What is the best food franchise?

There are thousands of food franchise opportunities and below is just a sample of 10 of the most promising options to explore. These food franchises range from full-service restaurants to specialty stores to grab-and-go establishments. What they have in common is significant brand strength, a proven support system, and a wealth of successful international franchising experience.

Listed in no particular order, these 10 franchises are some of the best food franchises that are available. Below franchise fees and total initial investment are for individual units only and will be different for international markets. 

1. Baskin-Robbins

  • Initial franchise fee: $25,000
  • Estimated total initial investment: $94,350 to $402,200

Since their beginnings in 1945, Baskin-Robbins has become one of the best-known ice cream shops in the world thanks to their revolutionary “31 flavors” ethos, which ostensibly allows devotees to try a new flavor every day of the month. Now, the franchise boasts almost 2,500 locations domestically and over 7,500 storefronts worldwide. If you’re interested in buying a Baskin-Robbins franchise, you’ll need to meet their minimum requirements. Financial requirements vary according to your location and the type of Baskin-Robbins store you’re interested in buying (either a traditional storefront or a non-traditional location, like a kiosk). 

2. Little Caesars

  • Initial franchise fee: $20,000
  • Estimated total initial investment: $250,000 to $335,500

Little Caesars has been in business a long time. Entrepreneur Mike Ilitch founded the pizza chain with just one pizzeria in Metro Detroit in 1959. That modest shop grew into an internationally recognized brand in 24 countries, making it one of the largest franchises in this niche. The company prides itself on unique offerings, like its $5 Hot-N-Ready food and online ordering portals on the company website.

3. Papa John’s

  • Initial franchise fee: $5,000
  • Estimated total initial investment: $300,000

In an effort to recruit more franchisees, Papa John’s offers new store owners several financial incentives. These incredibly generous incentives help make Papa John’s one of the lowest-cost franchises on this list. Applicants must still meet certain financial requirements in order to open a pizzeria. At a minimum, Papa John’s franchisees need to have $75,000 in cash or liquid assets, a net worth of $250,000, and the ability to secure up to $275,000 in outside financing. Papa John’s also expects their franchisees to have prior management experience, preferably in the restaurant or retail industries.

4. Taco Bell

  • Initial franchise fee: $25,000 to $45,000
  • Estimated total initial investment: $525,525 to $2.8 million

Founded in 1954, Taco Bell is one of the oldest and most popular Mexican-inspired fast-food restaurants in the world—and with over 7,000 restaurants located across the country, there’s a good chance you can pursue a franchise opportunity with the chain in your area. 

5. KFC

  • Initial franchise fee: $45,000
  • Estimated total initial investment: $1.4 million to $2.7 million

It’s safe to say that Colonel Sanders is one of the most recognizable icons in American fast-food culture—which checks out, considering that an estimated 185 million Americans see a KFC commercial once a week. Clearly, a KFC franchise means you’re backed by an incredibly strong business model and a well-established support system with many years of successful franchising expertise. 

6. McDonald’s

  • Initial franchise fee: $45,000
  • Estimated total initial investment: $1 million to $2.2 million

We don’t have to tell you that McDonald’s is the most popular fast-food restaurant in the world. About 90% of McDonald’s in the U.S. are owned and operated by franchisees. If you are interested in this franchise, you will have to queue up to a long line of prospective franchisees. 

7. Dunkin’

  • Initial franchise fee: $40,000 to $90,000 (fee varies depending on your state)
  • Estimated total initial investment: $95,700 to $1.5 million

You’d be hard-pressed to find a town in the Northeast that doesn’t have at least one Dunkin’. There, “Dunkies” is more than a place to get coffee and a cruller; it’s basically a religion. That said, Dunkin’ operates over 12,400 locations in 41 states and 46 countries, so you certainly don’t have to live on the East coast to find a Dunkin’ franchise opportunity. The initial investment required to buy a Dunkin’ franchise can be pretty steep. 

8. Pizza Hut

  • Initial franchise fee: $25,000
  • Estimated total initial investment: $357,000 to $2.2 million

With 18,431 units under their belt, Pizza Hut is the largest pizza company in the world. At a minimum, prospective franchisees need to have $700,000 in net worth, $350,000 in liquid assets, and a strong credit report. Applicants will also need to present Pizza Hut with a financial plan detailing how they’ll grow their location. If you’re approved, Pizza Hut will provide comprehensive training and marketing support, as well as support in opening your location. 

9. Denny’s

  • Initial franchise fee: $30,000
  • Estimated total initial investment: $1.3 million to $2.4 million

As “America’s Diner,” Denny’s is one of the country’s best-loved fast-casual restaurants. They have amazing opportunities for franchise owners, too—in fact, one of their most successful owners, Dawn Lafreeda, started out as a server at the restaurant. 

10. Ben & Jerry’s

  • Initial franchise fee: $18,500
  • Estimated total initial investment: $200,300 to $504,300

Other than being the mastermind behind such beloved ice cream flavors as Cherry Garcia and Phish Food, Ben & Jerry’s is one of the most philanthropic franchises in the country. Their Ben & Jerry’s Foundation, for instance, is an employee-led organization that aims to engage in local community work and support grassroots social justice organizations and movements. Buying a Ben & Jerry’s franchise is a unique opportunity for similarly aligned business owners to flex both their entrepreneurial skills and their passion for social justice. It makes sense that Ben & Jerry’s lists social consciousness and a dedication to running an ethical business as two of their eligibility requirements. Among these and other factors, franchisees also need to have at least two years of management experience under their belts, a strong credit history, a minimum net worth of $350,000, and $100,000 in liquid assets. Ben & Jerry’s also prefers that their franchisees have a college degree or higher, though this isn’t necessarily a make-or-break element of your application.

The bottom line

Whether you’re considering one of the 14 food franchise opportunities we highlighted here or another franchise opportunity you’ve come across, it’s important to understand how to evaluate which of those franchises is the right fit for you.

The first step is to look closely at each franchise’s investment requirements and whether you’re financially capable of those investments. If you’re not, look into whether the franchise offers financial incentives, as well as your qualifications to seek outside franchise financing. And although all the food franchises we mentioned have strong brand recognition and solid reputations, it makes sense to own a franchise whose target demographic aligns with your particular area to get the most bang for your buck.

Perhaps most importantly, you have to like and trust your potential franchisor. Request all available informational materials, evaluate their training and support systems, reach out to other franchisees in their network, and ask questions liberally. Read their franchise agreement carefully—you should also run this past an attorney. Remember, there are both advantages and disadvantages of franchising, but if you do your research and weigh the pros and cons, you can find the perfect food franchise opportunity for you.

Author: Sean T. Ngo is the CEO and Co-Founder of one of Asia’s leading franchise consultancy, VF Franchise Consulting. He is Vietnamese American and has been living in Vietnam for over 16 years. You can reach him at [email protected] or [email protected]

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