When was the last time you made a fast food stop or purchased a coffee before work? If the brand is recognizable and has multiple locations throughout your city or town, like McDonald's or Dunkin', it's quite possible your favorite food joint is a franchise.

Maybe you've even considered purchasing and owning one yourself. But which franchises are best suited for your budget and skill set? I've compiled a list of the best franchise opportunities to select from.

Of the 1,000 companies considered for the Entrepreneur Franchise 500 ranking, these franchises came out on top. Entrepreneur used the following five pillars to evaluate the franchises:

  1. Cost and fees
  2. Size and growth
  3. Support
  4. Brand strength
  5. Financial strength and stability

Let's take a look at some of these franchises and see how they stack up. I'll review what each franchise requires in terms of the franchise fee and the initial investment you'll need to make. A franchise fee is a cost a potential franchisee pays up front to operate the franchise. And the initial investment amount includes expenses such as royalty fees, real estate, and inventory costs.

1. McDonald's

Franchise fee: $45,000

Initial investment: $1,008,000 to $2,214,080

Franchise details: McDonald's

If you want golden arches of your own, you'll need to put in a hefty initial investment. But with that investment, you get brand recognition, popularity, and years of experience in the fast food industry.

2. 7-Eleven

Franchise fee: $10,000 to $1,000,000

Initial investment: $37,550 to $1,149,900

Franchise details: 7-Eleven

As the #1 convenience store, 7-Eleven is seeing unprecedented growth. Its stores are turnkey and you can get started within three to six months, including application, testing, and training.

3. Dunkin'

Franchise fee: $40,000 to $90,000

Initial investment: $228,620 to $1,691,200

Franchise details: Dunkin'

Dunkin' dropped the "Donuts" from its name, but this business is as recognizable as ever with locations in 32 countries. It was rated #1 in customer loyalty by Brand Keys Customer Loyalty Engagement Index. And they support their franchisees with training and assistance with site selection, construction, operations, management, and marketing.

4. The UPS Store

Franchise fee: $29,950

Initial investment: $177,955 to $402,595

Franchise details: The UPS Store

The UPS Store is the top-ranked franchise in the business services industry. It boasts financial stability, brand recognition, and dedicated training and support -- and 84% of the U.S. population lives within 10 miles of a The UPS Store.

5. RE/MAX

Franchise fee: $15,000 to $32,000

Initial investment: $37,500 to $225,000

Franchise details: RE/MAX

Over its 40 years of business, RE/MAX has grown to over 100,000 agents in nearly 100 countries. It's a well-known brand with a global presence, strong advertising strategies, and well-developed core philosophies.

6. Sonic Drive-In

Franchise fee: $45,000

Initial investment: $1,073,000 to $2,361,500

Franchise details: Sonic Drive-In

This drive-in chain prides itself in operational excellence and its customer service. This brand keeps growing -- its franchise owners saw the average gross sales-by-store increase from $1,072,000 in 2012 to $1,252,000 in 2017.

7. Great Clips

Franchise fee: $20,000

Initial investment: $136,900 to $258,250

Franchise details: Great Clips

Great Clips has been in business for 30 years and provides its franchise owners with up-to-date technology and training. It has invested heavily in market research to provide customers with the best service and experience.

8. Taco Bell

Franchise fee: $25,000 to $45,000

Initial investment: $525,100 to $2,622,400

Franchise details: Taco Bell

This quick service restaurant brand has been around for 50 years and developed financial stability and brand recognition. It has a proven operating system and gives you access to restaurant resources and a community of more than 350 franchisees who know the business.

9. Hardee's Restaurants

Franchise fee: $25,000 to $35,000

Initial investment: $1,431,500 to $1,949,000

Franchise details: Hardee's Restaurants

Hardee's is a subsidiary of publicly traded company CKE Restaurants, Inc., and it's one of America's premier burger brands. It offers classroom and on-the-job training, as well as assistance with advertising, social media, SEO, website development, email marketing, and loyalty programs.

10. Sport Clips

Franchise fee: $25,000 to $59,500

Initial investment: $189,300 to $354,500

Franchise details: Sport Clips

Sport Clips is growing and showing its strength and stability -- it has a high continuity rate of 97.6% over the past five years. This means that out of all the stores that opened throughout the last five years, more than 97.6% of them are open today. It attributes this stability to relatively low startup costs, a solid support system, and continual monitoring of store performance.

Low-Cost/Cheap Franchises

The initial investment in a franchise can be pricey, and range anywhere from a few thousand dollars to over a million. If you're looking to purchase a franchise at a lower price point, there are options for you in a variety of industries.

1. Cruise Planners

Franchise fee: $495 to $10,495

Initial investment: $2,095 to $22,867

Franchise details: Cruise Planners

Cruise Planners is a cruise planning agency. It's home-based, so you don't need to factor in the cost of real estate. Prior experience in travel planning is not required, and the company offers comprehensive training.

2. SuperGlass Windshield Repair

Franchise fee: $9,500 to $28,500

Initial investment: $9,910 to $31,000

Franchise details: SuperGlass Windshield Repair

SuperGlass Windshield Repair has been operating for 30 years and specializes in the repair of rock damaged and cracked windshields. Overhead costs can be kept low due to its mobile option -- a physical shop location is not required.

3. JAN-PRO

Franchise fee: $2,520 to $44,000

Initial investment: $3,985 to $51,605

Franchise details: JAN-PRO

JAN-PRO is a commercial cleaning franchise whose clientele is other businesses. They offer three options for franchising: international master franchise, executive business, and home-based opportunities.

4. Jazzercise

Franchise fee: $1,250

Initial investment: $3,530 to $12,900

Franchise details: Jazzercise

If you're looking to start a low-investment, exercise business a Jazzercise franchise might be a good fit for you. It offers various price points to begin a franchise and you can find the one that aligns with your budget.

5. Dream Vacations

Franchise fee: $495 to $9,800

Initial investment: $3,245 to $21,850

Franchise details: Dream Vacations

Dream Vacations is a home-based travel agency franchise with no overhead or inventory -- this keeps the cost of initial investment low. It's a great option for military veterans and offers discounted investment prices.

Forbes partnered with FRANdata to assess and assemble a list of the best franchises. Here are the criteria used to evaluate 3,300 franchise brands:

  1. System sustainability
  2. System demand
  3. Value for investment
  4. Franchisor support
  5. Franchisor stability

Below are some of the top picks from the best franchises to buy list. The key points the list looks at are the midpoint (average) initial investment, the franchise's growth rate over the past five years, and the number of franchise locations, or franchise units.

1. Freddy's Frozen Custard and Steakburgers

Midpoint initial investment: $1,282,165

Five-year growth rate: 31.3%

Total franchise units: 282

This fast-casual restaurant is known for its burgers and freshly-churned custard. After your initial investment and depending location and whether you're buying or leasing property, you can expect your restaurant to open in eight to 18 months.

2. Culver's Butterburgers and Frozen Custard

Midpoint initial investment: $3,347,500

Five-year growth rate: 6.50%

Total franchise units: 641

Founded in 1984, Culver's has been in the burger and custard business. It's a top franchise and made Franchise Business Review's list of Franchisee Satisfaction Award winners.

3. Planet Fitness

Midpoint initial investment: $2,545,915

Five-year growth rate: 22.00%

Total franchise units: 1,494

Planet Fitness is known for it's Judgement Free Zone® philosophy -- making first-time gym users feel comfortable as they begin their fitness journeys. This gym has over 12 million members and franchisees have a median annual operating income of $567,000.

4. School of Rock

Midpoint initial investment: $237,975

Five-year growth rate: 18.5%

Total franchise units: 176

School of Rock is the largest music education franchise in the United States and has more than 29,000 students worldwide. This music business was started in 2007 and is still growing -- between 2014 and 2018, it added 70 units to its franchise system.

5. Nothing Bundt Cakes

Midpoint initial investment: $398,387

Five-year growth rate: 32.1%

Total franchise units: 239

This bakery is unique because, despite being a franchise, it has a "Mom and Pop shop" feel. There are locations across the United States, and its cakes have been featured in popular media like Food and Wine Magazine, Food Network "Unwrapped", and Franchise Times.

6. Pure Barre

Midpoint initial investment: $234,400

Five-year growth rate: 39.5%

Total franchise units: 472

Pure Barre is a popular, boutique fitness brand with nearly 600,000 clients. The business offers multiple revenue streams: bar classes and active wear. And it provides support and training for real estate, operations, consulting, marketing, and more.

7. Right at Home

Midpoint initial investment: $108,575

Five-year growth rate: 14.8%

Total franchise units: 475

Right at Home is an industry leader in home care and its mission is to improve the quality of life for its clients. It provides new franchisees with comprehensive training, and you don't need prior business or home care experience.

8. Soccer Shots

Midpoint initial investment: $41,842

Five-year growth rate: 11.1%

Total franchise units: 195

Soccer Shots is a children's soccer program with a focus on character development. It has a low overhead cost, supports its franchisees, and has well-established relationships with national brands like Adidas and the U.S. Soccer Foundation.

9. Mathnasium

Midpoint initial investment: $130,930

Five-year growth rate: 19.9%

Total franchise units: 797

This math learning center opened in 2002, and its mission is to "help every child understand – and master – math." Mathnasium has earned many accolades, and over the past four years, average per unit gross sales grew 10% annually.

When you're evaluating a business investment, it's important to know if the opportunity is worth the money. The franchises listed above are seeing the largest growth in franchise locations over the past year, which is one of the key indicators of profitability. Determining the profitability of a franchise isn't an exact science, but there are a few factors to consider:

  1. Unit growth: See how many units (franchise locations) have opened in recent years.
  2. New franchisee success rates: Look at the percentage of new franchises that are still operating after a year.
  3. Franchisor's financial statements: Analyze the franchise disclosure document and look at average sales per unit.

Whether you're looking for a low-cost franchise, or ready to go all-in on a high investment franchise there are options for you. To learn more, read about how to become an entrepreneur next.

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Originally published Oct 25, 2018 8:30:00 AM, updated October 25 2018

Topics:

Franchise