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Franchise Business


Ratings & Reviews of Today’s Top Franchises

special report:

top 50 Multi-unit franchises Rated by today’s biggest and most successful franchisees

The Maids Franchisee Mike Bjorn Talks Growth Plans Page 6

A Look Inside Today’s Top Multi-Unit Franchises

21 Years of Loyalty: Checkers and Rally’s Franchisee Alan Balen

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SPECIAL REPORT: Top Multi-Unit Franchises

Franchise Business Review’s

Top 50 Multi-Unit Franchises Sotheby’s International Realty

Marco’s Pizza*

Weed Man

Coldwell Banker

Palm Beach Tan


CertaPro Painters*

Liberty Tax Service

Heaven’s Best Carpet Cleaning*



Penn Station

Color Glo International

Our Town America*

European Wax Center

Synergy HomeCare*

Miracle Method Surface Refinishing




Firehouse Subs*

Money Mailer


Sport Clips

Visiting Angels*

Koko FitClub

Auntie Anne’s

Checkers & Rally’s*

American Poolplayers Association

Papa Murphy’s*

Homewatch CareGivers*


Window Genie*

Jack in the Box

Snap-on Tools*


WOW 1 DAY! Painting

Captain D’s

Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate

Interstate All Battery Center*

DKI (Disaster Kleenup International)

College Hunks Hauling Junk



Two Men and a Truck*


The Maids*


Home Instead Senior Care*

Simple Simon’s Pizza *View this company’s full satisfaction report at:

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SPECIAL REPORT: Top Multi-Unit Franchises

Multi-Unit Franchises A Look at the Top Brands and the ‘Empire-Builders’ Behind Them

This report highlights our top choices for multi-unit franchise ownership and digs into what potential investors should consider as they research multi-unit franchise opportunities.

Introduction Whether you are new to franchising, or a seasoned multi-unit franchise operator looking to expand your portfolio, this special report is a great starting point for your research. Franchise Business Review has spent the last six months researching hundreds of leading franchise brands, and surveying thousands of multi-unit franchisees, to help you identify the Top 50 franchise opportunities that are the best fit for today’s franchise “empire builders”—the biggest and most successful multi-unit owners. This year’s Multi-Unit Franchises Report from Franchise Business Review highlights the challenges and opportunities of

multi-unit franchise ownership, and the companies that are the true leaders in the multi-unit franchise segment. Regardless of the type of investment you’re considering, one of the best ways to know if a franchise opportunity is really as good as it appears is to look at franchisee satisfaction. Not all brands willingly open their doors to an independent research firm like Franchise Business Review to have their franchisees surveyed, but those who do can offer investors a wealth of information on the system’s leadership, culture, training and support, financial outlook, and franchisee community—all from the perspective of franchisees. If you’re researching a brand that doesn’t provide

A Typical Multi-Unit Franchise Owner


Median age range


Have college degree




Male-female partnerships


Have been in franchising for less than 5 years


Average reported annual profit (67% higher than our benchmark)


Earn more than $200K (vs. only 4% of single-unit owners)

*Based on a 6,671 franchisees surveyed across 301 brands.

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SPECIAL REPORT: Top Multi-Unit Franchises

franchisee satisfaction data (preferably from a third party), you may want to ask why— this can be a sign of deeper problems. This report highlights our top choices for multi-unit franchise ownership, based exclusively on the satisfaction and performance of a brand’s multi-unit franchisees, and digs into what potential investors should consider as they research multi-unit franchise opportunities. Methodology To compile the data for this report, Franchise Business Review surveyed more than 6,600 multi-unit franchisees (we focused our research specifically on operators with at least three units). We contacted all North America-based franchise companies for this study, and over 300 leading multi-unit brands were researched. Any franchise company can take part in our franchisee satisfaction studies at no cost to the company—our research is completely independent, and our surveys and interviews are conducted directly with franchisees and senior management.

Potential franchisees who want to own multiple units need to look closely at the franchise system and whether it’s set up for multi-unit ownership. All active franchisees within a system were given the opportunity to answer 33 benchmark questions ranking their franchise in the areas of financial opportunity, training and support, leadership, operations and product development, core values (e.g., honesty and integrity of franchisor), general satisfaction, and the franchisee community. An additional 16 questions asked franchisees about their market area, demographics, business lifestyle, overall enjoyment running their franchise, and role in the franchisee community. From this data, we identify our list of Top Multi-Unit Franchises, which only includes companies with the highest franchisee satisfaction among all the brands we researched.

What is Multi-Unit Ownership? The definition of “multi-unit” can vary greatly depending on the franchise concept. In the food and retail industry, it means you own multiple physical locations within the same brand. For other sectors, like senior care and other servicerelated businesses, it can mean you service multiple territories but maintain one central office. Some brands define bigger territories but not as many multiunits, while others break their territories up to be very small (usually based on population) with lots of units. Some brands require multiple agreements for each unit; others make multi-unit ownership part of main agreement. Area development can be another form of multi-unit ownership and also has multiple definitions. Typically, an area developer

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SPECIAL REPORT: Top Multi-Unit Franchises

is someone who’s agreed to develop a number of units within a territory by selling franchises within that territory to additional investors, training and supporting those franchisees, and getting paid a percentage of the royalty from those units. Many area developers own franchise units themselves, but in some systems, they simply perform a support role for franchisees in their area. Others are simply charged with selling franchises, and support is handled through the corporate office. Clearly, the exact definition and role of an area developer can vary from franchise to franchise, and you will need to research the specifics of the opportunity you are considering should you go down the path of area development. For this report, we looked only at franchisees with three or more franchise units within the same brand. Franchisees told us owning two units was very similar to owning just one—it wasn’t until they reached three or more units that their operations and support needs really changed. It’s also important to note that not every multi-unit concept (or franchisee) starts that way.

“The way we look at it, every single-unit franchisee has an opportunity to become a multi-unit franchisee. Whatever you say you’re going to be in your business plan isn’t necessarily what you’ll turn out to be,” said Jennifer Durham, vice president, franchise development, for Checkers & Rally’s.

“Our franchisees either build a business and add on—which is how most of our owners came—or sign on to multiple agreements from the beginning,” added Leann Reynolds, president of Homewatch CareGivers, a home care franchisor.

Window Genie franchisee Steve Sarafin didn’t start out as a multi-unit owner, but the larger territory he originally purchased was restructured into smaller units within that territory.

What to Look For in a Multi-Unit Opportunity Multi-unit opportunities come in all different concept types and investment sizes, but the characteristics of a strong multi-unit opportunity are the same regardless of the business.

“The fact that it turned into a multi-unit has been a blessing because it allows me to broaden my market base to specific customers,” Sarafin said.

Potential franchisees who want to own multiple units need to look closely at the franchise system and whether it’s set up for multi-unit ownership. Does the

“ When you’re living or dying from one unit, it can be hard to make a living and create a legacy for your family, but when you get larger and have multiple units, it becomes much easier.” Jennifer Durham, Checkers & Rally’s

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SPECIAL REPORT: Top Multi-Unit Franchises

franchise have the resources and systems in place to actually support multi-unit operators? Are the brand’s business plan, marketing, systems, corporate management, and culture set up in a way that supports managing stores from afar (or at least not from the premises on a daily basis)? Is the brand scalable? John Francis of Twin State Development knows multi-unit franchising from both sides of the aisle. He’s been an area developer for PostNet International, a national network of full-service business centers, and remains a strategic business advisor to the corporate company. The best systems for multi-unit ownership, Francis says, are operationally simple and can be consistently executed and have the technology in place to report on successes and deficiencies. “What makes a brand truly scalable? I would say operations, systems, and vendors that support simplicity, training, support, and technology,” Francis said. “Having a strong, connected, engaged franchisee network is added value to help scalability.”

Photo courtesy of Weed Man

Technology is hugely important for success with multi-unit ownership (and often an area that scores lower in terms of franchisee satisfaction). The franchisors’ websites, training platforms, and financial tracking software must be able to work across multiple systems with the ability to look at unit performance both individually and collectively.

“A good technology system can sliceand-dice down, as well as roll up to look at how well things work—scheduling, invoicing, payroll. The website should do the same thing—allow you to segment out one unit or territory or look at all your units as one,” said Homewatch’s Reynolds.



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SPECIAL REPORT: Top Multi-Unit Franchises

Most of the franchise brands we talked to don’t necessarily provide more support for multi-unit operators, but they do provide different support specific to multi-units. For example, two of our top companies, Checkers and Rally’s and Two Men and a Truck, offer an annual conference specific to multi-units owners. Along those lines, Homewatch’s Reynolds told us she personally spends more time in the field with multi-unit franchisees and traveling to larger territories, than with smaller, single-unit operators.

Mike Bjorn

The Maids Franchisee

Everett, WA How long have you been a franchisee? 19 years Why did you decide to buy a franchise? I was tired of the corporate world and needed a change. I wanted to do something on my own. Why did you choose your franchise? After a lot of research and seeing the opportunity in Wall Street Journal. What is the best part of being your own boss? Seeing the business grow from a single customer to the hundreds that we serve now is extremely rewarding and a great source of pride. What is the worst part of being your own boss? Finding the “right” people. Where do you see yourself in five years? We just acquired another territory, and we will begin to grow it over the next decade. What advice do you have for prospective franchise buyers? The Maids has the best corporate assistance, along with the wealth of human resources at the franchisee level. For more information on The Maids franchise opportunities, call (800) 843-6243 or visit

“Something prospects should look for in a concept is whether there is a good blend of

single and multi-unit owners in the system and how they’re doing from a results perspective. If there is a balance of both that are growing and succeeding, it speaks to the maturity of the franchisor and the brand that they can sustain growth not only for single operators but for both,” said Two Men and a Truck president Randy Shacka. Pros and Cons of Being a Multi-Unit Owner Being part of a franchise system as any type of owner offers significant benefits over starting a business on your own. You’re part of an established system and franchisee community that guides you along the way, and you benefit from the system’s resources and tools for many

Multi-unit franchisees told us they spend more time developing the strategic plan for their businesses, working with their management team, looking at financials, than they did as single-unit owners.




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SPECIAL REPORT: Top Multi-Unit Franchises

business “basics” like marketing and website support. But, being a multi-unit operator comes with its own unique advantages over single-unit ownership. Multi-unit ownership affords franchisees the opportunity to lower their costs per unit because their fixed costs are shared over more locations. Achieving economies of scale makes the business more profitable over time—and more efficient. Especially in low-margin industries like food, vendor relationships improve and expenses go down the more you buy. “Your profitability is better and your risk of having failure is lower because you are able to spread that risk across several locations,” said Durham of Checkers & Rally’s. “When you’re living or dying from one unit, it can be hard to make a living and create a legacy for your family, but when you get larger and have multiple units, it becomes much easier.” In other industries like senior care, which doesn’t rely as heavily on vendors but can require a significant amount of licensing,

If you’re a hands-on, detail-oriented person who wants to be in your business every day and very involved in every detail, multi-unit ownership might not be the right fit for you. multi-unit ownership makes sense because franchisees are already set up for growth. “Senior care is a licensed business in about half of the states. You can centralize your office location, use your existing licensing in most cases, and send caregivers out to service folks where they live. That makes it very attractive to multiunit,” said Homewatch’s Reynolds. From a lending perspective, franchisors told us it is much easier for multi-unit franchisees to get financing. Banks are more receptive to multi-unit loans, franchisors told us, particularly if the prospective franchisee has previous experience in the specific industry they’re looking to do business in.

“Banks are no different than any other business person that wants to make money. The larger they can size the loan, the better off they will be. With scale comes size and with bigger size comes more profits for them and for the prospects,” Durham said. The typical investment required to open multiple restaurants runs upward of several million dollars, which is very attractive to lenders, assuming the franchisee candidate has a track record of business success and is bringing some assets to the table. On the other hand, candidates looking to invest in multiple units of a lower-cost franchise may run into challenges in their search to find capital, as these smaller deals are less attractive to lenders. A number of

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SPECIAL REPORT: Top Multi-Unit Franchises

franchisors told us that they had added staff to specifically focus on helping franchisees navigate the lending process. “For a prospective franchisee looking at opportunities, I would ask franchisors about their relationships with financial institutions and what they’ve done to set up programs for folks coming in looking to be a part of their system,” Shacka said.

Alan Balen

Checkers & Rally’s Franchisee Freeland, MI How long have you been a franchisee? 21 years Why did you choose your franchise? I originally chose Rally’s after numerous visits to a variety of concepts. Rally’s stood out based on their commitment to quality and service. The 12-week training certainly demonstrated that commitment to quality. Since then, I’ve become a member of the Franchise Advisory Council, and I’ve also added restaurants in the Checkers brand. The only distinction between the two brands today is the sign in front of the restaurant. The systems and menu are identical.

Other pros of owning multiple units are increased brand awareness (the more units you own in an area, the more you’re able to promote your brand) and increased power within the franchise system (the more units you have, the more sway you have with the corporate office). Two Men & A Truck’s Shacka told us that when he asks franchisees what they like most about owning multiple units, the answer is they love having the ability to provide opportunities for people. “The larger you are, the more opportunities

you have to see folks grow and develop careers through the franchise system rather than just a job,” he said. Many of the cons of multiple-unit ownership are most prevalent in the first few years of business. While ultimately more profitable, it can take longer to actually be profitable because the investment is higher. And, a bigger initial investment means more risk early on (although that risk is spread is out among multiple locations). Franchisees told us that multi-unit ownership doesn’t necessarily require more work than a single unit, but the work is different, which might not appeal to everyone. Single-unit franchise owners are usually very hands-on in the day-to-day operations of their business. As they grow into multi-unit ownership, their ultimate success is highly dependent on making the transition to more of a managerial

What is the best part of being your own boss? I love the freedom to control my own destiny and to take vacation(s) whenever I want. I’m not afraid of hard work and the effort required to make my business be successful. There were long hours in the beginning, but now I’ve got the right team in place to help me grow my existing business and add additional restaurants. What is the worst part of being your own boss? Quite simply – I’m on call 24/7 Where do you see yourself in five years? I hope to be bigger than we are now. My goal is to operate 20 to 25 restaurants and certainly to ease off the gas pedal a bit. It helps that I have an automatic succession plan in place with three boys who may or may not want to take on this business. I’d love to be semi-retired, but I’ll never fully retire. What advice do you have for prospective franchise buyers? If you’re willing to make the commitment and follow the franchise model, it’s really hard to fail. Don’t veer off track. Follow the directions and make the necessary time investment, and you’ll be successful. For more information on Checkers & Rally’s franchise opportunities, call (813) 283-7049 or visit Photo courtesy of Two Men and A Truck


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SPECIAL REPORT: Top Multi-Unit Franchises

role, with a reliable team in place to handle the day-to-day operations of the business. Many franchise owners struggle with this transition. Multi-unit franchisees told us they spend more time developing the strategic plan for their businesses, working with their management team, and looking at financials, than they did as single-unit owners. And, as with all franchise business owners, multi-unit franchisees must be willing to follow the established systems of their franchise (sometimes they forget this as they grow). “Not everybody is comfortable with the environment of managing multiple units, multiple people, simultaneous problemsolving,” Francis told us. “Sometimes an overly entrepreneurial person will not follow the model. They have to change it and mess with it, which causes frustration and delays, and usually more time and money is wasted to have the success they would’ve had if they had followed the model from the beginning.” 1-800-GOT-JUNK? founder Brian Scudamore echoed this sentiment. “It’s sad how many times I’ve heard a franchise partner say, ‘If only I followed the system. I’m in trouble because I didn’t follow the system.’ Franchise partners will come in and think they know better. The recipe is there. The recipe wasn’t invented by us at head office; it was pulled together from different franchisees who all contributed. The recipe works!” Window Genie franchisee Sarafin says he spends more time focusing on his marketing budget and the individual marketing needs of each area than he did as a single-unit owner, while Elliott Smith, a Firehouse Subs franchisee, says his entire day-to-day routine has changed considerably since first becoming a franchisee ten years ago. “Ten years ago, I was unlocking the door, slicing the meat, making the sandwiches. I was just trying to make sure we opened and closed the doors every day,” Goldsmith said. “Now, 10 years later, it’s a little different. I spend a lot more time working on my

Photo courtesy of 1-800-Got-Junk?

Multi-unit operators rated their systems higher on every question of our survey and in every categorytraining and support, leadership, marketing and advertising, communication, and technology. business and not in it. I’m more focused on the financials and operational management of all my units and much less on actually making the sandwiches.” Goldsmith is about to open his seventh Firehouse Subs franchise, which will complete the multiunit requirement of his agreement.

Prospective and existing franchisees recognize the significant revenue potential in owning three or more units versus just one, and franchisors told us they want to increase their multi-unit operators because it is easier to manage those relationships (and because multi-unit owners tend to be more satisfied).

Market Analysis Multi-unit franchising has become hugely popular with both franchisors and franchisees in recent years and is only predicted to grow in popularity.

“From a serviceability perspective, there are about 500 possible locations or territories for us in the U.S. We would really like to have between 200 and 250 owners. No one understands what the business is about, no one understands how to leverage their success in one community and take it to another, like those owners that we have grown with,” Homewatch’s Reynolds told us. “I certainly still want to sell single units, but we’re looking at where multi-unit makes the most sense—states like New York, where licensing is just so exhaustive,

“If you look at all the conferences that are popping up—the expos, the periodicals that are devoted strictly to multi-unit owners—you are starting to see a key focus in popularity that you haven’t seen in years past,” said Shacka from Two Men & a Truck.

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SPECIAL REPORT: Top Multi-Unit Franchises or California, where the geography is laid in a way that makes it attractive for multiunit operations.” Multi-unit franchises are also becoming increasingly popular with investors. “There are not a whole lot of high return opportunities for dollars these days, and the restaurant space is full of eager and hard-working individuals that don’t have financing, so matching the financial investment partner with the operating partner is something we are aggressively going after,” said Durham of Checkers and Rally’s. Franchisee Success Attributes Many of the traits that make a singleunit franchisee successful are the same for multi-unit owners: marketing/sales experience, operational expertise, passion, willingness to follow an established system. But as the number of units increases, so too does the focus on leadership and solid management skills. “Teamwork is key to building that multiunit business and being successful at it. You have got to be willing to have the

Photo courtesy of 1-800-GOT-JUNK?

right people in place to manage it,” said Window Genie franchisee Sarafin.

not enough hours in the day to manage every single detail.”

If you’re a hands-on, detail-oriented person who wants to be in your business every day and very involved in every detail, multi-unit ownership might not be the right fit for you.

Being properly capitalized is even more important for multi-unit franchisees because the ramp-up can take longer.

“If you’re very detail focused, you can lose yourself,” Durham told us. “There are just

“There is a longer runway for multiunits, meaning there’s a heavy investment in Year 1 but you may not see results until Year 2 or Year 3. This makes it even


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SPECIAL REPORT: Top Multi-Unit Franchises more important for franchisees to be well-financed,” said Homewatch CareGivers’ president Reynolds. Franchisee Satisfaction Franchisee satisfaction among multi-unit owners tends to run slightly higher than satisfaction among single-unit franchisees. This isn’t surprising since profitability tends to play a lot into satisfaction, and multi-unit operators tend to be more profitable. The satisfaction we see goes beyond profitability, however. Multi-unit operators rated their systems higher on every question of our survey and in every category—training and support, leadership, marketing and advertising, communication, and technology. The areas with the highest and lowest satisfaction for multi-unit owners are nearly identical to those for single units. Franchisees of both types rank their system highest in the areas of overall enjoyment they get from running the business and being a part of their franchisee community, respect for their franchisor, and willingness to recommend their system to other prospective franchisees. (It’s worth noting multi-unit franchisees are 5% more likely than single-unit owners to recommend their franchise opportunity to other prospective franchisee candidates.) The areas where multi-unit franchisee satisfaction varies the most (positively) from single-unit owners are franchisee participation and performance (multi-unit operators rate their own performance 11% higher than singles) and the overall financial picture of the business. Significantly more multi-unit franchisees answer a resounding “yes” to the question, “If you could do it all over again, knowing what you know today, would you still invest in this franchise?” The lowest rated area among multiunit franchisees is system-wide communication proving it takes even more effort to properly communicate with and support multi-unit operators. Although it may be higher than for singleunit franchisees, satisfaction as a multi-unit

Highest Scoring Areas for Multi-Unit Franchisee Satisfaction 1 Overall enjoyment of operating business 2 Overall enjoyment of being part of franchise organization 3 Would recommend franchise to others 4 Degree to which franchisees rate themselves as active participants in the system 5 Respect for Franchisor *Highest scoring areas for single-unit franchisee satisfaction are enjoyment of operating the business, enjoyment of being part of franchise organization, respect for franchisors, belief that franchisor acts with a high level of honesty and integrity, and would recommend franchise to others.

Lowest Scoring Areas for Multi-Unit Franchisee Satisfaction 1 System-wide communications 2 Current financial performance 3 Effective use of technology 4 Franchisee involvement in important company decisions 5 Marketing and promotional programs *Lowest scoring areas for single-unit franchisee satisfaction (in order from lowest) are current financial performance, marketing and promotional programs, technology, communications, and innovation and creativity.

The 50 franchises featured in this report have a proven track record for growing and supporting successful multi-unit owners—and they have the highest satisfaction in the franchise sector among multi-unit franchisees. operator is far from guaranteed. Not all franchise systems are created equal when it comes to supporting multi-unit owners. Any franchise system can promote itself as a multi-unit opportunity, but there’s no guarantee they have the resources, processes, training, and technology in place to actually support multi-unit franchisees successfully. This is why it is imperative that investors looking at investing in multiple franchise units talk to other multi-unit operators within the system. Summary For the right franchisee with adequate capital, multi-unit franchising offers the potential for an incredible investment opportunity—one with high profits and long-term security—but no business or franchisee opportunity is a surefire success.

Operating multiple units requires a certain type of personality (for the franchisee) and a certain type of corporate support (from the franchise company). People considering a multi-unit investment must do even more due diligence than single-unit candidates to determine if a brand can properly support them and if the culture is the right fit. The 50 franchises featured in this report have a proven track record for growing and supporting successful multi-unit owners— and they have the highest satisfaction in the franchise sector among multi-unit franchisees (based on independent franchisee surveys across more than 300 leading brands). For more information on multi-unit franchising or any of the companies featured in this report, please visit

For more information on the companies in this report, visit


Top 50 Multi-Unit Franchises  

A look at the top multi-unit brands in franchising based on Franchise Business Review's annual franchisee satisfaction research

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