World Map With Franchise Businesses Marked
Posted March 12, 2024

Most Popular Franchise Businesses

If the thought of starting your own business seems overwhelming, there’s an option you could consider to streamline the start-up process and make it more workable. Instead of starting from scratch to build an independent business, you could consider franchising.

Franchising is a business model in which an independent party buys into an established business and opens and runs their own location. It’s a popular model because it enables the established business to grow while giving an entrepreneur just starting out the advantage of being associated with a known company.

The franchisor—the party that owns the established business—benefits from increased market share and geographic expansion, while the franchisee—the party that buys into the established business—benefits from getting a recognized brand and proven business model. When you franchise, you buy the right to use an existing brand and are granted access to information and tools to help you operate your business.

There are a lot of resources available for business owners who are looking to legally franchise a business, as well as for entrepreneurs who are looking to start a franchise. If you’re in either of those positions, you’ll need to spend significant time researching the process of franchising and make sure this business model is a good fit for you.

In this article, I wanted to have a look at some popular franchises, explore which are the most profitable, and discuss which franchises are best for entrepreneurs who don’t have a lot of up-front money available to get started.

Trendy Franchises

Make no mistake about it, the franchising industry in the United States is huge. According to Statista, there were an estimated 805,500 franchise establishments operating throughout the country in 2023, with a combined economic output of about $860 billion.

These franchises, which include nearly every type of business you can imagine, collectively employ around 8.7 million people. The largest business line of the franchising industry is quick service restaurants (think McDonalds, Taco Bell, Arby’s Burger King, and KFC), and the players in that business line also rank as the most profitable.

Other franchises, however, represent a wide swath of business sectors and some are gaining ground on fast food.

If you’re interested in a franchise other than fast food, consider some of these current franchising trends, as identified by Forbes:

  • Auto Repair and Maintenance – High demand and low barriers to entry are making auto repair a trending area for franchises. Consumers looking for auto repair often seek out recognizable names and tend to remain with the company once they become customers. Five popular auto repair and maintenance franchises are Midas International, Meineke Car Care Centers, AAMCO Transmissions and Total Care, Tuffy Tire and Auto Service, and Christian Brothers Automotive.
  • Childcare – Childcare is in high demand, with many parents looking for high-quality care they can depend on while they’re working. Some popular childcare franchises include Kiddie Academy, Primrose Schools, The Goddard School, KidsPark, and Lightbridge Academy.
  • Coffee Shops – Inflation has taken its toll on some expensive, fine dining establishments, but coffee shops remain popular worldwide. Americans particularly enjoy drive-through coffee shops and those with familiar names they recognize anywhere. Some of the most popular coffee shop franchises are Dunkin’, Scooter’s Coffee, The Human Bean, Tim Hortons, and PJ’s Coffee of New Orleans.
  • Fitness – There will always be a market for health and fitness facilities, and franchises offering fitness training services and equipment have been gaining in popularity. Some popular fitness franchises include Planet Fitness, F45 Training, Crunch, Orangetheory Fitness, and Anytime Fitness.
  • Pet Services – Studies show that 66% of American households include at least one pet, creating great demand for grooming and boarding services, pet day and overnight care, and pet product retailers. Popular pet service franchises include Pet Supplies Plus, Dogtopia, Petland, Wild Birds Unlimited, and Dog Training Elite.
  • Senior Care – An aging population is creating increased demand for in-home and community-based senior care, and the number of franchises offering these services is growing. Some popular senior care franchises are Visiting Angels, FirstLight Home Care, Home Instead Senior Care, Right at Home, and CarePatrol.
  • Technology – As the tech industry continues to grow the need for services is increasing. With a wide range of business opportunities, the tech industry lends itself well to franchises. Five of the most popular tech franchises are WSI Digital Marketing Services, Asurion Tech Repair & Solutions (formerly uBreakiFix), CPR Cell Phone Repair, CMIT Solutions, and TeamLogic IT.

Most Profitable Franchises

Just as with other business models, some franchises are more profitable than others. A benefit of franchising is that you can learn about the financial performance of the business in which you’re considering investing before you commit to anything.

You can find that information in the business’s franchise disclosure document (FDD), which is a legal document every franchised business is required to maintain. The information can seem complex, making it a good idea to consult an accountant or lawyer to help you analyze and understand it.

And remember that the profitability of a franchisor doesn’t guarantee profitability for a franchisee, as you’d need to consider debt you might incur and other circumstances that could affect your business.

The amount of money needed to buy a franchise varies significantly from company to company and can be prohibitive. Franchisors charge a one-time initial franchise fee, which is money you hand over to get into the franchise system. It gives you the right to use the brand and provides guidelines for running the business, such as menu items, prices, and recipes.

You’d need additional funds to secure a location, licensing, and pay for other expenses, and remember that franchisors often require you to turn over a percentage of your profits.

With all that in mind, check out this list of some of the most profitable franchises:

  • Ace Hardware – Ace also offers several levels of ownership opportunity, and provides benefits for franchisees—like no monthly royalty fees—that can help increase profitability. The initial investment is high, however, ranging from about $286,000 to more than $1 million.
  • Anytime Fitness – This franchise has enjoyed a very large, and growing market with consumers interested in health and fitness. Money needed for an initial investment depends on location and other factors, ranging from about $60,000 to $520,000
  • Dream Vacations – This reputable travel agency franchise can be profitable largely because of its low entry fee. Depending on experience and other factors, the initial franchise fee can be as low as $500 or $600, and because a franchise can be operated from home, other start-up costs remain reasonable. The estimated initial investment, depending on a number of factors, ranges from about $2,000 to $20,000.
  • Dunkin’ – Like McDonald’s, Dunkin’ franchises thrive on brand recognition and a loyal customer base. Another similarity is that Dunkin’ requires a large upfront investment, hovering around the $1 million mark.
  • JAN-PRO – A leader in commercial cleaning and janitorial services, JAN-PRO offers three ownership options for potential franchisees. That means the money needed for an initial investment fluctuates dramatically, ranging from about $1,000 up to $770,000.
  • McDonald’s – Owning a McDonald’s franchise guarantees a substantial customer base, which paves the way for profitability. The cost to get a McDonald’s franchise is high, though, with an estimated initial investment of at least $1 million.
  • Pearle Vision – Known for its business model of offering medical care and retail in the same location, Pearle Vision affords great opportunities for profitability. The company is now owned by Luxottica, the world’s largest eyewear company, giving franchisees access to a huge range of glasses and sunglasses. The initial investment is hefty, ranging from about $390,000 to $620,000, but opportunities for generating revenue abound.
  • Supercuts – This company has been franchised for more than 40 years and has nearly 3,000 locations nationwide. While the chance for profitability is good, upfront costs are not cheap, requiring an estimated initial investment of between about $150,000 and $321,000.
  • The Maids – This company has been franchised for more than 40 years and according to the company, an average Maids franchise makes about $1.1 in annual revenue. Upfront costs are relatively low, with an estimated initial investment of between about $50,000 and $125,000.
  • The UPS Store – This franchise enjoys high rankings on Entrepreneur Magazine’s Franchise 500 List and requires less upfront investment than an established food franchise. There’s an estimated initial investment of between about $140,000 and $470,000, but the company offers some financing incentives and other benefits.

While franchises of these companies have proven to be generally profitable, many factors contribute to whether a business, including a franchise, will experience a profit or a loss. But with about 3,000 companies offering franchise opportunities in the U.S., there are many opportunities for locating and obtaining a franchise that could be a good fit for you.

Low-Cost Franchises

If you’re feeling discouraged after reading about the high start-up costs of the most profitable franchises, be assured that there are opportunities for franchising that don’t require a fortune. There are many proven franchises you can get started for less than $50,000, and many more for less than $100,000.

Let’s take a look at a few of the low-cost franchise options available:

  • Cruise Planners – This franchise is one of America’s largest home-based travel agency businesses and it pops up first on almost every list of low-cost businesses. Agents sell packages including cruises, vacations, car rentals, and so forth. You’d need about $11,000 to get started, which includes a six-day, in-person training in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. This is a proven brand that requires a startup cost between $4,000 and $22,000, depending on location and other factors. You’d also need to acquire studio space and sound equipment.
  • Vanguard Cleaning Systems – With initial franchise fees ranging from $5,500 to $36,000, this business has been recognized by Entrepreneur’s Franchise 500 list and World Franchising Network. It offers short-term and long-term commercial cleaning services.
  • Bar-B-Clean – Offering low-cost grill cleaning for residential and commercial customers, a franchise of Bar-B-Clean can be started for about $32,000.
  • Class 101 – For an initial investment of between $46,000 and $63,000, you could buy a franchise of Class 101, a company that offers one-on-one college planning meetings to help students apply, locate scholarships, and find a school that’s a good fit.
  • Oxi Fresh Carpet Cleaning – Recognized by Forbes as one of America’s Best Franchises to Buy, startup costs range from $41,000 to $98,000. The company, which offers green cleaning solutions, has about 500 locations throughout the U.S. and Canada.
  • WIN Home Inspection – With startup costs ranging from $27,500 to $40,000, WIN Home Inspection is a rapidly expanding company. Founded in 1993, there are more than 240 franchises across the country.
  • Made in the Shade – Offering custom window coverings for almost 20 years, a Made in the Shade franchise can be obtained with an initial investment of about $60,000. Franchisees receive ongoing training and marketing resources.
  • Fetch Pet Care – You’d need about $68,000 to $76,000 to get started with Fetch, a nationwide provider of dog-walking and pet-sitting services. Along with the brand, the franchising fee you pay entitles you to ongoing training and support.
  • Caring Transitions – With more than 200 locations, Caring Transitions has been recognized as one of Entrepreneur’s Top 500 Home-Based Franchises. You’d need an initial investment of between $60,000 and $83,00 to get into this senior relocation, estate sale, and liquidation company.

You’ll notice there are no food franchises mentioned here, as they tend to have higher startup costs. But there are many opportunities in a variety of businesses that don’t require a fortune to start.

Taking a Lesson from Failed Franchises

If you’re thinking of getting into franchising, consider your choices carefully. While there are many successful franchised businesses, there have over the years been some notable failures.

As with any business model, some franchised companies grow and flourish, while others don’t succeed. This can be due to a failure to keep up with customer demand, not adapting to market conditions, lack of ability to predict future trends, or other reasons.

An example is the former movie rental business, Blockbuster. The company was considered an innovative franchise business when it started in 1985, but it was not to last. At its peak expansion during the late 1990s, Blockbuster turned down an offer to purchase or form a partnership with what was then a very young Netflix. That lack of foresight and other factors led to the company’s eventual downfall, and it declared bankruptcy in 2010. Blockbuster’s business model became obsolete as technology changed and customers stopped renting DVDs.

Another tale of a franchise business gone wrong is Howard Johnson’s former chain of restaurants. The iconic restaurants, known for their bright orange roofs, hot dogs, fried clam strips, and 28 flavors of ice cream, were a common sight along highways across America, with more than 1,000 at the company’s peak. The luster of Howard Johnson’s franchises faded as they came up against McDonald’s, Burger King, and other popular fast-food restaurants, and the restaurants began closing rapidly. The last one, located in Lake George, New York, closed in 2022. The business failure, according to analysts, resulted from the company not investing enough to keep it moving forward, coupled with the intense competition from newer fast-food chains that could undercut Howard Johnson’s in price.

While these are just two examples, not all businesses have the qualities to support franchisees long term, meaning it’s well worth your while to conduct thorough research before contracting with a franchisor.

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<a href="" target="_self">Nellie Akalp</a>

Nellie Akalp

Nellie Akalp is an entrepreneur, small business expert, speaker, and mother of four amazing kids. As CEO of, she has helped more than half a million entrepreneurs launch their businesses. Akalp is nationally recognized as one of the most prominent experts on small business legal matters, contributing frequently to outlets like Entrepreneur, Forbes, Huffington Post, Mashable, and Fox Small Business. A passionate entrepreneur herself, Akalp is committed to helping others take the reigns and dive into small business ownership. Through her public speaking, media appearances, and frequent blogging, she has developed a strong following within the small business community and has been honored as a Small Business Influencer Champion three years in a row.

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