Franchise restaurants have an established name, national advertising and an operational blueprint that helps reduce your risk of failure. If you want to open your own business, choosing the cheapest franchise to open is something to strongly consider.

In the United States alone, there are 805,000 franchises that bring in a total of 860+ billion per year.

cheapest franchises to start

A few of the many reasons that entrepreneurs are opting to go the franchise route are:

  • You don't need to have experience to begin. Training and a blueprint for success are provided to you.
  • Customers are already aware of franchises. Have you ever heard of Dunkin', McDonalds or Subway? Many of the locations are owned by franchisees - which you can be.
  • Owners of the main store will support you through ownership and help you succeed with the business model.

If you decide to offer franchise food, you will be limited in the menu options that you offer. For example, you cannot create your own burger as an owner of a McDonald's because the main company that owns the name and trademark wants to offer a consistent menu, taste and quality.

Below are the cheapest franchises to start in the restaurant industry, but you can also find options for car washes, service-based businesses and more. You're not only limited to fast food when opting to become a franchisee, but these are some of the most successful options available.

9 Cheapest Franchises to Start in 2024

how to open a franchise restaurant

1. Papa John's

Pizza is eaten by people across the world, and in the U.S., one study found that the average person eats up to 180 slices of pizza each year. You can profit from this craze by being the owner of a Papa John's franchise.

Initial costs range from $189,000 to $975,000, and you'll pay:

  • 5% royalty fee on your gross sales
  • 8% fee that goes towards advertising

An initial fee of $25,000 is required to join the franchise network.

2. Taco Bell

Opening a Taco Bell is a smart investment because the average franchisee's restaurant will bring in $1.6 million per year. Costs are high at $575,000 - $3.3+ million in investment, but you'll also pay an initial fee to the franchise of $25,000 - $45,000.

Once your eatery is up and running, you'll pay a royalty fee on gross sales of 5.5% - 6%.

You can open a variety of store types, including:

  • In-line locations
  • Traditional locations
  • Power pumps
  • Express locations

Each week, over 40 million customers go into one of the 7,000 Taco Bell locations.

3. Dunkin'

If you love coffee, you know the name Dunkin'. You'll find that with over 12,000 locations worldwide, it's challenging not to find one of these stores in your city. Location costs will vary and can demand an investment of $121,000 - $1.8 million, but you'll also need:

  • $125,000 in liquid capital
  • $40,000 - $90,000 for the franchise fee
  • $250,000 minimum net worth

Royalty fees are 5.9%, and annual sales are over $1 million in the average store. Of course, this is before accounting for expenses, such as ingredient costs, paying employees and other overhead.

fast food franchise

4. Wingstop

Wingstop isn't one of the cheapest franchises to start, with investments of $325,000 to $975,000 required, but you'll need to pay an upfront fee of $20,000. Additionally, you'll pay the following:

  • 6% on your gross sales
  • 4% to advertising

You'll find Wingstop has over 1,500 locations worldwide and is one of the fast-casual eateries that has a robust menu with freshly made items.

5. Domino's Pizza

You already know how much pizza people eat annually, and if you don't prefer Papa John's, you may want to consider Domino's. The pizza chain is a global name, with locations in over 90 countries.

You'll need to pay an initial fee of $25,000 to be a franchisee, along with ongoing fees of:

  • 5% in royalties
  • 3% in ad fees

Investments range from $105,000 to $680,000+ and relate to real estate, buying equipment and other expenses to get your location up and running.

6. Subway

If you love the idea of offering subs and wraps, you may be interested in opening a Subway restaurant. You'll find the initial fee is just $15,000, but you will pay an 8% royalty fee on your gross sales and an additional 4.5% for national advertising.

Anyone who is a good fit for a Subway will need an additional investment of up to $500,000 that will go towards your initial investment to open the eatery.

7. Little Caesars

Little Caesars is a well-known pizza chain that's been around since 1959. Today, they have locations across the country and continue to grow each year.

It's one of the more affordable franchise options for anyone looking to break into the pizza business. The company breaks down the costs of opening a franchise.

  • Total investment cost of $393,000 to $1,718,700
  • Minimum net worth of $400,000
  • Liquid asset requirement of $200,000
  • Royalty fee of 6% of gross sales
  • Initial franchise fee of $20,000

franchise food

8. Scooter's Coffee

Scooter's Coffee was launched in 1998 and today is a leader amongst drive-thru coffee franchises.

The franchise boasts an average net profit margin of 14.81% and an average unit volume of $879,725.

The company breaks down their average investment costs and qualifications, which are as follows:

  • Investment cost of $894,500 to $1,393,000
  • Royalty fees of 6%
  • Advertising fee of 2%
  • Minimum net worth of $500,000
  • Minimum liquid capital of $250,000

Scooter's Coffee offers multiple financing options, including SBA and non-SBA loans. The investment cost above includes the initial franchise fee.

9. Chester's Chicken

Chester's Chicken is a popular fast-food restaurant with more than 1,200 locations in truck stops, convenience stores and supermarkets. The franchise has one of the lowest investment costs and can easily generate over $300,000 in revenue per year for owners.

To open a Chester's Chicken, you'll need:

  • A total investment of $28,000 to $277,000
  • An initial franchise fee of up to $3,500

One advantage of this franchise is that there are no ongoing royalty fees. Because Chester's Chicken is found within other retailers, it's one of the most versatile franchise options.

Researching how to open a franchise restaurant is the next step in the process. You can contact the company directly or browse through their site to learn how to become a fast-food franchise - or franchisee of any company you choose.