Hottest Businesses to Franchise in America

February 12, 2019 by Mike Sauter

Source: Andrew H. Walker / Getty Images
Whether in New York, Miami, or Detroit, consumers can always count on familiar options, be it fast food chains, fast casual dining, ice cream shops, fitness studios, or even hair salons. It is for this reason that rather than open up an independent establishment, tens of thousands of entrepreneurs instead choose the franchise option.

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. Franchise-driven employment, according to the International Franchise Association, grew by 3.7% in 2018, compared to U.S. total nonfarm employment growth of 1.9%. The IFA estimates that at the end of 2018, there were 760,000 franchised locations across the country.

Some franchise chains have been extremely successful in the past few years. A few of these success stories are new to franchising, while others opened their first franchise years ago. According to data collected by Entrepreneur Magazine, there are 20 businesses that expanded the number of their U.S.-based franchised locations by over 50% in just the last five years. Several companies have added hundreds of franchises in just a few years.

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 based on franchise establishment growth in the United States from 2013 to 2018 with data from Entrepreneur magazine. Only companies included in Entrepreneur’s 40th annual Franchise 500 ranking with at least 500 U.S. franchise establishments were considered.

Click here to see the hottest businesses to franchise in America
Click here to see our methodology

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20. Supercuts
> U.S. franchise growth 2013-2018: +54.7% (1,125 to 1,740)
> Total 2018 global locations: 2,802
> Est. franchise startup cost: $144k – $297k
> Product: Hair salons

Supercuts, the nationwide chain of barbershops, operates in the United States as well as Puerto Rico and four Canadian provinces. Just five years ago, more than half of all Supercuts locations were company owned. Today, nearly than two thirds are franchised, thanks to a 55% increase in U.S. franchises.

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Source: Michael Rivera / Wikimedia Commons

19. Cinnabon
> U.S. franchise growth 2013-2018: +54.9% (579 to 897)
> Total 2018 global locations: 1,513
> Est. franchise startup cost: $185k – $331k
> Product: Cinnamon rolls

Cinnabon, a guilty pleasure for millions of Americans on the go, is growing as a franchise. The number of U.S. franchised locations increased from 579 in 2013 to 897 in 2018. Nearly all Cinnabon locations in the United States are franchises. As of 2018, there was only one company-owned location.

Source: Dcawton / Wikimedia Commons

18. Firehouse Subs
> U.S. franchise growth 2013-2018: +55.2% (697 to 1,082)
> Total 2018 global locations: 1,135
> Est. franchise startup cost: $92k – $825k
> Product: Sandwiches

Jacksonville, Florida-based Firehouse Subs was founded by two former firefighters in 1994. In a short time, the chain has expanded to well over 1,000 locations, almost all of which are U.S.-based franchises.

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17. Carl’s Jr. Restaurants LLC
> U.S. franchise growth 2013-2018: +55.5% (706 to 1,098)
> Total 2018 global locations: 1,641
> Est. franchise startup cost: $1.6m – $2.2m
> Product: Restaurant

Carl’s Jr., known as Hardee’s in the eastern part of the United States, is a popular fast-food franchise with more than 1,000 locations nationwide. The company has consistently expanded its operations over the past five years and is now turning its attention overseas. In 2017, there were 38 Carl’s Jr. restaurants abroad. Now there are nearly 150.

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Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

16. Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches
> U.S. franchise growth 2013-2018: +56.9% (1,744 to 2,737)
> Total 2018 global locations: 2,793
> Est. franchise startup cost: $330k – $558k
> Product: Sandwiches

There are about 2,800 Jimmy John’s locations, all but 56 are franchised locations, and all located in the United States. Jimmy John’s has exploded in popularity in a short time, adding nearly 1,000 U.S. locations in just five years.

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15. Smoothie King
> U.S. franchise growth 2013-2018: +58.6% (524 to 831)
> Total 2018 global locations: 972
> Est. franchise startup cost: $264k – $844k
> Product: Smoothies

Nearly all Smoothie King locations are franchised. Of its nearly 1,000 global locations, 831 are owned by franchisees in the United States, and just a handful are company owned. Smoothie King has worked recently to increase its brand awareness. In 2014, the company paid for the naming rights to New Orleans Arena, now called Smoothie King Center, where the NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans play.

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Source: Courtesy of U.S. Air Force photo Kemberly Groue

14. Sport Clips
> U.S. franchise growth 2013-2018: +59.9% (1,044 to 1,669)
> Total 2018 global locations: 1,776
> Est. franchise startup cost: $205k – $368k
> Product: Hair salon

Sport Clips is a hair salon chain with a mostly male clientele. The first location was opened in Texas in 1993, and the company has since expanded to almost 1,800 locations, almost 1,800 locations, nearly doubling in size this decade alone.

Source: Michael Rivera / Wikimedia Commons

13. Motel 6
> U.S. franchise growth 2013-2018: +69.3% (521 to 882)
> Total 2018 global locations: 1,303
> Est. franchise startup cost: $2.6m – $3.9m
> Product: Hotel

Motel 6, the 10th largest hotel chain in the world, has grown its business by turning more control over to its individual franchise owners. Since 2010, the number of locations owned by Motel 6 decreased from 632 to 395, as the number of independently operated franchises increased from 359 to 882.

Source: Photo by Bruno Vincent / Getty Images

12. Cruise Planners
> U.S. franchise growth 2013-2018: +71.3% (1,500 to 2,570)
> Total 2018 global locations: 2,571
> Est. franchise startup cost: $2k – $23k
> Product: Travel

Despite its name, travel agency chain Cruise Planners does not limit its business to travel by boat but offers trip packages on many different modes of transportation. Of the 20 businesses with the largest percentage increase in U.S. franchises, Cruise Planners is the second largest based on the total number of locations, despite having no foreign locations.

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Source: 23024164@N06 / Flickr

11. Mac Tools
> U.S. franchise growth 2013-2018: +91.7% (432 to 828)
> Total 2018 global locations: 1,274
> Est. franchise startup cost: $129k – $283k
> Product: Tools

Mac Tools, a subsidiary of Stanley Black & Decker, manufactures and markets professional tools, from screwdrivers to air tools. The number of Mac Tools franchises has nearly doubled in the past five years, largely as a result of growth outside the United States. Mac Tools, which was named 2012’s Franchise of the Year by U.K. outlet Startups, has more than 100 U.K. franchises. In 2018, Mac Tools had more than 400 overseas franchises.

Source: Michael Rivera / Wikimedia Commons

10. Jersey Mike’s Subs
> U.S. franchise growth 2013-2018: +95.5% (689 to 1,347)
> Total 2018 global locations: 1,431
> Est. franchise startup cost: $179k – $746k
> Product: Sandwiches

Founded in Point Pleasant, New Jersey in 1956, Jersey Mike’s has over 1,400 locations, almost all of which are franchise locations in the United States. Less than 100 of the sub shop locations are company-owned. While the company has been around for over six decades, it has only gone through explosive growth recently, going from less than 400 U.S. franchise locations in 2009 to nearly 1,400 U.S. franchise locations today.

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9. Tropical Smoothie Cafe
> U.S. franchise growth 2013-2018: +97.1% (343 to 676)
> Total 2018 global locations: 677
> Est. franchise startup cost: $222k – $569k
> Product: Smoothies

The number of Tropical Smoothie Cafe franchises has nearly doubled. There is just one corporate-owned Tropical Smoothie Cafe location and no overseas franchises. In addition to smoothies, the cafe also offers sandwiches, wraps, breakfast, and other food options.

Source: Buildingstars International / Facebook

8. Buildingstars Int’l. Inc.
> U.S. franchise growth 2013-2018: +103.5% (431 to 877)
> Total 2018 global locations: 883
> Est. franchise startup cost: $2k – $53k
> Product: Cleaning

Buildingstars International, a commercial cleaning company, has one of the lowest costs of entry of any franchising opportunity. While it takes tens of thousands of dollars to buy a franchise from most companies, Buildingstars requires just a minimum investment of just $2,000 from its prospective franchise owners.

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7. Mathnasium Learning Centers
> U.S. franchise growth 2013-2018: +108.4% (391 to 815)
> Total 2018 global locations: 937
> Est. franchise startup cost: $113k – $149k
> Product: Tutoring

Math scores on the ACT test have fallen in recent years, hitting a 20-year low in 2018. These struggles may have helped tutoring center Mathnasium become a more attractive business, as parents look to give their kids an academic edge or help them keep pace with their classmates. The number of Mathnasium U.S. franchises has more than doubled in the past five years. The company has also added more than 100 franchises overseas.

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Source: jeepersmedia / Flickr

6. Planet Fitness
> U.S. franchise growth 2013-2018: +113.9% (704 to 1,506)
> Total 2018 global locations: 1,608
> Est. franchise startup cost: $970k – $4.2m
> Product: Fitness

Planet Fitness added over 100 new franchised locations in each of the past three years, expanding to more than 1,600 locations across the globe. The gym franchise is growing at one of the most rapid paces of any American franchise — despite the high cost of entry. It costs nearly $1 million at minimum to open a Planet Fitness.

Source: bluemaumau / Flickr

5. Kona Ice
> U.S. franchise growth 2013-2018: +128.7% (451 to 1,045)
> Total 2018 global locations: 1,066
> Est. franchise startup cost: $125k – $148k
> Product: Shaved ice

Kona Ice, a snow cone truck business, is a relatively new franchise — it began franchising in 2007. Today, Kona already has over 1,000 trucks, and several locations are so popular that they reportedly bring in over $1 million in annual sales.

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Source: bluemaumau / Flickr

4. Marco’s Pizza
> U.S. franchise growth 2013-2018: +134.8% (376 to 883)
> Total 2018 global locations: 905
> Est. franchise startup cost: $290k – $763k
> Product: Restaurant

Though its growth has slowed somewhat over the past several years, Marco’s Pizza is the fastest growing restaurant franchising opportunity in the United States. The pizza place has hundreds of locations across the nation. It has had steady growth, adding roughly 100 new franchised locations during each of the past five years.

Source: Funandprofit / Wikimedia Commons

3. HomeVestors of America Inc.
> U.S. franchise growth 2013-2018: +149.4% (393 to 980)
> Total 2018 global locations: 980
> Est. franchise startup cost: $53k – $421k
> Product: Realty

As you may have guessed from its name, HomeVestors of America Inc. has no franchises outside of the United States. It also has no corporately owned locations, meaning all 980 locations are independently run franchises. The total number of franchises opened has increased each year since 2014.

Source: Courtesy of 9Round

2. 9Round
> U.S. franchise growth 2013-2018: +541.9% (86 to 552)
> Total 2018 global locations: 715
> Est. franchise startup cost: $92k – $133k
> Product: Fitness

9Round, a kickboxing-inspired fitness training center, offers 30-minute workout programs for its clients. Opened in 2009, 9Round has experienced explosive growth since its founding. There were 552 U.S. franchise locations as of 2018, more than six times as many as there were five years previous. It is also taking off overseas. In 2017, there were 86 foreign locations. In 2018, there were over 150.

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Source: Maddie4753 / Wikimedia Commons

1. Orangetheory Fitness
> U.S. franchise growth 2013-2018: +2435.3% (34 to 862)
> Total 2018 global locations: 1,000
> Est. franchise startup cost: $564k – $999k
> Product: Fitness

No American franchise business has had anywhere near the growth rate of Orangetheory Fitness. The gym first started franchising in 2010, and it had just 34 locations in 2013. After that, Orangetheory grew exponentially. In 2014, there were 100 franchises, then more than 300 in 2015. It now has 1,000 worldwide locations. The company is continuing to expand its footprint with pop-up gyms inside hotels.

Methodology

To determine the fastest growing franchises, 24/7 Wall St. ranked businesses based on franchise establishment growth in the United States from 2013 to 2018 with data from Entrepreneur magazine. Only companies included in Entrepreneur’s 40th annual Franchise 500 ranking with at least 500 U.S. franchise establishments were considered.