From the May 2014 issue of Entrepreneur

If you're searching for a franchise opportunity, it makes sense to start at the top.

That's why we're bringing you our Best of the Best list: the 97 franchises that ranked at the top of their industry categories in Entrepreneur's 2014 Franchise 500®.

These companies have been ranked based on objective, quantifiable criteria, including system size, growth and financial strength and stability. The list is not intended as a recommendation of any particular company. Instead, consider it a starting point in your research to find the best franchise opportunity for you. That research should also include reading the company's legal documents, consulting with an attorney and an accountant, and talking to existing franchisees.

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Automotive

Appearance Services

Maaco Franchising
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 166
Total cost: $364.1K-$471.1K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 446/0

Oil-Change Services

Jiffy Lube International
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 30
Total cost: $196.5K-$376K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 2,098/0

Wheels & Tires

RNR Custom Wheels & Tires
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 322
Total cost: $288.8K-$563.5K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 56/10

Windshield Repair

Novus Glass
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 124
Total cost: $44.3K-$226.99K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 1,608/17

Miscellaneous Repair & Maintenance Services

Midas International
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 25
Total cost: $123.6K-$412.2K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 2,259/49

Miscellaneous Auto Products & Services

Sixt Franchise USA
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 73
Total cost: $614.1K-$6.7M
Total franchises/co.-owned: 1,141/878

Business Services

Advertising Services - Publishing

Coffee News
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 93
coffeenews.com/franchise
Total cost: $9.4K-$10.4K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 884/4

Advertising Services - Miscellaneous

Valpak Direct Marketing Systems
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 202
Total cost: $82.2K-$200.8K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 172/2

New concepts are being introduced to franchising all the time.These categories joined the Franchise 500® in 2014:

Children's Entertainment

Electronics Repairs

Frozen Yogurt*

Paint-&-Sip Studios

Pool Maintenance

Vending

Wood Refinishing

Business Brokerages

Transworld Business Advisors
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 226
Total cost: $57.2K-$74.7K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 155/5

Business Coaching & Consulting

FocalPoint Coaching
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 286
Total cost: $64.6K-$115.5K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 125/0

Shipping Services
Unishippers Global Logistics
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 172
Total cost: $40.4K-$1.8M
Total franchises/co.-owned: 247/47

Signs

Sign-A-Rama
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 74
Total cost: $87.1K-$229.2K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 888/0

Staffing

Express Employment Professionals
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 71
Total cost: $105K-$195K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 632/0

Training Programs

Sandler Training
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 186
Total cost: $83.2K-$100.1K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 235/0

Miscellaneous Business Services

Proforma
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 83
Total cost: $19.5K-$50.2K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 718/0

Average age of a Best of the Best franchise: 26 years

Oldest franchise on the list: Baskin-Robbins (franchising since 1948)

Youngest franchise on the list: HUMAN Healthy Vending (franchising since 2012)

Children's Businesses

Child Care

Goddard Systems
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 113
Total cost: $694.4K-$739.4K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 413/0

Children's Enrichment Programs

Bricks 4 Kidz
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 111
Total cost: $33.8K-$51.1K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 423/1

Children's Entertainment

GameTruck Licensing
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 260
Total cost: $122.5K-$310.5K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 70/1

Children's Fitness Programs

The 10 largest companies on this list, based on number of franchise units worldwide:

7-Eleven: 50,460

Subway: 39,767

Kumon Math & Reading Centers: 25,410

KFC: 13,539

Pizza Hut: 12,700

Jan-Pro: 11,532

Dunkin' Donuts: 10,833

Baskin-Robbins: 7,391

RE/MAX: 6,374

H&R Block: 5,059

My Gym Children's Fitness Center
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 182
Total cost: $36K-$281.1K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 312/0

Children's Retail

Once Upon A Child
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 149
Total cost: $239.7K-$336.1K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 272/0

Children's Safety Services

Guard-A-Kid
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 246
Total cost: $21.4K-$38.7K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 180/1

Tutoring

Kumon Math & Reading Centers
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 18
Total cost: $66.5K-$140.6K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 25,410/27

Financial Services

Business Financial Services

Padgett Business Services
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 188
Total cost: $99.8K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 406/0

Insurance

Estrella Insurance
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 242
Total cost: $49.95K-$84K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 69/0

Tax Services

H&R Block
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 15
Total cost: $31.5K-$148.7K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 5,059/6,256

Miscellaneous Financial Services

ACFN-The ATM Franchise Business
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 493
Total cost: $40.1K-$67K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 212/0

Food/Full-Service

Restaurants

Denny's
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 8
Total cost: $1.2M-$2.4M
Total franchises/co.-owned: 1,518/165

Food/Quick-Service

Baked Goods - Bagels

Bruegger's Bagels
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 203
Total cost: $389.6K-$591.6K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 103/190

Baked Goods - Cookies

Great American Cookies
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 143
Total cost: $178.4K-$280.4K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 343/3

Baked Goods - Pretzels

Auntie Anne's Hand-Rolled Soft Pretzels
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 37
Total cost: $194.9K-$367.6K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 1,437/17

Baked Goods - Miscellaneous

Cinnabon
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 64
Total cost: $142.3K-$365.7K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 1,102/1

Chicken - Wings

Buffalo Wild Wings
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 62
Total cost: $1.2M-$3.3M
Total franchises/co.-owned: 529/409

Chicken - Miscellaneous

KFC
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 14
Total cost: $1.3M-$2.5M
Total franchises/co.-owned: 13,539/4,659

Coffee

Dunkin' Donuts
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 10
Total cost: $294K-$1.5M
Total franchises/co.-owned: 10,833/0

Frozen Desserts - Frozen Yogurt

Menchie's
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 116
Total cost: $218.3K-$385.2K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 388/1

Frozen Desserts - Ice Cream

Baskin-Robbins USA
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 41
Total cost: $100.7K-$390.2K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 7,391/7

Frozen Desserts - Miscellaneous

Rita's Italian Ice
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 81
Total cost: $140.2K-$379.4K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 552/0

Hamburgers

Hardee's
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 11
Total cost: $1.1M-$1.5M
Total franchises/co.-owned: 1,492/468

Mexican Food

Taco Bell
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 20
Total cost: $1.2M-$2.5M
Total franchises/co.-owned: 4,933/1,047

Pizza

Pizza Hut
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 9
Total cost: $297K-$2.1M
Total franchises/co.-owned: 12,700/1,657

Sandwiches - Philly Cheesesteak

Charleys Philly Steaks
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 108
Total cost: $101.6K-$465.3K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 479/37

Sandwiches - Submarine

Subway
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 3
Total cost: $85.7K-$262.9K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 39,767/0

Sandwiches - Miscellaneous

Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwiches
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 5
Total cost: $300.5K-$489.5K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 1,814/28

Smoothies

Smoothie King
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 86
Total cost: $144.4K-$336.2K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 651/6

Miscellaneous Quick Service

Nathan's Famous
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 144
Total cost: $276.4K-$1.1M
Total franchises/co.-owned: 314/5

Food/Retail Sales

Vending

HUMAN Healthy Vending
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 281
Total cost: $71.5K-$108.99K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 89/2

Miscellaneous Food Businesses

Edible Arrangements International
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 43
Total cost: $154.3K-$279.3K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 1,126/2

Health

Health Products

Miracle-Ear
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 36
Total cost: $119K-$287.5K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 1,290/9

Health Services

HealthSource Chiropractic and Progressive Rehab
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 107
Total cost: $52.7K-$249.1K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 395/0

Home Improvement

Building & Remodeling

Kitchen Tune-Up
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 211
Total cost: $45.8K-$55.4K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 162/0

Painting

CertaPro Painters
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 103
Total cost: $129K-$158.5K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 442/0

Wood Refinishing

N-Hance
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 134
Total cost: $30.5K-$130.9K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 287/0

Miscellaneous Home Improvement

Budget Blinds
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 55
Total cost: $89.2K-$187.1K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 905/0

Hotels & Motels

Hampton Hotels
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 2
Total cost: $3.7M-$13.5M
Total franchises/co.-owned: 1,941/1

A surprising 17 of the 97 Best of the Best companies ranked at the top of their categories for the first time this year. For two, Sixt and Dogtopia, it's also their first time ever ranking on the Franchise 500®-- not a bad way to start.

Maintenance

Carpet, Upholstery & Drapery Services

Chem-Dry Carpet & Upholstery Cleaning
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 61
Total cost: $29.95K-$131K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 3,522/0

Commercial Cleaning

Jan-Pro Franchising International
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 12
Total cost: $3.1K-$50.9K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 11,532/0

Electrical Services

Mister Sparky
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 299
Total cost: $56.2K-$271.6K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 96/8

Handyman Services

HandyPro Handyman Services
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 410
Total cost: $68.5K-$107.3K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 31/0

Home Repairs - Miscellaneous

The Glass Guru
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 244
Total cost: $30K-$130K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 82/1

HVAC Services

One Hour Heating & Air
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 150
Total cost: $74.8K-$354.5K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 272/49

Lawn Care

Weed Man
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 98
Total cost: $67.1K-$84.1K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 457/0

Plumbing

Rooter-Man
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 102
Total cost: $46.8K-$137.6K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 476/21

Pool Maintenance

ASP-America's Swimming Pool Company
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 197
Total cost: $48.9K-$89.96K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 129/1

Residential Cleaning

The Maids
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 39
Total cost: $95.6K-$123.4K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 1,085/33

Restoration Services

Servpro
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 7
Total cost: $134.8K-$183.5K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 1,614/0

Restroom Maintenance

Aire-Master of America
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 269
Total cost: $35.6K-$126.9K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 100/4

Window Cleaning

Fish Window Cleaning Services
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 148
Total cost: $76.2K-$136.7K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 295/1

Miscellaneous Maintenance Businesses

American Leak Detection
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 123
Total cost: $76.8K-$259.6K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 377/15

Personal Care

Fitness Businesses

Anytime Fitness
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 1
Total cost: $56.3K-$353.9K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 2,397/28

Hair Care

Supercuts
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 4
Total cost: $108.8K-$203.6K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 1,138/1,186

Massage Services

Massage Envy
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 54
Total cost: $331.5K-$825.6K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 957/1

Senior Care

Comfort Keepers
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 59
Total cost: $77.6K-$109.96K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 783/0

Miscellaneous Personal Care Businesses

Palm Beach Tan
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 159
Total cost: $554.6K-$821.1K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 215/173

Pets

Pet Care

Dogtopia
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 390
Total cost: $253.4K-$478.8K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 25/5

Pet Services - Miscellaneous

Sit Means Sit Dog Training
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 313
Total cost: $21.1K-$93.9K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 74/1

Pet Stores

Wild Birds Unlimited
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 151
Total cost: $95.3K-$161.8K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 283/0

Recreation

Sports Businesses

American Poolplayers Association
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 255
Total cost: $16.7K-$19.9K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 307/6

Sports Equipment & Apparel

Fleet Feet Sports
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 272
Total cost: $173K-$335K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 100/17

Travel Agencies - Cruise-Only

Cruise Planners-American Express Travel
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 19
Total cost: $2.1K-$21.99K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 1,500/1

Travel Agencies - Miscellaneous

Results! Travel
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 70
Total cost: $25-$8.9K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 655/0

Retail

Apparel & Accessories

Plato's Closet
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 115
Total cost: $230.7K-$389.4K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 376/0

Batteries

Batteries Plus Bulbs
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 79
Total cost: $193.6K-$410.1K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 529/40

Convenience Stores

7-Eleven
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 6
Total cost: $30.8K-$1.6M
Total franchises/co.-owned: 50,460/484

Electronics Stores

RadioShack
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 48
Total cost: $144.9K-$607.4K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 1,306/4,395
Tools Distribution

Snap-on Tools
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 24
Total cost: $143.7K-$307.7K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 4,538/242

Vitamins

GNC Franchising
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 28
Total cost: $167.7K-$281.4K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 2,876/3,270

Miscellaneous Retail Businesses

Aaron's
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 17
Total cost: $275.6K-$707.4K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 763/1,335

Services

Dry Cleaning & Delivery Services

Certified Restoration DryCleaning Network
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 278
Total cost: $45.6K-$235.5K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 150/0

Home Inspections

Pillar To Post Home Inspectors
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 118
Total cost: $30.9K-$36.8K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 389/0

Moving/Junk-Removal Services

Two Men and a Truck International
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 167
Total cost: $178K-$548.5K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 229/1

Paint-&-Sip Studios

Painting with a Twist
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 276
Total cost: $93.5K-$131.5K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 82/0

Postal & Business Centers

The UPS Store
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 22
Total cost: $148.7K-$347.2K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 4,776/0

Printing

Minuteman Press International
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 75
Total cost: $66.2K-$221.3K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 931/0

We took a look back at the Best of the Best from the first Franchise 500®, in 1980, and found a few familiar faces: Dunkin' Donuts, 7-Eleven and Midas. Subway didn't rank at the top of its category in that first Franchise 500® or even the first few. But once it did claim the No. 1 spot in the Submarine Sandwiches category (in 1983), it held on tight and never let go. At 32 years and counting, Subway holds the record for the longest consecutive stay on the Best of the Best list.

Real Estate

RE/MAX
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 76
Total cost: $35K-$250K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 6,374/24

Miscellaneous Services

Pop-A-Lock Franchise System
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 105
Total cost: $75K-$133K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 389/0

Tech

Electronics Repairs

CPR-Cell Phone Repair Franchise Systems
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 180
Total cost: $115.5K-$244.6K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 138/4

Miscellaneous Tech Services

WSI Digital Marketing
2014 Franchise 500 rank: 184
Total cost: $64.4K-$171.7K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 998/2