MOST BUSINESSES ARE hurting in this recession, but if past experience is any indication, franchises could be the exception. Franchised businesses make up 11 percent of the U.S. economy and take in 41 percent of every retail dollar spent—and in past recessions, the growth in the number of franchise stores has actually accelerated.
Of course, while franchise owners claim that they’re more likely than independent businessmen to survive in a rough economy, they’re also more likely to have to go to work wearing a strange hat and nametag. And since a franchisee may need as much as $350,000 for the first three months to cover equipment, leases and other start-up costs, some national chains now find themselves having to sweeten the pot to get new owners to take the plunge.
With that in mind, here’s a highly subjective guide to some of the more interesting franchises that are recruiting new talent:
Emerald City Smoothies
Seattle-based Emerald City focuses on the fitness-and-bodybuilding end of the liquefied-food spectrum. For example, it’s the home of the Bulk Me Up Mega Mass smoothie. It’s now offering a free kiosk – a $20,000 value – to anyone who plunks down the $30,000 fee to open up a store. But total start-up costs still approach $250,000
Just typing the words “bacon cheeseburger pizza” is clogging our arteries. But franchisees willing to start selling such pies will get a break from Pizza Inn: Their royalty payment to the parent company, normally 4 percent of gross sales, will be waived for the first year. Bring on those triglycerides!
Having a hard time deciding which franchise to join? Why not sign up with FranchiseMart, so you can open a franchise store where other people can browse for a franchise to open? The chain, which represents about 100 other franchises, launched in 2007 and has 10 outlets to date. Warning: If you walk into a FranchiseMart and ask about opening a FranchiseMart, you may rip a hole in the time-space continuum.
LA Sunset Tans
Sure, McDonald’s is having a banner year, but are its cofounders featured in a super-slinky reality show on the E! network? The skin-bronzing company recently opened its first Texas franchise; meanwhile, fans of the E! program are cheering Jeff’s decision to fire the duplicitous Holly and Molly.
This waste-removal company currently operates mostly in and around Brooklyn, N.Y., but aspires to go national. Mr. Rubbish claims to be the first in the country to adopt hybrid-electric trucks for waste removal; it was also the official hauler for Prospect Park MulchFest 2009.
Despite its name, franchisees do not in fact stitch designs directly onto people. The company specializes in customized T-shirts, hats, banners and the like — including the kinds of logo shirts you’d wear if you worked at, say, a franchise. The company operates 450 stores today, up from 50 in 2002; its far-flung outposts include stores in Qatar and Botswana.