Top 10 Fast-Food Franchises of 2017

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The companies you see below were judged on their financial strength and stability, size and growth over the last two years. Also considered were the costs associated with opening one of these franchises and how long the company has been operating. We’ve provided some of that data, plus a few fun facts, to give you a whole picture of what the franchise is all about.

1-Jack in the Box

Jack in the Box franchise
Jack in the Box franchise
Year began: 1951

Franchising since: 1982

Number of franchised units in 2015: 1,818

Startup costs: $1.3M – $2.4M

Fun fact: Jack in the Box was early to the bacon mashup trend, offering a bacon milkshake back in 2012.

2-Taco Bell


Year began: 1962

Franchising since: 1964

Number of franchised units in 2015: 5,272

Startup costs: $1.2M – $2.6M

Fun fact: This past November, the building that housed the first Taco Bell was transported from its birthplace in Downey, Calif., to Taco Bell headquarters in Irvine, Calif. — a 45-mile road trip.

3-Papa Murphy’spapa-murpheys-franchise

Year began: 1981

Franchising since: 1982

Number of franchised units in 2015: 1,369

Startup costs: $264.8K – $446.2K

Fun fact: Papa Murphy’s got it’s name because in 1995, Terry Collins decided to merge the two pizza chains he’d previously acquired — Papa Aldo’s Pizza, based in Oregon and Murphy’s Pizza, based in California.

4-Papa John’s

Papa John's franchise
Papa John’s franchise

Year began: 1985

Franchising since: 1986

Number of franchised units in 2015: 3,993

Startup costs: $129.9K – $844.2K

Fun fact: John Schnatter started Papa John’s with $1,600 worth of used restaurant equipment and operated out of a broom closet in his father’s tavern.

5-Dairy Queen


Year began: 1940

Franchising since: 1944

Number of franchised units in 2015: 6,529

Startup costs:  $356.5K – $1.8M

Fun fact: Dairy Queen’s former employees include celebrities such as Gwen Stefani, Martina McBride and Bonnie Hunt, as well as former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft.



Year began: 1930

Franchising since: 1952

Number of franchised units in 2015: 14,162

Startup costs: $1.3M – $2.5M

Fun fact: Colonel Sanders, the founder of KFC, never earned the rank of colonel in the military. He was a Kentucky colonel, a title of honor awarded by the state of Kentucky.

7-Carl’s Jr.

Carl's Jr. franchise
Carl’s Jr. franchise

Year began: 1945

Franchising since: 1984

Number of franchised units in 2015: 1,257

Startup costs: $1.3M – $1.9M

Fun fact: Before breaking into the burger biz, Carl’s Jr. founder Carl Karcher owned hot dog carts in Los Angeles.

8-Firehouse Subs


Year began: 1994

Franchising since: 1995

Number of franchised units in 2015: 870

Startup costs: $128.8K – $1.2M

Fun fact: Brothers Robin and Chris Sorensen were firefighters before they started Firehouse Subs. Before that, they held a variety of other jobs in real estate, music and Christmas tree farming.

9-Buffalo Wild Wings

Buffalo Wild Wings
Buffalo Wild Wings

Year began: 1982

Franchising since: 1991

Number of franchised units in 2015: 590

Startup costs: $1.4M – $3.6M

Fun fact: Jim Disbrow, a co-founder of the chain, was a professional figure skater in the 1960s and the president of the U.S. Figure Skating Association from 1998 to 2000. He got the idea for Buffalo Wild Wingswhen he was judging a figure skating competition in Ohio; he wanted some buffalo wings and there wasn’t a restaurant in the area that served them.



Year began: 1953

Franchising since: 1959

Number of franchised units in 2015: 3,127

Startup costs: $1.1M – $1.97M

Fun fact: Sonic restaurants were almost named “Top Hat,” but that name was already trademarked. Since the slogan for the company was “Service at the speed of sound,” they renamed the venture Sonic.




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