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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


Big Boy Restaurants Int’l.

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


Buffalo Wild Wings

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


Choice Hotels Int’l.

In 1939, a group of hotel owners joined efforts and created an industry standard in an effort to improve public perception of hotels. This unofficial alliance held themselves to certain principles of cleanliness, upkeep, and service. In 1941, the partners made it official and formed the United States’ first hotel chain, which they called Quality Courts, United Int’l. They began franchising in 1962, changed their name to Choice Hotels Int’l in 1990, and have expanded to include the Quality, Comfort, Clarion, Sleep, Roadway, and Econolodge names in their chain. Over 6,000 Choice brand hotels are in operation around the globe.

Start-up Cost: $1.27M - 14.64M


Country Inns & Suites By Carlson

The Country Inns & Suites By Carlson chain of hotels is named after its founder, Curtis Carlson. The hotels offer suite style accommodations for travelers. Rooms include comfort amenities like microwaves and refrigerators. Carlson is also the entrepreneur behind Radisson Hotels and TGIF restaurants. Country Inns are individually owned by franchisees.

Start-up Cost: $4.21M - 6.54M


Culver Franchising System Inc.

In 1984, Craig Culver and his family bought an old A&W Root Beer stand and turned it into the first Culver’s restaurant. Their menu items were made with their own family recipes including their signature “ButterBurgers” and specialty frozen custard. Customers loved the food, and the Culvers soon started selling franchises to bring the family diner to more people. Culver’s restaurants are now a regular sight in many areas of the country and there are around 450 total locations.

Start-up Cost: $1.36M - 3.19M


Denny’s Inc.

Denny’s began in 1953 as Danny’s Donuts in Lakewood, California. By 1959, Harold had expanded the menu, opened 20 locations, and changed his restaurant’s name to Denny’s. In 1963, Denny’s became a franchise and has since grown to include some 1600 locations. The chain serves up all kinds of food, but has become known mainly for their breakfasts (most notably the “Grand Slam” so named in honor of baseball great Hank Aaron).

Start-up Cost: $1.13M - 2.4M


Doubletree by Hilton

With over 250 locations in nearly 20 countries, DoubleTree sets a standard for lodging luxury by treating each guest like a VIP customer. From serving fresh baked cookies to everyone at check-in to providing indulgent high-end bath products in every room, the DoubleTree brand tries to distinguish itself by pampering its guests.

Start-up Cost: $33.85M - 56.78M


Embassy Suites Hotels

Embassy Suites provides upscale accommodations for guests, including suite-style rooms that feature flat-screen TVs and wet bars, made-to-order breakfasts, reception and meeting areas, and more. Embassy went into business in 1983, and began franchising the following year. There are currently around 200 franchisee owned Embassy Suites Hotels.

Start-up Cost: $24.52M - 34.35M


Golden Corral Franchising Systems Inc.

Fayetteville, Indiana is where the first Golden Corral restaurant opened its doors to serve steakhouse fare in 1973. In the 1980’s, the Golden Corral brand took a new turn and introduced the buffet for which it would become known. In 1987, the restaurant ventured into franchising and steadily grew into the nearly 500 locations that now belong to the buffet and grill dining chain.

Start-up Cost: $1.95M - 6.76M


Hampton Hotels

The Hampton Hotels franchise began in 1984 in Memphis, Tennessee. Hampton set itself apart from other hotels by offering free cable TV and complimentary continental breakfast. Eleven years later the brand expanded with its concept, Hampton Inns & Suites, which offered condominium-like accommodations such as kitchens, living rooms, and separate bedrooms. Shortly after introducing Hampton Inns and Suites, the Hampton Hotels franchise was purchased by Hilton Worldwide whose other brands include Hilton Garden Inn, Homewood Suites by Hilton, DoubleTree by Hilton, Home2 Suites by Hilton, Hilton Grand Vacations, Conrad Hotels & Resorts, and Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts.

Start-up Cost: $3.75M - 13.11M



It was 1960 when Wilber Hardee opened his first hamburger shop in Greenville, North Carolina. In less than a year, he had sold his first franchise. Ten years later, Hardee’s added freshly made biscuits to its menu. This somewhat unusual move proved to be a smart one, and Hardee’s is still known for its “Made from Scratch” biscuits. The Hardee’s brand was acquired by CKE Restaurants, Inc. (their other brands include Carl’s Jr.) and has continued to operate successfully throughout the United States and abroad.

Start-up Cost: $1.09M - 1.58M


Hilton Garden Inn

Hilton Garden Inn is a part of the Hilton Worldwide family of hotels. The chain started in the 1980s and despite slow growth in those early days, the Hilton Garden Inn has become a leader in the upscale mid-priced hotel niche. Over 500 of these popular hotels exist today.

Start-up Cost: $11.35M - 20.68M


Hilton Hotels and Resorts

More than 500 Hilton brand hotels and resorts operate in almost 80 countries around the world. Offering upscale lodging with amenities galore, including gourmet restaurants, fitness centers, spas, and luxury pools, the Hilton hotels provide a luxury experience for travelers. The Hilton service model focuses on sincere hospitality, stat-of-the-art design principles, and its high-end list of features.

Start-up Cost: $53.49M - 90.17M


Homewood Suites by Hilton

The Homewood Suites by Hilton franchise specializes serving travelers seeking more home-like accommodations like living rooms, full kitchens, and gourmet meal services in their lodgings. Homewood is part of the Hilton Worldwide group of hotels, a portfolio which includes the DoubleTree, Homewood Suites, and Hampton lodging brands - among others.

Start-up Cost: $10.67M - 18.91M


Hospitality Int’l. Inc.

Since 1982, Hospitality International has dealt in hotel franchises. The company offers opportunities in the hotel franchise industry to entrepreneurs seeking an investment. Franchisees get to choose from a handful of brands that operate under the Hospitality group. The concept is not to take away from each hotel brand’s unique style, but to add a more streamlined and consistent service and maintenance model that comes from working with a large, established hotel franchisor.

Start-up Cost: $133.6K - 2.6M


InterContinental Hotels Group

InterContinental Hotels Group was first started by Pan American Airlines as a concept to serve the international travel market. Pan Am sold their successful franchise to the Bass company in 1998. Bass, which was initially a brewery, owns several groups of hotels and motels in the U.S. and abroad.

Start-up Cost: $5.14M - 93.86M


KFC Corp.

Kentucky Fried Chicken’s humble beginning dates back to 1930, when Harland Sanders opened a small kitchen in the front part of a gas station in Corbin, Kentucky. Sanders’ chicken was so popular that he was named a Kentucky Colonel in 1936. He kept his now-famous moniker, Colonel Sanders, as he continued to build upon his success. The company began selling franchises in 1952 and today there are KFC restaurants in over 80 countries, all serving up Sanders’ signature recipes.

Start-up Cost: $1.31M - 2.47M


LaRosa’s Inc.

Buddy LaRosa opened his first pizza shop in 1967, using his Sicilian family’s recipe. The pizza restaurant industry was practically non-existent in the United States at the time, but Buddy was sure that if people could try his authentic pizza they’d be back for more. He was right, and LaRosa’s has turned into a steadily-growing franchise that includes more than 60 locations.

Start-up Cost: $1M - 2.45M



Ray Kroc, then a young salesman, visited a California hamburger stand in 1954 to sell milkshake mixers. The restaurant, run by brothers Mac & Dick McDonald, was known for providing its customers with rapid service by running 8 milkshake machines at once. Kroc, seeing a great opportunity, encouraged the two to partner with him and franchise their business. The McDonald brothers agreed and their name has since become one of the most well known and recognized brands in the world, synonymous with hamburgers, fries, and shakes served up with consistency and speed.

Start-up Cost: $1.07M - 1.89M

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