What does the future hold for the franchise world? Some industries on Entrepreneur's list of 10 trends for 2012, like child care and senior care, have been going strong for years--thanks to the ever-growing demographic groups they serve--and show no signs of stopping. Others, like spa services and health services, have just started taking the franchise world by storm in recent years. Whether they're new or old, these are the franchise categories that are primed for continued growth over the next year--whatever the economic circumstances may be.
This list is not a ranking and is not intended as a recommendation of any particular franchise company. Hot or not, all opportunities should be researched thoroughly before you jump into one. That means carefully reading the FDD, consulting with an attorney and accountant, and talking to current and former franchisees to find out if the franchise is a good fit for you.
The new breed of "better burger" restaurants is on the rise, while more seasoned fast-food franchises expand and experiment with their menus in order to compete.
Child care is a need that's not going away, and franchises offer parents a variety of options, ranging from nannies and babysitters to educational child-care centers.
Kids are more active than ever, and whether they're interested in arts and crafts, sports and fitness or computers and science, there's a franchise out there that will appeal to them.
As long as there are New Year's resolutions, the fitness industry will keep going strong. And resolution-makers will find a plethora of franchised fitness options, including dance classes, martial arts, boxing and more.
Recent years have seen a surge of companies looking to draw physicians into the franchise fold, with offerings as diverse as weight loss, physical therapy, chiropractic services and urgent care.
Resale stores are experiencing a renaissance thanks to consumers looking for ways to make their money go further. Clothing stores dominate the category, but you'll also find electronics, sporting goods and even musical instruments.
This year Subway overtook McDonald's to become the biggest quick-service chain in the world--a testament to just how popular sandwiches are. And even with that titan in their midst, smaller sandwich franchises are still finding plenty of room to grow.
With the first baby boomers turning 65 this year, the already-strong market for senior services is set to explode. Franchise offerings have expanded from simple companion care to include medical care, assisted-living placement, transportation and more.
Bucking expectations, franchises offering luxuries like massage and spa services thrive in tough economic conditions, thanks in large part to membership-based business models.
Education is one area where parents aren't willing to skimp, so it's no surprise that tutoring franchises number in the thousands and continue to grow.
The popularity of fitness franchises hinges on one key element: convenience. Small, 24-hour gyms cater to everyone, from professionals with a half-hour lunch break to shift workers who are wide awake at 3 a.m. But there is one demographic not being reached by the little gyms (or any other fitness program): long-haul truckers, the poster children for chicken-fried diets, sedentary lifestyles and spare tires the size of, well, their spare tires.
That’s why Snap Fitness recently teamed with Rolling Strong, a company promoting health and wellness for drivers, to launch mobile gyms at 10 Pilot Flying J truck stops across the country in the first quarter of 2012. Instead of sitting inside sipping coffee, the truckers can head out to the parking lot and into a 960-square-foot gym built inside a modified tractor trailer, to use treadmills, exercise bikes and weight machines. The $29.95 monthly fee also gets them access to regular Snap Fitness gyms nationwide; Snap members who find themselves jonesing for a workout on the road can use the semis to work up a sweat, too. It seems like a win-win-win situation: Truckers improve their health, Snap gains customers and Pilot Flying J captures people going out of their way to stay healthy.
"Drivers are creatures of habit," says Peter Taunton, Snap founder and CEO. "They have routines, and they’ll plan their routes so they can exercise before going back to sitting for hours at a stretch."
Truck stops may just be the start. Snap and other fitness concepts are looking to add gyms to hotels, airports, college campuses and other nontraditional spaces. Our suggestion? Put them inside fast-food franchises--it will save everyone a trip. --Jason Daley