According to the Census Bureau’s 2016 Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs, released in 2018, 5.4 percent of employer businesses operated as full or partial franchises.
But how much will you have to fork over to get started? To find out more about fast food franchise costs in particular, we consulted Franchise Direct, a platform founded in 1998 to connect franchisors and entrepreneurs. The site compiles an annual survey of the top 100 franchises.
Here’s how much Franchise Direct says it costs to open some of the most popular fast food franchises in the U.S., from McDonald’s to Church’s Chicken.
Low-investment franchise: $448,000
High-investment franchise: $2.24 million
McDonald’s began offering franchises in 1955, the year the company was founded. If you want to become a franchisee and sell Big Mac’s and Chicken McNuggets, it will cost between $448,000 and $2.24 million. Your total cost depends on whether you operate a satellite location (a smaller restaurant housed in an airport, at a university, etc.) or a traditional restaurant (defined as a free-standing or storefront location, or one situated in a food court). The franchise price range accounts for costs ranging from equipment and decor to travel and living expenses accrued during training.
Low-investment franchise: $323,100
High-investment franchise: $3.28 million
Since its founding in 1954, Burger King has offered franchising opportunities. Setting up shop to sell Whopper’s, however, isn’t cheap. There are three varieties of franchises to choose from. Institutional locations are situated in places like government buildings, airports, sports facilities and theme parks. Traditional Burger King restaurants are designed as free-standing locations or are built into shopping centers. There are also non-traditional restaurants based at gas stations, convenience stores, and so forth. Franchise Direct estimates that it will cost more than $323,000 to open a low-investment franchise, while a high-investment franchise would require nearly $3.3 million.
Kentucky Fried Chicken
Low-investment franchise: $1.44 million
High-investment franchise: $2.77 million
Although KFC was founded in 1939, the fried-chicken chain didn’t offer franchises until 1952. It takes $1.44 million to open a low-investment franchise. To open a high-investment franchise, you’d need $2.77 million. This range covers traditional KFCs (free-standing or strip-mall locations) rather than express outposts.
Low-investment franchise: $95,700
High-investment franchise: $1.6 million
Dunkin’ was started in 1954. The coffee and doughnut chain began offering franchises a year later. Four types of franchises exist, from freestanding restaurants to special distribution opportunity (SDO) locations, also known as carts and kiosks housed in malls, stadiums and other facilities. To become a low-investment franchise, you’ll need to shell out $95,700. It takes about $1.6 million to open a high-investment franchise.
Low-investment franchise: $100,550
High-investment franchise: $342,400
Founded in 1965, Subway began offering franchises in 1974. A low-investment, or non-standard, location of the sandwich chain would cost around $100,000 to open, while a standard-sized franchise would require an investment of $342,400.
Low-investment franchise: $525,525
High-investment franchise: $2.85 million
Taco Bell has been around since 1962, with franchises launching two years after that. Whether they opt for a traditional unit (freestanding location) or a power pumper (gas station outpost), franchisees have multiple options to choose from. A low-investment franchise of the Mexican-inspired chain comes out to $525,525, while a high-investment franchise costs $2.85 million.
Low-investment franchise: $323,500 to $2.02 million
High-investment franchise: $643,500 to $3.67 million
Established in 1969, Wendy is known for its Frosty blended dairy drinks and square burgers. There have been franchises since 1972, and franchisees can select one of three packages: paying for, financing or leasing their restaurant. A low-investment lease costs $323,500, with the financed and in-full payment options coming out to $570,500 and $2.02 million. To lease a high-investment franchise, you’d need to spend $643,500. If you wanted to finance or pay for one, it would respectively require $1.13 million and $3.67 million.
Low-investment franchise: $320,550
High-investment franchise: $2 million
Arby’s has been serving sandwiches since 1964. There have been franchises of the chain for nearly as long. It costs $320,550 to open a low-investment Arby’s. For a high-investment location, you’ll need to come up with $2 million.
Low-investment franchise: $1.1 million
High-investment franchise: $1.85 million
Dairy Queen, which is owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway and known for its Blizzards and other frozen treats, opened for business in Joliet, Ill., in 1940. It took another four years for the company, now headquartered in Minneapolis, Minn., to offer franchises. If you want to run a DQ of your own, you’ll need between $1.1 million and $1.85 million.
Low-investment franchise: $1.45 million
High-investment franchise: $2.08 million
Hardee’s, which serves classic fast-food fare like burgers and chicken tenders, was founded in 1960. Franchising opportunities became available a year later. Opening a low-investment Arby’s requires $1.45 million, while a high-investment franchise costs $2.08 million. This price range encapsulates standard Hardee’s as well as dual-concept restaurants that serve Mexican fare from Red Burrito.
Low-investment franchise: $440,500
High-investment franchise: $2.75 million
There have been Krispy Kreme franchises since 1947, a full decade after the doughnut chain was founded. Franchisees have the choice of opening a Factory Store (a bakery where confections are sold and prepared on-site), a Tunnel Oven Shop (a retail sales facility with fewer pieces of manufacturing equipment) or a Fresh Shop (a retail sales facility where doughnuts may be iced or filled, but are already baked). A low-investment franchise costs $440,500 to open, with a high-investment franchise priced at upwards of $2,750,000.
Low-investment franchise: $383,500
High-investment franchise: $2.62 million
Now headquartered in Miami, Fla., Popeyes was founded in Louisiana. The chain’s first franchise opened in the Bayou State in 1976. True to its Southern roots, Popeyes’ menu features Cajun-influenced classics like spicy chicken and fried shrimp. It takes $383,500 to open a low-investment franchise and $2.62 million to open a high-investment franchise.
Low-investment franchise: $199,475
High-investment franchise: $385,100
A mall staple, Auntie Anne’s specializes in soft pretzels and related products, like pretzel dogs. The company dates back to 1988, when its namesake Anne Beiler bought a Pennsylvania farmers’ market stand. It costs between $199,475 and $385,100 to open a franchise.
Long John Silver's
Low-investment franchise: $109,250
High-investment franchise: $1.61 million
Seafood chain Long John Silver’s was founded in 1969. The restaurant’s menu consists of items like fried shrimp, hushpuppies and crab cakes. For a low-investment (express) franchise, you’d need to spend $109,250. To open a high-investment (freestanding) franchise, it would require $1.61 million.
Moe’s Southwest Grill
Low-investment franchise: $443,535
High-investment franchise: $1.01 million
Established in 2000, Moe’s Southwest Grill serves burritos, tacos and other Tex-Mex favorites. The chain’s name is an acronym that stands for “musicians, outlaws, and entertainers,” a phrase reflected in the curated playlists that guests listen to as they dine. If you want to open a Moe’s of your own, franchise costs range from $443,535 to about $1 million.
Low-investment franchise: $374,089
High-investment franchise: $782,442
Wingstop has offered franchising opportunities since 1997, three years after the chicken wing chain was founded in Garland, Texas. To become a franchisee, you can expect to spend between $374,089 and $782,442.
Low-investment franchise: $348,300
High-investment franchise: $1.83 million
Church’s Chicken started in 1952 as a take-out joint in San Antonio, TX. The chain offers fried chicken and sides such as honey-butter biscuits and fried okra. Franchise costs span from $348,300 to $1.83 million.
This story was originally published onBankrate. Create an account on Bankrate today to get your free credit report along with expert advice to improve your score. Plus, set your financial goals to personalize your dashboard with resources to help you reach them.