What Types of Franchises Are There, And How Much Do They Cost?
There are 3,000 different franchises available in the US, and they fall under five general categories. Cost-wise, they range from $50,000 to over $1,000,000.
This category includes everything from:
- ice cream shops like Dairy Queen , ($382,000-$1,828,000 total investment);
- to fast food franchises like Buffalo Wild Wings, ($1,389,200 – $3,148,200 total investment);
- to sandwich shops like Subway  ($84,300 – $258,300)
Since food-related franchises are the most visible of all franchise types, (as well as being the highest percentage of franchises) it’s a common starting point for would-be franchise owners, who like the idea of associating with a popular type of business.
This category of franchising is a highly visible one. Retail franchises are for people that want customers to come to them, as opposed to having to go out to find them. For instance, The UPS Store  ($150,984 – $337,946) has thousands of locations. Other retail franchise businesses include:
- Batteries Plus , ($159,300 – $313,900)
- EmbroidMe , ($85,460 – $232,465)
- Supercuts , ($112,550 – $243,200)
It’s common for retail franchise owners to own more than one store; they’re called multi-unit franchisees.
This sector of franchising tends to cater to busy families, and more recently, seniors. Service Brands International  is a great example of a franchisor that focuses solely on this busy segment. Their brands include:
- Mr. Handyman , ($91,500 – $132,600)
- Molly Maid , ($71,525 – $116,200)
- 1-800-DryClean , ($59,800 – $78,950)
- Protect Painters  ($78,850 – $97,950)
When it comes to keeping our senior citizens in their homes, (as opposed to a nursing home):
- BrightStar  Care, ($90,895 – $155,723)
- Synergy Homecare , ($53,300 – $115,300)
- Visiting Angels , ($52,285 – $84,035)
Those are just three of the over 30 different senior care-related franchises being offered. Read about the senior care franchise numbers .
Business to Business
This category of franchising attracts sales and marketing minded folks. These types of franchises are outbound franchises; franchisees go out to find their clients and customers:
- Servepro  ($127,300 – $174,700) is a company that specializes in water and fire damage clean-up and restoration.
- Jani-King  ($13,150 – $93,150) is in the commercial cleaning business, servicing office buildings, restaurants, and stadiums/arenas.
- TeamLogic IT ($91,850 – $148,850) is a franchise that provides IT consulting services to small businesses.
Several types of home-based franchises fall into the B2B category, too. OneCoach  ($40,100 – $318,800) franchisees offer consulting/coaching services to small businesses. Cost-cutting is an important part of running a business, so franchisees of Expense Reduction Analysts Inc. , ($66,100 – $81,750) consult with business owners and executives on how to do just that.
When it comes to children, consumers generally spend their money, freely. Opportunities in this sector abound, and for people that love children, this is a popular sector. In January of 2002, President Bush signed the No Child Left Behind  bill, which increased funding for school systems. Since then, the school systems have reached out to the franchisees of Sylvan Learning, ($179,069 – $305,090) and Huntington Learning Centers , ($197,450 – $382,450) to help them with students who may be struggling in school.
Parents that need a place to hold their children’s birthday parties can go to Pump It Up , which offers an indoor arena featuring giant inflatables. Child safety is an important topic these days, and the 250 locations of Ident-A-Kid ,($34,005 – $44,205) work with schools and community centers to provide identification cards for children.
Next we’ll cover how to find and research franchises.
How Do You Find And Research Franchises?
The internet has made information about specific franchises readily available. There’s no shortage of franchise opportunity websites in which one can see what’s available in the franchise world.
Here’s a few franchise websites that are worth a look:
- FranchiseDirect.com 
- Franchise.com 
- FranchiseOpportunities.com 
- GreenFranchiseDirectory.com 
- FranchiseGator.com 
- Bison.com 
Using franchise websites like the ones mentioned, are a great way to explore opportunities in franchise ownership. But, there are a couple of other ways, too.
Searching for franchise business press releases can be quite fruitful. New franchise opportunities are always being announced, as well as useful and informative announcements from franchises that are expanding, or are offering new products and services.
Here are a few places to find current franchise business press releases:
If you’d like a more personalized approach to finding appropriate franchises, using a franchise broker  may be something for you to look into.
Franchise brokers try to match folks with franchises in their portfolio, and they get paid a commission when they make a successful match. It’s important to remember that brokers only represent a relatively small number of franchises (typically 100-200), out of the 3,000+ different choices available. Brokers tend to shy away from high-investment opportunities like the ones you’d find in the multi-unit food franchise sector.
If you’re going to use a franchise broker, it’s important to remember that they’re only going to present franchises that they work with.
When it comes to researching franchises, The Franchise Disclosure Document  (FDD) is where the majority of the data about the franchise will be found. During the franchise discovery process, the franchisor will eventually send the FDD (via mail, or electronically). It’s a clearinghouse of important information about the franchise that you’re interested in.
Here are the 23 items that are included in the FDD:
- The franchisor, its predecessors, and its affiliates
- Business experience
- Initial Franchise Fee
- Other fees
- Initial investment
- Restrictions on sources of products and services
- Franchisee’s obligations
- Franchisor’s obligations
- Patents, copyrights and proprietary information
- Obligation to participate in the actual operation of the franchise business
- Restrictions on what the franchisee may sell
- Renewal, termination, transfer and dispute resolution
- Public figures
- Earnings claims
- List of outlets
- Financial statements
It’s important to go through this document step by step. A lot of the items are filled with legal jargon, so it’s wise to engage an attorney that’s familiar with franchising, who will help you decipher it.
For research purposes, the most meaningful areas to concentrate on are:
Litigation: If there are a lot of lawsuits relative to the number of franchises in the system, buyer beware. Example; 20 lawsuits against the franchisor, in a system that has 200-300 franchisees is a little excessive. All types of businesses get sued. If a franchisor gets sued a lot, find out why. Sitting down with as franchise attorney will prove to be really helpful, when it comes to finding out about franchise lawsuits. It will open up the door for questions that you may have about being sued, yourself.
Franchisee and franchisor’s obligations: It’s good to know ahead of time what obligations both parties have in a franchise relationship. For example, franchisees may be obliged to submit monthly sales reports, achieve minimum sales revenue amounts, submit all proper state and local licensure documents, and to only use pre-approved marketing materials.
The franchisor may be obliged to make available suitable training programs, continuing business advisory assistance, a copy of the Confidential Operating Manual, and make available all marketing and advertising materials as needed.
Earnings Claims: Approximately 20% of franchisors actually includes earnings claims. (Earnings claims are now called Financial Performance Representations.) Earnings claims can be disclosed in a few different ways.
99 percent of all systems making earnings claims provide sales/revenue data, only 49 percent give some type of expense data and only a few provide what is essentially a complete franchise unit income (From The Profile of Franchising, Series VI, January 2007.)
If the franchise concept that you’re interested in happens to be in the 20% of franchisors that do disclose some type of earnings claims, it’s a nice head start on the research phase of investing in a franchise. But to really get the answers, look no further than “the list of outlets” in the FDD.
List of outlets: This really important list contains the name of all the franchisees currently in business, their business addresses and their phone numbers. This is where the rubber really hits the road. At this point in the research process, it’s time to shut out all that non-essential noise that’s going on in your head. It doesn’t matter what you feel or think about this opportunity, right now.
It doesn’t matter what the franchise salesperson has shared. What matters now is what the franchisees that have invested their own money in the system have to say.
Here are a few questions to ask:
- If you had to make this decision again, would this be the franchise business that you’d choose? Why?
- Is the franchisor providing the level of support that you expected?
- Is the stated “total investment” amount correct?
- How do you rate the marketing and advertising?
- How is their technology?
- Is there more or less competition than you expected?
- What’s your favorite part of the business?
- What’s your least favorite part of the business?
- Do you plan on growing your business by adding employees, space, or more locations?
- Do you know of any really unhappy franchisees? (Why are they unhappy?)
Those are just a few of the many questions that you’ll need to ask, when you’re reaching out to current franchise owners. (More franchise selection information and franchise research techniques and suggestions can be found at the Franchise Online University .)
Investing in a franchise can truly be a life-altering event. There is obviously a level of risk involved, but that risk can be mitigated by getting all the facts needed to make an informed decision. We hope that the Small Business Trends Franchise Business Guide has provided more than a few. Good luck!
- SBA  – This comprehensive US Government website provides just about everything one needs to start a business, including small business loan information.
- Small Business Trends  – Numerous franchise business articles can be found in the franchise category, including the top franchise trends, which come out at the end of every year. You’ll also find timely small business articles, advice, and news which affect the small business community.
- Score.org  – This website features resources and information for the would-be small business/franchise owner. Score counselors are retired small business owners and executives who provide free and confidential small business advice.