The 21 highest-earning restaurants for franchisees and how much it costs to invest in them

  • Quick-service restaurants tend to enjoy steady sales, even in times of uncertainty, and some fast food brands offer training for new franchise owners.
  • To see which opportunities offer the most revenue per location, Business Insider reviewed the top-earning brands and highlighted those that partner with franchisees.
  • Continue reading to see the 21 best quick-service brands, along with their average annual revenue per restaurant, number of franchise locations, primary geography, initial investment, and ongoing fees.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Source: Revenue and location figures from QSR magazine; Other data sources noted in context.

21. Sonic

Avg. annual revenue per restaurant: $1.32 million

No. of Franchise Locations: 3,329

Geography: National

Initial Investment: $1.2 million to $3.5 million

Ongoing Fees: 2.5%-5% royalty, 3% advertising

Sources: Entrepreneur; Company Website

20. Five Guys

Avg. annual revenue per restaurant: $1.36 million

No. of Franchise Locations: 872

Geography: National

Initial Investment: $306,200 to $641,250

Ongoing Fees: 6% royalty, 3.5% advertising

Sources: Franchise Direct

19. Burger King

Avg. annual revenue per restaurant: $1.4 million

No. of Franchise Locations: 7,294

Geography: National

Initial Investment: $333,100 to $3.4 million

Ongoing Fees: 4.5% royalty, 4% advertising

Sources: Company Website

18. Taco Bell

Avg. annual revenue per restaurant: $1.5 million

No. of Franchise Locations: 6,622

Geography: National

Initial Investment: $525,525 to $3 million

Ongoing Fees: 5.5% royalty, 4.25% advertising

Sources: Entrepreneur

17. Freddy's

Avg. annual revenue per restaurant: $1.53 million

No. of Franchise Locations: 338

Geography: 31 states across the US

Initial Investment: $640,552 to $2 million

Ongoing Fees: 4.5% royalty

Sources: Entrepreneur; Company Website

16. Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen

Avg. annual revenue per restaurant: $1.54 million

No. of Locations: 2,458

Geography: National

Initial Investment: $383,500 to $2.6 million

Ongoing Fees: 5% royalty, 4% advertising

Sources: Franchise Direct; Company Website

15. Del Taco

Avg. annual revenue per restaurant: $1.55 million

No. of Franchise Locations: 296

Geography: National, mostly West

Initial Investment: $859,700 to $2.1 million

Ongoing Fees: 5% royalty, 4% advertising

Sources: Entrepreneur; Company Website

14. Jack in the Box

Avg. annual revenue per restaurant: $1.57 million

No. of Franchise Locations: 2,106

Geography: National, mostly West

Initial Investment: $1.5 million to $3.3 million

Ongoing Fees: 5% royalty, 5% advertising

Sources: Entrepreneur; Company Website

13. McAlister's Deli

Avg. annual revenue per restaurant: $1.63 million

No. of Franchise Locations: 438

Geography: 29 states across the US

Initial Investment: $772,000 – $2.1 million

Ongoing Fees: 5% royalty, 1% advertising

Sources: Entrepreneur; Company Website

12. Wendy's

Avg. annual revenue per restaurant: $1.66 million

No. of Franchise Locations: 5,495

Geography: National

Initial Investment: $2 million to $3.5 million

Ongoing Fees: 4% royalty, 4% advertising

Sources: Franchise Direct; Company Website

11. Steak 'n Shake

Avg. annual revenue per restaurant: $1.67 million

No. of Franchise Locations: 183

Geography: National, mostly in Midwest and Southeast

Initial Investment: $10,000 to operate one of its 400 existing corporate-operated locations

Ongoing Fees: 50% of profits

Source: Company Website

10. Bojangles

Avg. annual revenue per restaurant: $1.72 million

No. of Franchise Locations: 434

Geography: Southeast

Initial Investment: $1.6 million to $2.4 million

Ongoing Fees: 4% royalty, 1% advertising

Source: Entrepreneur

9. El Pollo Loco

Avg. annual revenue per restaurant: $1.87 million

No. of Franchise Locations: 277

Geography: Southwest

Initial Investment: $770,000 to $2.1 million

Ongoing Fees: 4% royalty, marketing 4%-5%

Sources: QSR; Company Website

8. The Habit Grill

Avg. annual revenue per restaurant: $1.95 million

No. of Franchise Locations: 20

Geography: West coast

Initial Investment: $1.2 million to $1.4 million

Ongoing Fees: 5% royalty

Source: Franchise Grade

 

7. Zaxby's

Avg. annual revenue per restaurant: $2 million

No. of Franchise Locations: 755

Geography: Southeast

Initial Investment: $284,000 to $664,300

Ongoing Fees: 6% royalty, plus ad fees of 2.5% to 5%

Source: Entrepreneur

6. Culver's

Avg. annual revenue per restaurant: $2.44 million

No. of Franchise Locations: 727

Geography: 24 states, mostly in Midwest

Initial Investment: $2 million to $4.7 million

Ongoing Fees: 4% royalty fee, plus 2.5% advertising fee

Source: Entrepreneur

5. Jason's Deli

Avg. annual revenue per restaurant: $2.48 million

No. of Franchise Locations: 110

Geography: 28 states, largely concentrated in the Southeast

Initial Investment: $608,000 to $905,000

Ongoing Fees: 4% royalty, 2% advertising

Sources: FDD Exchange; Franchise Help

4. Panera Bread

Avg. annual revenue per restaurant: $2.75 million

No. of Franchise Locations: 1,202

Geography: National

Initial Investment: $1 million to $1.6 million

Ongoing Fees: Panera does not sell single-unit locations, instead it licenses marketing regions to franchisees who intend to open multiple stores.

Source: Franchise Help

3. McDonald's

Avg. annual revenue per restaurant: $2.91 million

No. of Franchise Locations: 13,154

Geography: National

Initial Investment: $1.2 to $2.2 million

Ongoing Fees: 4% royalty fee, plus advertising fees starting at 4%

Source: Business Insider

2. Whataburger

Avg. annual revenue per restaurant: $3.1 million

No. of Franchise Locations: 703

Geography: Southeast and Southwest

Initial Investment: $1.2 million

Ongoing Fees: Must commit to opening 5 locations in target markets (Arizona, Alabama, and Florida).

Source: Company Website

1. Chick-fil-A

Avg. annual revenue per restaurant: $4.5 million

No. of Franchise Locations: 2,500

Geography: National

Initial Investment: $10,000

Ongoing Fees: Property leasing fees of 15% of sales, plus 50% of pretax profit.

Source: Company Website; Business Insider

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