Corporate Eye

Top 500 Franchises of 2009 from

Each year, compiles a list of the top 500 franchises.  Year after year, the list remains fairly similar, but I was particularly interested in taking a look at the list this year. 

Given the tumultuous economy that is affecting most of the world, I wanted to see which brands were still leading the franchise pack, so to speak.  I imagined brands related to real estate would lose some ground, while iconic brands like McDonald’s would stand their ground.  Let’s take a look at how the list of the Top 500 Franchises shook out for 2009 according to

The Top 20 Franchises of 2009

  1. Subway
  2. McDonald’s
  3. Liberty Tax Service
  4. Sonic Drive-In Restaurants
  5. InterContinental Hotels Group
  6. Ace Hardware
  7. Pizza Hut
  8. UPS Store/Mail Boxes Etc.
  9. Circle K
  10. Papa John’s
  11. Jiffy Lube
  12. Instant Tax Service
  13. Baskin-Robbins
  14. KFC Corp.
  15. Jani-King
  16. Dairy Queen
  17. Super 8
  18. Arby’s
  19. Jan-Pro Franchising
  20. Taco Bell

Now, let’s see how the 2009 top 20 list compares to the 2008 list of the top 500 franchises.

The Top 20 Franchises of 2008

  1. 7-Eleven
  2. Subway
  3. Dunkin’ Donuts
  4. Pizza Hut
  5. McDonald’s
  6. Sonic Drive-in Restaurants
  7. KFC Corp.
  8. InterContinental Hotels Group
  9. Domino’s Pizza
  10. RE/MAX Int’l
  11. UPS Store/Mail Boxes Etc.
  12. Ace Hardware
  13. Jani-King
  14. Jiffy Lube
  15. Arby’s
  16. Baskin-Robbins
  17. Circle K
  18. Kumon Math & Reading Centers
  19. Great Clips
  20. Bonus Building Care

I was actually surprised to see 7-Eleven, which has consistently appeared in the top 10 on this list for the past several years, drop to #30 in 2009.  I was equally surprised to see UPS Store/Mail Boxes Etc., which has been in the middle of various lawsuits with franchisees in recent years, rank so high again in 2009.

The one thing that does remain constant on the list of the Top 500 Franchises from year to year is the list of brands.  Each year, the same basic players make the list.  These are the brands that are typically well-known and represent relatively safe investments.  Let’s face it, a brand name can go a long way in helping to build a new business quickly, and franchisees often pay heavily for the use of that name.  And with a brand name tied to a franchisee’s business, he or she is expected to operate that business so it’s representative of the overall brand image, message and promise.  Of course, that’s not always the case, but such is the nature of the franchise beast.

I think the bigger surprise will ultimately come when a big brand name drops off of this list entirely or plummets as 7-Eleven did in 2009.  Those are the more interesting stories than whether McDonald’s ranked 2nd or 3rd again.

What do you think about the Top 500 Franchises list?  Any surprises for you?

Image: Flickr

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Susan Gunelius is the author of 10 marketing, social media, branding, copywriting, and technology books, and she is President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She also owns Women on Business, an award-wining blog for business women. She is a featured columnist for and, and her marketing-related articles have appeared on websites such as,,, and more. She has over 20 years of experience in the marketing field having spent the first decade of her career directing marketing programs for some of the largest companies in the world, including divisions of AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include large and small companies around the world and household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more. Susan is frequently interviewed about marketing and branding by television, radio, print, and online media organizations, and she speaks about these topics at events around the world. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+.

I was surprised to see Dunkin’ Donuts drop off the list too. You would’ve thought the drubbing they gave Starbucks in the marketplace would keep them up there and as a consumer of their products I haven’t seen a drop in their product quality or service like I’ve been seeing at others such as McDonalds. I wonder what happened there or is this another luxury item that people are learning to do without in the current economic climate.

I believe the Franchise system works..a proven business model that works..Take for example- Planet Smoothie and Shanes Rib Shack.,

Seeking opportunity- Franchise Developer, Sales Rep- Operational Support

LaQuinta Bryant

It is no suprise to me that McDonalds is number 2. There new McCafe cofee is delicious. They are really giving Starbucks a run for there breakfast dollars. Think about it where else can u go and get a delicious breakfast meal and a mocha at the same time. I really like how McDonalds is expanding

It is surprising to find out that even with the economic situation, the franchising market is still holding relatively strong against the recession. Some are doing better than others, but I agree with Philip in believing the franchise system does work better than setting up your own business.

It is very important if you want to go into franchising to make sure you know all the facts before commiting, but there are websites like, which has both available franchises to buy and advice to aid you in making the right decision.

Shaun, thanks for the link. It is important that people get good advice before taking on a business, whether a franchise or not, perhaps particularly in the current environment. It isn’t for everyone, though as Philip says, it can work well for many.

It’s interesting to see the differing views that LaQuinta and Scott have about the McDonald’s coffee. Perhaps the coffee improved since Scott’s comment, but there’s definitely different tastes in coffee!

@ Shuan

A franchise system may work better in many cases than setting up your own business but it is still the case that with the small to medium level franchised businesses the churn rate can be quite high and a prospective franchisee needs to understand that they do stand a chance of the business not working from top management nevermind their own ground level, they may be a franchise owner but they will never be a true business owner. That said, I support the franchise industry and do believe it has a lot of quality to offer. Take a look at my Franchises website to see what I do.

All the best,


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