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The Top Food Franchises

Our list of the top restaurant franchises--and how to be innovative when it comes to the most important meal of the day.

This story appears in the April 2011 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Opening a has always been challenging, and the economic conditions of the past few years have only made it even more difficult. Still, the companies on our Top Food Franchises list helped hundreds of entrepreneurs accomplish the task in 2010. And part of the secret to success for many of them is something your mother always said you needed: a good .

For these food franchises, breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. According to a 2010 report by the NPD Group, breakfast made up almost 60 percent of the restaurant industry's traffic growth over the past five years. So it's no surprise that many franchisors who previously focused on lunch and dinner have set their sights on serving the nation's early birds as well.

We also highlight a few of the breakfast menu innovations now available at some of our top food franchises.

Franchises in this list are displayed in order of their Franchise 500® rankings within their respective categories. Keep in mind that these rankings are not an endorsement or recommendation of any particular company--they're just a jumping-off point. The only way to determine whether a franchise opportunity is right for you is to conduct your own thorough research, including reading the company's documents, consulting with accountants and attorneys and talking to existing franchisees.

Dunkin' Donuts: Wake-Up Wraps
Dunkin' Donuts may already be synonymous with the morning meal, but the company has made great strides in providing more healthful breakfast options alongside its famous sugary delights. The latest additions to its DDSmart menu are the Egg White Turkey Sausage and Egg White Veggie Wake-Up Wraps.

Denny's: Free Grand Slam
The Grand Slam isn't new to the Denny's menu--it's been around since 1977--but add the word free and you have a revitalized brand. When Denny's announced a giveaway of the pancakes, eggs and bacon meal in a 2009 Super Bowl commercial, nearly 2 million people lined up to get one.

McDonald's: Fruit & Maple Oatmeal
It's a far cry from the Big Mac, but McDonald's is still expecting big things from its new Fruit and Maple Oatmeal. This healthful dish--McDonald's first new breakfast offering since its McCafé drinks gave costly coffee shops a run for their money in 2009--is available all day long.

Salsarita's Fresh Cantina: Breakfast catering
Salsarita's franchises already offered lunch and dinner catering, so it was only natural to test out breakfast catering in its Charlotte, N.C., market last year. Thanks to the trial's success, expect to see breakfast burrito bar catering in several new markets in 2011.

Edible Arrangements: Edible To Go
The company is famous for its elaborate bouquets made from sculpted fruit, but in recent years select locations have started offering "Edible To Go" options for customers looking for a quick, healthful snack. Breakfast items include fruit salad, fresh-squeezed juice and a low-fat yogurt parfait.

Subway: Breakfast sandwiches
Subway launched itself into the breakfast battle last year with a line of breakfast sandwiches available on English muffins, flatbreads or the chain's beloved fresh-baked breads. According to the company, the move to mornings has paid off with increased per-unit sales averages.

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