The A&W story dates back to 1919, when Roy W. Allen opened a small beverage stand in Lodi, California. Soon after, he partnered with Frank Wright to form the A & W Root Beer company. The two began opening restaurants that served their signature soda, along with hot dogs, hamburgers, and other fast food fare. In 1925, they started franchising and now A&W locations can be found around the world.
Start-up Cost: $912K - 1.62M
The well known chain of convenience stores first appeared in 1978 as an addition to Arco gas stations. Customers loved the idea and ampm has since been providing travelers with a wide variety of food and drinks, including items made fresh on site.There are now over 1,000 ampm locations throughout the United States.
Start-up Cost: $1.85M - 7.76M
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
Anne Beiler came up with her business concept while working a concession stand at a Maryland Farmer’s Market. The soft pretzels offered at the stand far outsold the pizza, hot dogs, and other foods on its menu. When Anne started rolling the dough and shaping the pretzels in front of customers, the demand for them grew even more. After a while, Beiler decided to purchase her own stand, which she named Auntie Anne’s. Before long, Auntie Anne’s pretzel stands started popping up in malls, airports, train stations, and elsewhere. Now the Auntie Anne’s franchise is almost 1,200 strong.
Start-up Cost: $197.88K - 364.1K
Irv Robbins started Baskin-Robbins with his brother-in-law, Burt Baskin in 1945. Robbins had been the manager at an ice cream shop years earlier, and had since wanted to open his own. Eager to break out of the typical ice cream parlor flavor rut of chocolate and vanilla, Robbins created exciting new flavors to the delight of his customers. This evolved into the company’s signature “31 flavor” philosophy. Now, there are around 7,000 Baskin-Robbins ice cream parlors worldwide.
Start-up Cost: $45K - 377.6K
Already the owner of an area Italian restaurant, Jim Mellody purchased a small sandwich shop in Brandon, Florida in 1985. He based his menu on customer input, creating homemade sandwiches and using his own recipe for Buffalo wings. Mellody developed his concept, adding a sports theme and dubbing the establishment Beef ‘O’ Brady’s. He decided to take the idea to the franchising market and things really took off for the company, which now encompasses more than 200 franchised locations throughout the U.S.
Start-up Cost: $206.5K - 826.5K
Ben & Jerry’s first Scoop Shop opened in 1978 in Burlington, Vermont. Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield founded the company, and their names have since become synonymous with premium specialty ice cream. There are nearly 800 Ben & Jerry’s franchises open today, selling their company’s signature flavors like “Chubby Hubby” and “Cherry Garcia.”
Start-up Cost: $161.75K - 469.75K
Paul Stolzer opened the first Big Apple Bagels in 1993. He created a franchise model and began to sell the idea to entrepreneurs almost immediately. The bakery/cafes serve their signature bagels along with coffee, muffins, smoothies, and sandwiches. The company carries its own trademarked line of coffee, bagels, and muffins.
Start-up Cost: $248.8K - 358.63K
Arnold Peterson and Bob Wian started the very first Big Boy Restaurant in 1936 in Glendale, California. The popular family diner has seen a number of buyouts and subsequent ownership changes through the years, and has remained a well-known name in the restaurant franchise industry. Currently, the chain operates under the name Big Boy International and is comprised of some 130 U.S. locations.
Start-up Cost: $1.15M - 3.1M
Bob Fish and Mary Roszel founded Biggby Coffee in 1995, opening their first shop in East Lansing, Michigan. The store, then called Beaner’s, was popular with students at nearby Michigan State University. Word spread quickly, and by 1999 Bob and Mary were ready to franchise their business. Over twelve years and one name change later, Biggby Coffee now has 132 U.S. locations.
Start-up Cost: $181.85K - 358.1K
Entrepreneur Anthony Conze founded Blimpie restaurants, opening the first one in 1964 in Hoboken, New Jersey. Kahala brands now owns the Blimpie Subs & Salads name (along with others such as Cold Stone Creamery, Surf City Squeeze, and Taco Time) and there are over 700 Blimpie franchise locations in the United States.
Start-up Cost: $145.9K - 397.8K
The first Boardwalk Fresh Burgers & Fries was opened in White Marsh, Maryland in 1981 by brothers Fran and Dave DiFerdinando. The two wanted to emulate the fresh-cut fries they enjoyed on the Maryland boardwalk, and to bring that distinctive flavor to inland customers. The brothers served fresh burgers and those signature fries, and today franchised locations across the U.S. are cooking them up as well.
Start-up Cost: $152K - 594.5K
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
Dan Sterling founded Breadsmith in 1993. A Harvard Business School graduate, Sterling knew he possessed the entrepreneurial know-how to launch a viable business. He decided to base his model on something he loved: fresh-baked bread. He had participated in a study-abroad program as a student, and had developed a fondness for the freshly made bread he found in Europe. After doing some accounting work for a bakery after graduation, Sterling was ready to launch his venture. It has been a success and Breadsmith now has 36 U.S. locations.
Start-up Cost: $238.5K - 317K
Bruce Reed founded Bruster’s Real Ice Cream, opening the first shop in Bridgewater, Pennsylvania in 1989. Using his own recipe and making ice cream right in the store, Reed built a strong customer following. Within a few years, he was ready to start selling franchises and has since seen the Bruster’s name continue to rise in the franchise ranks. More than 230 of these homemade ice cream shops are open and operational in the United States.
Start-up Cost: $175K - 1.26M
The idea behind this popular sports bar chain was first hatched in 1981 when co-founders and friends Scott Lowery and James Disbrow were looking for a place to eat in Kent, Ohio. Disbrow, who was from Buffalo, New York sought the Buffalo-style chicken wings he loved to eat back home. Finding none, he and Lowery decided to start their own wing restaurant. The first location was opened in Columbus the next year. The concept took off, and Buffalo Wild Wings restaurants began cropping up throughout the U.S. The company franchised in 1991, and Buffalo Wild Wings locations now total over 800.
Start-up Cost: $1.39M - 3.15M
Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop was opened by brother and sister team Lois and Alan Margolet in Wilmington, Delaware - also known as “Little Italy.” With steep competition in the area, the two knew they would have to serve up exceptional sandwiches. Up for the challenge, they proudly offered their unique sandwiches made from slow-roasted turkey. The idea caught on and the Capriotti’s franchise is now over 60 strong.
Start-up Cost: $197K - 427.5K
Margaret and Carl Karcher started their fast food empire with a simple hot dog stand they operated in Los Angeles. After successfully running several of these stands, the couple tried their hand at something a little bigger and found continued success with their restaurant called Carl’s Drive-In Barbecue. Carl’s Jr. stores - smaller versions of the regular-sized Carl’s Drive In - were first opened by the Karchers in the 1950’s and the rest is history. Carl’s Jr. is now one of the most popular fast food chains with nearly 1,500 locations worldwide.
Start-up Cost: $690K - 1.53M
Founder Tom Carvel opened the first Carvel ice cream store in 1934. As the years went by, Tom never stopped developing and improving upon his already successful model. He created his own specialized equipment and invented fun new flavors. He decided to take his business into franchising in 1947 and the Carvel name continues to grow. The brand has its own line of ice cream and ice cream cakes, which are sold widely.
Start-up Cost: $243.38K - 354.55K
Charley Shin opened the first Charley’s Grilled Subs shop on campus at Ohio State University. He had stumbled upon the concept on a family vacation to Philadelphia, during which he mistakenly found himself in South Philly where he fatefully stopped for some lunch. After sinking his teeth into his first authentic Philly cheesesteak sandwich, he began recreating the local favorite for his friends back at college in Ohio. Once perfected, he turned his recipe for creating the perfect cheesesteak sandwich into that first sub shop. Customers loved Charley’s Philly fare and Shin franchised Charley’s in 1991.
Start-up Cost: $103.03K - 445.3K