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
Chester’s started frying in 1952, first serving doughnuts and then expanding to the chicken that it is most known for today. Founder W.O. Giles built and patented his own fryers, and people loved the crunchy deep fried fare he made with them. Chester’s continued to grow and diversify, selling frying equipment as well as continuing to build a name for fast fried chicken. The double battered recipe along with clever marketing and brand-building has earned Chester’s a lofty place among successful franchises.
Start-up Cost: $6.14K - 344.5K
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
Cousins Bill Specht and Jim Sheppard - along with their respective wives, Sandy and Mary - opened up Cousins Subs in 1972. The foursome built a company model based on serving bread baked on-site, along with fresh produce and vegetables. In 1985, the team began selling franchises and now 145 Cousins Subs sandwich shops are still serving up those same original recipes.
Start-up Cost: $119.2K - 300.8K
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
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
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
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
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
In 1987, brothers Dan and Ed Dunn opened the first Dunn Bros Coffee shop in St. Paul, Minnesota. They sought to emulate the cozy coffee shops they had enjoyed in Oregon, and local customers warmed quickly to the new establishment. The Dunns have continued to carry their coffee shop into the future, implementing high standards of quality and integrating sustainability and fair trade initiatives into the company’s business model. The Dunn name opened up to franchising in 1994 and today there are more than 80 of the gourmet coffee houses in the U.S. today.
Start-up Cost: $125.75K - 453.6K
Florist Fariq Tarid started Edible Arrangements with his brother Kamran in 1999 after nearly a decade of successfully running four floral shops in East Haven, Connecticut. Customers loved the idea of using artfully carved fruit bouquets as gifts instead of flowers. By 2001, they had started franchising. There are now close to 1,000 of Edible Arrangements stores serving their signature bouquets, along with a few other specialty food items.
Start-up Cost: $148.21K - 285.22K
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
The first Famous Dave’s restaurant was opened in 1994 near Hayward, Wisconsin by founder Dave Anderson. Locals loved the Southern-style barbecue and the variety of specialty sauces. Before long, Dave started franchising and the restaurants spread quickly through several states in the U.S. The barbecue chain now includes almost 200 locations.
Start-up Cost: $630.25K - 4.23M
Figaro’s gives customers options when it comes to their pizza, offering both pre-cooked and take-and-bake style dining. Most locations also offer delivery. Figaro’s first opened in 1981, and began to award franchises to entrepreneurs in 1986. Today, Figaro’s is a 72-location chain of pizza parlors.
Start-up Cost: $91K - 398.45K
Chris and Robert Sorenson started Firehouse Subs in 1994 after trying their hands at several other ventures. Coming from a long line of both firefighters and entrepreneurs, the two felt that they had finally found the niche they were destined to fill. It seems they were right, and their firehouse-themed sub shops were well received by customers. They began franchising the restaurant in 1995 and have since overseen the opening of more than 500 locations around the United States.
Start-up Cost: $200.3K - 385.68K
Jim Fox started Fox’s Pizza Den in 1971 in Pitcairn, Pennsylvania. With minimal supplies, Fox used his experience in the business to build his customer base through repeat business and word-of-mouth advertising. By 1974, he was ready to franchise and since then more than 250 Fox’s Pizza Dens have been opened in the United States.
Start-up Cost: $100.5K - 157.55K
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