Barbecue used to be mostly a southern delicacy, but today it is spreading across the United States especially in the south and even in Canada. Style variations like Kansas City BBQ, Memphis barbecue and North Carolina style are probably best known and have moved beyond regional roots while gaining broader followings. So it’s no surprise that a BBQ franchise is a growing option as a new business opportunity.
While there are plenty of mom-and-pop barbecue joints, barbecue franchises are still considered a niche, albeit a growing niche in restaurants. The combination of meats grilled over a slow fire along with rubs and sauces containing complex favors, can prove irresistible to diners and business owners alike. Enterprising entrepreneurs will seek to leverage the food’s growing popularity and choose it for their restaurant franchise.
15 Best BBQ Franchise Options
Barbecue franchises include fast casual, quick service, home style diners, carry-outs and fresh takes on the classic Texas joint serving brisket and other meats on butcher paper — not to mention food truck franchises. Did you know there’s even a white Alabama BBQ sauce you can find at some places? Here are our top choices for BBQ franchises:
1. Dickey’s Barbecue Pit
Dickey’s Barbecue Pit originated in Texas in 1941 as a family owned restaurant. And now it is an international franchise having spread far beyond the Lone Star State with more than 500 locations. Franchises focus on craftsman style, hickory smoked barbecue, with classics like brisket and pulled pork. Franchisees have the opportunity to build a quick service restaurant using old style recipes but new tech platforms. The company also provides an extensive menu that uses just a few ingredients to help owners keep costs down.
A $20,000 fee is required for a BBQ restaurant franchise. And the total initial investment ranges from $256,360 to $440,045.
2. Famous Dave’s
Famous Dave’s is a barbecue restaurant with a backyard feel. There are currently more than 120 franchises across North America, with both full service and counter service options available. It’s a flexible business opportunity that each franchisee can customize to their market and preferences. And extensive support is available to help new franchises get up and running and continue efficient operations.
The fee for new barbecue franchises is $45,000. And startup costs range from $481,750 to $4,495,750.
3. Woody’s Bar-BQ
Woody’s Bar-BQ provides a flexible model for franchises. It should appeal to anyone with a serious passion for barbecue. The restaurant started in Florida in 1980. Owners of franchises get extensive training to make sure they have the tools necessary to find success. The the company provides field representatives to support new franchises after opening.
The fee for a new barbecue restaurant franchise is $39,500. And the initial investment ranges from $257,000 to $600,000.
4. Bar-B-Cutie SmokeHouse
Bar-B-Cutie SmokeHouse has been in the barbecue industry for 70 years. The food is made using old fashioned slow roasting methods. And restaurants have a flexible footprint, with some including drive-thrus and interior dining options. The franchise opportunities are perfect for anyone with an entrepreneurial spirit and history managing people.
The fee for franchises is $35,000. And the total startup costs range from $$663,649 to $2,080,491. Fill out the form on the company’s website to request free information on how to get started.
5. Voodoo BBQ & Grill
Voodoo BBQ & Grill is a New Orleans style BBQ restaurant that uses Cajun, Caribbean, and Creole spices in its unique recipes. Before you open, the company provides training, an operations manual, and help with site selection. They also offer field support, research, and continuing education to franchise owners and their teams. This opportunity is perfect for those who want to create an experience for their customers or play around with a non-traditional barbecue menu.
The fee for new franchises is $35,000. And the upfront costs can range from $350,000 to $600,000.
6. Billy Sims Barbecue
Billy Sims Barbecue is a franchise business founded by former NFL and college football player Billy Sims. The first location opened in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 2004. And now there are more than 50 locations across six states. So there are plenty of locations open for development across the United States. The company provides assistance with site selection, store development, training, purchasing, and marketing.
The fee for new Billy Sims Barbecue franchises is $30,000. And upfront costs range from $169,200 to $433,100.
7. Red Hot & Blue
Red Hot & Blue originated in Virginia back in 1988. The full service restaurant specializes in Memphis style barbecue food in a casual atmosphere. For new franchises, they look for owner/operators with previous experience running or owning restaurants. The company provides support for site selection, menu development, equipment selection, promotions, and marketing. They also provide a training course for owners and on-site training at your restaurant.
The franchise fee for new restaurants is $45,000. And the initial investment ranges from $976,000 to $2,161,000.
8. Virginia Barbecue
Virginia Barbecue offers an array of styles in its menu, from St. Louis style ribs to North Carolina barbecue sandwiches. The company currently just has a couple of restaurants in Virginia. But it’s looking to grow into new markets by working with interested franchise owners. Restaurant and management experience is preferred. But the company teaches new franchisees what they need to know to get started.
The initial franchise fee is $25,000. And total startup costs for new barbecue franchises fall between $36,000 and $202,000.
9. L&L Hawaiian Barbecue
L&L Hawaiian Barbecue mixes barbecue with traditional Hawaiian island food. Founded in 1952, the Honolulu based company has been franchising since 1990 and now has more than 200 locations. It is an especially prominent brand name in Hawaii. But there are franchises across the United States and a few international ones as well. In addition to serving food at each location, the company also provides catering for an additional revenue stream.
The fee for barbecue franchises under this brand is $30,000. And the initial startup costs range from $135,700 to $527,000.
10. Urban Bar-B-Que
Urban Bar-B-Que is a barbecue franchise brand based in Maryland. The company focuses on serving quality food and creating a fun, community focused environment. Franchisees with general business and marketing experience are preferred. And the company provides on-the-job training along with support for purchasing, field operations, and marketing and advertising.
The fee for Urban Bar B-Que franchises is $30,000. And the total initial investment ranges from $182,650 to $365,150.
11. Bandana’s Bar-B-Q
Bandana’s Bar-B-Q is a Missouri based business that serves Southern style food. The restaurant’s smokers operate 24 hours a day and they have a unique blend of dry rub spices. Barbecue franchises also offer catering, online ordering, and a loyalty program to foster repeat business and bring in extra revenue for bar b q franchises. The company provides training, exclusive territories, and ongoing support.
The initial fee is $40,000. And total startup costs for one location range from $418,000 to $1.1 million.
12. Mighty Quinn’s Barbeque
Mighty Quinn’s looks for franchisees and investors who have a passion for the food service industry. The opportunity is built to scale for those who want to maximize profits. Once you open a flagship location, you can open additional satellite locations in your region at a lower cost. They also offer several revenue streams for franchises, including dine-in, delivery, take out, catering, and alcohol.
The initial franchise fee is $45,000. And startup costs range from $738,488 to $896,334. And the costs for satellite locations range from $494,317 to $696,290.
13. Gyu Kaku Japanese BBQ
Gyu Kaku is a chain that specializes in Japanese style barbecue. The international company has plenty of opportunities currently available around the United States. Currently, there are about 50 locations in North America, including a handful in New York, California, and Hawaii. Restaurants feature a unique dining experience where customers cook their food using smokeless roasters that are placed right at their table. This helps to keep kitchen operations simple while providing customers with a high end experience.
The franchise fee for this option is $50,000. And the initial investment ranges from $1.25 million to $1.5 million.
14. Wings Etc.
Wings Etc. is a full service franchise that’s part barbecue pit, part sports bar. The company has 14 years of experience and more than 70 restaurants across the United States. They offer operational training, field support, buying power, and marketing assistance for franchises. Their award winning wings are just part of a menu full of crowd pleasing items. And they also offer multi-unit opportunities for franchisees that want to grow their earnings even more.
The initial fee for Wings Etc. franchises is $39,500. And total startup costs for one location range from $351,200 to $1,669,369.
15. Hattie Marie’s BBQ
Hattie Marie’s BBQ is one of the best franchises for those with business experience and a passion for barbeque. The Georgia based chain offers Texas style food that began with family recipes. The company is especially interested in working with franchisees that want to open multiple units. They generally develop restaurants within shopping centers, college campuses, airports, and other locations with lots of existing foot traffic. They also offer additional revenue streams like catering and online ordering.
The franchise fee to get started is $30,000. And startup costs for a single location range from $86,500 to $133,500.
Is a Barbecue Franchise a Good Opportunity?
Barbecue franchises can be a good opportunity, but consider all the positives and negatives.
On the negative side, barbecue is not as much in demand as in some other food categories. BBQ is a niche, making up just 2% of all restaurants. According to CHD Expert, there are 15,200 BBQ restaurants in the United States. By comparison, other types of restaurants are more popular — for example, there are over 77,000 pizzerias, alone.
The number of franchises is even smaller. The vast majority of BBQ restaurants are independent — only about 14% are chains. Two factors may not let you scale up as well as simpler-to-prepare foods. First, the cooking style requires specialized smoking and ventilation equipment. Second, more cooking time may be needed (hours or days to grill or smoke meats).
On the positive side, the market is not as crowded. There may be more potential than in a crowded segment like burgers. And since most of these franchise chains are regional and fairly small, you may get more support and attention from the franchisor.
Also, the market may be underserved today. Americans are passionate about barbecue, with it being the 15th most popular menu item. It’s also reasonably priced, as many outlets are quick service, fast casual or food trucks. Those two factors suggest potential for growth.
Sources: CHD Expert interview, CHD Expert Infographic and Statista report.
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Franchises for #1 and #2 on this list have gone out of business in my town (about 65,000 people) in the last couple years. I prefer the non-franchise options in my vicinity and will drive 20-30 minutes to get their food since I like the flavor and quality more.