Within a year after Robert Morgan opened the first AAMCO in Philadelphia in 1963, he was selling franchises, and the AAMCO brand now encompasses more than 800 locations in the U.S. and Canada. AAMCO got its name from founding partner, Anthony A. Martino, who used the first letter of his first, middle, and last names to form an anagram. Morgan and Martino also used this same strategy to name another concept they started, MAACO. Martino later split from Morgan to run MAACO full time.
Start-up Cost: $232.5K - 299.7K
There are more than 1,800 Aaron’s locations in North America, and the company is a leader in the leasing and sales of such items as household furniture, stereo equipment, and appliances. Aaron’s was first started in 1955 by R. Charles Loudermilk, Sr. when he purchased some folding chairs at a surplus store and rented them out to customers for a small fee. Aaron’s grew to include more and more items for rental, lease, and sale and the company began selling franchises in 1992.
Start-up Cost: $233.87K - 607.58K
The first Arby’s restaurant was opened in Boardman, Ohio by Leroy & Forrest Raffel. The two brothers had run a consulting firm in the foodservice industry called Raffel Brothers, Inc. Moving into the restaurant business was a natural move, and the young entrepreneurs had a unique concept. Deciding that the fast food market was saturated with burger joints, the Raffels offered customers an alternative - the roast beef sandwiches for which Arby’s has become known. The name is a play on “R” and “B” which could stand for Roast Beef, but in fact was meant to stand for “Raffel Brothers.” In any case, the Arby’s formula is a winner and there are now more than 3,600 locations.
Start-up Cost: $357.5K - 2.4M
Since 1977 Bojangles has been serving up Southern style fare including chicken, buttermilk biscuits, dirty rice and other regional specialties. Started in Greenville, South Carolina by Richard Thomas and Jack Faulk, Bojangles’ restaurants have multiplied and now total over 500.
Start-up Cost: $357K - 553.75K
Since 1986, when it first opened its doors (and its drive-thru) in Mobile, Alabama. The establishment had a simple but noble aim: to provide customers with a better, more flavorful burger than what typical fast food restaurants had to offer. Between Checker’s and its partner brand Rally’s - which it merged with in 1999 - there are 800 franchises under this concept.
Start-up Cost: $453K - 627.2K
Christian Brothers Automotive was started in 1982, with a goal of providing quality automotive service that was affordable and honest. Building on this foundation of integrity, the company grew through the years and eventually started franchising in 1996. Christian Brothers locations in the United States now number over 85.
Start-up Cost: $362.6K - 419.6K
In 1952, George W. Church, Sr. opened the first Church’s Fried Chicken To Go in San Antonio, Texas. The concept was simple: chicken, served up fast. In 1955, Church augmented his one-item menu with jalapeños and fries. The fast fried chicken and simple sides were a hit. Church’s grew, and has continued to do so, with the franchise now boasting over 1,700 locations in the United States, Canada, and abroad.
Start-up Cost: $269.3K - 1.07M
There are more than 500 CiCi’s Pizza restaurants in the United States, offering pizza, salad, and pasta in a buffet-style setting. The first CiCi’s all-you-can-eat restaurant was opened in Plano, Texas in 1985 by Joe Croce and has since become a network of franchised operations spanning more than 30 states.
Start-up Cost: $446K - 715K
Seattle, Washington is home to the first Cinnabon kiosk, opened in 1985 and located in the Sea-Tac Mall. The tiny bakery stand selling big, soft cinnamon rolls was a hit, and the company began franchising in 1986. The outfits were popular in malls and soon Cinnabon stands started cropping up at airports, amusement parks, bus stations, college campuses, and elsewhere. Cinnabon is currently owned by Focus Brands and is headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia.
Start-up Cost: $254.51K - 345.74K
Cold Stone Creamery was founded in 1988 by husband and wife team Donald and Susan Sutherland. The Sutherlands had set out on a mission to create the most delicious ice cream possible. After some experimentation they came up with their signature style of frozen dessert, which is made fresh daily in the shop. Ingredients like candy, cookies, nuts, and fruit are folded in over an ice cold stone to each customer’s specifications. The company began selling franchises in 1994 and Cold Stone Creameries now number over 1,400.
Start-up Cost: $292.4K - 438.9K
ColorTyme was initially started in 1982 as an exclusive distributorship for Curtis Mathes products. Entrepreneur Willie Talley purchased the company in 1981, converting it into a franchise system of home electronics, furnishings, and appliance stores. ColorTyme also offers rent-to-own style financing programs.
Start-up Cost: $412.08K - 627K
In 1940, J.F. McCullough was an ice cream manufacturer working on a formula for what would be the first soft-serve ice cream. When he sampled his new concoction at one of his customers’ shops, the turnout was so impressive that he decided to start his own store based around his popular new frozen dessert. In 1944, McCullough sold the first Dairy Queen franchise. Dairy Queen’s menu expanded beyond soft serve ice cream to include other frozen treats along with some hot food items. Today, there are around 6,000 Dairy Queens around the world.
Start-up Cost: $382K - 1.83M
Diane and Cliff Clark started the first Discovery Point child care center in 1988. Within two years, they were opening a second location and by 1991, they had started offering franchise sales. Discovery Points are child care centers operating on a model of providing a program that fosters creativity and confidence in children. Almost 60 of these centers are open in the United States today.
Start-up Cost: $393.14K - 436.49K
Jim Grote opened the first Donato’s in 1963 with less than $1,500 and a dream to make great pizza and treat his customers and employees well. His simple business model worked, and Grote’s restaurant grew in popurity through the decades. The company franchised in 1991 and there are now more than 175 Donato’s Pizza restaurants.
Start-up Cost: $370K - 681.9K
In 1977, Dryclean USA was formed, and franchises were offered the following year. A major player in the dry cleaning service industry, Dryclean USA has become an international chain consisting of almost 400 different stores. Dryclean USA promises to give its customers above-and-beyond care when it comes to their cleaning needs, taking time to assess and treat each garment based on fabric type.
Start-up Cost: $260.5K - 599K
Dunkin’ Donuts was founded by Bill Rosenburg in 1950, after some previous success in the food industry. By 1955, Bill had turned his doughnut shop into a prodigious franchise. There are now around 10,000 Dunkin’ Donut locations serving up fresh doughnuts, coffee, and other breakfast items. Dunkin’ Donuts’ parent company, Dunkin’ Brands is also the franchisor for Baskin-Robbins ice cream shops.
Start-up Cost: $368.9K - 1.74M
Elevation operates on a progressive business model, focused on sustainability, health, and ecology. This modern twist on a typical fast food diner features only ingredients that meet the standards of the Elevation concept. All beef used at Elevation locations is 100% free-range, grass-fed, and organic. They also grind it themselves on-site. This marriage of the old-fashioned burger and fries joint with the new model for sustainability and ecology has caught on quickly and the franchise shows great growth projections.
Start-up Cost: $378.5K - 743.5K
Freddy’s is named after the father of its founders, and is meant to evoke that bygone era from which he came: the 1950’s. From the way they prepare their food to the vintage decor, Freddy’s embraces the ambience and concept of the 50s diner. Freddy’s was opened in 2004 and has already expanded to include around 50 independently owned franchises.
Start-up Cost: $395.5K - 835K
Genghis Grill was founded by Jeff Sinelli in 1998. Sinelli purchased an existing Mongolian restaurant and tweaked concept a bit to appeal more to American diners. Customers loved the Mongolian stir-fry idea, and Sinelli decided to open his company up to franchising in 2001. Now 71 Genghis Grills are frying in the United States.
Start-up Cost: $320K - 643K
Ft. Pierce, Florida was home to the first Hurricane Grill & Wings restaurant, opened there in 1995. Hurricane quickly became known for its chicken wings, which it offers in more than 30 different flavors. Part of the Hurricane model is using high-quality ingredients and being ecologically conscious (used cooking oil is recycled for use as bio-diesel fuel).
Start-up Cost: $296.5K - 847K