The Top 11 Companies in the Franchise 500, Ranked From Cheapest to Most Expensive

Which of the Entrepreneur Franchise 500 entries is the cheapest, and which is most expensive?
The Top 11 Companies in the Franchise 500, Ranked From Cheapest to Most Expensive
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Entrepreneur Staff
Associate Editor, Contributed Content
5 min read

Price is an important factor in Entrepreneur’s Franchise 500, but it’s not the only one. However, we recognize that for many readers and potential franchisees, the price of a franchise simply falls into one of two categories: Can I afford it or not?

So, if you’ve always wanted to start a top-ranked franchise but don’t know where to start, this guide might just be able to help. It’s important to note that all 11 of our top franchises represent significant investments, but you can find more affordable franchises here.

1. 7-Eleven

  • Entrepreneur Franchise 500 list rank: 11
  • Started franchising: 1964
  • Total units: 66,689
  • Initial investment: $47,100 to $1.2 million

A 7-Eleven franchise can cost as little as five figures — the only company among the top 11 who can make that claim. That relatively affordable price tag has helped 7-Eleven grow its number of units to more than 66,000, including an additional 4,584 units in the past two years alone.

Related: 5 Low-Cost Franchises You Can Start for as Little as $4,000

2. The UPS Store

  • Entrepreneur Franchise 500 list rank: 5
  • Started franchising: 1980
  • Total units: 5,166
  • Initial investment: $138,400 to $470,000

If you sorted the top 11 franchise entries by maximum investment, rather than the minimum number, The UPS Store would take the top spot. Its six-figure price tag is nothing to sneeze at, but it’s still 10 times cheaper than some of the other entries on this list. 

3. Jersey Mike’s Subs

  • Entrepreneur Franchise 500 list rank: 8
  • Started franchising: 1987
  • Total units: 1,592
  • Initial investment: $237,400 to $766,970

Jersey Mike’s has seen a 250 percent uptick in its number of units since 2010, going from 452 restaurants to 1,592 in our most recent count. One of the keys behind such growth is the business’s relatively low investment, which allows its franchisees to open multiple locations.

Related: 5 Franchises You Can Buy for Less Than $18,000

4. Ace Hardware

  • Entrepreneur Franchise 500 list rank: 6
  • Started franchising: 1976
  • Total units: 5,312
  • Initial investment: $286,000 to $2.1 million

llinois-based hardware retailer Ace Hardware has been franchising for 44 years and boasts 5,312 total units (4,386 U.S. franchises, 793 international franchises and 133 company-owned locations). It’s seen a 7.7 percent increase in units over the past three years and managed more than $16 billion in sales in 2020.

Related: The 5 Best Burger Franchises You Can Buy (and How Much They Cost)

5. Pizza Hut

  • Entrepreneur Franchise 500 list rank: 10
  • Started franchising: 1959
  • Total units: 17,176
  • Initial investment: $357,000 to $2.2 million

Last month, Pizza Hut announced its intention to hire 30,000 more workers nationwide. Although Pizza Hut announced last year it planned to close 500 U.S. dine-in locations, food delivery has become more popular than ever as people around the world are stuck indoors. The company’s price tag places is around the middle of the pack when compared to the other top 11 franchises.

Related: The 5 Best Pizza Franchises You Can Start Today

6. Dunkin’

  • Entrepreneur Franchise 500 list rank: 1
  • Started franchising: 1955
  • Total units: 12,957
  • Initial investment: $395,500 to $1.6 million

Dunkin’ ranks sixth among the top 11 in cost, but it tops the entire Franchise 500 in our overall rankings. The cost can run anywhere from around $400,000 to $1.6 million, and Dunkin’ hopes to double its number of U.S. franchises from around 9,500 to 19,000 over the next two decades.

7. Taco Bell

  • Entrepreneur Franchise 500 list rank: 2
  • Started franchising: 1964
  • Total units: 7,136
  • Initial investment: $525,500 to $2.96 million

You’ll have to pony up at least half a million for a Taco Bell franchise, and that price could rise to just shy of $3 million. However, the company has continued to grow, both in sales and in total number of units. As of our most recent count, the fast-food company had 7,136 units across the globe.

Related: 24 Top-Ranked, Affordable Franchises You Can Buy for $25,000 or Less

8. Planet Fitness

  • Entrepreneur Franchise 500 list rank: 7
  • Started franchising: 2003
  • Total units: 1,859
  • Initial investment: $1.1 million to $4.2 million

With Planet Fitness, we have officially moved into the seven-digit category — at a minimum. Even with that price tag, Planet Fitness has seen monstrous growth over the past 10 years: 426 percent in total units since 2010 (going from 353 to 1,859 in our most recent count).

9. Sonic Drive-In

  • Entrepreneur Franchise 500 list rank: 4
  • Started franchising: 1959
  • Total units: 3,600
  • Initial investment: $1.2 million to $3.5 million

Sonic Drive-In has seen relatively little growth in its number of units over the past 10 years (less than two percent), but it still cracks our top 10 due to its consistency and innovation with artificial intelligence that improves customer service.

10. McDonald’s

  • Entrepreneur Franchise 500 list rank: 3
  • Started franchising: 1955
  • Total units: 38,108
  • Initial investment: $1.3 million to $2.2 million

You can’t buy a McDonald’s franchise on the dollar menu: Those golden arches will run you anywhere from $1.3 to $2.2 million McChickens. However, that’s nothing compared to the company’s $10 billion store redesign, which implements new technology in each location and is now nearing completion.

11. Culver’s

  • Entrepreneur Franchise 500 list rank: 9
  • Started franchising: 1988
  • Total units: 715
  • Initial investment: $1.97 million to $4.7 million

Culver’s is the most expensive entry among the top 11 franchises, both in minimum and maximum initial investment. It’s no surprise, then, that it also has the fewest total number of franchises among the bunch, with just 715 (compare that to 7-Eleven’s 66,689). However, Culver’s is still growing at a steady pace: Over the past decade, the company has grown its number of total units by 70 percent.

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