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You Can't Own a Chick-fil-A Franchise. Here Are 3 Solid Alternatives. Chick-fil-A doesn't franchise, but you can definitely still run a chicken restaurant.

By Matthew McCreary

entrepreneur daily
Chick-fil-A | Facebook

You can't own a Chick-fil-A franchise. It's not going to happen. That's because, while the company does open restaurants across the country, and it even calls these locations "franchises," they really aren't. Chick-fil-A still owns the restaurant; it just lets franchise operators run the store, like a manager.

That's one reason why starting a Chick-fil-A is so affordable for a franchise operator: It costs just $10,000, while a McDonald's will cost at least $1 million. The low price is one reason why Chick-fil-A franchises are so highly valued and so difficult to get -- even Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt couldn't manage to wrangle one for his wife. In fact, getting accepted to run a Chick-fil-A franchise is less likely than getting accepted to Harvard Business School.

So, it is very unlikely that you will ever own a Chick-fil-A franchise. However, there are still plenty of other options of fast-food restaurants that might work better for you.

Here are three options from our Franchise 500 for potential franchisees for those with five-, six- or seven-figure budgets.

Related: 5 Things You Need to Know Before Investing in a Chick-fil-A Franchise

Chester’s

Chester's is ranked No. 153 on the Franchise 500. Founded in 1952 by W.O. Giles, the entrepreneur started out frying donuts, but eventually his fried chicken became the focus. The company waited 52 years to start franchising.

The franchise fee is just $3,500, almost comically low for a restaurant franchise, and initial investment can range anywhere from $12,000 -- about what a Chick-fil-A costs to run -- to $296,600. That low cost of entry has helped the number of Chester's explode over the past decade, going from 82 locations in 2008 to 1,156 in 2017. That's a 1,310 percent increase in the number of units in just a decade.

  • CEO: Ted W. Giles
  • Business headquarters: Birmingham, Ala.
  • Franchising since: 2004
  • Initial investment: $12,000 to $296,600
  • Initial franchise fee: $3,500
  • New units in 2017: 40 units (3.6 percent)
  • Training: 30 hours on the job, 3 hours in the classroom
  • Marketing support: Ad templates, social media

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

Checkers and Rally’s

Rally's opened in Louisville, Ky., in 1985. One year later, Checkers Drive-In Restaurants opened in Mobile, Ala. Fourteen years later, the two restaurant chains combined to form Checkers and Rally's, which serves chicken wings and sandwiches, as well as burgers, fries and fish.

The company, ranked No. 140 on the Franchise 500, can cost anywhere between $96,414 (high-five figures) and $1,501,265 (low-seven figures).

  • CEO: Enrique Silva
  • Business headquarters: Tampa, Fla.
  • Franchising since: 1989
  • Initial investment: $96,414 to $1,501,265
  • Initial franchise fee: $30,000
  • New units in 2017: 18 units (2.2 percent)
  • Training: 6 to 24 months on the job, 75 hours in the classroom
  • Marketing support: Co-op advertising, ad templates, national media, regional advertising, social media

Related: Just How Much Does It Cost to Own a Fast-Food Franchise?

McDonald’s

McDonald's is at the top of the 2018 Franchise 500 list, and that's nothing new. It finished second last year, just behind 7-Eleven, and we've ranked it in the top five of our list eight times since 2018. That sort of consistency, combined with the brand's influence around the world, makes it an easy choice.

The Golden Arches has been franchising since 1955, and there were over 37,000 units, including over 13,000 U.S. franchises.

  • CEO: Steve Easterbrook
  • Business headquarters: Oak Brook, Ill.
  • Franchising since: 1955
  • Initial investment: $1,008,000 to $2,214,080
  • Initial franchise fee: $45,000
  • New units in 2017: 507 units (1.4 percent)
  • Training: 6 to 24 months on the job, 75 hours in the classroom
  • Marketing support: Co-op advertising, ad templates, national media, regional advertising, social media, loyalty program/app

Related: Quiz: How Much Do You Really Know About McDonald's?

Matthew McCreary

Entrepreneur Staff

Associate Editor, Contributed Content

Matthew McCreary is the associate editor for contributed content at Entrepreneur.com.

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