Franchise Times Top 500 ranks the industry’s biggest brands ®Annual ranking shows rebound across franchise segments

Category: Franchise Development

Franchise Times Top 500 ranks the industry’s biggest brands ®Annual ranking shows rebound across franchise segments


Top 500 sales grew 20.5 percent in 2021, to $769 billion, as many franchise brands made a notable comeback following a year marked by pandemic shutdowns and radical consumer spending changes. Sales at the 10 largest franchises increased 14 percent, as those brands collectively gained $45.4 billion over the prior year, while McDonald’s maintained its No. 1 ranking. The online database launches today at, listing all 500 brands by worldwide sales.



MINNEAPOLIS—Combined annual sales at the 500 largest U.S.-based franchisors increased by more than $130 billion or 20.5 percent last year, to $769 billion, according to the newly released Franchise Times Top 500, an exclusive ranking of the 500 largest franchises with BIGGBY® COFFEE ranking at No. 261.


The 10 largest franchised brands gained $45.4 billion in sales in 2021, a 14 percent increase over the prior year. The top 10 now account for more than $368 billion in annual sales. No. 1 McDonald’s put more room between itself and No. 2 7-Eleven, growing sales by more than $19 billion to $112.5 billion. That marked the best dollar amount sales growth across the Top 500 franchises last year.


The Franchise Times Top 500 is an exclusive annual ranking of the 500 largest U.S.-based franchise systems by global systemwide sales. The project is the result of a five-month research and reporting effort that leads to the most credible and objective franchise ranking available, said Franchise Times Editor in Chief Laura Michaels.


The collection of systemwide sales data also provides useful insight into the franchise industry’s performance coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic. Every segment gained ground in 2021, with some getting back to or even surpassing 2019 sales while others still have work to do.


“Combined overall growth of 20.5 percent for the Top 500 resulted in a record sales total of $769 billion, as major restaurant brands such as McDonalds, KFC and Burger King all rebounded in 2021 and then some after posting declines of as much as 12.6 percent in 2020,” said Michaels. “Restaurants collectively grew sales 18.8 percent last year, with Subway also among the standouts. The sandwich chain posted $17.5 billion in system sales in 2021, a 27.7 percent increase and a much-needed turnaround for the seventh-largest chain on this year’s Top 500.”


The home services, automotive and cleaning franchise industries all saw percentage sales growth in the double digits last year, while retailers posted a 5.2 percent increase as stores reopened.

Used goods retailers saw major growth, with Uptown Cheapskate up 62.6 percent and Once Upon a Child up 34.9 percent.


“Recovery didn’t treat all brands equally, however. In the fitness segment, system sales at Orangetheory Fitness declined 12.5 percent, a drop of more than $140 million,” continued Michaels. “Franchises in the red will have some explaining to do, especially if competitors in their category turned in standout performances.”


Among the four exclusive interviews included in this year’s ranking, Sonic Drive-In President Claudia San Pedro shares how menu innovation and technology enhancements have helped fuel two years of impressive sales gains. Executives from Top 500 newcomer Tous les Jours, retailer Plato’s Closet and dog daycare concept Dogtopia also share how they’ve accelerated sales.




The Franchise Times Top 500 is the only ranking by systemwide sales and units of the largest 500 U.S.-based franchise brands. Published in the October issue and available in a searchable database online, the Franchise Times Top 500 also analyzes industry sectors based on percentage change in sales growth, reports the 10 fastest-growing franchises by four different measures, and includes exclusive news stories about the biggest names in franchising. The rankings and full report, and the searchable online database, are available at 2022.