The hamburger is a classic American food, and we eat a lot of burgers. Americans eat about 50 billion hamburgers every year, meaning the average American eats three burgers a week. With so much business to be had, opening a hamburger restaurant seems like an excellent opportunity for anyone looking to own their own business.
But it can be challenging to differentiate your hamburger restaurant from all the rest since most Americans are looking for a ‘standard’ burger rather than something unique and different. As a result, many people choose to open a franchise restaurant with one of the burger chains instead of starting a burger joint from scratch.
There are many advantages to opening a franchise restaurant – you get a brand that customers already recognize, economies of scale when buying supplies and a well-established business model that has already proven successful. Most people think of franchising as being in business ‘for’ yourself but not ‘by’ yourself.
However, there are many hamburger franchises to choose from, so you want to consider all your options before buying into any burger business. With that in mind, we have found some of the best hamburger restaurant franchises in several categories: highest revenue, fastest growth, lowest start-up costs, and franchisee satisfaction. Hopefully, this article will help you decide which casual dining restaurant chain is best for you.
[Note: all data below is for franchise locations in the U.S. only – international locations are not included.]
Burger Franchise With the Highest Revenue: McDonald’s
The first fast-casual restaurant chain on our list will probably not surprise you. McDonald’s is the highest revenue-generating burger restaurant and easily one of the best franchises to own. Each McDonald’s makes, on average, $2.8M a year in revenue. This is despite having over 13,000 locations across the country. According to the company, they sell 7.5 burgers every single second!
McDonald’s is often considered the original burger franchise and is certainly a market pioneer in franchising. The company was also one of the first (and probably the best) to establish a specific business model for their franchisees, which includes everything from how long to cook the french fries to what prices to charge on the menu.
McDonald’s is known for its signature burgers, from veggie burgers and chicken burgers to chicken sandwiches. However, they do not serve turkey burgers and hot dogs. McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc prohibited the company from selling hot dogs, even if other fast food restaurants serve it because of potential demand.
Kroc’s reason for forbidding it is that it is hard to tell what is in a hot dog’s skin. So, as a McDonald’s franchise owner, you can only serve what is approved by the parent company.
Also, with McDonald’s, you aren’t exactly going to get a lot of creative freedom to run your restaurant. But you will get a business model that makes billions of dollars each year and that pretty much every American can recognize just by its logo. This franchise is best for people looking for predictability for their business and who want a successful burger launch.
|2021 # of Locations||13,438||Av. Sales/Location||$2.8M|
|2021 # New Locations||-235||Total Set-Up Costs||$1M – $2.2M|
|Required Liquid Assets||$500,000||Franchise Fee||$45,000|
|Required Net Worth||N/A||Ongoing Fees||Average 10.7% of Sales|
Burger Franchise With the Fastest Growth: The Habit Burger Grill
When looking for franchise companies to join, one crucial factor is how much growth the company is experiencing. After all, most people would instead join a rising company in the burger industry than a falling one.
One challenge with some of the more well-known hamburger franchises with a proven business model is that they have already opened thousands of locations. So they have fewer opportunities for new ones.
So, if you are looking for fast growth in one of the best hamburger franchises, you should look at a smaller chain called Habit Burger. Habit Burger is a California-based chain that strongly associates with the casual California lifestyle and tastes.
Habit Burger is much lesser known than competitors like Mcdonald’s and only has 316 locations in the U.S. – 223 of which are in California alone. So, the company is still more of a local chain for California than a nationally recognized brand. But while they may be small now, they are growing very fast.
In 2018 they added 37 locations – a growth of almost 18% – and in 2019, they added another 29 sites for a growth of nearly 12%. And it’s not just growing by the number of areas – in 2018, the company increased its sales by 23%. With all this growth, Habit Burger is an excellent opportunity for anyone looking to join an up-and-coming chain.
[Note: In early 2020, Habit Burger was acquired by Yum Brands, Inc. So, anyone looking into this franchise should check that the franchising rules have not changed. Also, they have expanded outside the U.S., and have opened several locations in London]
|2022 # of Locations||316||Av. Sales/Location||$1.7M|
|2022 # New Locations||73||Total Set-Up Costs||$1.2M – $1.4M|
|Required Liquid Assets||$90,000 – $120,000||Franchise Fee||$35,000|
|Required Net Worth||N/A||Ongoing Fees||7% of Sales|
Burger Franchise With the Highest Franchisee Satisfaction: Wendy’s
As far as burger restaurants go, there are not many more classic burgers than Wendy’s. Founded in 1969, it’s not only one of the oldest hamburger chains, but it also works hard to maintain the ‘old-time’ culture that it started with – they always stress that they ‘don’t cut any corners’ in making quality fresh food.
They take this quite literally with their famous square burgers, and the company also never freezes in meat to ensure the taste is as fresh as possible. But this chain isn’t stuck in the past by any means – they also have a mad twitter game.
This classic burger chain is not only popular with customers, but it’s also the highest-ranked burger franchise on the Franchisee Satisfaction Survey by Franchise Business Review. While their high ranking is due to several factors, a large part is a support they provide their franchisees.
For example, franchisees working with Wendy’s join a supply chain co-op that helps them get lower prices on supplies and equipment. There is also a Franchisee Advisory Council that represents the franchisee’s interests to Wendy’s leadership.
The company also has a commitment to the community by supporting the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption® and to the environment by committing to cut its energy usage by 20% by 2025. Wendy’s is an excellent option for people looking to open a hamburger franchise who want to ensure they enjoy working there.
|2022 # of Locations||6,949||Av. Sales/Location||$1.6M|
|2022 # New Locations||238||Total Set-Up Costs||$2M – $2.5M|
|Required Liquid Assets||$2M||Franchise Fee||$40,000|
|Required Net Worth||$5M||Ongoing Fees||8% of Sales|
Burger Franchise With the Lowest Start-up Costs: Five Guys
The final burger chain on our list is also committed to fresh, not frozen, beef – Five Guys Burgers and Fries. Five Guys serves hand-formed hamburgers cooked in only peanut oil. Founded in 1986 by brothers in Arlington, VA, the company started franchising in 2003, and the has grown significantly since then.
There are over 1,700 Five Guys locations across the country, and it is fast becoming a well-recognized burger chain for Americans. The company even sells ‘gear’ – T-shirts, bags, and even Christmas ornaments – for people who want to tell the world they like the chain.
But Five Guys is not just large and growing – it is also one of the lowest-cost hamburger franchises to start. The estimated total start-up costs range from $306,00 to $716,000, so on average can be expected to be about $511,000. While that’s not cheap, it is much less than the cost of other hamburger chains, such as McDonald’s, which costs from $1M to $2.2M.
Franchisees also must have $250,000 in liquid assets and at least a $500,000 net worth to apply to own a Five Guys location. With these start-up costs, Five Guys is likely a good choice for people who have already had a fair amount of financial success and are now looking to invest in a more significant business opportunity.
|2021 # of Locations||1,700||Av. Sales/Location||$1.3M|
|2021 # New Locations||400||Total Set-Up Costs||$306,000 – $716,000|
|Required Liquid Assets||$250,000||Franchise Fee||$25,000|
|Required Net Worth||$500,000||Ongoing Fees||~6% – 8% of Sales|
Other Burger Franchises to Consider
Burger King is the second-largest burger chain in the U.S. and it started in 1954 in Miami, Florida. Since Burger King founded its first restaurant, it has opened 7,257 locations across the U.S. and has 18,700 locations worldwide.
Burger King is the first to offer meatless burgers and their menu consists of onion rings, giant burgers, and other quality food. To open a Burger King franchise, you need $500,000 in liquid assets and a $1 million net worth.
MOOYAH Burgers is famous for its french fries, real ice cream shakes, vegan black bean burgers, and natural Angus beef burgers. The company started offering franchise opportunities in 2007, and you need between $400,000 and $900,000 to open one.
Founded in 2002, Elevation Burger is the first complete organic burger brand in the U.S. Their burger franchises offer hamburgers made with grass-fed organic beef, french fries cooked in organic oil, and cage-free chickens, and use energy-efficient equipment. It is owned by FAT Brands, and you need about $400,000 to invest in it.
Also, known as Jake’s Wayback Burgers, this company is a fast-casual burger chain that serves classic burgers. On its menu, you’ll find chicken tenders, salads, and milkshakes. To invest in this franchise, you need between $350,000 to $450,000.
Jack in the Box
Jack in the Box offers 13 different signature burgers, but their taco is their best product. The company started in 1951 and has 163 corporate-owned restaurants and 2,055 franchise restaurants as of 2021. To become part of its franchise, you need a minimum of $1.5 million.
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- “Franchising FAQs.” McDonald’s, McDonalds.com, 2019, www.mcdonalds.com/us/en-us/about-us/franchising/franchising-faq.html.
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- “See All Locations.” Habit Burger, HabitBurger.com, 2020, https://www.habitburger.com/locations/all/.
- Stern, Gary. “Rapid Growth: Habit Burger Grill Expected To Open 35 New Restaurants In 2019.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 2 April 2019, https://www.forbes.com/sites/garystern/2019/04/02/rapid-growth-habit-burger-grill-expected-to-open-35-new-restaurants-in-2019/#6727597f511a.
- Taylor, Kate. “The Parent Company of KFC and Taco Bell Is Acquiring Habit Burger Grill, a Burger Chain with a Cult Following.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 6 January 2020, https://www.businessinsider.com/yum-brands-to-acquire-habit-burger-parent-company-2020-1.
- “Franchise FAQs.” Wendy’s, Wendys.com, 2019, https://www.wendys.com/franchise-faqs.
- “Wendy’s North American Franchising General Information.” Wendy’s, Wendys.com, 2019, https://www.wendys.com/north-american-franchising-general-information#support.
- “Environmental Sustainability.” Wendy’s, Wendys.com, 2019, https://www.wendys.com/environmental-sustainability.
- “Adoption.” Wendy’s, Wendys.com, 2019, https://www.wendys.com/adoption.
- “The Five Guys Story.” Five Guys Burgers and Fries, FiveGuys.com, 2019, https://www.fiveguys.com/fans/the-five-guys-story.
- “Five Guys Burgers and Fries Franchise.” Five Guys Burgers and Fries, FiveGuys.com, 2019, https://www.franchisehelp.com/franchises/five-guys-burgers-fries/.
- “About Us.” Five Guys Burgers and Fries, FiveGuys.com, 2019, https://five-guys-gear.myshopify.com/pages/about-us.
- “Burger King” https://www.rbi.com/English/brands/default.aspx#:~:text=The%20original%20HOME%20OF%20THE,100%20countries%20and%20U.S.%20territories.
- “Jack in the Box” https://www.statista.com/statistics/321481/number-of-jack-in-the-box-restaurants/