Franchise Times Top 400 ranks the industry’s biggest brands

October 8, 2021

Date: October 1, 2021
Contact: Laura Michaels, editor in chief, Franchise Times;

Franchise Times Top 400 ranks the industry’s biggest brands Annual ranking shows COVID’s impact on franchising

Top 400 sales fell 13.1 percent in 2020, to $635.9 billion, as some brands thrived and others took a hit in a year of shutdowns, pandemic-related restrictions and radical change. Sales at the 10 largest franchises dropped 2.1 percent as those brands collectively lost nearly $7 billion. Among restaurants, the performance of Jersey Mike’s stands out, with CEO Peter Cancro among four exclusive featured interviews. The online database launches today, listing all 400 brands by worldwide sales.

MINNEAPOLIS—Combined annual sales at the 400 largest U.S.-based franchisors declined by more than $96 billion or 13.1 percent last year, to $635.9 billion, according to the newly released Franchise Times Top 400, an exclusive ranking of the 400 largest franchises.

The 10 largest franchised brands lost $6.9 billion in sales in 2020, a 2.1 percent decrease compared to that cohort’s 6.7 percent sales growth the prior year. The top 10 now account for more than $323 billion in annual sales.

Previously the Top 200+, Franchise Times renamed its annual ranking of the 400 largest U.S.- based franchise systems by global systemwide sales to better encompass the biggest brands in franchising, along with promising young concepts in growth mode. The rigorous approach to research remains the same, said Franchise Times Editor in Chief Laura Michaels. The project is the result of a five-month research and reporting effort that leads to the most credible and objective franchise ranking available.

The collection of systemwide sales data also provides useful insight into the franchise industry’s performance during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“While overall growth took a 13.1 percent hit in 2020, sales increases at major brands such as No. 2 7-Eleven and Ace Hardware, which grew to $91.8 billion and $20.6 billion, respectively, illustrate notable shifts in consumer spending,” said Michaels. “The retail category as a whole grew 7.4 percent, to more than $140 billion. In restaurants, however, overall sales declined 5.1 percent, with only pizza delivery, better burgers and chicken as the growth segments.”

“McDonald’s managed to retain the No. 1 overall position despite systemwide sales falling 6.8 percent to $93.3 billion,” continued Michaels. “KFC held onto the No. 3 spot even as its sales fell 5.8 percent, a contrast to Chick-fil-A’s gain of 11.2 percent to move up to No. 8.”

Burger King fell to No. 5, supplanted by No. 4 Ace’s performance and its own sales decline of $2.8 billion. No. 9 Subway and No. 10 Pizza Hut saw steep declines of 14.9 percent and 7.3 percent, respectively.

Among the four exclusive CEO interviews included in this year’s ranking, Jersey Mike’s CEO Peter Cancro shares how he powered through the pandemic and even completed a top-to-bottom

brand update that helped fuel a 25-spot jump on the Top 400. Executives from Jack in the Box, United Real Estate and College HUNKS Hauling Junk also share how they’ve accelerated sales.

Franchise Times Fastest-Growing Industry Sectors

1. Real Estate +18.5%
2. Health & Medical +9.2% 3. Retail +7.4%
4. Home Services +5.6%
5. Printing & Shipping +5.1%

Franchise Times Top 10 Franchises by Worldwide Sales

  1. McDonald’s; $93.3 billion sales, -6.8% from prior year; 39,198 units, +1.3%
  2. 7-Eleven; $91.8 billion sales, +3.1% from prior year; 72,374 units, +3.1%
  3. KFC; $26.3 billion sales, -5.8% from prior year; 25,000 units, +3.7%
  4. Ace Hardware; $20.6 billion sales, +21.1% from prior year; 5,669 units, +2.1%
  5. Burger King; $20 billion sales, -12.6% from prior year; 18,625 units, -1.1%
  6. Domino’s; $16.1 billion sales, +12.6% from prior year; 17,644 units, +3.7%
  7. Circle K; $15.2 billion sales, +22% from prior year; 11,312 units, +20.4%
  8. Chick-fil-A; $14.1 billion* sales, +11.2% from prior year; 2,610 units, +4.4%
  9. Subway; $13.7 billion* sales, -14.9% from prior year; 37,005 units, -9.5%
  10. Pizza Hut; $11.9 billion in sales, -7.3% from prior year; 17,639 units, -5.7%

*Franchise Times estimate

Franchise Times Top 10 Fastest Growers by Sales Percentage

  1. United Real Estate: 126.8%* increase from prior year
  2. G.J. Gardner: 105.4%
  3. uBreakiFix: 58.5%
  4. American Family Care: 56%
  5. Image360: 46.6%
  6. Edible Arrangements: 32.7%
  7. HomeV estors: 30.6%
  8. City Wide: 30.4%
  9. Wingstop: 28.8%
  10. Marco’s Pizza: 28.4%
  11. *Franchise Times estimate

Franchise Times Top 10 Fastest Growers by Unit Percentage

  1. United Real Estate: 42.1% increase from prior year
  2. Realty One Group: 38.6%
  3. Gong Cha: 24.9%
  4. Home2 Suites: 20.6%
  5. Circle K: 20.4%
  6. American Family Care: 20.3%
  7. Visiting Angels: 19.5%
  8. Smoothie King: 18.1%

9. Brightway Insurance: 15.9% 10. Jan-Pro: 15.6%


The Franchise Times Top 400 is the only ranking by systemwide sales and units of the largest 400 U.S.-based franchise brands. Published in the October issue and available in a searchable database online, the Franchise Times Top 400 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 2021.

*The following data involves historic performance information for Domestic Restaurants corporate- or affiliate-owned, open and operating under effective Franchise Agreements by the same franchisee for fiscal year 2021. There are 35 franchised domestic Russo’s New York Pizzeria Restaurants operating under effective Franchise Agreements as of December 31, 2021. 30 of which had been open for 12 months or longer. The following results include (a) the average Gross Sales for the 24 Domestic Russo’s New York Pizzeria Restaurants that were franchisee owned, open, and operated for fiscal 2021. (b) The cash flows for the FOUR (4) company-owned Russo’s New York Pizzeria Restaurants operated for fiscal year ended December 31, 2021. Because we do not maintain the accounting records of our franchisees, we are unable to make any representation to the reliability of the financial data provided by franchised Restaurants.
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