Hottest Businesses to Franchise in America

February 12, 2020 by Sam Stebbins

For many Americans, entrepreneurship seems like an attractive option. Owning your own business means not having to answer to a boss everyday and often a much higher earning potential than a salaried job. However, running a business is also far riskier than working in an established company.

One way for budding entrepreneurs to minimize the risk is to start a franchise location. Franchisees are entrepreneurs who acquire a license to operate one or many locations of an established brand. Though they typically pay an annual licensing fee, in addition to often high upfront startup costs, franchisees benefit from tried and tested proprietary knowledge and processes, in addition to existing customer brand recognition.

There are dozens of well-known brands that have expanded rapidly in the last several years from franchise licensing alone. Using data from industry advocate, Entrepreneur magazine, 24/7 Wall St. identified the hottest businesses to franchise in America. These 20 businesses reported the fastest domestic franchise establishment growth from 2014 to 2019.

Only companies included in Entrepreneur’s 41st annual Franchise 500 list with at least 500 U.S. franchise establishments were considered. Data on global location count, estimated franchise startup costs, and founding dates also came from Entrepreneur.

The rapid growth among the companies on this list is not only an indication of the popularity of the product or service they provide, but also often the continued viability of the business model. For example, the companies on this list tend to be in industries that will not likely suffer from changes to the consumer landscape brought on by technological advances. These industries include restaurants and fitness centers. Here is a look at the cities that will lose the most jobs to automation.

One of the most striking patterns that emerges from this list is the surge in franchises in the personal fitness industry. Half of the top 10 businesses on this list fall in that category, including the top three. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, growing awareness of the benefits of health and fitness is driving growth in this industry. Employment among fitness trainers and instructors is projected to climb by 13% between 2018 and 2028, more than double the 5% job growth across all occupations. Here is a look at the occupations with the best job security.

Click here to see the hottest businesses to franchise in America.

Source: Dcawton / Wikimedia Commons

20. Firehouse Subs
> U.S. franchise growth 2014-2019: +43.8%
> Total 2019 global locations: 1,174
> Est. franchise startup cost: $161,000 – $996,000
> Product: Sandwiches

Firehouse Subs is a Jacksonville, Florida-based sandwich shop that started in 1994 and became a franchise the following year. Over the last five years, the number of branded U.S. franchise locations rose 43.8%, and that does not include the company’s expansion into Canada.

The company claims to provide comprehensive training and operational support in order to make business easy and profitable for franchisees.

Source: Dream Vacations Franchise

19. Dream Vacations
> U.S. franchise growth 2014-2019: +44.8%
> Total 2019 global locations: 1,432
> Est. franchise startup cost: $2,000 – $20,000
> Product: Travel planning

Dream Vacations is one of two cruise planning companies to rank on this list. Starting a Dream Vacations franchise can cost as little as $2,000, making it one of the least expensive brands on this list. A subsidiary of CruiseOne, Dream Vacations franchisees typically work out of a home office, selling and planning cruise vacations for clients. Franchise owners go through a six-day training session at the company headquarters in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. They can also use the company’s team of technical support staff, and benefit from company-sponsored marketing as well as travel perks and discounts.

Source: Buildingstars International / Facebook

18. Buildingstars Intl. Inc.
> U.S. franchise growth 2014-2019: +50.2%
> Total 2019 global locations: 805
> Est. franchise startup cost: $2,000 – $53,000
> Product: Cleaning services

Buildingstars Intl. Inc. is a commercial cleaning business. There were 799 franchise locations in the United States alone in 2019, up from 532 in 2014. The company has operations across the country, including the New York City metro area, Phoenix, Houston, and Chicago. The commercial cleaning industry may be attractive to many franchisees as demand for such services tends to remain constant during good economic times and bad.

Source: RiverNorthPhotography / Getty Images

17. Carl’s Jr. Restaurants LLC
> U.S. franchise growth 2014-2019: +52.1%
> Total 2019 global locations: 1,656
> Est. franchise startup cost: $1.6M – $2.1M
> Product: Fast food

Carl’s Jr. Restaurants is a fast food chain that began as a hot dog cart in Los Angeles in 1941. It is now headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. The restaurants offer options for a wide range of dining preferences, and the company recently introduced Beyond Meat vegetarian burgers in addition to several Keto diet friendly options.

Franchisees must go through a four-step process before they can open their own store: completing an application, developing a business plan, passing a financial and operational review, and training upon approval. The majority of the nearly 1,700 Carl Jr. locations worldwide are franchise businesses in one of 13 western states.

Source: Courtesy of Motel 6

16. Motel 6
> U.S. franchise growth 2014-2019: +58.8%
> Total 2019 global locations: 1,246
> Est. franchise startup cost: $207,000 – $8.8M
> Product: Accommodations

Motel 6 is a Carrollton, Texas-based discount motel chain. A subsidiary of G6 Hospitality, it is the largest owned and operated motel chain in North America. It is also one of the fastest growing franchises in the United States. There are currently over 900 franchised Motel 6 locations across the country, up from 571 in 2014. Brand franchisees benefit from multimedia advertising and an average nightly occupancy rate of 66%.

Source: Courtesy of Kite M. via Yelp

15. N-Hance Wood Refinishing
> U.S. franchise growth 2014-2019: +62.4%
> Total 2019 global locations: 590
> Est. franchise startup cost: $52,000 – $167,000
> Product: Wood refinishing services

N-Hance Wood Refinishing offers cabinet and floor refinishing services. The franchise business began nearly two decades ago. Estimated startup cost for new franchisees can go as high as $167,000, but the company offers in-house financing options. Over the last five years, the number of U.S. franchise businesses operating under the N-Hance brand climbed from 330 to 536, a 62.4% jump.

Source: southbeachcars / Flickr

14. Smoothie King
> U.S. franchise growth 2014-2019: +64.2%
> Total 2019 global locations: 1,073
> Est. franchise startup cost: $264,000 – $844,000
> Product: Smoothies

Smoothie King is a brand of smoothie stores that first opened in 1973. The brand’s first U.S. franchise opened its doors in New Orleans in 1989, and today, it is among the fastest growing franchises in the United States. The number of U.S. locations grew from 553 in 2014 to 908 last year.

Like many brands on this list, Smoothie King offers franchisees extensive training. The process starts with a one-day orientation at the company’s Dallas headquarters, followed by an 11-day management training program. When a new location opens, Smoothie King sends a training professional to help train new employees for up to five days.

Source: Mr. Blue MauMau / Flickr

13. Marco’s Pizza
> U.S. franchise growth 2014-2019: +73.1%
> Total 2019 global locations: 933
> Est. franchise startup cost: $294,000 – $789,000
> Product: Pizza

Marco’s Pizza is a chain of pizza restaurants that started in 1978 and became a franchise business the following year. It is one of the few brands on this list with no company-owned stores. Of the 933 global franchise Marco’s Pizza locations, 900 are located in the United States. Marco’s claims its franchisees have an advantage over the competition because of the high quality of its pizza.

Source: Photo by Bruno Vincent / Getty Images

12. Cruise Planners
> U.S. franchise growth 2014-2019: +74.2%
> Total 2019 global locations: 3,062
> Est. franchise startup cost: $2,000 – $24,000
> Product: Travel planning

Of the two travel planning companies on this list, Cruise Planners is growing the fastest. Over the last half decade, the number of franchise locations — all of which are based in the United States — climbed from 1,757 to 3,061, a 74.2% growth. Franchisees with the company are effectively travel agents who serve their own customers from home offices. Becoming a travel agent with the company requires a relatively small financial investment, and franchisees do not need any prior experience and benefit from travel discounts.

Source: Michael Rivera / Wikimedia Commons

11. Jersey Mike’s Subs
> U.S. franchise growth 2014-2019: +86.5%
> Total 2019 global locations: 1,592
> Est. franchise startup cost: $237,000 – $767,000
> Product: Sandwiches

Along with Firehouse Subs, Jersey Mike’s is one of two sub sandwich chains to rank on this list. Over the last five years, the number of Jersey Mike’s franchise locations in the United States has jumped by 86.5%. While there are no international Jersey Mike’s franchise locations, 72 stores, including several outside of the United States, are company owned. It took more than 30 years after the store’s 1956 founding in Point Pleasant, New Jersey, for it to become a franchise business.

Source: Mr. Blue MauMau / Flickr

10. Supercuts
> U.S. franchise growth 2014-2019: +86.8%
> Total 2019 global locations: 2,883
> Est. franchise startup cost: $151,000 – $321,000
> Product: Haircuts

Supercuts is the only franchise hair salon business to rank on this list. Over the last five years, the number of U.S. Supercuts locations climbed by 86.8% — from 1,268 locations to 2,369. Supercuts has grown even more rapidly abroad. Over the same time period, the number of international Supercuts franchise locations climbed from only 19 to 140, a 637% increase.

As the company expands its franchise reach, it is trimming its number of company-owned stores. The number of non-franchise Supercuts locations fell from 1,140 in 2014 to just 374 in 2019, a 67.2% decline.

Source: Mr. Blue MauMau / Flickr

9. Mathnasium Learning Centers
> U.S. franchise growth 2014-2019: +91.9%
> Total 2019 global locations: 1,047
> Est. franchise startup cost: $113,000 – $149,000
> Product: Math tutoring

As math proficiency rates continue to trend downward in American schools, many parents may be more inclined to turn to tutoring to ensure their children are mastering critical material. This may help explain why Mathnasium Learning Centers, a math tutoring service for students in grades K-12, ranks among the fastest growing franchises in the United States. The number of Mathnasium U.S. franchises has nearly doubled in the past five years. The company has also added more than 40 franchise locations overseas.

Source: Lily Lawrence / Getty Images for Pure Barre

8. Pure Barre
> U.S. franchise growth 2014-2019: +101.6%
> Total 2019 global locations: 524
> Est. franchise startup cost: $199,000 – $446,000
> Product: Personal fitness

Pure Barre is one of several personal fitness franchises to rank on this list. Barre is a type of workout based on the use of a ballet barre, and it has exploded in popularity in recent years, particularly among women. The workout uses small movements for stretches and strength training designed to sculpt and shape the body.

As the fitness routine has gained popularity, so has the largest barre specific gym franchise. After more than doubling its U.S. footprint in the last five years, Pure Barre now has over 500 locations across the United States and Canada.

Source: Andrew H. Walker / Getty Images

7. Planet Fitness
> U.S. franchise growth 2014-2019: +101.6%
> Total 2019 global locations: 1,859
> Est. franchise startup cost: $1.1M – $4.2M
> Product: Personal fitness

Planet Fitness is a gym that derives revenue from membership fees. Planet Fitness was founded in 1992 and did not begin franchising until 2003 — a year when there were only five locations. Today, there are 1,859 Planet Fitness locations worldwide.

Planet Fitness is one of several personal fitness businesses to more than double its U.S. franchise footprint in the last five years. Due to all the equipment necessary to run a gym, starting a Planet Fitness costs a minimum of $1.1 million.

Source: Daniel X. O'Neil / Flickr

6. HomeVestors of America Inc.
> U.S. franchise growth 2014-2019: +102.6%
> Total 2019 global locations: 1,102
> Est. franchise startup cost: $56,000 – $426,000
> Product: Real estate services

HomeVestors is a real estate investing company. The company is recognized by many for its billboards that state “We Buy Ugly Houses.” The company’s business model is to buy distressed homes — far quicker than homeowners would normally be able to sell them — remarket and resell them. Growing rapidly, the franchise has expanded its footprint in each of the last five years and more than doubled its total presence since 2014. HomeVestors is exclusively operated by franchisees in the United States.

Source: southbeachcars / Flickr

5. Tropical Smoothie Cafe
> U.S. franchise growth 2014-2019: +103.9%
> Total 2019 global locations: 784
> Est. franchise startup cost: $247,000 – $581,000
> Product: Smoothies

Tropical Smoothie Cafe is one of two restaurant chains on this list that primarily serve smoothies. Over the last five years, the number of franchisee-owned and operated Tropical Smoothie Cafe locations in the United States has more than doubled. The brand has only one company operated location and no presence outside of the United States. According to the company, store locations report average annual net revenues of $938,500.

Source: bluemaumau / Flickr

4. Kona Ice
> U.S. franchise growth 2014-2019: +111.1%
> Total 2019 global locations: 1,199
> Est. franchise startup cost: $128,000 – $152,000
> Product: Snow-cones

One of the newest companies on this list, Kona Ice was founded in 2007 and became a franchise the following year. Growing rapidly, the brand, which sells shaved ice out of a typical ice cream truck, has expanded its footprint in each of the last five years and more than doubled its total presence since 2014. The vast majority of the company’s 1,199 trucks are operated domestically by franchise owners, and the company now ranks as the largest food truck franchise in the United States.

Source: Courtesy of 9Round

3. 9Round
> U.S. franchise growth 2014-2019: +239.5%
> Total 2019 global locations: 797
> Est. franchise startup cost: $100,000 – $143,000
> Product: Personal fitness

9Round is one of several personal fitness-oriented businesses on this list, but it is the only one centered around kickboxing. Far less expensive of an investment than a typical gym, 9Round uses kickboxing-style training in a circuit format that lasts half an hour. A relatively new company, 9Round was founded in 2008 and became a franchise the following year. It is one of only three franchises to more than triple its U.S. footprint in the last five years, going from 172 franchisee operated locations in 2014 to 584 in 2019. The company also has over 200 franchise locations outside of the United States.

Source: Maddie4753 / Wikimedia Commons

2. Orangetheory Fitness
> U.S. franchise growth 2014-2019: +952.0%
> Total 2019 global locations: 1,225
> Est. franchise startup cost: $575,000 – $1.5M
> Product: Personal fitness

Orangetheory Fitness is a boutique fitness studio brand based in Boca Raton, Florida. The gym offers a customized 60-minute workout as well as help from professional trainers. In the last five years, the number of U.S. franchise locations jumped from just 100 to over 1,000, a staggering 952% growth rate. There are also more than 100 international locations.

According to the company, rapid growth in the number of franchise locations has limited its ability to meet demand — with less than 0.1% of those who inquired about becoming an Orangetheory Fitness franchisee ultimately becoming one.

Source: Courtesy of Eileen C. via Yelp

1. Club Pilates Franchise
> U.S. franchise growth 2014-2019: +2,773.7%
> Total 2019 global locations: 554
> Est. franchise startup cost: $168,000 – $280,000
> Product: Personal fitness

Each of the three companies that have more than tripled their U.S. footprint through franchise deals is a personal fitness company. But none has grown more than Club Pilates — a company that focuses on personal fitness through pilates, a fitness routine typically done on a gym mat designed to strengthen core muscles.

Partly because pilates requires little in the way of equipment, startup costs for franchisees are relatively low compared to other fitness companies on this list. In the last half decade, the number of franchisee-operated Club Pilates locations in the United States went from just 19 to nearly 550.