For many entrepreneurs, investing in a top franchise offers a faster pathway to business ownership than independent startups. Established franchise brands provide benefits like an existing customer base, corporate support, and a proven business model to implement.

This guide provides an overview of leading franchises across categories like fast food, senior care, fitness, retail, and more. We’ll examine high-performing brands based on average unit volumes, profitability, franchisee satisfaction, growth rates, and overall investment opportunity.

Benefits of Investing in a Top Franchise

Here are some of the key advantages franchising offers versus solo startups:

  • Lower risk – Statistically higher odds of success following a proven franchise model
  • Faster setup – Get up and running more quickly leveraging brand familiarity
  • Corporate support – Ongoing training guidance, vendor relations, marketing assets, tech platforms, etc.
  • Purchasing power – Access to lower supply and inventory costs through corporate
  • Financing – Traditional lenders more comfortable funding franchise units than unproven startups
  • Passive income potential – Ability to step back from daily work after hiring a management team, allowing semi-absentee ownership

While costs are higher initially, partnering with established, successful brands provides a blueprint for greater likelihood of operational excellence and ROI.

Highest Grossing Franchise Chains

Measured by average annual unit volumes, currently the top grossing franchise brands include:

McDonald’s – $2.9+ million

With over 13,000 locations in the U.S., McDonald’s legendary brand power and real estate acumen deliver strong consistent revenues despite high total investment costs.

Chick-fil-A – $4.5+ million

Chick-fil-A boasts exceptional average unit volumes exceeding $4.5 million. Customers rave about its food and service. Operators must follow strict owner-operator model.

KFC – $1.2+ million

One of the most profitable restaurant franchises globally with over 22,000 units. Famous for its fried chicken since 1930s.

SUBWAY – $420,000+

SUBWAY has the most locations of any restaurant chain globally, with over 37,000 stores. Revenues are highly location dependent.

Well-established food franchises benefit from perpetual consumer demand and strong systems making them attractive for investors seeking franchising opportunities.

Top Franchises By Profitability

The franchises generating the highest profit margins include:

Chick-fil-A – 30%+

Chick-fil-A’s industry-leading average unit volumes coupled with premium pricing result in off-the-charts franchisee profit margins.

McDonald’s – 20-25%

Powerful branding and valuable real estate holdings translate into strong cash-on-cash returns for McDonald’s franchise owners.

Jiffy Lube – 19-20%

Repair and maintenance franchises like Jiffy Lube achieve high relative margins with quick-service workflows. Consumers perceive added value from their specialized skills.

SUBWAY – 10-15%

Despite lower average unit volumes, SUBWAY’s low startup costs result in solid double-digit profit returns.

Jani-King – 18%

Contract cleaning franchises like Jani-King offer attractive margins by locking in steady business servicing offices, hotels, etc. Broad commercial need keeps revenues flowing.

Focus on franchises with proven economics and strong corporate support. Review FDDs thoroughly.

Fastest Growing Franchise Sectors

Poised for sustained expansion, some of today’s fastest growing franchise sectors include:

Senior Care & Health Services

With over 10,000 Americans turning 65 every day, demand for at-home senior care and medical services is skyrocketing. Franchises enable rapid scale in this sector.

Fitness & Wellness

Fueled by higher interest in health, boutique fitness studios, personal training centers, and nutrition brands are booming franchise spaces.

Pet Services

Pet care dominates consumer spending. Pet resorts, dog walking, training, veterinary franchises capitalize on our national love of pets.


Car wash services, auto repair, oil changes, detailing tap into consistent vehicle owner needs locally. National brands bring credibility.

Restoration Services

Demand for restoration from water/fire damage, mold removal and remodeling are recession resilient niche contractor services with national franchise leaders.

Analyze growing sectors as potential franchise investments, but research specific brands and units economics thoroughly. Avoid getting caught up in hype alone.

Top Food Franchises

Food remains one of the most attractive franchising categories thanks to recurring consumer demand. Leading food franchises include:


Industry leading average unit volumes over $4.5 million and 30%+ margins with franchisee owner-operator model. High startup costs.

Tropical Smoothie Cafe

Fast casual with average volumes over $850k. Low cost model provides nice returns. Positioned to grow rapidly.


Most recognizable global QSR brand continues to deliver 25% margins. But requires total net worth exceeding $1 million for franchise qualification.

Jimmy John’s

Sandwich brand with average volumes $1.35 million and affordable startup costs between $544k – $1.1 million. Quick breakeven potential.

Jersey Mike’s Subs

Surging sandwich franchise achieving average volumes around $1 million. Low startup costs at $186k – $775k and fast growing unit count.

Pick established food brands aligned with your interests, skills, and local market demand. Food offers lower barriers to entry than hotels or gyms.

Top Senior Care Franchises

Partnering with senior care brands allows entrepreneurs to tap into booming demand as our population ages:

Right at Home

One of the largest senior home health and daily care franchises with 500 global locations. Recurring visits build revenue. Initial costs $100k – $150k.

Visiting Angels

Senior home care franchise model based on recurring hourly service fees rather than insurance payouts. Low cost at $61,700k – $68k.

Home Instead

Leading non-medical home care franchise with over 1,200 independently owned and operated global offices. Industry pioneer since 1994. Initial investment $59,900 – $104,500.

BrightStar Care

Specializes in professional medical and senior care staffing services. Named #1 franchise opportunity by Forbes. Initial investment $91,700k – $165k.

Partnering with mature senior care brands equips new franchisees with the systems, training, and marketing necessary to excel in this vital service niche.

Top Fitness Franchises

Rising interest in health and wellbeing is fueling rapid growth for fitness franchises like:

Planet Fitness

A hugely successful model with 2,200 locations averaging 42,000 members each. Very affordable startup model just $760k – $1.3 million.

Orangetheory Fitness

The hottest boutique fitness franchise today with over 1,500 studios. Focuses on interval heart rate training. Has very high startup costs but generates phenomenal returns at scale.

Club Pilates

Leading Pilates studio franchise with over 500 locations. Low cost model averaging under $200k to open.

F45 Training

One of fastest growing HIIT workout franchises with 2,700+ studios. Group fitness model fosters community. Average volumes $850k.

As consumers increasingly prioritize fitness, growth-oriented gym and studio franchises offer nice ROI potential if operated well. Ensure ample working capital reserves.

Top Pet Franchises

Our national love of pets powers continual growth in pet services. Top pet franchises include:

Camp Bow Wow

The largest pet care franchise with 200+ locations providing boarding, daycare, grooming and training services. Initial investment around $115k – $870k depending on real estate selection.

Pet Supplies Plus

Leading pet retail franchise with over 500 stores. Offers comprehensive omnichannel retail model with average volumes $2.6 million. Initial investment ranges $350k – $675k.

Aussie Pet Mobile

Lower cost mobile grooming franchise operating patented vans equipped with tubs, dryers and tools. Great for retirees. Initial investment is $50k – $75k.

Fetch! Pet Care

One of the largest professional pet sitting, dog walking, and pet concierge service franchises with hundreds of locations. Lower cost home based franchise model at $15k – $155k initial investment.

Pet care franchises capitalize on the perpetual consumer spending on our furry family members. Pick services matching your interests like retail, grooming, sitting or training.

Top Retail Franchises

In the challenging retail climate, top franchises still thrive leveraging the power of their brand, economies of scale, and loyalty programs. Leading retail franchises include:

Dollar General

Largest discount retailer in the U.S. with over 18,000 stores. Critical staple in rural areas. Reports double-digit comps and growth. Initial investment around $277k – $386k.

Ace Hardware

World’s largest hardware franchise brand with over 5,300 independently owned stores. High average volumes around $4.7 million per store. Initial investment $250k – $1.2 million.

The UPS Store

Leading retail shipping franchise with nearly 5,000 locations providing packing, postal, business, and mailboxes services. Initial investment ranges $167k – $295k.

Sport Clips Haircuts

Specializes in men’s hair care with 1,800 sports themed salons. Recurring visits builds revenue. Initial investment ranges $208k – $297k.

Pick proven retail winners avoiding major disruptions like ecommerce. Aligned brand purpose and customer loyalty enable success despite retail sector challenges.

FAQ About Top Franchise Brands

Here are some frequently asked questions about leading franchise opportunities:

What are the most profitable franchises?

McDonald’s, Chick-Fil-A, UPS, and Anytime Fitness consistently report highest average unit volumes and profit margins for franchises.

Which franchise has the most locations?

SUBWAY has the most global locations of any franchise brand, with over 40,000 stores. McDonalds has the most U.S. locations.

What is the #1 franchise opportunity?

For 2022, Entrepreneur Magazine ranks Tropical Smoothie Cafe #1 based on financial stability, growth, training, support, and overall opportunity.

Do you need a college degree to own a franchise?

No, many top franchisors focus on sufficient capital, business experience, management skills, and strategic vision over formal education alone when approving franchisees.

Should I buy an existing or new franchise?

Analyze costs, location, and opportunities closely. Existing franchises cost more but have immediate customers. New allows more control.

How much liquid capital is required?

Requirements vary widely but most require at least $100k – $250k minimum liquid personal capital. 1/3 total investment is common.

Partner with a Proven Concept

While costs are higher initially, top franchises provide training, branding, and operating systems that statistically lead to greater success over independent startups. Conduct extensive research to identify well aligned, profitable franchise opportunities that match your skills and interests.


  • Gio Watts

    Gio Watts brings over 10 years of digital marketing experience to his role as marketing manager at Walletminded. In his current position, Gio oversees brand marketing, campaign management, and audience growth initiatives. Prior to joining Walletminded, Gio held marketing roles at several ecommerce and SaaS startups, most recently serving as senior marketing manager at CloudTable Inc. There, he specialized in paid social advertising and content marketing. Gio holds a bachelor’s degree in business marketing from the University of Oregon. He is a certified content marketing specialist and frequently guest lectures at his alma mater. When he's not devising omni-channel marketing campaigns, you can find Gio coaching youth basketball and indulging his passion for live music.

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