As more Americans ditch their burgers for a healthy salad, we're seeing a rise in the number of restaurants and products targeting health-conscious consumers. Not only are established fast-food restaurants catering to this growing trend with low-fat and unprocessed items on the menu, but new businesses are also popping up throughout the country. As an alternative to typical fast-food joints for consumers and business owners, these fresh-food chains offer low-carb, vegetarian, all-natural and organic selections.
The natural food and drinks market is expected to exceed $27.5 billion by 2007, according to a survey conducted by Datamonitor. The number of natural food users in the U.S. is expected to hit 266 million in 2007, up 50 million from 2002. This flourishing industry provides busy health-nuts with an alternative to the easy-access granola bar or piece of fruit, and is also spurring a major trend in franchising. Health-conscious franchises are tapping into all that is fresh, with soup cafés, salad bars and smoothie joints.
Highlighted below are just a few of the many fresh-food franchises sprouting up nationwide. This list isn't meant to endorse any particular company; just introduce health-food-savvy entrepreneurs to what franchising has to offer.
Aside from offering consumers a fast-food substitute, this three-year-old franchise lets entrepreneurs tap into the booming smoothie/juice bar industry. In addition to its extensive list of smoothies and fresh-squeezed juices, the menu includes soups, made-to-order salads and panini sandwiches. Franchises, which don't require a kitchen or cooking, are currently located throughout California and the franchisor has plans of expanding to Arizona, Colorado and Nevada.
With a focus on high-protein, low-fat dishes prepared only by grilling, baking or steaming, Energy Kitchen offers franchise owners and area developers an alternative to typical burger joints. The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner with a menu including beef substitutes such as turkey, bison and ostrich.
Indigos Fruit Smoothies
Though Indigos is known for its Signature Fruit Smoothies, the Florida-based franchise serves other health foods for people on the go, including fresh-squeezed juices, salads, pitas and soups. Indigos' Create-Your-Own menu emphasizes high-energy and constant employee-customer interaction, letting customers choose from a variety of healthy ingredients and additional nutritional boosts.
After opening its first location 10 years ago, this North Carolina-based fresh-food joint has added franchising and opened locations throughout the southern East Coast. Franchisees can opt to buy either a single store or develop a geographic region. The Just Fresh Bakery Café & Markets serve bakery items, made-to-order salads, wraps, sandwiches, soups and pizzas, all sans a fryer.
Expanding on the fresh-food concept, O'Naturals franchises serve consumers in the all-natural, organic and vegetarian markets with menu items such as hormone-free, slow-roasted beef, wild Alaskan salmon sandwiches and stir-fried Asian noodles. O'Naturals also gives franchisees the opportunity to build relationships with local non-profit organizations during "Ten Percent Community Night" when stores donate 10 percent of the night's revenues to the hosting organization.
The Original SoupMan
Pop-culture connoisseurs may know of this New York City-based soup café from the famous "Soup Nazi" episode of Seinfeld, but local diners have been frequenting this eatery since its founding in 1984. The soup-savvy kitchen has introduced franchising opportunities within the past year, expanding its offerings throughout the East Coast and parts of Canada. Health-conscious soup lovers can select from a variety of soups, including lobster bisque or chicken gumbo.
As a pioneer of the fresh-food concept, Saladworks has been serving made-to-order salads since 1986. Locations have been sprouting up in food courts, strip malls and transportation centers throughout the East Coast ever since the restaurant started franchising in 1992. Today, Saladworks has expanded its salad-as-a-main-course concept, adding wraps, sandwiches and soups.
- More on Saladworks
- Franchise 500 rank: #474 in 2007
Ready, Set, Research
If you didn't find anything that suits your taste on this list, don't worry: There are dozens of other ideas in the food/quick service section of our Franchise Zonefor you to browse.
When one catches your eye, begin your research. Due diligence includes thoroughly reading a company's literature and its Uniform Franchise Offering Circular, calling and visiting the existing franchisees, and consulting with an attorney and an accountant. Use our thorough how-to to guide you on your journey.