Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Image Credit: Mariaelena Caputi
A big year can make a big difference. Just ask some of the brands on our list that made giant leaps from their place on last year’s ranking. In fact, some brands that didn’t even make last year’s Top 500 are now in the middle of the pack!
How to explain the big jumps? There’s a quantifiable answer to this: Companies move up or down on our list based on many factors, including growth rate, franchisor infrastructure, and audited financial statements. (See the list itself for a more thorough explanation.) But of course, numbers only tell part of a story. That’s why we got in touch with some of this year’s biggest movers, to ask exactly what they have done recently to drive significant growth.
Their answers tell you a lot about good business fundamentals, as well as what it takes to succeed in franchising. We heard about brands identifying and fixing weak spots in their businesses, such as complications that franchisees had faced in opening brick-and-mortar locations, as well as others who invested wisely or spent years laying the groundwork for explosive growth.
On the following pages, you’ll hear from the leaders of 11 brands — six that made the list last year and five that didn’t — listed in alphabetical order. Read closely, because their insights might help inspire next year’s biggest movers!
Related: Busting Franchising Myths and Choosing the Right Opportunity
100% Chiropractic +158
100% Chiropractic is a national wellness center that strives to offer cutting-edge chiropractic
services and help its clients to live fully. It moved up 158 spots this year, to hold No. 296.
CEO Jason Helfrich explains:
We saw two incredible opportunities in 2022.
The first was a post-pandemic shift. People are now more interested in natural prevention and optimization of their health. As a result, our offices saw 10,000 more new patients than we did the year prior. And by providing them with individualized care plans based on their goals, we built relationships that keep them coming back.
The second was in expanding who can be a 100% Chiropractic franchisee: We once only franchised to chiropractors, but in 2020 made the opportunity available to non-chiropractor franchisees as well. (They’ll of course need to hire chiropractors to work with patients.) As a result, we’ve sold 124 stores since 2020, and of those, 54.03% are to non-doctor franchisees.
To appeal to these new franchisees, we invested in targeted marketing and partnered with a few key franchise broker companies. We educated them on the big opportunity inside natural healthcare, as well as the impact we can have on patients’ lives, and the profitability that comes from that success.”
Auntie Anne’s +191
Auntie Anne’s is a familiar sight in shopping areas around the world, and sells golden pretzels and other treats. It moved up 191 spots this year, to hold No. 199.
Kristen Hartman, specialty brands president for parent company Focus Brands, explains:
First and foremost, we’ve met our customers where they are, bringing Auntie Anne’s ‘streetside’ and offering delivery. As part of this effort, we’ve introduced dual-branded locations that combine Auntie Anne’s with other specialty brands like Jamba and Cinnabon.
Our investment in digital has also reaped impressive results, leading to an increase in items per transaction, digital sales, and delivery orders. We’ve utilized our Pretzel Perks app, which has over 1.9 million members, to make exclusive offers designed to drive loyalty, guest frequency, and higher average tickets. And by focusing our marketing on our most popular product offerings — for example, pretzel nuggets are now a bigger seller than traditional pretzels — we’ve also seen an increase in transactions and check averages.
Finally, we know that guests are often crunched for time. Keeping this top of mind, we’ve doubled down on improvements in everything from smallwares, ease of ordering, and the number of steps involved in making our fresh dough.”
Related: 3 Steps to Being a Successful Franchise Owner Under 30
Charleys Cheesesteaks & Wings +103
Since its founding in 1986, Charleys Cheesesteaks & Wings has grown into more than 700 locations and is one of the biggest cheesesteak franchises in the country. It moved up 103 spots this year, to hold No. 89.
Senior Franchise Development Manager Ken Kanzaki explains:
Charleys began franchising in mall food courts, and that was once the only kind of space we operated in. We knew that our business model could thrive beyond that setting, however, so we’ve recently opened additional channels — strip centers, freestanding units, convenience and gas stations, and, most recently, select Walmart locations. Also, we strengthened our real estate and development teams in order to support the expansion.
Overall unit economics are excellent, which is why, especially with these new areas for growth, existing franchisees are reinvesting into the brand. Our single-unit owners are happy with the model and want to open more Charleys locations. Meanwhile, our multi-unit operators saw the success of the early Walmart locations and have jumped at the available Walmart opportunities in their markets. As a result, 70% of our growth comes from within our franchisee system.”
Code Ninjas +178
Code Ninjas is one of the largest and fastest-growing kids’ coding franchises. It moved up 178 spots this year, to hold No. 316.
CEO Justin Nihiser explains:
As Code Ninjas rapidly scaled to reach nearly 400 open and operating locations, we found that new franchisees were stuck between two massive projects: The challenges of completing construction on time, and their ability to enroll as many students as they’d hoped prior to opening. So as we entered 2022, we saw a huge opportunity to fix that.
We created a New Center Opening team, then gave it some aggressive and robust enrollment mandates for all new franchise locations in 2022. This required franchisees — and the home office! — to split their time between overseeing contractors and driving early awareness of Code Ninjas in any new franchise’s local market. That meant more time at Chamber of Commerce events, PTA meetings, STEM nights, and more.
It paid off: We’re now seeing a 30% improvement in revenue at locations that opened in 2022. That results in a faster return on investment (ROI) for our franchisees, allowing them the opportunity to enjoy profit at their locations.”
Related: How Many Franchise Locations Should You Own?
EarthWise Pet is a pet supplies franchise that also provides grooming services and more. It did not rank last year, and now holds No. 252.
CEO Michael Seitz explains:
As a team, we have been preparing and anticipating this period of rapid growth for several years. We finalized key strategic partnerships, which allowed us to build our corporate infrastructure and attract larger multi-unit franchisees. We expanded our service offerings to include dog daycare and stand-alone grooming salons, which increased growth interest from both existing franchisees and new prospects. We began rolling out our own line of products, which include everything from dog kibble to litter trays, which increased exclusivity and margins. We launched a proprietary online nutrition, grooming, and customer service training program for staff. We also developed a strong internal franchise development team that focuses on quality lead generation, along with a unique and tailored sales process.
Our timing was good, because consumers now see pet care services as a necessity, not a luxury. As a result, we have lined up multiple acquisitions and strategic initiative launches for even stronger growth over the next 12 months. By the end of 2023, we will have locations in every region of the country.”
i9 Sports +148
i9 Sports offers recreational sports leagues for boys and girls. It moved up 148 spots this year, to hold No. 307.
President and CEO Brian Sanders explains:
We leaned into what we could control during the pandemic. For our franchisees, we doubled our level of communication. Then we provided new tools and resources, like a menu of sport programming options for them to use depending on their local COVID ordinances. We also built a program to collaborate with local competitors.
For customers, we reassured them via regular updates, gave parents at-home drills and games, and created incentives such as credits for future seasons to bring them back when it was safe. And instead of cutting our marketing spend, we maintained an emphasis on franchise development throughout — appealing to many Americans who were ready for a career reset. Once we hit Q1 of 2021, we quickly invested in staff expansion and increased our annual payroll expense by 54% versus 2020, to add support in high impact areas like operations leadership and franchise business coaching, and IT.
These actions positioned us to grow strongly ever since. Looking back over the past two years, one of the most gratifying things to me is that we only had one franchise closure!”
Related: The 50 Franchise Companies Doing the Most to Champion Diversity
Jeremiah’s Italian Ice +157
Jeremiah’s Italian Ice sells various gelati, soft ice cream, and Italian ice. It moved up 157 spots this year, to hold No. 212.
Casey Cooley, the brand’s director of franchise development and real estate, explains:
Jeremiah’s had a strong 2022, but it was made possible by some important decisions the brand made in 2020. We were just beginning to franchise at the time, since spring 2019, and COVID hit as several dozen new franchisees had signed on. We’d been working with Pivotal Growth Partners, who helped lead the brand’s growth and development efforts, and advised us to proceed ahead and prepare to pivot as needed.
So we did — adapting our real estate efforts, Discovery Day process, and more. Franchise interest never lost steam, and we still managed to open our first 10 franchise units during 2020. We learned from those, and refined our store-opening process in 2021. Within the first six months of that year, we opened another 10 units and then streamlined our process once again.
By year-end 2021, the brand had 40 franchise locations open and expanded our presence from just Florida into five additional states. Fast-forward to 2022, and we hired a director of construction, who is creating cost efficiencies in our current store design while also exploring new models to enhance the customer experience. We’re now on track to open our 100th location early this year.”
The Patch Boys
The Patch Boys focuses primarily on repairing drywall damage. It did not rank last year, and now holds No. 376.
Brand President Ted Speers explains:
Our brand got a big boost in June 2020: That’s when Belfor Franchise Group purchased The Patch Boys. We have tripled the size of our network, including surpassing 300 franchises across the country and boosting same-store sales.
As we do that, we continue to refine to best align with our network’s growing needs. Two of the most recent improvements are equipping our franchisees to schedule virtual estimates and introducing software that simplifies daily operations, both of which enable them to run their business more efficiently at lower costs. The average drywall or ceiling repair job often takes only a few hours, which means that, by maximizing those efficiencies, our technicians can sometimes tackle multiple jobs a day across the markets they service.
But of course, efficiency isn’t just about getting more work done. Our concept also allows franchisees to maintain a desired work-life balance — a benefit that’s become increasingly important since the pandemic, and that is drawing many people away from their corporate jobs and toward The Patch Boys.”
Related: 20 Franchises You Can Launch for Less Than $75,000
Perspire Sauna Studio
Perspire is a wellness company that combines sauna studios with infrared light treatment and red light therapy. It did not rank last year, and now holds No. 400.
Founder and CEO Lee Braun explains:
In the last 12 months, we shifted our focus on our new studio opening process. We added two dedicated team members to help our new franchisees open their studios faster and to create excitement in their new market. This had led to a 2.5-times increase in founding membership reservations. Now our previous six-month memberships goals are being met in two months.
This has had a great secondary effect: Our seasoned franchisees are seeing how impactful our new openings are, and that’s resulting in the purchase of additional territories — either before or soon after they open. In fact, 40% of the total franchises we awarded in the last 12 months came from existing Perspire franchisees and their referrals to friends and family.
Franchisees are sharing their successes with their community and expanded networks and are looking to help recruit for the good of the brand due to their positive experiences. We take a great deal of pride in this organic growth. Our goal has been to have a closer franchisee-franchisor relationship than we saw previously in the marketplace.”
QC Kinetix provides regenerative medicine and nonsurgical pain management therapies. It did not rank last year, and now holds No. 334.
CEO Scott Hoots explains:
We are a new brand, and healthcare consumers are not yet familiar with regenerative medicine and how our services can help them. That’s why we pursued what we called a ‘total market development strategy.’
Here’s how it worked: We divided the U.S. market into territories, and used Nielsen as our guide. Nielsen, which tracks TV ratings, divides the country up into 210 different TV markets. We decided to sell each of these territories to a single owner or group, to minimize the risk of disjointed advertising. So if someone wanted to develop the Dallas, Texas, market — which is 16 locations — they needed to commit to the whole market, not just a part of it.
This allowed us to quickly establish development partners in most major U.S. territories, with over 525 locations sold in the first two years. Of course, the real challenge is getting them open on schedule. So we established solid vendor support in real estate — our real estate vendor facilitated 200 leases signed in the first 18 months — store construction, and advertising. As a result, we got close to 200 locations built and open in the first two years.”
Related: Your Step-By-Step Guide to Attending a Franchise Trade Show
Studio 6 offers customers a less-expensive alternative for extended stays. It is part of G6 Hospitality, which also manages Motel 6. It did not rank last year, and now holds No. 259.
Tina Burnett, chief development officer at parent company G6 Hospitality, explains:
The pandemic drove an increased demand for extended stay lodging — we first saw traveling nurses, truck drivers, and other essential workers in need of extended stays, and now we’re seeing more travelers blending work and leisure.
As the segment grows, we’ve seen a demand for different kinds of stays — our traditional extended stays, and customers looking for a low-cost, three-to-seven-day stay. To cater to that second group of customers, in 2021, the company launched Studio 6 Suites as a brand extension of Studio 6. We know that, for franchisees, converting a hotel for extended stays can sometimes become costly: It can require new ventilation, plumbing, utilities, and electrical. But with the Suites model, owners do not have to build out a full kitchenette. For instance, instead of installing a stove that requires ventilation, plug-in burners are available to guests at the front desk.
The first location opened in October 2021 in Mississippi. While the brand extension is in its infancy stages, nine locations have opened with an additional 15 locations in the pipeline.”