Entrepreneur has released its 34th annual Franchise 500, a list of the top franchise companies based on financial and statistical data from July 2010 to July 2012. The most weighted criteria include financial strength and stability, growth rate and system size.
To be eligible for the independent ranking, a franchisor must have a minimum of 10 units, with at least one in the U.S. The company must be seeking new franchisees in the U.S., and it cannot be in Chapter 11 at the time the ranking is compiled.
According to the researchers at Entrepreneur, the results of this year's list "confirm that franchising is finally on the upswing again after several tough years, and the top 10 franchises are leading the way."
Among those top franchised companies is Subway, listed at No. 2. with startup costs ranging from $85.2K to $260.35K. Subway was also listed at No. 2 in 2011. Entrepreneur pointed to the Connecticut-based chain's nearly 9 percent growth in nontraditional venues (hospitals, stadiums, etc.) in the past year. Subway's breakfast daypart, the publication adds, has been a growth engine, as has its partnership with the American Heart Association for healthful menu items. The company is planning to add 2,600 units in 2013.
Coming in at No. 9 is McDonald's, which was lauded for its nutritional transparency in the past year. In the summer, the chain added menu boards with calorie counts and lower calorie Happy Meals. McDonald's expects to have 1,300 new units open this year, including about 250 in China.
At No. 10 is Pizza Hut, which refranchised in 2011 to pick up its growth, opening 51 new units in 2011 and anticipating another 150 new units this year. The company is currently focused on expanding through its Delco Lite model, which entails a smaller footprint with a focus on carryout and delivery services. Pizza Hut's international momentum is in full swing, with 150 new units opening in China alone last year.
Topping this year's list is Hampton Hotels (unchanged from last year). Other brands in the Top 10 include Jiffy Lube, 7-Eleven, Supercuts, Anytime Fitness, Servpro and Denny's. The full list is available online, as well as a list of the fastest growing franchises.
Other restaurant brands in the Top 500
Plenty of other restaurant brands in the quick-service, pizza and fast casual segments earned a spot on Entrepreneur's Top 500 list this year, including:
- No. 12: Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwich Shops
- No. 13: Dunkin' Donuts
- No. 14: Hardee's
- No. 15: KFC Corp.
- No. 23: Papa John's International Inc.
- No. 30: Papa Murphy's
- No. 43: Church's Chicken
- No. 44: Auntie Anne's Hand-Rolled Soft Pretzels
- No. 45: American Dairy Queen
- No. 47: Carl's Jr. Restaurants
- No. 52:Sonic Drive In Restaurants
- No. 53: Cold Stone Creamery
- No. 56: Baskin-Robbins USA Co.
- No. 64: Buffalo Wild Wings
- No. 65: Cinnabon
- No. 68: Jersey Mike's Subs
- No. 69: Firehouse Subs
- No. 76: Wingstop Restaurants Inc.
- No. 78: Hungry Howie's Pizza & Subs
- No. 83: Culver Franchising System Inc.
- No. 84: Zaxby's Franchising Inc.
- No. 85: Moe's Southwest Grill
- No. 86: Bojangles' Restaurants Inc.
- No. 91: Charleys Philly Steaks
- No. 95: Chester's
- No. 103: Marco's Franchising LLC
- No. 104: Smoothie King
- No. 105: Qdoba Mexican Grill
- No. 121: Rita's Italian Ice
- No. 127: Menchie's
- No. 130: Nathan's Famous Inc.
- No. 136: Penn Station East Coast Subs
- No. 137: Schlotzsky's
- No. 141: Wetzel's Pretzels
- No. 146: Jet's Pizza
- No. 156: Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt
- No. 161: Carvel
- No. 166: Pita Pit Inc.
- No. 168: Extreme Pita
- No. 172: Yogurtland Franchising Inc.
- No. 179: Pizza Ranch
- No. 188: Ben & Jerry's
- No. 198: Blimpie Subs & Salads
- No. 201: Biggby Coffee
- No. 203: Smashburger Franchising LLC
- No. 220: Freddy's Frozen Custard LLC
- No. 227: Lenny's Sub Shop
- No. 229: Pretzelmaker
- No. 234: Scooter's Coffee and Yogurt
- No. 245: Golden Chick
- No. 247: Great Wraps
- No. 249: Nestle Toll House Cafe by Chip
- No. 250: Marble Slab Creamery
- No. 255: Doc Popcorn
- No. 289: Capriotti's Sandwich Shop Inc.
- No. 298: Corner Bakery Cafe
- No. 303: HuHot Mongolian Grill
- No. 305: Zoup! Systems LLC
- No. 307: Togo's Franchisor LLC
- No. 313: Stevi B's Pizza
- No. 314: Genghis Grill - The Mongolian Stir Fry
- No. 329: Cheeburger Cheeburger
- No. 337: TacoTime
- No. 343: Toppers Pizza
- No. 344: L&L Hawaiian Barbecue
- No. 346: Hurricane Grill & Wings
- No. 348: Billy Sims BBQ
- No. 349: East Coast Wings Corp.
- No. 352: Yogen Fruz
- No. 359: Fox's Pizza Den
- No. 361: The Counter
- No. 363: Maui Wowi Hawaiian Coffees & Smoothies
- No. 370: Elevation Burger
- No. 379: Sam & Louie's
- No. 382: Sub Zero Ice Cream
- No. 403: Red Mango Franchising Co.
- No. 412: Cousins Subs
- No. 421: Pizza Factory Inc.
- No. 429: Port Of Subs
- No. 430: The Great Steak & Potato Co.
- No. 436: Ledo Pizza System Inc.
- No. 460: Salsarita's Fresh Cantina
- No. 478: Checkers Drive-In Restaurants Inc.
- No. 479: LaRosa's Inc.
- No. 486: zpizza
- No. 491: Figaro's Pizza
- No. 499: Rosati's Pizza
Read more about franchising news.
Alicia has been a professional journalist for 15 years. Her work with FastCasual.com, QSRweb.com and PizzaMarketplace.com has been featured in publications around the world, including NPR, Good Morning America, Voice of Russia radio, Consumerist.com and Franchise Asia magazine.