Franchise 500

Best in Service: The 105 Top Suppliers for Franchises in 2018

Our first-ever ranking of the companies that help franchises thrive.
Best in Service: The 105 Top Suppliers for Franchises in 2018
Image credit: Courtesy of Chase
Magazine Contributor
10 min read

This story appears in the September 2018 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

It’s a line used so often in franchise marketing that it’s become a cliché: You’re in business for yourself, not by yourself. But like most clichés, it exists because there’s more than a little truth to it. In fact, it’s true of not just franchisees but franchisors as well. Few if any franchise companies can become national brands (let alone global powerhouses) without some behind-the-scenes help. 

Related: The Top 5 Franchises of the 21st Century

At Entrepreneur, we’ve spent 40-plus years covering franchising, but we’ve rarely shined the spotlight on the service providers -- “suppliers,” as the franchise world usually refers to them -- who contribute to the success of so many franchisors and franchisees. Now it’s time to change that. We’re proud to present Entrepreneur’s inaugural ranking of the top franchise suppliers.

To find out who the top suppliers are, we surveyed hundreds of franchisors -- from brand-new companies just jumping into franchising to top-ranked Franchise 500® brands with thousands of locations -- to find out which suppliers they do business with and how satisfied they are with them. Suppliers were then scored based on both how many franchisors reported using them and their satisfaction ratings. The final ranking consists of the 15 top-scoring suppliers in each of seven categories: accounting, banking/financing, legal services, marketing, merchant services, other technology services and public relations.

Related: The Top 10 Franchises You Can Buy for Less Than $100,000

Franchisors, whether you are starting out and not sure whom to use or are an established brand shopping around, we hope this ranking will be a valuable resource for you. But we offer the same word of caution we always give prospective franchisees when we rank franchises: This list is not intended as an endorsement of any particular company. Instead, take it as a first step in your research to find the suppliers that best fit your and your franchisees’ needs.

Accounting

Audited financial statements are a required—and vitally important—item in the franchise disclosure documents (FDDs) that are shared with prospective franchisees, so a good auditor is indispensable. And—as with any business—tax, advisory, and other accounting services are essential as well. In our ranking, you’ll find the “Big Four” accounting firms, naturally, but there are also smaller firms, including some that specialize in working with franchise companies.

  1. Deloitte

    Audit and assurance, tax, legal, risk and financial advisory, and consulting services

  2. BDO USA, LLP

    Audit and tax compliance, tax strategy, mergers and acquisitions, international consulting, royalty audits

  3. EKS&H LLLP

    Audit, tax, technology, and consulting services

  4. EY

    Advisory, assurance, tax, and transaction services

  5. Grant Thornton LLP

    Audit, tax, and advisory services

  6. KPMG LLP

    Audit, tax, and advisory services

  7. RSM US LLP

    Audit, tax, and business consulting

  8. PwC

    Audit, assurance, consulting, and tax services

  9. Plante Moran

    Audit, tax, wealth management, and business consulting services, including transaction advisory

  10. The Franchise CPA

    Financial statement audits, royalty audits, and part-time CFO services

  11. A. Andrew Gianiodis, CPA

    Audit, tax, and business consulting

  12. CohnReznick

    Accounting, tax, and advisory services

  13. DHG (Dixon Hughes Goodman LLP)

    Assurance, tax, and advisory services

  14. CLA (CliftonLarsonAllen LLP)

    Wealth advisory, outsourcing, audit, tax, and consulting

  15. Baker Tilly

    Audit, tax, accounting, and business and transaction advisory services

Banking/Financing

Obtaining financing can be one of the biggest hurdles to starting a business. One advantage of starting a franchise business, though, is that many franchisors have relationships with banks and other financial institutions they can refer their franchisees to for help. These are the financial providers franchisors trust the most to help their franchisees get up and running and keep them funded for the life of their business.

  1. Chase for Business

    Deposit accounts, loans, credit cards, and cash management

  2. Wells Fargo

    Banking, investments, mortgage, and consumer and commercial finance

  3. Bank of America

    Small-business banking, credit, and cash management solutions

  4. Guidant Financial

    401(k) business financing, SBA loans, unsecured business loans, growth capital, and other business services

  5. Benetrends Financial

    401(k) rollover funding, SBA loans, and equipment leasing

  6. FranFund Inc.

    Franchise funding solutions

  7. TD Bank

    Term loans, lines of credit, commercial real estate mortgages, franchise acquisitions/buyouts/sales, SBA loans, merchant services, credit cards, checking, money market accounts

  8. U.S. Bank

    Business banking, conventional and SBA financing, credit card and payment solutions, wealth management services

  9. Spirit of Texas Bank

    Banking and financial services; SBA, real estate, and startup loans

  10. BBVA Compass

    Banking solutions for franchisors, franchisees, and independent chains

  11. PNC Bank, N.A.

    Cash-flow solutions

  12. First Financial Leasing & Finance

    SBA financing for franchise startups, working capital, construction, and acquisitions; equipment leasing

  13. DCV Franchise Group

    Franchise financing and franchise consulting services

  14. Fifth Third Bank

    Banking services, including deposit products, loan products, credit cards, payment solutions, and wealth management

  15. BB&T

    Retail, commercial, and corporate banking, investments, insurance, and wealth management

Legal Services

Franchising comes with its own unique set of legal challenges, starting with the need to draft a complicated legal document—the FDD—and update it every year. So it’s no surprise there are a large number of law firms that specialize in working with franchises, offering help with everything from dispute resolution and trademark protection to mergers and acquisitions and international expansion. In this highly competitive category, these are the firms that came out on top.

  1. Gray Plant Mooty

    Full-service law firm with a franchise and distribution practice team

  2. FisherZucker LLC

    Full-service franchise law firm offering pre-litigation counseling, litigation, arbitration and mediation, non-compete, antitrust, collections, regulator compliance, trademark protection, mergers and acquisitions, due diligence, and international and domestic transactions

  3. DLA Piper LLP

    Legal services including franchise law compliance, mergers and acquisitions, and dispute resolution

  4. Drumm Law

    Full-service franchise law firm

  5. Faegre Baker Daniels

    Full-service franchise law firm offering mergers and acquisitions, litigation and dispute resolution, international expansion, privacy/cybersecurity, regulatory compliance, and other services

  6. Plave Koch PLC

    Franchise legal services, including dispute resolution, transactions, and trademarks

  7. Cheng Cohen LLC

    Full-service law firm representing franchisors

  8. Harold L. Kestenbaum, P.C.

    Transactional legal representation for franchisors

  9. Mullin Law, PC

    Transactional and commercial litigation representation for franchisors and franchisees

  10. Carter & Tani

    Transactional legal services for franchisors, master franchisees, and Illinois-based franchisees and businesses

  11. Haynes and Boone LLP

    Domestic and international franchise and distribution counseling, development, expansion, and dispute resolution

  12. Law Offices of Carl Khalil & Sada Sheldon

    Franchise and trademark legal services

  13. Quarles & Brady, LLP

    Full-service law firm offering transactional, regulatory, and dispute resolution services

  14. Stark & Stark, PC

    Full-service franchise law firm offering preparation of franchise disclosure documents, regulatory compliance, trademark legal services, and dispute resolution

  15. Warshawsky Seltzer, PLLC

    Franchising, licensing, corporate, outside general counsel, and real estate legal services

Marketing

Franchisors have a wide variety of options when it comes to growing their brands through marketing, from traditional marketing agencies to those that provide marketing software and other tools. Many focus on digital marketing or social media, while others offer a broader range of services. And some are geared toward attracting customers, while others aim to recruit franchisees for their clients. Whatever the marketing need, there’s a supplier to fill it.

  1. Scorpion

    CMS, web design, and digital marketing solutions and services

  2. Hot Dish Advertising

    Full-service advertising agency

  3. Integrated Digital Strategies

    Digital marketing company specializing in franchise development and franchisee marketing

  4. Qiigo

    Digital marketing for multi-location brands

  5. Adfinitely

    Marketing campaign management

  6. Marketing 360

    Digital marketing software and services

  7. SOCi Inc.

    Social media and reputation management for multi-location brands

  8. SeoSamba

    Franchise marketing platform

  9. Web.com for Enterprise

    Custom digital solutions for franchise networks

  10. Wheat Creative

    Franchise marketing strategy, development websites, and creative and digital collateral

  11. Brand Journalists

    Franchise development and lead generation marketing

  12. Franchise Performance Group

    CEO advisory services, franchisee recruitment services including digital marketing and lead generation, and strategic banking relationships

  13. Sociallybuzz

    Social media reputation, management, and campaign company

  14. Rallio

    Social media and reputation management technology

  15. ClickTecs

    Franchise websites and digital marketing services

Merchant Services

The ability to securely process payments is crucial for every modern business, and here again, franchises have a large selection of suppliers to choose from. There are big companies and banks that serve a variety of business customers, as well as companies that serve only certain industries. When searching for the right merchant service provider, franchisors should also consider what other services they offer, such as loyalty programs.

  1. Worldpay Inc.

    Payment processing, software solutions, reporting and data analytics, fraud monitoring and protection, gift and prepaid card solutions, consulting, and professional services

  2. Square

    Payment processing, reporting and analytics, POS software, and business services

  3. First Data

    Payment processing and technology solutions

  4. Bank of America Merchant Services

    Multi-channel payment, e-commerce, and security solutions

  5. Franchise Payments Network

    Payment processing and gift/loyalty programs for franchise chains

  6. Global Payments Inc. (Heartland)

    Payment technology and software solutions

  7. Chase Merchant Services

    Payment processing

  8. TSYS

    Payment solutions

  9. Stripe

    Payments infrastructure and business applications

  10. PayPal

    Payment technology and software solutions

  11. Authorize.Net, A Visa Solution

    Payment processing and management system for businesses

  12. PNC Merchant Services

    Payment processing solutions

  13. Cake from Sysco

    Point-of-sale restaurant technology platform and payment processing

  14. US Merchant Systems

    Credit card processing, POS systems, gift and loyalty card programs, cash advances, and check services

  15. ABC Financial

    Software and payment processing for health and fitness businesses

Online Technology Services

There's no doubt that technology has played an important part in the ability of franchise systems to expand worldwide while maintaining consistent operations and keeping franchisors and franchisees connected. Numerous franchisors and franchisees depend on the companies in this category for software and solutions in areas like CRM, sales, operations, accounting, and more to help their businesses run smoothly.

  1. FranConnect

    Franchise management software

  2. Naranga

    Franchise management solutions

  3. HubSpot

    CRM, marketing, sales, and customer service platform

  4. Salesforce

    CRM, cloud computing, sales, service, marketing, and analytics apps

  5. Intuit Franchise Program

    Accounting, payroll, and payment solutions for franchisees

  6. Microsoft

    Intelligent cloud, CRM, and software solutions

  7. Zoho

    Cloud software suite and SaaS applications for business

  8. FRM Solutions

    Software solutions for managing relationships between franchisors and existing/prospective franchisees

  9. FranchiseSoft

    Franchise management software, including franchise development CRM, operations, and financial components

  10. Infusionsoft

    CRM, sales, and marketing software

  11. MINDBODY

    Technology platform for the fitness, wellness, and beauty services industries

  12. Vonigo

    Business management software for mobile service franchises

  13. Revel Systems

    Point-of-sale platform for managing restaurant, quick-service, and retail operations

  14. NCR

    Self-service kiosks, POS terminals, ATMs, check processing systems, barcode scanners, and business consumables

  15. The Better Software Company

    Customizable franchise operations management software

Public Relations

If there's one group of franchise suppliers we at Entrepreneur knew well before we put this ranking together, it’s this one: PR agencies. They’re the ones emailing us daily, working hard to tell their clients’ stories in hopes of publication. Some of them even help their clients fill out their annual Franchise 500 applications and regularly update their free online listings. And that’s just a sampling of the work they do to help franchise brands gain good exposure and mitigate the bad.

 

  1. Fishman Public Relations

    PR and content marketing for franchise lead generation and brand awareness

  2. Fish Consulting

    Full-service national communications firm specializing in franchise PR and marketing

  3. No Limit Agency

    Full-service communications firm

  4. All Points Public Relations

    Publicity, social media, content marketing, and lead generation strategy

  5. Franchise Elevator PR

    PR services for emerging franchise brands

  6. 919 Marketing

    PR, marketing strategy, social media, digital marketing, and direct marketing

  7. Sanderson & Associates

    Local and national media placement, media coaching, social media, content and crisis communications, and growth and location consulting for franchisors and franchisees

  8. Konnect Agency

    PR, franchise development marketing, and social media

  9. TopFire Media

    Full-service PR and digital marketing agency specializing in franchise lead generation

  10. Edelman

    Global communications marketing firm

  11. Ripley PR

    Strategic communication services, including media relations, digital content, social media, and crisis management

  12. SPM Communications

    PR, crisis communications, social media, and influencer relations for franchise, restaurant, food, retail, lifestyle, and apparel brands

  13. C Squared PR

    PR, media and influencer relations, marketing communications, promotions, events, and crisis management

  14. BizCom Associates

    Publicity and brand awareness campaigns, lead generation, franchisee marketing, crisis communications, social media, book publishing, video production, and creative services

  15. Decibel Blue

    Public engagement, public relations, social media, and digital marketing for franchise systems

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The Top 10 Franchises You Can Buy for Less Than $100,000