3 million
> Franchising since: 1988
> Industry: Food

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Source: Maddie Meyer / Getty Images

26. Massage Envy
> 5-yr. franchise growth: 40.5%
> U.S. franchises: 845 (2012), 1,187 (2017)
> Est. startup cost: $435k – $1 million
> Franchising since: 2003
> Industry: Health & fitness

Source: Eli Christman / Flickr

25. Smoothie King
> 5-yr. franchise growth: 41.6%
> U.S. franchises: 536 (2012), 759 (2017)
> Est. startup cost: $226k – $778k
> Franchising since: 1988
> Industry: Food

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Source: Catrin Haze / iStock

24. Anytime Fitness
> 5-yr. franchise growth: 42.5%
> U.S. franchises: 1,620 (2012), 2,308 (2017)
> Est. startup cost: $89k – $678k
> Franchising since: 2002
> Industry: Health & fitness

Source: Wolterk / iStock

23. Hardee’s
> 5-yr. franchise growth: 42.5%
> U.S. franchises: 1,227 (2012), 1,749 (2017)
> Est. startup cost: $1.4 million – $1.9 million
> Franchising since: 1962
> Industry: Food

Source: Mike Mozart / Flickr

22. Moe’s Southwest Grill
> 5-yr. franchise growth: 45.8%
> U.S. franchises: 463 (2012), 675 (2017)
> Est. startup cost: $369k – $956k
> Franchising since: 2001
> Industry: Food

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Source: Isriya Paireepairit / Flickr

21. Carl’s Jr.
> 5-yr. franchise growth: 56.3%
> U.S. franchises: 696 (2012), 1,088 (2017)
> Est. startup cost: $1.4 million – $2 million
> Franchising since: 1984
> Industry: Food

Source: Mr. Blue MauMau / Flickr

20. Supercuts
> 5-yr. franchise growth: 63.9%
> U.S. franchises: 1,027 (2012), 1,683 (2017)
> Est. startup cost: $144k – $297k
> Franchising since: 1979
> Industry: Retail

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Source: Motel 6

19. Motel 6
> 5-yr. franchise growth: 65.4%
> U.S. franchises: 483 (2012), 799 (2017)
> Est. startup cost: $2.6 million – $3.8 million
> Franchising since: 1996
> Industry: Travel & tourism

Source: Cinnabon / Facebook

18. Cinnabon
> 5-yr. franchise growth: 70.6%
> U.S. franchises: 489 (2012), 834 (2017)
> Est. startup cost: $183k – $327k
> Franchising since: 1986
> Industry: Food

Source: sportclips.com

17. Sport Clips
> 5-yr. franchise growth: 77.4%
> U.S. franchises: 902 (2012), 1,600 (2017)
> Est. startup cost: $189k – $355k
> Franchising since: 1995
> Industry: Retail

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Source: Wolterk / iStock

16. Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches
> 5-yr. franchise growth: 86.5%
> U.S. franchises: 1,425 (2012), 2,657 (2017)
> Est. startup cost: $330k – $558k
> Franchising since: 1993
> Industry: Food

Source: tropicalsmoothiecafe.com

15. Tropical Smoothie Cafe
> 5-yr. franchise growth: 88.3%
> U.S. franchises: 317 (2012), 597 (2017)
> Est. startup cost: $223k – $525k
> Franchising since: 1997
> Industry: Food

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Source: Buildingstars International / Facebook

14. Buildingstars
> 5-yr. franchise growth: 95.5%
> U.S. franchises: 376 (2012), 735 (2017)
> Est. startup cost: $2k – $53k
> Franchising since: 2000
> Industry: Cleaning

Source: Pop-A-Lock / Facebook

13. Pop-A-Lock Franchise System
> 5-yr. franchise growth: 96.2%
> U.S. franchises: 264 (2012), 518 (2017)
> Est. startup cost: $100k – $134k
> Franchising since: 1994
> Industry: Home services

Source: Leahdi / Wikimedia Commons

12. Wingstop
> 5-yr. franchise growth: 97.1%
> U.S. franchises: 480 (2012), 946 (2017)
> Est. startup cost: $347k – $733k
> Franchising since: 1998
> Industry: Food

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Source: TennesseePhotographer / iStock

11. Firehouse Subs
> 5-yr. franchise growth: 110.8%
> U.S. franchises: 491 (2012), 1,035 (2017)
> Est. startup cost: $95k – $1.1 million
> Franchising since: 1995
> Industry: Food

Source: jerseymikes.com

10. Jersey Mike’s Subs
> 5-yr. franchise growth: 115.4%
> U.S. franchises: 566 (2012), 1,219 (2017)
> Est. startup cost: $193k – $660k
> Franchising since: 1987
> Industry: Food

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Source: Cruise Planners / Facebook

9. Cruise Planners
> 5-yr. franchise growth: 118.8%
> U.S. franchises: 1,172 (2012), 2,564 (2017)
> Est. startup cost: $2k – $23k
> Franchising since: 1999
> Industry: Travel & tourism

Source: Andrew H. Walker / Getty Images

8. Planet Fitness
> 5-yr. franchise growth: 137.5%
> U.S. franchises: 562 (2012), 1,335 (2017)
> Est. startup cost: $857k – $4.2 million
> Franchising since: 2003
> Industry: Health & fitness

Source: Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce/ Flickr

7. Dickey’s Barbecue Pit
> 5-yr. franchise growth: 147.3%
> U.S. franchises: 222 (2012), 549 (2017)
> Est. startup cost: $290k – $421k
> Franchising since: 1994
> Industry: Food

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Source: Mr. Blue MauMau / Flickr

6. Mathnasium Learning Centers
> 5-yr. franchise growth: 150.3%
> U.S. franchises: 298 (2012), 746 (2017)
> Est. startup cost: $103k – $144k
> Franchising since: 2003
> Industry: Children’s services

Source: Mr. Blue MauMau / Flickr

5. Marco’s Pizza
> 5-yr. franchise growth: 150.6%
> U.S. franchises: 330 (2012), 827 (2017)
> Est. startup cost: $223k – $664k
> Franchising since: 1979
> Industry: Food

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Source: Funandprofit / Wikimedia Commons

4. HomeVestors of America
> 5-yr. franchise growth: 217.5%
> U.S. franchises: 268 (2012), 851 (2017)
> Est. startup cost: $44k – $347k
> Franchising since: 1996
> Industry: Business services

Source: Mr. Blue MauMau / Flickr

3. Kona Ice
> 5-yr. franchise growth: 219.4%
> U.S. franchises: 279 (2012), 891 (2017)
> Est. startup cost: $120k – $143k
> Franchising since: 2008
> Industry: Food

Source: Dwight Burdette / Wikimedia Commons

2. Mac Tools
> 5-yr. franchise growth: 683.2%
> U.S. franchises: 101 (2012), 791 (2017)
> Est. startup cost: $103k – $256k
> Franchising since: 2011
> Industry: Retail

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Source: Orangetheory Fitness / Facebook

1. Orangetheory Fitness
> 5-yr. franchise growth: 2175.0%
> U.S. franchises: 28 (2012), 637 (2017)
> Est. startup cost: $488k – $994k
> Franchising since: 2010
> Industry: Health & fitness

Food establishments are the most popular American franchises. Quick service restaurants comprise 25.6% of all franchise establishments in the United States, followed by personal services with 14.7%, business services with 14.3%, and commercial and residential services with 8.7%. While food remains the largest business segment by establishments in the franchise sector, the industry composition has changed in recent years.

In an interview with 24/7 Wall St., Tracy Stapp Herold, special project editor at Entrepreneur, identified one franchise segment that has been increasing in popularity. “In the last 20 years or so, service and personal service franchises that are really more about serving people, helping people, education, enrichment, or just general care for seniors or young children, have really risen up and become a big segment of the franchise world,” Herold said.

As the baby boom generation ages into retirement, they increasingly require medical care and other services. The number of Americans aged 65 and over has increased from 12% of the population in 2000 to 15% today, and it will reach more than 20% of the population by 2030. One example of a fast-growing franchise catering to senior citizens includes Visiting Angels, an in-home elder care services company that grew from 435 U.S. franchises in 2012 to 574 in 2017.

The entertainment and recreation industry, which includes establishments such as trampoline parks, paint-and-sip studios, and escape rooms, is another sector growing in popularity in the franchise world. “Maybe it’s a product of the economy being on an upswing,” Herold explained. “I think that people are more open to doing things that aren’t necessities, or things that are fun.”

Other business segments that are thriving in the franchise industry include Asian food, beauty services, fitness, frozen desserts, pest control, pets, and staffing and recruiting services.

Additionally, as business becomes easier to conduct online, franchises that are low cost or can be run from home have become more popular. “People are looking to maybe not necessarily make a huge investment, leave their job, or change their life. If it’s something they can do part-time or do from home without having to have retail space, those [franchises] are only going to keep getting more popular.” One example is Pop-A-Lock, an on-call locksmith company that can be run out of one’s home. Pop-A-Lock has grown from 264 franchises in the United States in 2012 to 518 in 2017.

To determine the fastest growing franchises, 24/7 Wall St. ranked businesses on franchise establishment growth in the United States from 2012 to 2017 with data from Entrepreneur magazine. Only companies included in Entrepreneur’s 39th annual Franchise 500 ranking with at least 500 U.S. franchise establishments were considered.