Franchising is a practice that stretches back almost as far as American history does, with some historians believing that Benjamin Franklin owned the first recorded franchise. The founding father and prolific inventor was also a savvy businessman and provided capital for a printing business in exchange for one-third of the profits.
Since then, franchising has become one of the most popular ways for companies to expand their businesses and for entrepreneurs to become business owners. We dive into the data for five expanding dining franchises to identify opportunities in the space.
Dave’s Hot Chicken: Winner Winner Chicken DInner
Franchising allows companies to expand quickly with minimal capital investment, which can be especially helpful to dining concepts looking to capitalize on popular trends. Dave's Hot Chicken, a chain that is well-positioned to benefit from the current popularity of chicken meals, is one example of this practice. The California franchise grew from 2 locations in 2019 to an impressive 118 in 2022 and shows no plans of slowing down
The chain is opening restaurants at a rapid rate, with new openings announced nearly every week. And foot traffic trends indicate that there is plenty of demand to support the brand’s expansion, with year-over-year (YoY) visit growth to the chain reaching triple digits in all months analyzed despite the nationwide YoY dips in overall traffic to fast-casual restaurants.
Crumbl Cookies: Social Media Darling
While franchised brands lean on franchisees to grow their retail footprint efficiently, franchisees can benefit from a strong brand and robust clientele that is disproportionate to their marketing investments. Crumbl, a Utah-based bakery, offers a prime example of the branding advantages of opening a franchise rather than an independent dining concept. The company relies heavily on data and tech-driven innovations to drum up business, using its social media accounts to promote its flavor of the week release, which is then discussed at length on TikTok and Reddit.
Since its launch in 2017, Crumbl has expanded to over 700 locations, with its savvy online marketing likely contributing significantly to the chain’s growing traffic. Visit data reveals that spikes in foot traffic often coincide with viral posts about Crumbl cookies, and the combination of limited flavor releases and a vocal online fan base helps set the chain apart within the growing cookie store space. With its sophisticated social media presence and strong traffic numbers, a Crumbl franchise can be a wise investment.
Clean Juice: Organic Growth
Opening a franchise is also popular among entrepreneurs looking to open a family business – and for these individuals, Clean Juice, the country’s only USDA-certified organic juice and smoothie bar, may be a perfect fit. The brand, owned by husband and wife team Landon and Kat Eckles, opened in 2015 and has since grown to over 115 locations. And the family-oriented ethos extends to those opening franchise locations, with many store operators choosing to open units with their families.
The chain has enjoyed visit growth, with year-over-three-year (Yo3Y) visits outpacing visits to other popular juice and smoothie bars nationwide by wide margins in all months analyzed. Some of this outsized growth is tied to the chain's expansion, going from 58 stores in 2019 to 127 by the end of 2022.
Culver's: ButterBurgers Bringing the Beef
Regional chains often present attractive franchising opportunities – and the parent company can also benefit by leaning on franchisees to expand beyond its region. Culver's, a Wisconsin-based burger chain known for its butter-topped burgers and frozen custard, is also a long-time franchiser, with most of its 867 units franchise-owned.
While most of Culver's locations are in the Midwest, the chain has been leaning on franchisees to expand into states like Florida and Georgia. This expansion is proving successful, with overall visits and average visits per venue up most months relative to both last year and to their pre-pandemic threshold.The elevated traffic makes a compelling case for a would-be restaurateur looking for a popular and well-visited franchise model to invest in.
Eggs Up Grill: Making Breakfast The Most Important Meal of the Day
Breakfast chains are another popular franchising concept. Eggs Up Grill, a breakfast restaurant chain, has been leaning into the rise of breakfast restaurants and is also using a franchise model to meet the growing demand for companies serving the most important meal of the day. The Spartanburg, SC based company grew from 38 units in 2019 to 59 locations in 2022, which could help explain the chain’s impressive traffic trends. The company also has a 30-unit expansion planned in Texas
Plenty of factors, including more flexible work schedules allowing more people to take their morning meal outside the house or office, are likely contributing to the chain’s success. And at a time when more and more consumers are feeling the budgetary strain, Eggs Up Grill’s affordable price point is an attractive draw for hungry customers. Franchisees also find that the 2:00 PM closing time allows them to enter a dynamic dining space without massive capital and get home at a reasonable hour.
Franchises: Bold Growth Ahead
The restaurant franchising space continues to be ripe for opportunities for entrepreneurs wishing to enter into the dining space and businesses hoping to grow their presence. And following the shuttering of many dining establishments during the pandemic, chains that can increase store counts will be well-positioned to benefit when dining patterns stabilize.
For more data-driven dining insights, visit placer.ai/blog.