Researching the best franchise opportunities in today’s economy inevitably turns up some that do not fit neatly into the categories used to organize many of the other lists that have been presented here. It would be easy enough to just pass over them entirely, but they represent unique concepts that may be just what an entrepreneur is looking for – proven concepts serving up unique experiences and products – in this case, in the food and beverage segment.
These 10 best miscellaneous food/beverage franchises present a surprisingly diverse range of concepts, including drinking water, craft beer, frozen treats, flavored popcorn, jerky snacks, craft beer, edible fruit bouquets, pre-cooked ham and meats, home meal preparation, and even ice. It is a short list, but feels like it has something for everyone, and most of them will not have the same number of competitors that are found when trying to enter other more popular segments such as pizza chains, sandwich shops, burger joints, or smoothie bars.
Entrepreneurs looking for a more unique but still successful food or beverage concept should take a closer look at this list of the top 10 miscellaneous food/beverage franchises of 2018:
1. Watermill Express
Watermill Express offers a unique concept to consumers looking for an alternative water source that doesn’t involve buying bottled water and disposing of the bottles after consumption. Each location is a simple 24/7 drive-up kiosk where customers can fill their own reusable containers with water that goes through the company’s treatment system, which makes use of micro filters, ion-exchange, ultraviolet rays, and reverse osmosis to improve the water before it is dispensed.
The water itself can come from a variety of sources, including area water suppliers, all of which are approved sources at both the state and federal level. A growing number of its locations are also offering ice made from the improved water.
This franchise currently ranks #244 on Entrepreneur’s Franchise 500 list. Founded in 1984 and franchising since 1989, the number of locations has held relatively steady in recent years and currently stands at 1,300, of which 996 are company-owned.
2. Edible Arrangements
Edible Arrangements was the brainchild of Tariq Farid, a florist who thought it would be interesting to offer people edible bouquets of fresh fruits sculpted and arranged to look like flowers. The concept quickly gained traction and the business has continued to grow and change over the years, such as adding chocolate-dipped fruits to its offerings.
The more recent innovation that has now been rolled out to all locations is a menu of grab-and-go items, including fresh fruit salads, fruit parfaits, chocolate-dipped fruits, fruit smoothies, and edible fruit pops. The company is currently experimenting with Froyo fruit shakes at some locations.
This franchise currently ranks #53 on Entrepreneur’s Franchise 500 list. Founded in 1999 and franchising since 2000, the number of locations has continued to expand over the past 10 years from 798 in 2008 to the current total of 1,245, of which six are company-owned and 97 are located outside the U.S.
3. HoneyBaked Ham
HoneyBaked Ham gives customers the option of purchasing delicious ham and other meats that are pre-cooked and ready to serve cold, although people can heat them up as well if desired. The ham is slow-smoked with a unique blend of hardwood chips, then hand-glazed in the store with a top-secret blend of sugar and spices resulting in the sweet and crunchy glaze many have come to know and love.
Franchisees have options for focusing on catering or including a small café as part of their operations. The company’s offerings have expanded over time to include other meats such as smoked and roasted turkey breast, fully cooked whole turkeys, pot roast, beef, steak, bacon, and ribs, along with starters, sides, and desserts (cakes and pies).
This franchise currently ranks #130 on Entrepreneur’s Franchise 500 list. Founded in 1957 in Detroit, Michigan by Harry J. Hoenselaar and franchising since 1998, the number of locations has declined slightly in recent years from a high of 432 in 2012 to the current total of 404, of which 198 are company-owned.
IceBorn is aiming to disrupt the packaged ice industry with its variety of automated 24/7 ice vending machines. Its equipment taps into local water supplies but puts the water through a filtration process to improve the water and the resulting ice that is made automatically inside each machine, which means the ice is never handled except by the consumers purchasing it.
By contrast, traditional packaged ice is in bags that have tiny holes in them so they can “breathe” and is handled on average by 10 different people, not to mention the trucks, lifts, and dollies used to move the ice around. And all that effort has an environmental cost in terms of carbon-dioxide emissions that are largely avoided by the IceBorn on-site approach to making and dispensing ice.
Each machine’s operations can be monitored remotely by franchisees via computer or smartphone.
Founded in 2003 and franchising since 2012, the number of locations has grown to the current total of 179, of which 103 are company-owned.
5. Doc Popcorn
Doc Popcorn builds on one of the most beloved snack foods: popcorn. But the kind of popcorn being sold by this chain is not your typical popcorn. It enhances the popular whole-grain snack with proprietary blends of flavors concocted from quality ingredients without any trans fats, MSG, artificial colors, or preservatives, making its products much healthier than many other popcorn snacks. Innovative signature flavors include Cocoa Caliente, Cheese ‘n’ Caramel, French Toast, Hoppin’ Jalapeño, Sinfully Cinnamon, and ten others.
Doc Popcorn is a natural choice for locations such as malls, outlet shopping centers, stadiums, entertainment venues, convention centers, transportation hubs, amusement parks, fairs and festivals, farmers’ markets, and other high traffic venues. Franchisees can choose from three different models including a small storefront, a kiosk, or a cart.
Founded in 2003 by husband and wife team Rob and Renee Israel in Boulder, Colorado and franchising since 2009, the number of locations has reached 113, of which one is company-owned and 10 are located outside the U.S.
6. Beef Jerky Outlet
Beef Jerky Outlet doesn’t face much competition from other franchises in the surprisingly popular niche market for dried meat snacks that is worth more than $1.5 billion in the U.S. Its jerky snacks are made from a variety of meats, including beef, turkey, bacon, buffalo, elk, venison, antelope, kangaroo, alligator, ostrich, salmon, and more. Prepared with a number of smoking and flavor profiles, the result is dozens of different product offerings.
This franchise currently ranks #99 on Entrepreneur’s Franchise 500 list. Founded in 1995 and franchising since 2010, the number of locations has grown in recent years from only five in 2010 to the current total of 101, of which seven are company-owned.
7. Dream Dinners
Dream Dinners is a concept that appeals to busy people who want to enjoy great family meals at home without all the planning and grocery shopping and minimizing the cooking and cleanup involved in making it happen. By removing the planning and preparation from the equation, families get more quality time with each other at home and around the dinner table.
Most customers find they can visit Dream Dinners and assemble a month’s worth of meals in about an hour. The food is stored at home in the freezer, ready to be thawed and prepared when needed, and most can be ready to serve in less than 30 minutes.
Founded in 2002 in Snohomish, Washington by working mothers Stephanie Allen and Tina Kuna and franchising since 2003, the number of locations has declined in recent years from a high of 236 in 2008 to the current total of 81, of which seven are company-owned.
8. The Spice & Tea Exchange
The Spice & Tea Exchange has a noble mission: “Creating and sharing the experience of a more flavorful life,” and it does this by offering a wide variety of seasonings and teas in a creative franchise concept with stores that look and feel like an 18th century trading post. Products include 140+ spices, 80+ hand-mixed seasoning blends, 16 naturally-flavored sugars, a range of salts from around the world, and 30+ exotic teas.
This franchise ranks #279 on Entrepreneur’s Franchise 500 list. Founded in 2008 and franchising since that same year, the number of locations has climbed in recent years to the current total of 56, of which one is company-owned.
9. Happy & Healthy Products
Happy & Healthy Products was created by Linda Kerr Kamm, who wanted to create healthier frozen treats that would be primarily for health-conscious adults. She came up with her first product idea, Fruitfull bars, made with chunks of real fruit and other natural ingredients. The product line offered by the company has grown over the years to include Happy Indulgence Decadent Dips (flavored bars dipped in chocolate), Be Happy & Healthy Dessert Bars, Be Happy & Healthy Breads (quick bread snacks), and Be Happy & Healthy Snacks (nuts, fruits, and other snack items).
This is a low-cost franchise concept where the franchisee acts as a wholesaler, developing client relationships with places such as hospitals, colleges, corporate cafeterias, and convenience stores. Franchisees can also opt to sell products at events such as fairs and festivals.
Founded in 1991 and franchising since 1993, the number of locations has declined slightly in recent years from a high of 80 in 2008 to the current total of 52, none of which are company-owned.
10. Craft Beer Cellar
Craft Beer Cellar builds on the recent growth of the $100 billion craft beer industry, which has doubled in sales during the past decade and shows no signs of slowing down. It is not a bar, but rather a craft beer bottle shop that continually searches out the newest and best craft beers from far and wide. Some locations also sell beer by the keg or will fill customer containers (growlers) from in-house drafts.
In addition to domestic and international beers, products available might also include cider, sake, and non-alcoholic beer. Many locations offer limited food service and also carry homebrew books and supplies.
Founded in 2010 by Suzanne Schalow and Kate Baker and franchising since 2012, the number of locations currently stands at 33, one of which is company-owned.
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.