From the March 2011 issue of Startups

Interested in franchising, but don't know where to begin? Why not start with what's hot?

Our Franchise 500(R) research shows these are the 10 industries set to blow away the competition in 2011 and beyond--from the tried and true like hamburgers and senior care to the new and innovative like resale stores and spa services. We've also highlighted the top franchises in each category.

Keep in mind this list is just a starting point for your research--not an endorsement of any particular franchise or industry. To find the opportunity that's right for you, make sure you read the company's FDD, consult with an attorney and an accountant, and most important, talk to other franchisees.


Child care

Goddard Systems Inc.
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 87
Preschool/educational childcare
(800)272-4901
Cost: $632.3K-679.6K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 364/0

Fast facts
Goddard Systems Inc. has been No. 1 in the Child Care category of the Franchise 500(R) for the last 10 years.

At No. 87, this is its highest Franchise 500(R) ranking ever.

Each year, the company awards a scholarship to a high school junior or senior who graduated from a Goddard school.

Goddard Systems Inc.
More parents are returning to the work force to make ends meet, so child care franchises continue to thrive, with seven companies making the Franchise 500(R). Leading the category for the 10th consecutive year is Goddard Systems Inc. The King of Prussia, Pa., company pushed its way into the top 100 for the first time, at No. 87, thanks in part to the addition of 25 new franchises in 2010. What makes Goddard and several other child-care franchisors on our list particularly popular is the added value they offer parents by combining child care with educational services.

For Goddard, it's the FLEX Learning Program, a play-based curriculum developed by early childhood education experts. Goddard schools teach everything from potty training for toddlers to computer skills for preschoolers to yoga for kindergarteners. However, franchisees needn't have a background in education--in fact, most don't--because Goddard's dual-management system encourages them to focus on the business side of the franchise while an accredited educational director tackles the teaching.

Primrose School Franchising Co.
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 158
Educational child-care facility
(800)774-6767
Cost: $607K-3.9M
Total franchises/co.-owned: 212/1

The Learning Experience
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 205
Child care
(561)886-6400
Cost: $465.3K-3.5M
Total franchises/co.-owned: 79/16

Kiddie Academy
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 211
Child-care learning center
(410)515-6079
Cost: $345.1K-627K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 103/4

Discovery Point Franchising Inc.
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 290
Child-care center
(770)622-2112
Cost: $365.2K-419.6K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 58/0

SeekingSitters Franchise System Inc.
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 303
Babysitting referral service
(918)749-3588
Cost: $44.2K-70K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 45/6

Childrens Lighthouse Franchising Co.
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 314
Child-care services
(888)338-4466
Cost: $429.5K-3M
Total franchises/co.-owned: 19/9

A+ Nannies Inc.
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: NR
Nanny/babysitter placement services
(480)699-7558
Cost: $39.3K-53K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 2/3

Adventure Kids Playcare
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: NR
Child care & entertainment center
(214)277-9948
Cost: $228.5K-453.8K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 7/2

Rainbow Station Inc.
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: NR
Preschool, after-school recreation, care for mildly-ill children
(888)716-1717
Cost: $1.4M-3.3M
Total franchises/co.-owned: 5/4

Convenience Stores

Convenience stores

ampm
ampm has been pushing hot dogs and Snickers bars to U.S. travelers for more than 30 years, but the brand may not ring a bell. That's because for most of that time, ampm was only found in five western states, as the convenience brand of the Arco gas company. But in 2006, BP, which absorbed Arco in 2000, decided that the popular convenience store chain was ready to go national. Since then, BP has steadily converted its BP Connect and other gas-station convenience stores to ampm franchises, creating one of the fastest-growing brands in the country.

Fast Facts
In 2010, ampm launched a "secret menu" of snack bar recipes available only via Facebook.

ampm also ranked No. 2 in our Top Global Franchises list. Almost 2,000 of its franchises are outside the U.S.

It ranked No. 16 in Entrepreneur's 2011 Fastest-Growing Franchises list.

So far, ampm has moved east to Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida. Though it's keeping its growth steady and controlled, it has massive potential--any market where BP gas is sold is a market for ampm. But the store's strength also comes from its products. Signature items like its 24-flavor fountain drink oasis, an ever-expanding menu of hot fast food and a 16-item condiment bar with everything from spicy mustard to jalape?os and chili all aim at fulfilling the company slogan, "Too much good stuff."

ampm
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 2
Convenience store & gas station
(888)894-2676
Cost: $1.8M-7.6M
Total franchises/co.-owned: 3,177/6

7-Eleven Inc.
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 4
Convenience store
(800)255-0711
Cost: $30.8K-604.5K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 37,039/457

Circle K
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 22
Convenience store
(602)728-8000
Cost: $171K-1.4M
Total franchises/co.-owned: 4,238/2,873

Fitness

Fitness

Jazzercise Inc.
Fitness franchises are still going strong. Thanks to the nation's constant battle with the bulge, 11 fitness companies ranked in this year's Franchise 500(R). And cost is still king: The top three franchises, Jazzercise, Anytime Fitness and Snap Fitness, each can be started for less than $100,000. Carlsbad, Calif.-based Jazzercise tops the list for the 18th time thanks to startup costs as low as $2,980--making it the most affordable franchise in the fitness industry by far, and one of the most affordable in the Franchise 500(R) overall.

Fast facts
Jazzercise has ranked No. 1 in the Fitness Programs category of the Franchise 500(R) 18 times.

The company ranked No. 4 on both the Top Low-Cost and Top Homebased Franchise lists.

Jazzercise has its own fitness clothing line, Jazzertogs.

But cost isn't the only consideration when it comes to choosing a franchise--or a fitness routine. Jazzercise's continued dominance, along with the presence of two boxing franchises (CKO Kickboxing and LA Boxing) in the ranking, shows that consumers (and franchisees) are craving more variety in their workouts as well. Though Jazzercise has been franchising for almost 30 years now, founder Judi Sheppard Missett keeps the concept fresh by choreographing new routines to the latest popular tunes every 10 weeks.

Jazzercise Inc.
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 17
Dance fitness classes
(760)476-1750
Cost: $2.98K-75.5K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 8,009/2

Anytime Fitness
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 18
Fitness center
(800)704-5004
Cost: $44.1K-300.1K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 1,358/13

Snap Fitness Inc.
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 33
24-hour fitness center
(877)474-5422
Cost: $79.4K-195.8K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 1,056/25

Gold's Gym
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 72
Gym & fitness center
(214)574-4653
Cost: $531.1K-3.9M
Total franchises/co.-owned: 655/63

Planet Fitness
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 81
Fitness club
(603)750-0001
Cost: $530.1K-1.4M
Total franchises/co.-owned: 336/17

Retro Fitness LLC
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 236
Health club
(732)431-0062
Cost: $641.8K-1.5M
Total franchises/co.-owned: 60/0

Personal Training Institute
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 337
Nutritional counseling & personal training
(516)342-9064
Cost: $112.1K-221.5K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 24/0

Get In Shape For Women
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 401
Small group personal training for women
(781)444-1913
Cost: $26.96K-178.9K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 58/1

CKO Kickboxing
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 428
Kickboxing fitness classes
(201)963-7774
Cost: $97.9K-306.9K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 13/7

Fitness Together
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 447
Personal fitness training
(877)663-0880
Cost: $140.5K-253.9K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 336/0

LA Boxing Franchise Corp.
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 498
Fitness, boxing & kickboxing classes
(866)522-6946
Cost: $174.95K-196.2K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 120/0

Curves
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: NR
Women's fitness & weight-loss center
(800)848-1096
Cost: $31.8K-39.1K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 8,119/0

Ellipse Fitness
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: NR
Fitness & weight-loss center
(920)882-9450
Cost: $88.8K-201.1K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 6/1

Koko FitClub LLC
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: NR
Health club/fitness studio
(877)565-6348
Cost: $97.5K-208.4K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 17/1

My Personal Trainer
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: NR
Personal training, nutritional programs
(330)491-9999
Cost: $49.9K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 1/4

Slim & Fit Franchise LLC
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: NR
Weight loss & fitness programs
(440)352-4300
Cost: $56.1K-132.5K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 9/1

Full-service Restaurants

Full-service Restaurants

Denny's Inc.
Denny's is an American institution--which is good and bad. It's got unbelievable brand recognition, but it's also saddled with decades of baggage, including a highly publicized discrimination lawsuit in the 1990s, a reputation as a hangout for late-night hoodlums and a bastion of bad food.

Fast facts
Denny's started out in 1953 as Danny's Donuts; it became Denny's in 1959.

The last time Denny's ranked in the top 10 was also the first time it made the Franchise 500(R): 1986.

Denny's has ranked No. 1 in the Family-Style Restaurants category for the last 15 years in a row.

But in 2009, Denny's began a hard and fast climb into the 21st century with one Super Bowl commercial, offering a free breakfast for anyone willing to wait. Two million people went in, and Denny's seized the chance to reintroduce itself and its revamped menu to the public. It seems to have worked--126 new units entered the system in 2010, pushing Denny's to more than 1,600 units and making it the largest full-service restaurant in the country. Its multiyear Franchise Growth Initiative has helped Denny's transfer 301 company-owned stores to franchisees.

But the most important changes are an aggressive advertising campaign that uses social media to drive in younger patrons and new initiatives rolling out. They include the Denny's Caf? fast-casual model--which is smaller, to fit urban and suburban locations--and to-go service, for customers who don't have time to linger over a cup of joe.

Denny's Inc.
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 10
Full-service family restaurant
(800)304-0222
Cost: $1.1M-2.4M
Total franchises/co.-owned: 1,374/227

CiCi's Pizza
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 67
All-you-can-eat pizza buffet
(972)745-4200
Cost: $458.6K-727.7K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 609/13

Friendly's Restaurants Franchise LLC
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 105
Family-style restaurant/ice cream shop
(800)576-8088
Cost: $157.6K-1.98M
Total franchises/co.-owned: 198/304

Golden Corral Franchising Systems Inc.
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 133
Family steakhouse, buffet & bakery
(800)284-5673
Cost: $2.1M-6.4M
Total franchises/co.-owned: 376/103

The Melting Pot Restaurants Inc.
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 199
Fondue-specialty restaurant
(800)783-0867
Cost: $876.7K-1.5M
Total franchises/co.-owned: 139/5

Quaker Steak & Lube
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 286
Chicken wings, burgers, salads, steaks
(724)704-7164
Cost: $150K-4.4M
Total franchises/co.-owned: 34/6

Genghis Grill-The Mongolian Stir Fry
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 327
Build-your-own stir-fry restaurant
(888)436-4447
Cost: $320K-618K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 25/18

The Greene Turtle Sports Bar and Grille
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 339
Sports bar & casual dining restaurant
(410)956-1200
Cost: $1.1M-1.6M
Total franchises/co.-owned: 14/11

Famous Dave's
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 372
Barbecue-themed restaurant
(952)294-1300
Cost: $630.3K-4.2M
Total franchises/co.-owned: 122/53

Buffalo Wings and Rings LLC
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 417
Chicken wing restaurant/sports cafe
(513)831-9464
Cost: $759.5K-1.2M
Total franchises/co.-owned: 53/2

Pepe's Mexican Restaurants
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 450
Mexican restaurant
(312)733-2500
Cost: $175K-600K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 50/0

Bandana's Bar-B-Q
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: NR
Barbecue restaurant
(636)537-8200
Cost: $417.7K-1.1M
Total franchises/co.-owned: 6/25

Bar-B-Cutie
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: NR
Barbecue restaurant
(615)372-0707
Cost: $329.9K-450K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 15/2

The Chocolate Martini Bar
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: NR
Entrees, martinis, desserts
(800)222-3251
Cost: $293K-583.5K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 1/1

Huddle House
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: NR
Family-style diner
(800)418-9555
Cost: $612.4K-2.4M
Total franchises/co.-owned: 389/19

HuHot Mongolian Grill
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: NR
Mongolian grill restaurant
(406)251-4303
Cost: $782K-982K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 28/5

Native New Yorker
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: NR
Restaurant & sports bar
(480)247-8610
Cost: $746.4K-2M
Total franchises/co.-owned: 19/2

Winger's Grill & Bar
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: NR
Casual-themed restaurant & bar
(801)261-3700
Cost: $426K-997K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 31/10

Hamburgers

Hamburgers

McDonald's
You probably haven't noticed many golden arches going up around the country--the fast-food empire has more or less hit its North American saturation point, adding about 100 locations to its existing stock of 13,894 in 2010. But McDonald's has managed to stay dynamic even without fresh brick and mortar (though it is putting up new stores in India and China, which is expected to open 600 new Mickey Ds by 2013). The focus at home is on improving quality and customer experience, an effort that has boosted average per-unit sales to $2.4 million in the United States, a 4.2 percent increase over 2009.

Fast facts
McDonald's has ranked in every single Franchise 500(R)--and been in the top 10 in 30 out of 32 years.

This year, it ranked No. 12 on the Fastest-Growing Franchises list.

GPS enthusiasts calculated the farthest you could get from a McDonald's in the Lower 48: 115 miles away in a deserted area of northwest Nevada.

"Becoming better, not just bigger, has been on the top of our mind over the last several years," says Danya Proud, spokeswoman for McDonald's U.S.A. "We're all about long-term investment and growth."

Those investments include fluffing the menu with upscale Angus burgers, more snack-oriented items as well as the McCaf? line of espresso drinks, including frapp?s and fruit smoothies, which were runaway hits in the last half of 2010. It also means adding perks like free Wi-Fi, updating interiors more often and rolling out items to appeal to new demographics.

McDonald's
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 3
Hamburgers, chicken, salads
(630)623-6196
Cost: $1.1M-1.9M
Total franchises/co.-owned: 26,209/6,257

Hardee's
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 12
Burgers, chicken, biscuits
(866)253-7655
Cost: $1.2M-1.6M
Total franchises/co.-owned: 1,428/473

Carl's Jr. Restaurants
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 47
Hamburgers
(866)253-7655
Cost: $1.3M-1.8M
Total franchises/co.-owned: 809/424

A & W Restaurants Inc.
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 259
Burgers, hot dogs, root beer
(866)298-6986
Cost: $912K-1.6M
Total franchises/co.-owned: 637/0

Checkers Drive-In Restaurants Inc.
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 380
Burgers & fries
(813)283-7000
Cost: $453K-627.2K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 510/296

Boardwalk Fresh Burgers & Fries
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: NR
Burgers & fries
(410)715-0500
Cost: $147K-569.5K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 7/0

Elevation Burger
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: NR
Organic hamburgers, fries & milkshakes
(703)243-7894
Cost: $378.5K-743.5K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 6/2

Mooyah Franchise LLC
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: NR
Burgers, fries, shakes
(214)872-4313
Cost: $318.8K-514.3K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 14/4

Smashburger Franchising LLC
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: NR
Hamburgers
(303)633-1500
Cost: $330.3K-787.3K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 32/40

Health Products and Services

Health Products & Services

Miracle-Ear Inc.
Healthcare isn't just a hot topic in the political world right now; it's also one of the most promising industries for the franchising world, as the results of the 2011 Franchise 500(R) show. Nine health-related franchises made the ranking, including quite a few relative newcomers, offering everything from arch supports to weight-loss programs to chiropractic care.

Fast facts
Miracle-Ear has been No. 1 in its category all 20 times it ranked in the Franchise 500(R).

It ranked No. 77 on the 2011 Fastest-Growing Franchises list.

According to the Deafness Research Foundation, approximately 36 million American adults have some degree of hearing loss.

But while these newer concepts might be making waves, it's the oldest brand on the list that remains at the top of the heap. Miracle-Ear Inc. was founded in 1948 by electronic inventor Ken Dahlberg. The company was the first to sell in-the-ear hearing aids, and the Miracle-Ear name has become nearly synonymous with hearing aids since. The concept wasn't franchised until 1983, but the system has grown to include more than 1,300 offices, with many located within Sears stores. A worthy example for all health-related franchises to follow.

Miracle-Ear Inc.
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 44
Hearing instruments
(763)268-4000
Cost: $122.5K-570K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 1,301/27

Pearle Vision
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 108
Eyecare center
(800)732-7531
Cost: $42.2K-628.6K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 362/378

HealthSource Chiropractic and Progressive Rehab
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 111
Chiropractic, nutrition & weight-loss services
(440)967-5458
Cost: $52.95K-249.8K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 269/0

Amramp
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 272
Wheelchair ramp rentals & sales
(800)649-5215
Cost: $122K-205.3K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 43/1

Hungry Heart Franchise LLC
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 344
Nutritional counseling & hypnotherapy
(877)486-4797
Cost: $43.2K-58K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 10/1

Foot Solutions Inc.
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 355
Comfort shoes & inserts for clients age 40+
(866)338-2597
Cost: $199K-210K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 227/1

Medi-Weightloss Franchising USA LLC
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 356
Physician-supervised weight loss program
(813)228-6334
Cost: $224.5K-468.5K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 66/0

Relax The Back Corp.
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 433
Products for relief/prevention of back & neck pain
(800)290-2225
Cost: $237.5K-401.5K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 109/0

Good Feet Worldwide LLC
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 437
Arch supports & related products
(760)804-0751
Cost: $86.9K-215.7K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 122/3

Doctors Express
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: NR
Urgent care services
(410)296-7515
Cost: $508.5K-693K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 10/1

Foot Solutions Mobile Concept
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: NR
Mobile comfort shoe & orthotics sales
(770)955-0099
Cost: $85K-110K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 0/0

Passport Health Inc.
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: NR
Immunization/vaccination service for international travelers
(410)727-0556
Cost: $73.6K-101.5K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 68/1

Resale Stores

Resale stores

Plato's Closet
In the "new normal," where thriftiness rules the day, any taboo that might have once been attached to resale stores seems to have vanished altogether. Thus, in this year's Franchise 500(R), you'll find resale stores offering to buy and sell just about everything, from clothing to children's products to electronics. And among young people, resale isn't just acceptable--it's hip. That's great news for Plato's Closet, which caters to teens and young adults in search of "gently used" treasures among its racks of brand-name clothing.

Fast facts
Plato's Closet's 2011 ranking is its best showing ever in the Franchise 500(R).

It also hit its best ranking on the Fastest-Growing Franchises list, at No. 52.

The company's parent, Winmark Corp., also franchises Play It Again Sports, Music Go Round and Once Upon a Child.

Plato's Closet has been franchising since 1999, one of several resale concepts from Winmark Corp., but it has really come into its own in the last few years. In 2010 it added 40 new locations, bringing the system to a total of 287 stores--and launching it to its highest Franchise 500(R) ranking ever, at No. 102. The company has become just as social-media-savvy as its customer demographic in order to stay on top. The franchisor's Facebook page highlights the stylish outfits found in different stores--and how much they cost--and many individual franchisees have their own Twitter accounts to keep customers abreast of the latest they have to offer.

Plato's Closet
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 102
Clothing resale store for teens & young adults
(800)592-8049
Cost: $178.5K-353.9K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 287/0

Once Upon A Child
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 137
New & used children's clothing, equipment, furniture, toys
(800)592-8049
Cost: $193.9K-291.7K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 237/0

Play It Again Sports
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 209
New & used sporting goods/equipment
(800)592-8049
Cost: $235.8K-402.3K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 347/0

Kid to Kid
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 289
New & used kids'/maternity clothing & products
(801)359-0071
Cost: $151.8K-226.4K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 78/1

CeX
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 306
Electronics resale store
(513)255-2370
Cost: $150K-250K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 78/44

Clothes Mentor
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 409
Women's clothing & accessories resale store
(866)261-2030
Cost: $140K-229K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 32/1

Music Go Round
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 494
New/used musical instruments & sound equipment
(800)592-8049
Cost: $253.5K-325.1K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 33/0

Cell Again
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: NR
New & used cell phones, repairs
(801)704-6500
Cost: $65.4K-156.7K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 5/0

Hut no. 8
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: NR
Teen clothing resale store
(813)782-1500
Cost: $58.3K-139.1K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 3/1

Laptop Xchange
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: NR
Electronics store
(888)582-0550
Cost: $183.8K-267.8K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 4/1

Play N Trade Franchise Inc.
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: NR
New & used video games
(888)768-4263
Cost: $205K-327K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 188/1

Uptown Cheapskate LLC
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: NR
Young adult clothing resale store
(801)359-0071
Cost: $228.9K-336K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 3/1

Sandwiches

Sandwiches

Subway
Last April, Subway threw its hat into a crowded ring by introducing a full line of breakfast sandwiches nationally. It was a risk for the hero-slinging behemoth, but the initiative exceeded expectations and boosted per-unit averages.

Fast facts
In 2011, Subway unseated McDonald's to become the fast-food chain with the most outlets worldwide, with more than 33,000 restaurants in 95 countries.

Subway claims there are more than 2 million sandwich varieties available in its stores.

In November, chief development officer Don Fertman appeared on an episode of the reality series Undercover Boss.

It's hard to top the introduction of a new menu category, but Don Fertman, chief development officer, says 2011 will be almost as exciting. The company will be adding higher-profile locations with drive-through service to many areas, as well as adding to its 1,600 Wal-Mart units by expanding to other big-box retailers. A new point-of-sale system, which will roll out in the second quarter, will let franchisees break down their sales to a greater degree, helping them refocus advertising and ordering.

But the main drivers of Subway's growth are its flexibility and ability to wedge a store into nontraditional locations--including the top of the Freedom Tower construction site in New York.

"We have footprints that focus on hospitals, airports or colleges," Fertman says. "If there are potential customers and a couple hundred square feet, we can put a Subway there."

Subway
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 9
Submarine sandwiches & salads
(800)888-4848
Cost: $84.3K-258.3K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 33,188/0

Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwich Shops
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 38
Gourmet sandwiches
(800)546-6904
Cost: $305.5K-460.5K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 1,020/23

Charley's Grilled Subs
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 112
Philly cheesesteaks, grilled subs, fries, salads
(800)437-8325
Cost: $103K-432.8K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 379/30

Firehouse Subs
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 113
Submarine sandwiches
(904)886-8300
Cost: $187.5K-412.7K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 360/28

Pita Pit Inc.
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 124
Pita sandwiches
(208)765-3326
Cost: $192.6K-318.6K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 295/7

Arby's
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 132
Roast beef, chicken, sandwiches, fries, salads, shakes
(800)487-2729
Cost: $365K-2.4M
Total franchises/co.-owned: 2,529/1,150

Penn Station East Coast Subs
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 141
Specialty sandwiches
(513)474-5957
Cost: $255.9K-451.7K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 213/2

Extreme Pita
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 176
Pita wrap sandwiches, pizzas, smoothies, salads
(888)729-7482
Cost: $156.5K-371.96K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 224/2

Togo's Franchisor LLC
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 177
Specialty sandwiches, soups, salads & catering
(408)280-6569
Cost: $256.7K-417.3K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 238/2

Which Wich Superior Sandwiches
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 188
Sandwiches
(214)747-9424
Cost: $185.9K-423.3K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 110/1

Schlotzsky's
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 203
Sandwiches & pizza
(512)236-3600
Cost: $473.6K-715.3K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 330/27

Blimpie Subs & Salads
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 221
Submarine sandwiches & salads
(480)362-4800
Cost: $142.9K-401.3K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 919/0

Capriotti's Sandwich Shop Inc.
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 234
Submarine sandwiches
(702)736-3878
Cost: $201K-431.5K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 61/2

Groucho's Deli
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 317
Subs & salads
(803)799-9867
Cost: $72.7K-310K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 22/1

Lenny's Sub Shop
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 453
Philly cheesesteaks & sub sandwiches
(901)753-4002
Cost: $216.5K-369K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 150/8

Port Of Subs
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 463
Submarine sandwiches & salads
(800)245-0245
Cost: $188.3K-310.3K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 114/25

Great Wraps
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 466
Hot wrapped sandwiches, grilled subs, salads, smoothies
(404)248-9900
Cost: $145.5K-352.95K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 68/1

The Great Steak & Potato Co.
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 467
Philly cheesesteak sandwiches, fries, baked potatoes
(480)362-4800
Cost: $160.9K-511.8K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 169/1

California Fresh
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: NR
Sandwiches, salads, smoothies
(805)453-8574
Cost: $120K-218K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 1/1

Carla's Sandwiches & Burgers
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: NR
Sandwiches & burgers
(919)630-1726
Cost: $81K-2.4M
Total franchises/co.-owned: 1/0

Cheba Hut Toasted Subs
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: NR
Toasted sandwiches, salads & munchies
(970)484-2007
Cost: $149.5K-299.5K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 13/0

Larry's Giant Subs
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: NR
New York-style subs, sandwiches, salads
(800)358-6870
Cost: $197.5K-305K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 65/5

Mr. Goodcents Franchise Systems Inc.
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: NR
Submarine sandwiches, pastas, pizza
(800)648-2368
Cost: $163.2K-265.5K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 100/1

Murphy's Deli
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: NR
Deli sandwiches, soup, salads
(713)827-8881
Cost: $175.2K-827.5K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 72/8

My Friend's Place
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: NR
Sandwiches, salads, desserts, catering
(770)973-3300
Cost: $158.5K-262.7K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 20/2

Spicy Pickle
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: NR
Panini, salads, subs, soups, pizzetti
(303)297-1902
Cost: $328.8K-457.9K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 28/6

The Steak Escape
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: NR
Grilled sandwiches, baked potatoes, salads
(614)224-0300
Cost: $105K-501.2K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 75/5

Senior Care

Senior Care

Home Instead Senior Care
With seniors as one of the fastest-growing segments of the population, it's no surprise that franchises serving this demographic weathered the recession especially well, and new ones keep popping up every year. A total of 20 in-home senior care franchises ranked in this year's Franchise 500(R).

Fast facts
Home Instead Senior Care has topped the Senior Care category eight times in the past--but the last was in 2005.

At No. 59, this is the company's highest Franchise 500(R) ranking ever.

In 2003, Home Instead's founders started a foundation to support nonprofit organizations that improve the quality of life for seniors.

Home Instead Senior Care is easily the largest of all of the franchisors on the list, with close to 900 franchise units, including nearly 50 added in 2010. Though the franchise now serves thousands of seniors, it was one particular senior, the grandmother of founder Paul Hogan, who inspired Paul and wife Lori to start the company in 1994. Since then, Home Instead has branched out across the world, with locations in the U.S, Canada, Europe, Asia and Australia. Caregivers provide nonmedical companionship services such as meal preparation, medication reminders and housekeeping, all of which allow seniors like Hogan's grandmother to stay in their homes and maintain their independence.

Home Instead Senior Care
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 59
Nonmedical senior-care services
(888)484-5759
Cost: $50.6K-63.6K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 892/1

Comfort Keepers
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 62
Nonmedical in-home care
(888)329-1368
Cost: $57K-79.3K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 661/0

Visiting Angels
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 88
Nonmedical in-home care services for seniors
(800)365-4189
Cost: $52.3K-84K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 391/0

Home Helpers/Direct Link
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 96
Nonmedical care services
(866)708-8921
Cost: $47.2K-86.4K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 658/0

Senior Helpers
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 97
In-home care for seniors
(800)760-6389
Cost: $74.8K-98.8K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 284/1

BrightStar Care
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 152
Medical/nonmedical home care & medical staffing
(877)689-6898
Cost: $90.9K-155.7K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 163/1

ComForcare Senior Services Inc.
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 164
Nonmedical home-care services
(800)886-4044
Cost: $80K-115K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 150/1

Right at Home Inc.
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 165
Senior home care & medical staffing
(877)697-7537
Cost: $63.6K-99.7K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 224/0

Always Best Care Senior Services
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 174
In-home care & assisted living placement
(888)430-2273
Cost: $50.1K-90.7K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 110/0

Synergy HomeCare
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 182
Nonmedical home care services
(480)659-7771
Cost: $53.3K-115.3K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 111/0

Homewatch CareGivers
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 183
Medical & nonmedical home care, temporary medical staffing, transportation services
(800)472-2290
Cost: $58.5K-90K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 178/3

The Senior's Choice Inc.
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 195
Nonmedical in-home senior care
(888)725-3655
Cost: $54K-72K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 187/0

Accessible Home Health Care
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 196
Medical & nonmedical home care & staffing
(954)341-5600
Cost: $107K-124K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 92/1

Griswold Special Care
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 222
Nonmedical home-care services
(215)402-0200
Cost: $60K-85K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 104/9

Home Care Assistance
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 251
Nonmedical in-home senior care services
(650)462-9501
Cost: $51K-159.5K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 54/3

Preferred Care at Home
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 373
Senior home care
(866)690-7733
Cost: $57.5K-79.5K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 47/1

Acti-Kare Inc.
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 407
Nonmedical in-home senior care
(888)451-5273
Cost: $25.7K-41.6K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 21/0

Touching Hearts At Home
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 410
Nonmedical home care for seniors& disabled people
(877)870-8750
Cost: $41.8K-62.4K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 31/0

Assisting Hands Home Care LLC
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 436
Nonmedical in-home care
(208)442-7426
Cost: $66.5K-135K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 29/0

HomeWell Senior Care
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 482
In-home senior care
(800)354-7553
Cost: $48.5K-67.5K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 33/1

Companion Connection Senior Care
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: NR
Medical & nonmedical senior care
(800)270-6949
Cost: $21.8K-45.8K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 89/2

FirstLight HomeCare
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: NR
Nonmedical in-home care services
(877)570-0002
Cost: $49.9K-69.6K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 13/0

Guava Healthcare Inc.
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: NR
Medical/nonmedical home care services, staffing & transportation
(888)482-8224
Cost: $61.95K-127.9K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 2/1

Home Health Mates
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: NR
In-home medical & senior care
(888)278-4645
Cost: $89.9K-134.4K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 5/0

Stay at Home
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: NR
Nonmedical in-home care
(865)692-1101
Cost: $49.9K-69.9K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 10/0

Spa services

Massage Envy
Once considered luxuries, therapeutic massage and other spa services are now considered by many to be necessities, especially during times of stress. It helps that franchises like Massage Envy, which rose to No. 64 this year, make them more affordable necessities, too.

The reigning queen of spa franchises--the one that direct competitors call the market pioneer--Massage Envy has over 600 locations and more than 800,000 monthly members. When it opened in 2002, the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based franchise focused solely on massage therapy, but during the last year it has added services like facials to its offerings. The facilities aren't as opulent as a destination spa, but cost and convenience are the attractions.

Fast facts
Massage Envy has been on the Fastest-Growing Franchises list for the last five years in a row.

It has ranked No. 1 in its category for the last three years.

Massage Envy offers a discount program for military personnel.

"Customers feel we're delivering service comparable in quality to other day spas for half or a third of the price," says David Humphrey, CEO of Massage Envy. "They love the convenience. If you have a chronic back problem or overdid it exercising or have a tremendous tension headache, you don't want to call a day spa and make an appointment for 4 in the afternoon next Wednesday. You want to go now or tonight. That's what we offer."

Massage Envy
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 64
Therapeutic massage services
(480)366-4100
Cost: $300.9K-512.2K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 626/0

Elements Therapeutic Massage Inc.
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 422
Therapeutic massage studio
(877)663-0880
Cost: $159.1K-288K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 73/0

Massage Heights
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: 451
Therapeutic massage services & products
(210)402-0777
Cost: $199.8K-433.4K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 61/3

Hand and Stone Massage and Facial Spa
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: NR
Massage & spa services
(609)587-9800
Cost: $280.9K-395.3K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 29/2

LaVida Massage
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: NR
Massage & spa services
(248)366-4611
Cost: $145.3K-260K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 31/2

Michelle Lea Massage Therapy Inc.
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: NR
Holistic wellness & healthcare services
(301)475-2200
Cost: $62.5K-107.6K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 0/1

Planet Beach Franchising Corp.
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: NR
Spa & UV-treatment services
(888)290-8266
Cost: $118.2K-410.2K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 325/1

The Woodhouse Day Spa
2011 Franchise 500(R) ranking: NR
Day spa services/bath & body retail products
(877)570-7772
Cost: $392.8K-510K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 22/1