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The 10 Hottest Industries in Franchising

By
This story appears in the March 2011 issue of Start Up.

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

Tracy Stapp Herold

Written By

Entrepreneur Staff

Tracy Stapp Herold is the special projects editor at Entrepreneur magazine. She works on franchise and business opportunity stories and listings, including the annual Franchise 500.