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The 10K Club: A Look at Some of the Most Famous Franchise Brands

Estimated reading time: 6 Min Read

The 10K Club: A Look at Some of the Most Famous Franchise Brands

Comprising a list of famous franchises is a subjective exercise to a degree as there are many ways to go about it. It could be done based off of the amount of loan applications submitted to open a particular franchise system, the amount of revenue the system brings in, its search volume, or the number of appearances on respected franchise/business lists, etc. It can also be influenced by the perspective of where whoever is doing the compiling is located in the world.

For this article, determining a system’s fame was approached from the standpoint of how many outlets the system has. The reasons are because (1) it is a comparatively objective method, and (2) a franchise system cannot expand and prosper unless the product/service it offers is a hit with consumers. Additionally, to narrow down the field, we have designated the cutoff for this article to be units that have 10,000 or more total units in operation worldwide to spotlight the franchise concepts that are truly the most famous.

Year Established: 1927
Number of Units: Over 40,000

It was much publicized last year when Subway overtook McDonald’s in terms of number of units operated. But what isn’t as publicized is that both franchise systems trail 7-Eleven in total number of units operated. The convenience store operator, which has been in business longer than any other company on this list, began franchising in the mid-1960s.

Year Established: 1965
Number of Units: Over 33,000

It’s hard to challenge McDonald’s in any way when it comes to franchising, but that is what Subway is doing. Fueled by expansion in its offerings along with its numerous promotions and sponsorships, the brand is experiencing major growth that has led to it surpassing the hamburger giant in the number of units it has operating worldwide. The sandwich chain has also been helped by its position in many consumers’ minds as a healthier alternative to other quick service restaurants, franchised or not.

Year Established: 1955
Number of Units: Over 32,000
Virtually any franchise list wouldn’t be complete without McDonald’s. While not the largest franchise per number of units, the amount of revenue it generates is unparalleled. Thought by many to be the model of the modern-day franchising, the company is in the midst of an estimated billion-dollar makeover for its U.S. locations that is expected to be completed by 2015. Known for its drive-thru service in North America, McDonald’s actually delivers in 18 countries.

Year Established: 1958
Number of Units: Over 26,000

Though now based in the United States, Kumon started in Japan in the 1950s and is the world’s largest after-school math and reading tutoring program. The Kumon system stems from a father’s personal quest to develop a routine that would enable his own son do better in school. The system now boasts over 300,000 students.

Year Established: 1939
Number of Units: Over 16,000

KFC is a franchise bolstered in major way by international appeal – roughly 70 percent of its units are located outside the U.S. Over recent years, the chain has been investing in moves to overcome a widespread perception of the brand as being unhealthier than its counterparts. These changes have included changing the oils the food is prepared in, reducing the amount of salt used, removing trans-fatty acids from the menu items completely, and adding new menu items like grilled chicken.

Year Established: 1949
Number of Units: Over 13,000

Europcar, based in France, is Europe’s car rental leader servicing approximately 150 countries around the world. The company has an alliance with Enterprise Holdings (parent company of Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Alamo, and National), and possesses a fleet of nearly 200,000 vehicles.

H&R Block
Year Established: 1955
Number of Units: Over 13,000

Despite increasing competition from online tax preparers, H&R Block is holding strong in this sector of personal service franchises. To combat potential market share loss, the company is introducing its “Block Live” system this year, which combines the convenience of online tax prep with the customer service of an in-office visit.

Pizza Hut
Year Established: 1958
Number of Units: Over 13,000

To succeed in other countries, franchise systems often must adapt their product or service to the local preferences. Pizza Hut is no exception as it offers topping combinations that may seem odd for those from other locales. For example, among many combinations pizzas can be topped with potatoes and mayonnaise in Japan.

Burger King
Year Established: 1956
Number of Units: Over 12,000

Like many quick service restaurant chains, Burger King offers delivery service in several countries other than the United States. But starting at the end of January, Burger King is going to begin testing the concept in in the Washington D.C. area an effort to boost sales. The test is going to start off on a limited basis with some conditions being that customers must be located within a 10 minute drive of the selected restaurants, an order minimum of $8 to $10 will be enforced, and there will be a $2 delivery fee assessed.

Year Established: 1969
Number of Units: Over 11,000

Started by a college student looking to finance his education, Jani-King is now the world's largest commercial cleaning franchise company. The company utilizes sponsorship as a major part of its marketing strategy sponsoring numerous teams, leagues, university athletic departments and sporting venues. But these corporate partnerships are also strategic as Jani-King handles the cleaning needs of these venues regardless of size.

Dunkin’ Donuts

Year Established: 1954
Number of Units: Over 10,000
2011 was a big year for Dunkin’ Donuts. Its parent company, Dunkin’ Brands, went public in the summer and by the end of the year, the franchise hit a major milestone – opening its 10,000th store. Unsurprisingly, number 10,000 was a location in China. Like many other companies, the strategy Dunkin’ Donuts is employing for growth has emerging markets such as China as a main point of concentration.

Year Established: 1991
Number of Units: Over 10,000
The youngest franchise on the list, Jan-Pro places an emphasis on high quality work, which includes offering a guarantee on services rendered. The company’s emphasis on quality cleaning also includes its “cleaning greener” initiative that focuses on the use of “cleaning chemicals that cover a greater area while using less product.”

Which franchises could be next to join this 10K club? Domino’s Pizza, which has experienced a resurgence in the past few years, is poised to become the next member of this group of franchises with more than 10,000 outlets. The pizza chain is just under the mark currently, and the company’s CEO has mentioned aggressive growth plans for the immediate future in recent interviews. After Domino’s, there are a number of franchise systems with 8,000 total units worldwide, including brands like Hertz, Century 21, and Curves.

While probably not a complete listing of the world’s most famous franchises, this list does give a good overview of many that could claim that distinction. An interesting note is that although hotels are major players within the franchise industry there are no hotels on the list above. While individual franchise hotel brands do make a substantial amount of revenue, they don’t require as many units as other franchise systems to do so. ;


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