Best Franchises to Own

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According to CareerBliss, Dunkin’ franchise owners earn $124,000 on average annually, or $60 per hour, based on gross sales in the $620,000 to $1.3 million range. The national average for all franchise owners of any company is $60,000. So, owning a franchise can be a path toward wealth, but there’s a lot to consider because owning one location doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to make exceptional earnings right away. You’ll want to choose a company that fits your skill set and your interests because most franchise owners become wealthy by owning multiple locations.

Fortunately, there are hundreds of franchises in the U.S. alone that you can research to find the best match for your interests, skills, and budget. We reviewed 24 franchises before we arrived at the best choice for each of seven categories. Before you rule out any of these businesses, read on to see what kind of net worth, liquidity, and experience you need to qualify for a franchise you can potentially grow into a portfolio of locations.

Best Franchises to Own in 2021

Best Overall : Dunkin’

Dunkin’

Dunkin’

If you want to get a franchise with an immediately recognizable brand, Dunkin’ ranks as our best overall for name recognition and customer loyalty.

Pros
  • Repeat customer traffic

  • Resilient during the pandemic, 90% of locations remained open for carry-out sales

  • Detailed franchise playbook to follow

  • Top-ranked coffee chain for customer loyalty 14 years in a row

Cons
  • High initial investment requirements

  • No Dunkin’ in-house financing for franchise applicants

  • Site criteria need to be met

Dunkin’, known for decades as Dunkin’ Donuts, is a highly profitable, popular, and successful franchise. As our best overall, many Dunkin’ franchisees have made a fortune from its brand recognition and customer loyalty, thus making it a lower-risk choice when choosing a franchise.

Franchised Dunkin’ stores are 100% owned by the franchisee. They sell Dunkin’ coffee, donuts, bagels, muffins, sandwiches, and other food items and beverages. Franchised locations are either:

  • Freestanding: a stand-alone restaurant that doesn’t share any common walls with another store
  • Shopping center or storefront: A Dunkin’ location that shares a common wall with another business
  • Gas or convenience stores: A Dunkin’ that shares a location, or is a sub-tenant to, a gas station or convenience store
  • Special distribution opportunity: These are non-traditional locations like a cart, kiosk, or small restaurant located inside a stadium or airport, for example

Candidates must have experience in food service or retail and an understanding of store marketing and community involvement. They will also need to demonstrate a grasp of the real estate development process.

The estimated initial investment for a Dunkin' restaurant ranges from $109,700 to $1,637,700, not including real estate. Initial capital expenses, including real estate, average $450,000.  The exact franchise fee depends on the precise location and other circumstances, such as whether Dunkin’ already has an established presence in the local market. On average, the approval process takes around 60 to 90 days, while the whole process from application to opening a restaurant for business is eight to 15 months.

With one of the most developed support systems for franchisees, Dunkin’ arms you with a franchising executive, along with development, construction, training, field marketing, and operations managers.

Owners can sell their franchise to a third party, and Dunkin' helps them in that process by listing the seller’s site address, phone, and email.

Best Restaurant : Denny’s

Denny’s

Denny’s

Denny’s, our pick for the best restaurant franchise, offers an array of tools and support for their franchisees to operate and develop Denny’s restaurants.

Pros
  • Constant support from the franchisor

  • Aggressive growth plan

  • Discount on new technologies used by Denny’s

Cons
  • Requires previous or current experience in the retail or restaurant industry

  • Requires $500,000 liquid capital

  • $1 million net worth required

Denny’s is one of the most aggressive restaurant franchises to own. It is intent on growing into new territories, refreshing its brand every few years, and supporting its franchise owners from initial site selection through grand opening, operations, and marketing, making it our pick for the best restaurant franchise to own.

Denny’s gives franchisees its trademarks, building designs and layouts, equipment, ingredients, recipes and specifications for authorized food products, training, inventory control methods, as well as operational and business standards and company policies. Franchisees own and operate 100% of their restaurant.

Franchisee candidates must display restaurant or retail management experience. The franchise fee you need to pay is $30,000 for 20 years. To become a franchisee, you’re required to have at least $1 million net worth, $500,000 liquid capital, and $1,305,540 to $2,453,718 that you will invest in the startup of the restaurant. If you meet these requirements, you will submit an application, go through an interview with a corporate representative, and spend a day at a Denny’s training restaurant. Once you do all this, you can submit your final business plan for approval and pay the $30,000 fee for opening a restaurant. There is also a cost-saving incentive program for franchisees who open multiple restaurants.

Denny’s support includes:

  • Assistance with identifying real estate for your restaurant
  • Prototype plans and specifications for restaurant interior, exterior, and equipment
  • Management training
  • A detailed Brand Standards Manual
  • Ongoing menu evolution and innovation
  • Advertising, operations, and supply chain support

Franchise owners can sell their restaurant to a new franchisee, but Denny’s still needs to approve the purchase to make sure the new buyer meets its requirements.

Best Senior Care : Right at Home

Right at Home

Right at Home

Right at Home is one of the most popular home care franchises, but the reason why it earned our top spot as a senior care franchise is the support it gives its franchisees. Owners get at least 24 months of support that will help them enter and grow in the business regardless of their previous experience in the home care industry.

Pros
  • Great initial support provided

  • Doesn’t require a lot of liquid capital

  • Doesn’t require previous home care experience

Cons
  • Training takes place in Omaha, Nebraska

  • Minimum earning requirements have to be met to maintain the franchise

Earning our vote for best senior care franchise, Right at Home gives new franchise owners the support they need for at least two years, something rarely provided by other franchises. 

Each Right at Home franchise is independently owned and operated. While you’re not required to have any home care work experience, you must have previous management experience and a passion for serving others. In addition to this, you need to have access to $150,000 in liquid capital to invest in the business, and provide proof of adequate savings or other income that you would use to cover your living expenses during the startup phase.

Opening a Right at Home costs between $80,150 and $147,150, with the initial franchise fee being $49,500 of this cost. 

Right at Home has an excellent training program done in two phases. During Phase 1, franchisees will get training at Right at Home’s Franchise Support Service Center in Omaha, Nebraska, where you will be introduced to the franchise’s administrative and operational aspects. Additionally, you will learn home care business sales and marketing techniques and get computer software instruction about the business’s finance and communication systems. 

Phase 2 of the training starts after opening the business. Right at Home will come to the site and help franchisees get into a routine that will help grow the business. There will be a support person that will be dedicated to your business and will answer all questions you may have about the business.

If you decide to sell your Right at Home franchise one day, the company helps you with its formal resale program. They have sample contract templates and a database of hundreds of business brokers that can help you find a qualified buyer for your franchise.

Best Fast Food : McDonald’s

McDonald’s

McDonald’s

With worldwide brand recognition, popularity, repeat customers, corporate support, and a proven franchise system, McDonald’s wins our vote for best fast food franchise.

Pros
  • Almost guaranteed profit

  • Professional ongoing corporate guidance

  • Committed to increasing franchise ownership for minorities and women

Cons
  • High franchise fee

  • McDonald’s picks the location

  • No exclusive territories

Everyone knows the McDonald’s name, the brand, and the menu, so success is almost guaranteed, making it our top pick for best fast food franchise.

In the U.S., 95% of all McDonald’s restaurants are owned by franchisees who are independent of the McDonald’s corporation. When you are awarded a McDonald’s franchise, you are authorized to operate a McDonald’s restaurant at a specific location and to use the McDonald’s System to operate that business. The typical contract length is 20 years.

Unlike some franchises, McDonald’s doesn’t have an explicit list of industry experience needed to apply. The company does prefer people to have management experience, but it is not mandatory.

The franchise fee paid to McDonald’s is $45,000. McDonald’s requires a 40% down payment for purchasing a new restaurant, or a 25% down payment for buying an existing restaurant. The funds used as a down payment have to originate from a non-borrowed personal source such as cash on hand, securities, bonds, and business or real estate equity. The applicant’s personal resources have to be at least $500,000. The average initial investment ranges from $1,314,500 to $2,306,500.

To be able to acquire a McDonald’s franchise, you have to first complete a 12- to 18-month training program on a part-time basis. After purchase, you’ll receive continued training, advertising and marketing support, menu innovations, and operational enhancements like technology upgrades.

If you want to sell your franchise location, you can work with McDonald’s corporate to identify and qualify a new buyer.

Best Car Wash : Mr. Clean Car Wash

Mr. Clean Car Wash

 Mr. Clean Car Wash

Our favorite for best car wash franchise, Mr. Clean has an established, trusted brand name, a proven business model with multiple profit centers, and best-in-the-business marketing support.

Pros
  • Shorter timeline to open than other franchises at an average four to five months

  • Very involved with location evaluation and market research

  • Several training options available

Cons
  • High investment cost, $2.3 to $3.2 million

  • Shorter franchise term, 10 years with a 10-year renewal option

Franchisees benefit from Mr. Clean Car Wash’s powerful support system developed by their experienced team. They focus on multiple profit centers and state-of-the-art facilities with a recognizable look that everyone knows and loves, making them our hands-down favorite for the best car wash franchise.

Mr. Clean uses a business format franchise where the franchisee owns its business, but Mr. Clean’s corporate team assists with site selection, staff training, and advertising. Like other world-class franchises, the franchisee owns their business but your chances for success improve with a strong partnership from the corporate team.

The qualifications Mr. Clean seeks in its franchisees include:

  • A convincing desire to succeed and an entrepreneurial mindset
  • The ability to motivate and train people
  • Financial management skills
  • A willingness to be on-site to manage your location
  • A willingness to complete their training and evaluation program
  • Meeting their financial requirements

The initial franchise fee is $35,000, and the applicant is required to have a $700,000 to $1 million liquid capital and a net worth of $2.5 million. The typical investment for a franchise location is slightly higher than others, ranging between $2,379,000 and $3,219,500 for a single facility. After opening a  Mr. Clean Car Wash, franchisees are required to pay a royalty of 6% and a marketing fee of 5% from net sales. 

Mr. Clean Car Wash offers five weeks of hands-on experience at a training facility and on-site. The management staff can also get additional training if needed. Mr. Clean support representatives will be on-site during the opening to ensure everything goes smoothly.

The Mr. Clean Car Wash team also provides franchisees with guidance about local and national standards, specifications, operating procedures, marketing, and purchasing equipment and products. 

After the 10-year contract term, franchise owners and Mr. Clean have a chance to mutually agree on a 10-year extension. If the owner wants to leave the business, they can list it with a third-party broker to sell to a buyer that meets Mr. Clean’s criteria.

Best Ice Cream : Baskin-Robbins

Baskin-Robbins

 Baskin-Robbins

With a lower cost model and nationwide recognition, Baskin-Robbins is perfect for those who want to operate a popular franchise but are looking for a great value, earning Baskin-Robbins our title for best ice cream franchise to own.

Pros
Cons
  • Specific site requirements

  • High royalty and advertising fees

As our best ice cream franchise, Baskin-Robbins doesn’t require millions of dollars of initial investment, high net worths, or large amounts of liquid cash available to open one of their stores. This makes it easier for people from a modest background to own a franchise.

Baskin-Robbins, owned by Dunkin’ Brands, combines robust corporate partnership and guidance with 100% franchisee ownership to create its success.

As an applicant, you’ll need demonstrated leadership skills to fit Baskin-Robbins’ passion for operational excellence and customer satisfaction. You’ll also want to show the corporate team that you understand local store marketing and brand-building. Finally, you’ll need to meet their financial requirements.

Baskin-Robbins has a franchise fee of $25,000 for a 20-year term. However, Baskin-Robbins has a Development Incentive program through which new franchisees can get the franchise for a 50% lower cost for the initial 20-year term ($12,500) plus a 10-year payment plan. The Development Incentive also gives new franchisees lower royalty rates that range from 0% for the initial year and slowly increase to 4.9% in the fifth year. 

The franchisee must have a net worth of $200,000 and $100,000 liquid cash to invest in the business. The initial investment to open a store is $94,350 to $402,200, while the ongoing fees are a 5.9% royalty fee and an advertising fee of 5% of the gross sales. 

Baskin-Robbins has several types of training available for franchisees. Applicants go through a three-week education program consisting of live, in-store technical training, instructor-led classroom training, an online learning session of the management system, as well as mentoring and skill-building courses. In addition to this, franchisees get access to Baskin-Robbins’ advisory system where they can share their thoughts and opinions about the brand and their experience to get professional input and advice about any issue they may have. 

Franchisees can either develop a new shop or buy an existing one. If you want to sell yours, Baskin-Robbins helps you market your location for sale and evaluate and approve a buyer.

Best Tax Services : Jackson Hewitt

Jackson Hewitt

 Jackson Hewitt

Jackson Hewitt has some of the lowest startup costs in the tax prep industry, active support and assistance, and additional exposure through its partners like Walmart and American Express, making it our top choice for best tax service franchise.

Pros
  • Lower liquid cash and investment cost

  • No tax experience required

  • High level of mentoring and training provided

Cons
  • High royalty fee, 15%

  • Shorter franchise term, 10 years

Aside from the marketing, mentorship, and service support, our best tax service franchise, Jackson Hewitt, also offers in-house financing to cover equipment and inventory costs, making it financially obtainable for more people.

Jackson Hewitt’s franchise model has three paths to 100% ownership of your location.

  1. Start a new franchise
  2. Purchase an existing franchise
  3. Convert your existing tax service business to a Jackson Hewitt franchise

One of the best aspects of Jackson Hewitt’s franchise is that it doesn’t require franchisees to have any previous tax experience. Small business or retail management is preferred but not mandatory. It does encourage franchise candidates to have the goal of expanding into multiple locations within three to five years.

The applicant needs to have a net worth of $500,000 and $100,000 in liquid cash. The franchise fee ranges from $15,000 to $25,000, but you don’t pay royalty fees until your third year. After that, the royalty fee can go up to 15%, while the marketing fee is 6% of the gross profit. The average initial total investment averages between $40,000 and $105,000, but Jackson Hewitt will finance your franchise fee with installment payments. 

It provides complete training to franchisees. Applicants will get a five-day Franchise Initial Training (FIT) class, a two-year mentorship program, one-on-one business coaching, weekly webinars during tax season, and concierge-level support from the Franchise Integration Team and Regional Directors. This is one of the most extensive and detailed support programs provided in our list of franchises. 

You can sell your franchise to another party, but the corporate team will take part in evaluating the buyer to make sure they meet the financial requirements for liquidity and net worth.

Bottom Line

Like most things in life, you get what you pay for, and franchises are no different. If you want to buy a franchise with a well-established brand name that will be an instant success no matter where you open its doors, you’re going to need net worth and cash liquidity in the $1.5 to $3.5 million range. But there are notable exceptions, like Jackson Hewitt and Baskin-Robbins, so it pays to keep a keen eye on your options. Others have savings incentives if you are willing to open up a franchise in a new market, or if you agree to open multiple sites at once.

Aside from the expense, other requirements include some management, retail, or small business experience and the interviewing skills to prove you have the ambition, drive, and leadership to make your location a success.

Dunkin’ won our best overall franchise because it combines a proven brand that has grown generations of loyal customers since its inception in the mid-1950s; world-class training, marketing, and menu innovations; and its range of entry levels from full restaurant down to a more affordable kiosk.

Compare Providers

Best Franchises to Own
Franchise Why We Picked It Average Startup Cost
Dunkin’ Best Overall $450,000
Denny’s Best Restaurant $1,305,500 to $2,453,700
Right at Home Best Senior Care $80,000 to $150,000
McDonald’s Best Fast Food $1.2 million to $2.2 million
Mr. Clean Car Wash Best Car Wash $2.3 million to $3.2 million
Baskin-Robbins Best Ice Cream $100,000 to $400,000
Jackson Hewitt Best Tax Services $40,000 to $105,000

FAQs

How Does Owning a Franchise Work?

In most cases, to own a franchise you must apply on the corporate website to start the process. If you meet the minimum financial and experience requirements and are selected, plan on months of training while your site is built. 

While in most cases you own 100% of your business, you pay monthly fees to the franchisor for use of their operational programs, service upgrades, and especially marketing assistance. All of this will be detailed in the company’s Franchise Disclosure Document.

Is Owning a Franchise Profitable?

Owning a franchise is profitable, though you may find more lucrative returns on your investment elsewhere. Many McDonald’s and Dunkin’ franchisees, two of the most popular brands in the world, earn between 6% and 12% net profit on their sales.  

Monthly costs and fees like inventory, payroll, marketing and advertising, rent and utilities, and loan payments eat into franchisee profit margins. The fees from the franchisor, such as royalties and marketing and advertising fees, are a percentage of your gross sales, so as your business’s sales grow, so will the amount you pay in fees.

How Much Money Do I Need to Start a Franchise?

To start a franchise, franchisors want to see that you have a net worth of $500,000 to well over $1 million, plus a chunk of liquid cash reserves usually in the $150,000 to $500,000 range. You’ll pay an initial fee, think of it as your down payment, which can range from below $100,000 to over $2 million, depending on the franchisor. You’ll likely have additional costs to buy the land and pay the brokers, architects, and contractors that you’ll need to build your location.

How We Chose the Best Franchises to Own

We investigated the financial and experience requirements of 24 franchises to find these best seven. We summarized the pros and cons of each winner and their franchise ownership model. We also examined and described the support these best franchisors give you, including initial training, ongoing mentoring, advertising, and marketing resources. Finally, we discussed the exit strategy options for each when you determine it’s time to sell.

Article Sources

Investopedia requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy.
  1. CareerBliss. "3 Dunkin' Donuts Franchise Owner Salaries." Accessed Jan. 13, 2021.

  2. Hubspot. "The 39 Best Franchise Opportunities to Buy & Own in 2020." Accessed Jan. 13, 2021.

  3. Franchise Gator. "Jackson Hewitt Tax Service." Accessed Jan. 13, 2021.

  4. Mashed.com. "How Much McDonald's Franchise Owners Really Make Per Year." Accessed Jan. 13, 2021.