In recent years, the restaurant industry has seen a sharp increase in the desire for breakfast offerings from consumers, and savvy entrepreneurs who want a piece of the action have a solid group to choose from among the 13 best diner and breakfast restaurant franchises.
Why is breakfast suddenly trending? Part of it is the growing desire among many consumers to eat a more protein-heavy diet but without doing the cooking themselves. For others, it’s about seeking out somewhat healthier options than typical fast-food offerings. Whatever the reasons for it, more than 50% of people now eat breakfast outside the home. The good news for would-be restaurateurs is that breakfast food ingredients tend to be less expensive, allowing for better margins.
For both new and well-established chains, focusing on breakfast often means making the morning menu available at any time of day. While most of the companies on this list have been around for many decades, there are also more recent entrants to the market who focus on “better breakfast” concepts that hone in on upscale and healthier offerings.
Here are the top 13 diner and breakfast restaurant franchises of 2018:
1. IHOP (International House of Pancakes)
IHOP (International House of Pancakes) offers a menu that covers breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but it’s known best for its breakfast-all-day menu that prominently features pancakes. Other breakfast items include waffles, French toast, crepes, omelets, egg specialties (California Scramble and Tuscan Scramble), and sides such as hash browns, red potato pepper and onion hash, bacon, turkey bacon, sausage links, sliced ham, and buttered toast. Many of its locations are open 24/7. IHOP is a subsidiary of DineEquity, a company that also owns the Applebee’s chain.
Founded in 1958 in the suburbs of Los Angeles and franchising since 1960, the most recent data available about the number of locations puts the total at 1,752 IHOP restaurants in the U.S. and around the world. All IHOP locations are owned by independent franchise operators.
Denny’s has become well known for being open 24/7/365, even on holidays. The only time any of its locations close is when required by law. Breakfast is available all day, every day, and the most popular breakfast meal is the Grand Slam, first introduced in 1977 and now called the Grand Slam Slugger, consisting of two buttermilk pancakes, two sunny side up eggs, two bacon strips, two sausage links, hash browns or toast, coffee, and juice. Additional breakfast offerings include other Slam combinations, omelets, skillets, and waffles.
Founded in 1953 and franchising since 1963, the number of locations has continued to expand over the past 10 years from 1,538 in 2007 to the current total of 1,721, of which 172 are company-owned and 125 are located outside the U.S.
3. Huddle House
Huddle House is a southern 24-hour diner franchise that serves up breakfast, lunch, and dinner with a menu emphasis on breakfast comfort foods common in the South. The menu includes seven signature sweet cakes (pancakes), French toast, omelets, waffles, stuffed hash browns (breakfast meats, scrambled eggs, and American cheese stuffed between layers of crispy hash browns), and a variety of combination breakfast platters.
Founded in 1964 and franchising since 1966, the number of locations has declined slightly over the past 10 years from 435 in 2007 to the current total of 401, of which 30 are company-owned.
Perkins serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but is known best for its breakfast-all-day menu that includes pancakes, Belgian waffles, French toast, 3-egg omelets, “Smashers” (various meats and cheeses served on a bed of crispy mashed tater tots and topped with two eggs), a variety of other egg dishes, breakfast biscuit sandwich combinations, lots of breakfast sides, and various baked pastries.
Founded in 1958 in Cincinnati, Ohio, the company began franchising that same year as a pancake house. Because of the financial difficulties of its parent company, the number of locations has declined in recent years from a high of 482 in 2008 to the current total of 400, of which 132 are company-owned and 17 of which are located in Canada.
5. The Original Pancake House
The Original Pancake House is a breakfast chain that specializes in pancakes, omelets, crepes, and waffles. Among its better-known offerings is the Apple Pancake, a single large pancake smothered in sautéed apples and cinnamon sugar; the Dutch Baby, a large, air-filled, oven-baked pastry served with lemon, whipped butter, and powdered sugar; and its Danish Kijafa Cherry Crepes. Its seven signature omelets are rolled in a skillet and then oven-baked.
Founded in 1953 and franchising soon thereafter, there are currently 130 locations, representing a slight decline from a previously known high of 150, spread across the U.S.
6. Black Bear Diner
Black Bear Diner is a chain of restaurants in western states (Ariz., Calif., Idaho, Ore., Utah, and Wash.) specializing in old-fashioned comfort foods served up in a rustic log-cabin environment with lots of bear-themed paraphernalia, including a unique-to-each-location 12-foot carved wooden black bear by Ray Schulz, with additional murals and artwork created for each restaurant by Steve and Gary Fitzgerald and Colleen Mitchell-Veyna. The breakfast-all-day menu includes classic 2-egg combos, pancakes, waffles, French toast, omelets, scrambles, several Mexican-inspired breakfast meals, three signature Bear’s Benedicts, lots of sides, and the house-made Bear Claw pastry with almond filling.
Founded in 1995 and franchising since 2002, the number of locations has expanded in recent years from 51 in 2011 to the current total of 106, of which 33 are company-owned.
7. The Egg & I
The Egg & I is a breakfast, brunch, and lunch chain started in 1987 with a name inspired by the 1940s American memoir written by Betty MacDonald. The menu includes a wide selection of benedicts, omelets, scrambles and frittatas, skillets and hashes, and classic favorites such as pancakes, waffles, French toast, oatmeal, and a variety of egg dishes such as Huevos Rancheros, a Breakfast Burrito, Deluxe Egg Sandwich, and a Biscuit, Eggs, and Gravy dish. Now part of the First Watch restaurant family, there are currently 68 locations.
8. Another Broken Egg Café
Another Broken Egg Café positions itself as a breakfast, brunch, and lunch café serving up fresh, nutritious upscale dishes that “foodies” can appreciate. The breakfast menu features creative takes on pancakes, waffles, and French toast along with many unique egg dishes (omelets, scrambles, benedicts, etc.) that incorporate Louisiana seafood and Cajun influences.
Founded in 1996 and franchising since 2005, the number of locations has expanded during the past 10 years from 11 in 2008 to the current total of 67, two of which are company-owned.
9. Famous Toastery
Famous Toastery serves up unique breakfast dishes in a fun atmosphere. Its “better breakfast” concept means everything is made fresh from scratch each day. The breakfast menu features a large variety of egg dishes, breakfast sandwiches, omelets, flapjacks, and French toast. Among its most popular unique offerings are the Avocado Omelet and the Avocado Benny. For brunch, the company features wine pairings with its menu.
Founded in 2005 and franchising since 2013, there are now 26 locations in N.C., S.C., Ga., Va., Pa., and Colo., with another five listed as coming soon.
10. Broken Yolk Café
Broken Yolk Café is a breakfast and lunch chain featuring a wide-ranging menu of fresh, made-from-scratch breakfast items. Well-loved offerings include seven different signature benedicts and a dozen different signature omelets. Also on the menu are pancakes, several 2-egg dishes, waffles, crepes, regular French toast and Tiki Toast (Hawaiian bread turned into French toast), and six different Mexican-inspired breakfast dishes. Fresh-baked biscuits and muffins complement many of the offerings.
Founded in 1979 in Pacific Beach, Calif. and franchising since 2009, the number of locations currently stands at 25, 22 of which are in Calif., with one each in Ariz., Fla., and Ill.
11. Eggs Up Grill
Eggs Up Grill is open for breakfast and lunch from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily with a focus on quality time with friends and family in an environment that’s all about southern hospitality. The menu features a variety of southern-style breakfast combo meals as well as eight different breakfast sandwiches, eggs benedict, nine signature omelets, pancakes, waffles, French toast, and sides such as home fries, bacon, sausage, corned beef hash, biscuits and gravy, grits, and more.
Founded in 1986 and franchising since 2005, the number of locations has grown over the past 10 years from three in 2007 to the current total of 24 in S.C., Ga., and N.C.
12. The Flying Biscuit Café
The Flying Biscuit Café positions itself as serving up breakfast, lunch, and dinner southern-style with a twist. The company has made a name for itself with its fresh-baked biscuits and grits. Unique breakfast offerings include its signature chicken sausage patty, turkey hash, a “Meggxican” wrap, smoked salmon scramble, and several signature omelets. More traditional offerings include pancakes, French toast, and a variety of eggs-and-meat combination meals.
Founded in 1993 and franchising since 2006, there are currently 14 locations, one of which is company-owned, located in Ga., N.C., and Fla.
13. Lumberjacks Restaurant
Lumberjacks Restaurant is a place where people can eat like lumberjacks (hearty meals) at an affordable price. The menu features 3-egg and 4-egg omelets, 2-egg classic meals with a variety of meats, three signature sizzling skillets, and a selection of unique offerings such as the Sequoia Breakfast Club sandwich, the Logger’s Breakfast Burrito, Pesto Benedict, and others. Each location has a 12-foot tall lumberjack statue, the handle on the front door is an axe handle, and the interior of each location features cabin-style lumberjack décor.
Founded in 2004 and franchising since 2011, the number of locations currently stands at 10, of which five are company-owned and all of which are located in Calif., except for one in Nev.
An Important Note About Our Methodology
The franchises on this list were ranked according to the number of units in the franchise system. If you are a prospective franchisee searching for franchise opportunities that meet or exceed certain performance benchmarks for sales, profits, and return on investment, please check out this list of America’s Most Lucrative Franchises.