Business Planning

Top 15 Cheapest Food Franchises To Open In 2024 

Published on: March 2, 2024

Last Updated on: April 27, 2024

Top 15 Cheapest Food Franchises To Open In 2024

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What are the cheapest food franchises to open in 2024? Actually, there are many food franchises or restaurant franchises to choose from where you do not have a lot of initial investments. However, you will need to choose the one that suits your needs. Here, you will need to consider a variety of factors like location, customer demands, brand positioning, growth opportunities, and more. 

In this article, you will learn about the major low-budget food franchises in 2024. Firstly, this article discusses some of the essentials of low-budget food franchises. Then, you will learn about the fifteen best food franchises in the United States, which you can consider if you want to start a franchise business. Hence, to learn more, read on through to the end of the article. 

Cheapest Food Franchises To Open: A Brief Overview 

The future of franchise ownership looks positive as more and more small business owners are considering opening up franchises. This is more effective for food franchises since food plays a major role in the economy and is always important for people’s livelihood. Furthermore, since people always like to eat out at a good restaurant, such franchises are growing in number. 

According to Yahoo Finance,

The global foodservice market, valued at USD 2,395 billion in 2022, is projected to reach USD 5,423.5 billion by 2030, with a CAGR of 10.79% during 2023-2030. This growth is driven by rising disposable incomes, increased fast food consumption, and the convenience factor, notably due to the growing number of working women worldwide.” 

Some of the major restaurant franchise leaders, like McDonald’s, KFC, Domino’s, etc., are continuously growing. For example, McDonald’s has close to 70 million customers worldwide, and with the help of its successful business model, it is continuously expanding. 

However, with the rise in traction of vegan diets, many restaurant franchises are including vegan menu items. To cater to surging demand for a vegan menu, even some of the franchises that serve non-vegetarian food are including vegan dishes. Furthermore, many people even feel that vegan food is healthier and sustainable as well. 

Apart from that, shopping malls and dining are also increasing, there is a rise in customer expenditure on food from restaurants. Given the benefits of franchising, opening a franchise can be a long-term and sustainable choice for business owners. However, if you cannot decide which franchise to choose, you can get help from franchise consultants as well.

What Are The Cheapest Food Franchises To Open In 2024? 

The food industry is constantly changing, and opening a food franchise can be an excellent option. Furthermore, you will have wide-ranging opportunities in front of you. Apart from that, you will also need to focus on costs, location, and the type of food you want to cater to your local customers. However, before you open a franchise, make sure to review the franchise agreement

According to Business News Daily,

With a franchise, you can be your own boss while benefiting from a proven product or service. However, you still must put in extraordinary effort, so finding a good fit for your passion and skill set is crucial. You should consider numerous factors, including franchise costs and corporate support.” 

The following are some of the major food franchise that you can open on a low budget in 2024: 

1. Jersey Mike’s Subs 

Jersey Mike's Subs
Franchising Since 1987 
Number of Franchise Units 2300+ 
Franchise Fee $18,500 
Initial Investment $194,035 – $954,611 (variable as per location) 
Royalty Fees 6.5% 
Net Worth Required $300,000 
Liquid Cash Required $100,000 
Agreement Term 10-20 years 

This is one of the fastest-growing fast-food chains in the USA. However, the best part is that it offers its services on a low budget. Furthermore, if you want to serve healthy subs to your local customers, choosing Jersey Mike’s Subs is the best option for you. The restaurant started in 1956 and started to franchise its operations in 1987. Currently, it has more than 2300 branches in the US alone. 

2. Chester’s 

Franchising Since 1985 
Number of Franchise Units 1200+ 
Franchise Fee $16,000 
Initial Investment $160,000 – $510,000 
Royalty Fees 4.5% 
Cash Required $50,000 
Agreement Term 5-20 years 

The official website explains –

Chester’s guides its franchisees through the pre-opening process and focuses extensively on training prior to opening. After opening, each store has a dedicated operations representative regularly visiting the stores, and on-call at all times.” 

Chester’s is a quick-serve restaurant that sells chicken recipes, and their secret family recipe is famous across the country. Interestingly, this restaurant actually started by selling doughnuts. 

3. Dunkin’ Donuts 

Dunkin’ Donuts
Franchising Since 1950 
Number of Franchise Units 8,500+ (USA) 
Franchise Fee $40,000 to $90,000 
Initial Investment $526,900 to $1,787,700 
Royalty Fees 5% 
Net Worth Required $500,000 
Cash Required $250,000 
Agreement Term 20 years 

Talking about doughnuts, one cannot leave out Dunkin’ Donuts. It is one of the most popular franchises, not only in the USA but also across the world. This franchise has served baked goods and coffee for years and currently serves more than 3 million customers worldwide.

However, if you need financing, Dunkin’ will not offer it to you directly but rather connect you with their lending partner. Hence, even though the initial investment is high, it will not be a big problem for you.

4. Tropical Smoothie Cafe 

Tropical Smoothie Cafe
Franchising Since 1998 
Number of Franchise Units 900+ 
Franchise Fee $30,000 (first unit) $20,000 (next unit onwards) 
Initial Investment $277,000 – $584,000 
Royalty Fees 6% 
Cash Required $150,000 
Agreement Term 20 years 

This Tallahassee, Florida-based cafe started franchising their operations since 1998. The franchisor claims that they handle the menu innovation process. Furthermore, they also offer you marketing support to increase sales and traffic. To open the first unit with Tropical Smoothie Cafe, you will have to pay a franchise fee of $30,000. However, to open subsequent units, you only need to pay $20,000. Furthermore, there are price discounts for veterans, too. 

5. Firehouse Subs 

Firehouse Subs
Franchising Since 1994 
Number of Franchise Units 1200+ 
Franchise Fee $40,000 
Initial Investment $371,000 – $751,000 
Royalty Fees 6.5% 
Cash Required $250,000 
Agreement Term 20 years 

This restaurant business specializes in hot subs and sandwiches. Currently, it has more than 1200 locations in the United States. If you want to open your franchise with Firehouse Subs, it might take 0.5-1.5 years to open your restaurant. However, the franchisor will offer you enough training and support for branding and production. 

6. Baskin-Robbins 

Franchising Since 1953 
Number of Franchise Units 2500+ 
Franchise Fee $25,000 
Initial Investment $90,000 – $625,000 
Royalty Fees 5.5% 
Cash Required $50,000 
Agreement Term 20 years 

Being one of the most popular franchises in the world, Baskin-Robbins is the go-to place for ice cream lovers in the US. They will offer you both training and support for your business. However, they look for people with strong leadership skills since the ice cream industry is competitive. 

7. Papa John’s 

Papa John's
Franchising Since 1984 
Number of Franchise Units 4500+ 
Franchise Fee $25,000 
Initial Investment $188,615 – $975,415 
Royalty Fees 5% 
Cash Required $350,000 
Agreement Term 20 years 

Papa John’s pizza is extremely popular in the US. The company boasts about its – “Better Ingredients, Better Pizza.” It believes in quality service and brand differentiation, thereby focusing on customer satisfaction. However, most Papa John’s franchise locations provide take-out and delivery only.

8. Subway 

Franchising Since 1974 
Number of Franchise Units 21,000+ 
Franchise Fee $15,000 (variable as per location) 
Initial Investment $229,050 – $522,300 + Real Estate Charges 
Royalty Fees 8% 
Cash Required $150,000 – $200,000 
Agreement Term 20 years 

Among all the fast-food chains in the US, Subway has the largest number of restaurants. The best thing about Subway is that it offers customizable sandwiches and salads to its customers. However, to apply for a Subway franchise, you will need to be financially strong. Apart from that, once you purchase a franchise, you will receive extensive support from the franchisor. 

9. Wingstop 

Wingstop- cheapest food franchises to open
Franchising Since 1994 
Number of Franchise Units 1500+ 
Franchise Fee $35,000 
Initial Investment $315,000 – $948,000 
Royalty Fees 5% 
Cash Required $150,000 
Agreement Term 20 years 

This restaurant specializes in chicken wings and has more than 1500 locations in the US. If you are looking for a growing franchise, Wingstop offers you an established business model to work with. Apart from that, the franchisor also provides you with proper training and support to grow your business. 

10. Arby’s 

Arby's- cheapest food franchises to open
Franchising Since 1964 
Number of Franchise Units 3400+ 
Franchise Fee First franchise: $37,500 Next franchises: $25,000 
Initial Investment $336,500 to $927,900 (for lease only) 
Royalty Fees 4.5% 
Cash Required $500,000 
Agreement Term 20 years 

If you want to grow in the Quick-Service Restaurant category, Arby’s is one of the best ones to choose. The Arby’s official website explains –

Ours is a straightforward process that starts with you letting us know of your interest. You can do that here on our website by filling out a brief form. After we receive it, someone from our team will reach out to begin the conversation.” 

11. Cold Stone Creamery 

Cold Stone Creamery
Franchising Since 1988 
Number of Franchise Units 1000 (approx.) 
Franchise Fee $35,000 
Initial Investment $53,200 – $602,775 (variable as per location) 
Royalty Fees 6% + $10 surcharge (max.) 
Cash Required $250,000 
Agreement Term 10 years 

This ice cream business is also growing at a rapid pace and is presently close to 1000 locations in the USA. If you have a passion for selling ice creams, you can take up this business model and grow in your location. Here, the initial investment is not a lot. 

12. Taco Bell 

Taco Bell- cheapest food franchises to open
Franchising Since 1962 
Number of Franchise Units 7800 (approx.) 
Franchise Fee $45,000 
Initial Investment $575,600 – $3,370,100 
Royalty Fees 5.5% to 6.5% (depending on sales volume) 
Cash Required $750,000 
Agreement Term 20 years 

The best thing about purchasing a Taco Bell franchise is that you will have access to a loyal customer base. Apart from that, you will also be able to cater to a wide variety of dietary needs. Furthermore, the franchisor will also provide you with enough support to grow your business. 

13. The Original Hot Dog Factory (Full Service) 

The Original Hot Dog Factory (Full Service)
Franchising Since 1991 
Number of Franchise Units 12 
Franchise Fee $30,000 
Initial Investment $177,000 – $565,550 
Royalty Fees 6% 
Cash Required $50,000 
Agreement Term 10 years (Renewal terms of 5 years) 

If you want to start a simple and casual hot dog restaurant, and want to serve quality hot dogs and sandwiches, there’s nothing better than The Original Hot Dog Factory. However, this franchise is mainly located in the Southeast. 

14. McDonald’s 

McDonald's- cheapest food franchises to open
Franchising Since 1955 
Number of Franchise Units 13.9K (approx.) 
Franchise Fee $45,000 
Initial Investment $1,000,000 – $2,300,000 (max.) 
Royalty Fees 4% to 6% 
Cash Required $500,000 
Agreement Term 20 years 

According to Investopedia,

McDonald’s is a powerful brand, with many stores earning well over $2 million in sales annually. As a result, owning a franchise can be profitable for both the owner and McDonald’s when properly managed.

Hence, if you want to work with an established business model, McDonald’s is the franchise to choose. 

15. KFC 

KFC- cheapest food franchises to open
Franchising Since 1930 
Number of Franchise Units 4130+ 
Franchise Fee $45,000 
Initial Investment $1,200,000 – $2,500,000 (max.) 
Royalty Fees 5% 
Cash Required $750,000 (variable) 
Agreement Term 20 years 

Being one of the most popular fast-food chains, KFC is mostly popular for its Chicken recipes. However, you will need to make a hefty investment beforehand and choose a popular location to purchase this franchise. 

Final Thoughts 

Hope this article was helpful for you in finding the cheapest food franchises to open in 2024. However, before you choose your food franchise, make sure to be fully aware of your needs and demands, as well as other locational factors.

Do you have further suggestions for affordable food franchises in the US? Consider sharing your ideas in the comments below. 

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Soumava Goswami

A passionate writer and an avid reader, Soumava is academically inclined and loves writing on topics requiring deep research. Having 3+ years of experience, Soumava also loves writing blogs in other domains, including digital marketing, business, technology, travel, and sports.

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