Essen dominates the franchise world. Here we classify the strongest brands in 14 delicious categories.
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Even though the franchise model has expanded to almost every conceivable industry, food remains the largest and one of the fastest growing industries in the franchise world. 30 percent of the 1,105 companies that applied to Entrepreneur's 2020 Franchise 500 Ranking were food franchises, and new concepts come onto the market every year.
Groceries are also one of the most durable franchise industries. Running a restaurant can certainly be a challenge, but there's a reason why brands like A&W, which turned 100 last year, still exist today – they know how to earn loyalty, and they know how to adapt to keep that loyalty strong even in extreme situations. When the dining rooms closed in response to the coronavirus pandemic, franchisors came to the occasion and quickly found ways to continue serving customers and communities and helping their franchisees survive – and in some cases, thrive.
On the following pages, we celebrate the strength and resilience of these companies with our list of the 200 best food franchise companies listed in their respective categories. This ranking is based on the ratings every company received from our Franchise 500 formula, which evaluates more than 150 data points, which last summer (2019) in terms of costs and fees, size and growth, support from franchisees, brand strength and Financial strength and stability were collected.
As you read, keep in mind that this list is not intended as a recommendation from a particular company. It is more important than ever to do your own careful research before investing in a franchise opportunity. Read the company's legal documents, contact a lawyer and an accountant, and talk to as many existing and former franchisees as possible about their experience.
8th. Chicken salad chicks
When the dining rooms were closed, Chicken Salad Chick's franchisees found creative ways to continue serving customers, including pop-up transit and community drop-off events. Many restaurants have also added the "Donate Meal" option to their online order, giving customers the option to pay for meals to feed the frontline staff. Grayson Moody, a young fan of the Atlanta brand, asked friends and family to donate meals instead of gifts for their 13th birthday, and raised more than $ 1,300.
4th Kona Ice
Kona Ice Trucks usually do business in places where people gather – schools, sports fields, churches, events. When such gatherings ceased due to social distancing recommendations, franchisees had to find another way to reach their customers. The company created Kurbside Kona, a delivery service that customers can use to pre-order shaved ice cream treats online and then have them delivered to their driveway with their local Kona truck.
Full service restaurants
1. Golden Corral restaurants
Even as states began to loosen restrictions and allow dining rooms to reopen, most followed the federal guidelines that self-service options shouldn't be reopened – a big problem for buffets. But the country's largest buffet chain, Golden Corral, was unstoppable and instead developed various franchisee service models that could be implemented according to the rules in their regions, including a cafeteria-style model with staff serving the food and a familiar table service model.
6. A&W Restaurants Inc.
A&W celebrated its 100th anniversary last year, making it America's oldest franchise restaurant chain. And while the brand may be best known for its root beer, it was also the first chain to offer a bacon cheeseburger, created by current chairman Dale Mulder when he was a franchisee in 1963.The company started offering vegetable Beyond Burgers and was flexible Guests asked for the addition of bacon and cheese. A&W was happy to do this.
A&W isn't the only franchise that appeals to guests looking for more vegetarian, vegan, and flexible options. Plant foods have been one of the biggest trends of the past year and have appeared in a number of franchise menus. Given the emerging meat shortages, this is a trend that may be even more important to the success of restaurants than originally expected.