As franchising continues to outpace the U.S. economy in terms of recovery, rankings of the best franchises can change rapidly from year to year. This post, along with the accompanying infographic, is a comprehensive compilation of franchise rankings by various publications and organizations that show which players in various categories showed the strongest growth, as well as which brands might be best for certain investors. These top franchise lists include both up-and-coming brands as well as iconic names that may be worth further exploration by potential franchisees.
Entrepreneur’s Franchise 500 (Top 10)
Just as film buffs wait for end-of-year accolades and awards for their favorite movies, those in the franchise industry anticipate rankings of brands published by various magazines and trade press.
The big kahuna is Entrepreneur’s Franchise 500, which is published in the January 2014 issue. Think of the No. 1 spot as the Oscar of the franchise industry. Entrepreneur calls its list “the best and most comprehensive franchise ranking in the world” based on objective, quantifiable measures of a franchise operation. It considers financial stability, growth rate, size of system, years in operation, start-up costs, litigation, terminations, and financing. It uses two years’ worth of data in its formula.
This year, Anytime Fitness took all the marbles, landing the coveted No. 1 spot — remarkable for a company that’s only 12 years old. In just over a decade, Anytime Fitness has grown to 1.9 million members with more than 2,500 clubs spread across the country. In 2013 alone, Anytime Fitness added 300 new units and it’s on track to open an equal number in 2014. It has a reputation for satisfying franchisees as well as members.
To see what Franchise Chatter has reported on Anytime Fitness, Denny’s, Jimmy John’s, Pizza Hut, Subway and Supercuts, including Why Invest and Franchise Mentor interviews with executives and franchisees, click on the links.
To see the full Franchise 500 list, click here.
In addition to its Franchise 500 ranking, Entrepreneur also cites various categories for increased growth, including children’s services (Bricks 4 Kidz), food (with sandwich franchises such as Jimmy John’s, Firehouse Subs, and Jersey Mike’s Subs expanding their footprints), fitness (as evidenced by Anytime Fitness topping the Franchise 500), senior services, and franchises that offer sales, repairs, and accessories for personal electronics.
Franchise Business Review’s Guide to Today’s Top Franchises (Best in Category)
This is the 35th year Entrepreneur has ranked the best franchises, but it certainly is not the only authority to consider. Franchise Business Review has been surveying franchisees since 2005 and distinguishes itself from other lists by measuring franchisee satisfaction with various brands.
Its Guide to Today’s Top Franchises, originally dubbed the “FBR50,” is based on surveys of more than 26,000 franchisees, representing more than 350 brands and 125,000 franchise units/locations. The resulting list is divided into 19 categories from advertising and sales to travel and includes brands of four different sizes.
The best in each franchise category are as follows:
Proforma – Advertising & Sales
Christian Brothers Automotive – Automotive
FocalPoint Coaching – Business Services
Soccer Shots – Child Services
Heaven’s Best Carpeting Cleaning – Cleaning & Maintenance
Mathnasium – Education
Tax Centers of America – Finance & Tax
Fitness Revolution – Fitness
Firehouse Subs – Food & Beverage
Palm Beach Tan – Health & Beauty
CertaPro Painters – Home Services
G’Day Pet Care – Pet Services
Sotheby’s International Realty – Real Estate
Rhea Lana’s – Retail
Home Instead Senior Care – Senior Care
American Poolplayers Association – Sports & Recreation
Precision Concrete Cutting – Services
TeamLogic IT – Technology
Cruise Planners – Travel
To see the full Franchise Business Review list, click here.
Franchise Times Top 200 (Top 10)
There could well be a shakeup in the franchise world this year, according to Franchise Times, which puts a list of its own together based primarily on sales and unit growth among franchisors.
If the publication’s prognostications come true, for the first time 7-Eleven could take over the No. 1 spot from McDonald’s in 2014. The convenience store giant became the first franchise to top 50,000 units worldwide and is closing a small gap in total system-wide sales with McDonald’s.
Franchise Times also noted very healthy sales in sandwich and fitness categories. Subway leads the former category by far, but Jimmy John’s, Firehouse Subs and Jersey Mike’s also made gains.
To see the full Franchise Times list, click here.
Franchise Direct’s Top 100 Global Franchises (Top 10)
While many other rankings consider only the North American market, Franchise Direct focuses on global growth. Its list comprises 100 franchises that are performing best on an international level.
Many of its criteria are the same used by Entrepreneur with the addition of market expansion; it also looks at implementation of best practices in the areas of franchisee support and training, environmental policy, and social responsibility.
To see the full Franchise Direct list, click here.
Inc. 5000 Top Franchise Companies
Inc. magazine bases its Inc. 5000 ranking of companies on a number of criteria. It looks at the company’s percentage of growth over a three-year period, it considers revenue, and it includes the number of employees among its data. When the final list is compiled, the master ranking is later broken down to show only franchises that made the cut and how they ranked among others.
2. The Joint
3. Doc Popcorn
4. h.u.m.a.n. Healthy Vending
5. Sky Zone Indoor Trampoline Park
6. GarbageMan, A Green Company
7. Mom Corps
8. Flip Flop Shops
9. Four Foods Group Holdings
10. Complete Nutrition
To see the full Inc. 5000 list, click here.
Kiplinger’s 8 Great Franchises
Kiplinger business magazine keeps an eye on franchising stats and chose eight great franchises in 2013 that have high franchisee satisfaction, low startup costs, and innovative solutions for both consumers and businesses.
To see the full Kiplinger list, click here.
CNN Money’s 5 Hot Franchises
CNN Money weighs in on the best franchise question with a list of 5 Hot Franchises, choosing those young brands that are quickly expanding.
To see the full CNN Money list, click here.
Nation’s Restaurant News Top 100 (Top 10 Growth Chains)
Nation’s Restaurant News issued its 40th annual report in 2013, ranking the largest restaurant chains (not all of them franchisors) and food-service companies based on a brand’s U.S. sales, unit counts, growth rates, market share, and other metrics. The annual NRN Top 100 report is an important tool for those who want to enter the $213.7 billion restaurant chain market in the US.
NRN’s Top 10 Growth Chains are:
1. Firehouse Subs
2. Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches
4. Buffalo Wild Wings Grill & Bar
6. Chipotle Mexican Grill
7. Moe’s Southwest Grill
8. Little Caesars Pizza
10. Panda Express
To see the full Nation’s Restaurant News Top 100, subscribe here.
QSR Magazine’s Best Franchise Deals
QSR magazine is a newcomer to the list makers, offering its insight for just four years. This year it changed its format, concentrating on 12 brands rather than 10 of the top quick-service and fast-casual franchises in what it calls its “Best Franchise Deals” report.
QSR assesses investment-to-sales ratio, marketplace differentiation, corporate support to franchisees, and positive brand momentum. It has broken its list into three categories reflecting the companies’ size: Hungry Upstarts, Rising Stars, and Powerbrokers (more than 300 units).
Hungry Upstarts (Emerging Concepts Laying the Groundwork for Growth)
Tin Drum AsiaCafé
Fresh to Order
Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers
Penn Station East Coast Subs
Powerbrokers (National Brands with Name Recognition, Profit Potential)
Jersey Mike’s Subs
To see the full QSR Magazine list, click here.
Technomic’s Top 10 Fastest-Growing Chains with Sales Over $200 Million
Technomic, the leading market research firm in the food-service sector, issues an annual Top 500 list, which is available for a fee.
The consultancy also breaks out the 10 fastest-growing chains with sales over $200 million. The brands are ranked by percentage increase in sales year-to-year.
1. Dickey’s Barbecue Pit
2. Firehouse Subs
3. Jersey Mike’s Subs
4. Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers
5. Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwich Shop
6. Cheddar’s Casual Café
7. Buffalo Wild Wings
8. Chipotle Mexican Grill
9. Yard House
10. Panda Express
To see the full Technomic Top 500 Chain Restaurant Report, subscribe here.
National Minority Franchising Initiative’s 50 Top Franchises for Minorities (19 Franchises with Exceptional Records in the Minority Makeup of Their Franchised Operations and/or Senior Management)
The National Minority Franchising Initiative in October 2013 released its latest list of 50 Top Franchises for Minorities through USA Today’s Franchising Today. The NMFI makes its selections based on more than 400 responses.
Though its list is in alphabetical order, rather than an actual ranking, the report does single out some of the best companies based on their exceptional records in the minority makeup of their franchised operations and/or senior management.
Anago Cleaning Systems
Charleys Philly Steaks
Coverall North America
Eye Level Learning Centers
Fiesta Auto Insurance
Flame Broiler, The
Golden Krust Bakery
Vanguard Cleaning Systems
To see the full NMFI list, click here.
Military Times Top Franchises for Military Veterans (Top 10)
With more franchises offering incentives for veterans, especially those returning from tours of duty, Military Times offers a listing of the best ones.
Franchise brands across the country complete a rigorous survey that profiles the companies and their accommodations for service members and veterans. Rankings are created based on the answers provided to questions about the company’s culture, the performance of franchise units, the costs associated with franchising, and the financial and other support offered to current and former service members and their families.
1. Sport Clips
2. Boulder Designs
5. Valpak Direct Marketing Systems
6. The Grounds Guys
7. Matco Tools
8. Granite Transformations
9. Dale Carnegie Training
10. PostNet Neighborhood Business Centers
To see the full Military Times list, click here.
Franchise Chatter’s Top Frozen Yogurt, Fitness and Sandwich Franchises
Franchise Chatter issued its own lists this year based on categories showing very strong growth. Since we have been following frozen yogurt the longest, we ranked those top franchises based on our own interviews with franchisors and franchisees as well as the companies’ performance and promise. We followed that up with top fitness and sandwich franchises, which have also shown growing popularity with investors.
Top 10 Frozen Yogurt Franchises
To read why we chose these brands, click here.
Top 8 Fitness Franchises (Alphabetical Order)
To read why we chose these brands, click here.
Top 10 Sandwich Franchises
To see why we chose these brands, click here.
Best of the Best Franchises
While many other franchises made it to multiple lists, the following are the “best of the best” franchises that appeared more than once in this compilation, which focuses primarily on franchises that ranked in the top 10.
1. Franchise Business Review’s Guide to Today’s Top Franchises – #1 in Food & Beverage Category
2. Nation’s Restaurant News Top 10 Growth Chains – #1
3. QSR Magazine’s Best Franchise Deals – Powerbrokers Category
4. Technomic’s Top 10 Fastest-Growing Chains with Sales Over $200 Million – #2
5. Franchise Chatter’s Top 10 Sandwich Franchises – #2
Subway (4 Mentions)
1. Entrepreneur’s Franchise 500 – #3
2. Franchise Times Top 200 – #4
3. Franchise Direct’s Top 100 Global Franchises – #1
4. Franchise Chatter’s Top 10 Sandwich Franchises – #6
1. Entrepreneur’s Franchise 500 – #5
2. Nation’s Restaurant News Top 10 Growth Chains – #2
3. Technomic’s Top 10 Fastest-Growing Chains with Sales Over $200 Million – #5
4. Franchise Chatter’s Top 10 Sandwich Franchises – #1
7-Eleven (4 Mentions)
1. Entrepreneur’s Franchise 500 – #6
2. Franchise Times Top 200 – #2
3. Franchise Direct’s Top 100 Global Franchises – #2
4. National Minority Franchising Initiative’s 50 Top Franchises for Minorities
Pizza Hut (3 Mentions)
1. Entrepreneur’s Franchise 500 – #9
2. Franchise Times Top 200 – #8
3. Franchise Direct’s Top 100 Global Franchises – #6
1. QSR Magazine’s Best Franchise Deals – Powerbrokers Category
2. Technomic’s Top 10 Fastest-Growing Chains with Sales Over $200 Million – #3
3. Franchise Chatter’s Top 10 Sandwich Franchises – #4
Anytime Fitness (2 Mentions)
1. Entrepreneur’s Franchise 500 – #1
2. Franchise Chatter’s Top 8 Fitness Franchises
Denny’s (2 Mentions)
1. Entrepreneur’s Franchise 500 – #8
2. National Minority Franchising Initiative’s 50 Top Franchises for Minorities
1. Franchise Times Top 200 – #1
2. Franchise Direct’s Top 100 Global Franchises – #3
KFC (2 Mentions)
1. Franchise Times Top 200 – #3
2. Franchise Direct’s Top 100 Global Franchises – #4
Burger King (2 Mentions)
1. Franchise Times Top 200 – #5
2. Franchise Direct’s Top 100 Global Franchises – #5
Hertz (2 Mentions)
1. Franchise Times Top 200 – #6
2. Franchise Direct’s Top 100 Global Franchises – #8
1. Franchise Times Top 200 – #7
2. Franchise Direct’s Top 100 Global Franchises – #9
GameTruck (2 Mentions)
1. Kiplinger’s 8 Great Franchises
2. CNN Money’s 5 Hot Franchises
Sport Clips (2 Mentions)
1. Kiplinger’s 8 Great Franchises
2. Military Times Top Franchises for Military Veterans – #1
1. Nation’s Restaurant News Top 10 Growth Chains – #9
2. QSR Magazine’s Best Franchise Deals – Powerbrokers Category
Menchie’s (2 Mentions)
1. QSR Magazine’s Best Franchise Deals – Rising Stars Category
2. Franchise Chatter’s Top 10 Frozen Yogurt Franchises – #2
Charleys Philly Steaks (2 Mentions)
1. National Minority Franchising Initiative’s 50 Top Franchises for Minorities
2. Franchise Chatter’s Top 10 Sandwich Franchises – #3
*Chipotle Mexican Grill, Panda Express, and Cheddar’s Casual Cafe are not franchising at this time. Each of them were mentioned in Nation’s Restaurant News Top 10 Growth Chains and Technomic’s Top 10 Fastest-Growing Chains with Sales Over $200 Million.