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Aruba, January 7, 2014 - The companies that ranked in Entrepreneur's 35th annual Franchise 500® added a total of 8,725 U.S. franchise units between 2012 and 2013--a whopping 51 percent increase over the previous year's growth. They're spreading their influence overseas as well, with 8,332 new international units. It's a great sign that economic recovery is well on its way, and that franchises have an important part to play in it.
Here's a look at four franchise industries that are leading the way (and one that's up-and-coming), as well as the trends that are driving their growth.
The continued success of kid-centered franchises over the past several years is evidence that parents are always willing to sacrifice in order to give their offspring a leg up. And thanks to franchising, they've got lots of options, from early-learning child-care programs to traditional tutoring to an increasingly diverse collection of fitness, recreation and enrichment businesses.
The big trend this year is science and engineering. Bricks 4 Kidz, a Lego-engineering program that has been franchising since 2009, jumped into the No. 1 spot in this year's Enrichment category amid several competitors.
Food franchises dominate the Franchise 500®, making up half of the top 10 and more than a quarter of all ranked companies. It's no surprise, since the category contains some of the oldest and biggest franchises around. But there are plenty of newer, smaller franchises making their mark, too.
Mainstays like sandwiches, burgers and pizza are still going strong, and likely always will. But frozen-yogurt franchises, labeled a fad a few years ago, now appear to be here to stay; in fact, they are still growing at an impressive clip.
Another emerging trend is vending. It's an industry that has shied away from franchising in the past, but with three companies that started franchising only in the past few years--HUMAN Healthy Vending, Fresh Healthy Vending and IceBorn--making our rankings, we may soon see others follow in their footsteps.