The Ultimate Guide to Franchise Restaurants

Franchise restaurants are establishments licensed to operate under a brand name using specific products and business models. We’ll provide insight into what these restaurants are, the benefits and drawbacks of running a franchise, and how to launch and operate your franchised restaurant successfully.

What Is a Franchise Restaurant?

A franchise restaurant is a dining establishment that operates under a franchise agreement, entitling the owners to use a brand name they don’t own. The franchisee, or owner of the individual location, pays for the rights to use the franchise’s brand name, logo, business model, and products.

A franchise business structure allows individual franchise restaurants to benefit from the larger brand’s established reputation, best practices, and customer base. While they have to adhere to guidelines set by the franchisor regarding food quality, service standards, and restaurant decor, franchisees also get support in areas like marketing and supply chain management.

Pros and Cons of Investing in a Franchise Restaurant

As with any restaurant, franchises have advantages and disadvantages. Understanding the pros and cons of investing in a franchise can give you a better idea of what to expect from franchising and whether the franchise business model may be right for you. 


  • Proven business model: Franchise restaurants operate on an established business model. This considerably reduces the risk of failure compared to starting a restaurant from scratch. As a franchisee, you can leverage the franchisor’s experience and expertise, learning from their best practices.
  • Brand recognition: Buying a franchise means investing in a known and trusted brand. This instant brand recognition can attract customers right from the start, giving you a head-start on marketing that can be expensive and time-consuming.
  • Ongoing support: Most franchisors provide continuous support to their franchisees. This can range from initial training, site selection, and construction support to long-term operational and marketing assistance. This support can be invaluable, especially for first-time operators.
  • Greater purchasing power: Being part of a franchise network often means benefiting from the franchisor’s purchasing power. Franchises often negotiate lower inventory, equipment, and supplies prices, saving individual franchisees money.
  • Easier access to financing: Financial institutions are often more willing to lend to franchisees due to the lower risk associated with the business model. This can be a significant advantage when covering the considerable costs of building out and equipping a restaurant.


  • High initial investment: Franchise restaurants often require a substantial upfront investment. This can include the franchise fee, construction costs, equipment, and inventory purchases. These costs can be considerable and may take two years or more to recoup.
  • Ongoing fees: As a franchisee, you must often pay the franchisor ongoing royalties and other fees. This is usually a percentage of your gross sales, regardless of your profitability. 
  • Limited creativity and flexibility: While a proven business model is a plus, you have less freedom to make decisions. The franchisor sets the menu, decor, uniform, and operating procedures. This lack of control may not suit entrepreneurs who prefer flexibility in running their businesses.
  • Dependence on the franchisor’s reputation: Your success as a franchisee is closely tied to the brand’s overall reputation. Any negative press or scandal involving the franchisor can harm your business, even if your specific restaurant is performing well.
  • Potential profit sharing: Some franchisors require franchisees to share a portion of their profits. You’ll need to review the franchise agreement to understand all the obligations carefully.
  • Rigorous standards and rules: Franchisors often have strict rules and standards to ensure uniformity across all locations. Compliance with these standards can be challenging, and failure to meet them could lead to penalties or even termination of your franchise agreement.
  • Termination risk: Franchise agreements typically have termination clauses. If a franchisee doesn’t meet certain performance standards or violates the agreement, the franchisor has the right to terminate the contract. 

How Much Does It Cost to Buy a Franchise Restaurant?

The cost of buying a franchise restaurant varies greatly depending on the specific brand you choose to affiliate with, the location of your restaurant, and the buildout required. Generally speaking, you’ll be required to pay a franchise fee of at least $10,000 to $25,000, the cost to acquire and renovate a property, staff costs, marketing fees, and ongoing expenses like royalties. 

Here’s some detail on what you can expect to pay when opening a franchise:

Franchise Fees

A franchise fee is the initial cost a franchisee must pay to gain the rights to operate a franchise. These fees typically cover the franchisor’s administrative expenses, training, site assistance, and the right to use the franchisor’s trademarked brand, including their name, logo, and other materials. 

Franchise fees can vary significantly based on the brand’s recognition, success, and the resources provided by the franchisor, but generally range from $10,000 to $50,000. However, some high-profile restaurant franchises can command fees of $100,000 or more. 

Real Estate Costs

Real estate costs are the expenses associated with securing a physical location for your franchise to operate. These costs vary greatly depending on the size, location, and whether you buy or lease the property. Also included are costs associated with renovating the space to meet the franchisor’s specifications, which include interior design, signage, and equipment installation. 

If you are leasing, monthly rental rates could range from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands. If you are purchasing a property, you can expect to pay several hundred thousand dollars to a few million. However, if you buy and later close or move your franchise, you can often recoup a large portion of your real estate costs by selling the property.

Marketing Fees

Marketing fees charged by some franchisors contribute to the brand’s regional and national advertising efforts. These fees are sometimes a percentage of your gross sales – often between 1% and 4% – and are used to promote the brand through various marketing activities such as social media advertising, TV commercials, print ads, and promotional campaigns. 

While you benefit from the franchisor’s marketing efforts, you may still need to budget for local marketing to raise awareness of your specific location.


Royalties are ongoing payments that franchisees make to franchisors in return for the continuous use of the franchisor’s brand name and business model. The royalty fees also often cover the franchisor’s support services, such as training, operational support, and updates to the business model.

Royalty fees are typically calculated as a percentage of the gross sales of the franchise restaurant and often range from 4% to 8%. Some franchisors may also have a minimum monthly royalty fee, which franchisees must pay regardless of their sales volume.

How To Open a Franchise Restaurant

Opening a franchise restaurant typically requires following a well-formed process established by a franchisor. While the process is exciting, it’s often much more complex than opening a standalone restaurant. 

Here’s an outline of the process for establishing a new franchise restaurant:

  • Thoroughly research franchise opportunities. Start with extensive research into available franchise opportunities, industry trends, and market demand in your planned location. Analyze the success rate, brand reputation, and support system each franchisor offers before making a decision.
  • Hire a consultant with experience opening franchise concepts. If you’re new to franchises, consider engaging a professional consultant with experience opening franchise restaurants. These consultants can provide valuable advice, prevent costly mistakes, and help streamline the process. For example, consider consultants like Monte Silva, who have a proven track record in this field.
  • Understand the financial commitment. Familiarize yourself with all the costs of opening and operating a franchise restaurant. This includes franchise fees, real estate costs, marketing fees, and royalties. Review the specific costs of individual franchisors and prepare a business plan to manage these expenses.
  • Arrange your finances. Ensure you have adequate funds to cover the initial investment and running costs until the restaurant becomes profitable. This typically involves arranging debt financing as saving or raising equity funds to cover part of your upfront costs.
  • Meet compliance requirements. Consult an attorney to understand the legal requirements, franchise agreements, and other regulations related to owning a franchise restaurant in your desired location.
  • Choose a location. Decide on a location that ensures high traffic and easy accessibility for your target audience. It should also be in line with the brand image of the franchisor.
  • Recruit and train staff to follow brand standards. A well-trained team can enhance customer experience and ensure smooth operations. Make adequate provisions for their training as per the guidelines of the franchisor.
  • Make the most of marketing and promotion. Use online and offline marketing strategies to create brand awareness and attract customers. This could involve social media advertising, local radio spots, hosting a grand opening event, and other steps recommended by the franchisor.

Owning a franchise restaurant is a significant commitment. It requires a strong dedication to a brand and its operational standards, as well as a relentless focus on customer satisfaction. However, if you follow the process carefully, partner with a strong franchisor, and manage your location effectively, it can be a rewarding and satisfying experience.

Restaurant Profit Margin

A restaurant’s profit margin is its profits as a percentage of gross sales. Healthy profit margins are critical to the success of any food service business and can be influenced by several factors. In this article, we’ll explain what profit margins are, what margins are common in the restaurant industry, factors that impact your bottom line, and how you can improve them.

What Is Restaurant Profit Margin?

Restaurant profit margin is a measure of a restaurant’s profitability. In essence, it’s the percentage of sales revenue that the restaurant retains as profit after accounting for all operating costs, including the cost of goods sold (ingredients), employee wages, rent, utilities, and marketing expenses. The equation for restaurant profit margin is below, with the resulting figure usually expressed as a percentage.

(Total Sales – Total Costs) / Total Sales

A higher profit margin indicates a restaurant pays less in expenses relative to its sales, as compared to its competitors. It’s important to note, however, that average profit margins can vary widely depending on the type of restaurant and location. For instance, a high-end restaurant in a prime urban location may have different profit margins than a fast-food outlet in a suburban area.

What Is Gross Profit?

Gross profit is the total sales revenue a restaurant generates minus its cost of goods sold (COGS). The COGS for a restaurant typically encompasses the direct costs associated with food and beverage production, including ingredients and labor involved in preparing dishes. This figure can be divided by a restaurant’s total sales and expressed as a percentage to show the gross profit margin.

However, gross profit and gross profit margin don’t account for other operational expenses like rent, utilities, marketing, or administrative costs. Although they’re less comprehensive than a restaurant’s total profit margin, gross profit margin provides good initial insight into operational efficiency before other expenses are considered.

How To Calculate Gross Profit

To calculate the gross profit of a restaurant, you first need to calculate your total sales revenue. Next, subtract the total costs of goods sold (i.e., ingredients and direct labor). The resulting figure is your gross profit.

For example, suppose a restaurant generates $10,000 in total sales in a month. Suppose the COGS for that month, which includes the cost of ingredients and direct labor, is $4,000. In that case, the restaurant’s gross profit can be calculated as follows:

Gross Profit = Total Sales – COGS

Gross Profit = $10,000 – $4,000

Gross Profit = $6,000

The gross profit for the restaurant in this example would be $6,000 for that month. This signifies the amount of money the restaurant has after accounting for the cost of producing the food and beverages sold before considering other operational expenses like rent, utilities, and marketing.

Taking the calculation further, we can calculate the restaurant’s gross profit margin by dividing its gross profit by its total sales ($6,000 / $10,000). In this example, the restaurant would have a gross profit margin of 60% for the month.

What Is Net Profit?

Net profit (also called the “bottom line”) is the final measure of a restaurant’s profitability after all expenses, both direct and indirect, are accounted for. This includes the cost of goods sold, along with operational expenses like rent, utilities, marketing, management salaries, and administrative costs.

How To Calculate Net Profit

Calculating net profit is relatively straightforward – simply subtract all of a restaurant’s expenses for a given period from its total sales revenue for the same period. The resulting figure represents the restaurant’s overall earnings for a specific time, after it covers all its costs. If the figure is positive, the restaurant made money for that period; if it’s negative, it spent more money than it made.

For example, let’s consider our restaurant from the above example. Let’s say that, in addition to its $4,000 in COGS for the month, it also incurred $2,000 in operational expenses, including rent, utilities, marketing, and salaries. The net profit can be calculated as follows:

Net Profit = Gross Profit – Total Expenses

Net Profit = $6,000 – $2,000

Net Profit = $4,000

In this scenario, the restaurant’s net profit for the month is $4,000. This is the amount of money the restaurant retains as income after all costs and expenses are covered. 

How To Calculate Net Profit Margin

To calculate net profit margin, divide net profit (total sales – total expenses) by total sales revenue. The resulting figure is typically expressed as a percentage (you can multiply it by 100 to get the percentage figure). It represents the percentage of sales a restaurant retained over a period rather than paying it out in the form of costs. The formula for the net profit margin is below. 

Net Profit / Total Sales

In our previous example, the restaurant’s net profit for the month was $4,000, and the total sales revenue was $10,000. The net profit margin can be calculated as follows:

Net Profit Margin = (Net Profit / Total Sales) x 100

Net Profit Margin = ($4,000 / $10,000) x 100

Net Profit Margin = 0.4 x 100, or 40%

The net profit margin for the restaurant in this example is 40%. This figure indicates that the restaurant retains 40% of its total sales as profit after accounting for all costs and expenses. The higher a restaurant’s net profit margin, the more profitable it is relative to its sales.

What Is the Average Restaurant Profit Margin?

The average profit margin for a restaurant can vary significantly depending on factors such as location, type of restaurant, and efficiency. Generally, the average profit margin for restaurants hovers between 3% to 10%. However, some highly efficient and successful restaurant models and those focusing on bar sales can achieve profit margins as high as 10% to 15%. 

Why Are Restaurant Profit Margins So Low?

Restaurant profit margins tend to be low relative to some other types of businesses due to several factors. Firstly, the food industry is characterized by high operational and overhead costs. Secondly, restaurants also face the challenge of pricing their menu items competitively while still making a profit.

This is further compounded by the fact that food and beverage costs are often subject to market fluctuations, making profit predictions difficult. Additionally, wastage of perishable goods, seasonal variations in sales, and the high level of competition in the industry also contribute to the slim profit margins. 

Finally, the restaurant industry faces much higher employee turnover than businesses in other industries. The costs associated with attracting, vetting, and training employees can be significant and reduce a restaurant’s profits if owners and managers can’t retain talented employees.

Average Profit Margins By Restaurant Type

Restaurant profit margins vary widely, largely due to the type of restaurant. Here are a few examples of typical profit margins for successful restaurants in several categories:

  • Full-service restaurant: The average profit margin of a full-service restaurant typically ranges between 3% to 10%. However, this can vary based on location, menu, quality of staff, and the overall dining experience.
  • Cafe: The average profit margin for a café typically falls between 3% and 8%.
  • Fast food restaurant: Fast-food restaurants average around 6% profit, but this can vary depending on whether the industry is a franchise and the type of food offered.
  • Food truck: Profit margins for food trucks can range from 10% to 20%, but this also depends on the type of cuisine offered, location, and overall operational costs.
  • Catering: Catering businesses can have higher profit margins, typically between 10% and 20%, due to their focus on events and parties rather than daily operations. They also often have reduced overhead, as they don’t need to maintain a restaurant facility capable of seating regular guests.

How To Improve Restaurant Profit Margins

In a competitive and dynamic industry such as food services, improving restaurant profit margins is a critical, ongoing task. Understanding where and how to increase revenue and cut costs can make the difference between a thriving establishment and a failing one. Here are some effective strategies to enhance your restaurant’s profit margins:

  • Manage your inventory. An optimal inventory management system minimizes waste and reduces unnecessary expenses. Regular inventory counts also help to identify any theft or other issues impacting stock levels.
  • Price menu items carefully. Make sure you understand the cost of each menu item and price it appropriately to achieve your desired profit margin for that item. 
  • Train employees on upselling and cross-selling. Staff training should include strategies for upselling and cross-selling, which can increase average transaction value. This could be as simple as suggesting additional items or promoting higher-priced dishes to customers.
  • Regularly review profit and loss statements. Regularly reviewing income statements helps restauranteurs identify trends, monitor the effectiveness of cost control strategies, and spot potential areas of improvement.
  • Reduce operational costs. Review your operations regularly to identify areas where you can reduce costs without compromising service quality. This could involve renegotiating supplier contracts, investing in energy-efficient equipment, or improving scheduling to match staff levels with demand.
  • Work on customer retention. It’s almost always cheaper to retain existing customers than to acquire new ones. Loyalty programs, exceptional customer service, and regular engagement with customers through social media and email marketing are all effective ways to increase customer retention and profits.
  • Handle payments electronically. Handling payments electronically is an effective strategy for improving restaurant profit margins for several reasons. Electronic payments streamline operations, reducing the time and labor associated with manual cash handling, and are more accurate, reducing errors in cash transactions that can lead to losses.

While many payments can be handled electronically through restaurant point of sale (POS) systems and banking apps, one notable exception is distributing employee tips. Kickfin can be instrumental in facilitating electronic payments from restaurants to their tipped employees. 

Kickfin provides instant, electronic tip payments, eliminating the need for cash on hand. This reduces the risk of theft or loss, saving restaurants from unnecessary financial drain. Schedule a demo with one of our experts to learn more about how Kickfin can help increase your operational efficiency and boost your profits.

Paying Tips Through Payroll

Paying tips through payroll can be a simple way for employers to distribute tips they collect on employees’ behalf. It eases the burden on both employers and employees by ensuring tips are appropriately taxed and recorded. However, it’s also much more involved than paying tips instantly, as we’ll explain below.

What Is a Tipped Employee?

A tipped employee is any employee who regularly and customarily receives at least $30 in monthly tips from customers. These employees often work in industries where gratuities are common, including restaurants, bars, hotels, and other hospitality or service businesses. Many tips employees interact directly with customers who provide tips as a reward for good service.

In many cases, tipped employees receive lower base hourly wages than non-tipped employees, expecting their tips to supplement their income to at least meet the federal minimum wage. This lower direct wage and the tips received constitute the employee’s total earnings.

How Do Employee Tips Work?

Employee tips function as a direct, voluntary payment to service workers by customers in appreciation for the service they receive. Customers typically determine the tip amount based on the service quality, and it is often a percentage of the total bill. In many industries, customers usually tip 10% to 20% of their total bill to reward employees for good service.

The process of handling tips varies by industry and by business. In some cases – including cash businesses – employees often keep their tips individually. In other cases, tips are pooled and then divided among the staff, including servers, bartenders, and back-of-the-house workers. 

Most often, when employees receive cash tips, they’re entitled to keep those tips (minus any portion they’ve agreed before to share with support staff). Additionally, employers are responsible for distributing tips they collect on behalf of employees, including through credit or debit card transactions.

What Is a Tip Credit?

A tip credit is a provision in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) that allows employers to count a portion of their tipped employees’ gratuities as a component of their total wages. This means that in states where tip credits are allowed employers can pay tipped employees a lower direct wage if the amount of tips received is sufficient to bring the employee’s total earnings to at least the federal minimum wage.

Paying Tips Instantly vs Through Payroll

In most businesses, employees receive their tips instantly in cash at the end of their shift. This immediate form of payment gives employees instant access to their earnings. Still, it can also lead to management headaches and potential inaccuracies in record-keeping. Handling large amounts of cash can pose risks to a business, and reconciling tips reported by employees with sales data can be a time-consuming task. 

Paying tips through payroll involves collecting the tips earned by employees and adding them to their regular paychecks. While this method ensures accurate tracking and reporting of tip income, it will delay employees’ access to their earnings. Over time, employees can also grow skeptical that tip calculations are accurate.

This is where Kickfin comes into play. Kickfin is a platform that solves these challenges by enabling instant tip payments directly to employees’ bank accounts. This eliminates the risks and hassles associated with handling cash and ensures accurate, real-time tracking and reporting of tips. Employees benefit from immediate access to their earnings, improving financial security and job satisfaction.

How To Pay Tips Through Payroll

Collecting and tracking tips throughout a pay period can be a headache, but it also ensures accurate reporting and tracking of tip income for employees. In this section, we will walk through the basic steps of how to pay tips through payroll.

1. Collect Non-Cash Tips on Behalf of Employees

Non-cash tips, such as credit and debit card tips, are typically included in the customer’s bill at the point of sale (POS). To collect these tips, businesses must integrate a tipping option into their POS system. That way, when a customer pays with a card, they can add a tip to their total bill amount. Most modern POS systems offer an option to add a tip to the bill. 

Collect the total amount of non-cash tips from the POS system at the end of each shift or business day. This should be a simple matter of running a report or checking each employee’s accumulated tips in your POS system. Add the collected tips to each employee’s payroll for that period. In some cases, you might be able to integrate your POS system with your payroll system to automate this step.

2. Transfer Funds from Merchant Account to Payroll Account

Once customer transactions for a given shift settle and funds are deposited into your merchant account, transfer money from your merchant account to your payroll account to ensure you have the funds necessary to cover employee payroll. 

Keep in mind that transfers may not be instantaneous, depending on your bank’s policies and procedures. Therefore, scheduling these transfers well before your payroll processing days is recommended to ensure the funds are available when needed. 

3. Separate Tips by Employee

Once you have money in your payroll account, process payroll as you would normally – by multiplying each employee’s hourly wage by the number of hours they worked in that pay period. Then, add the calculated tips to the corresponding employee’s payroll. If you process payroll manually, this could mean adding the tip amount to the employee’s regular wage for that pay period. If you’re using a digital payroll system, there may be a specific field or feature where you can input the tip amount. 

At this point, you should ensure that each employee’s pay meets state and federal minimum wage requirements. If one or more employees’ total compensation (wages plus tips) does not meet minimum wage, you’ll need to supplement their wages for that pay period to compensate for any shortfall. (Note: This would only apply in states that allow restaurant operators to take a tip credit.)

4. Incorporate Tips into Scheduled Payroll

Once you add each employee’s tips to their pay amount for a given pay period, you’ll need to calculate taxes and other deductions based on their total income. Typically, both federal and state income taxes, along with the employee’s share of social security and Medicare taxes (FICA), are calculated and withheld from this total income. Any other deductions or withholdings that the employee has authorized should also be deducted.

Remember to clearly itemize each of these deductions on the employee’s payslip, showing the specific amounts deducted for each category. This helps employees understand how their total income, including tips, is calculated and where their money is going. 

5. Pay Out Tips as Part of Payroll

After calculating each employee’s income (including tips) and deductions, process payroll – paying out net wages and providing employees with copies of their paystubs for that pay period. Most payroll systems generate these statements automatically. Otherwise, you’ll need to generate itemized pay stubs manually.

What Is the Difference Between Cash Tips and Paycheck Tips?

Cash tips and paycheck tips represent two different methods of tipping in the hospitality industry. Cash tips are the traditional and most common form of tipping. They are given directly to the service provider, often immediately after service has been rendered. This method allows service staff to receive gratuity instantly, providing immediate access to their earnings. 

Paycheck tips, on the other hand, are tips that are added to an employee’s regular paycheck. This method involves collecting non-cash tips (credit and debit card tips) through a POS system and adding them to payroll for distribution. Paycheck tips provide more accurate tracking of tip income for tax purposes but also delay employees’ access to their earnings.

Do Employees Have to Pool Tips?

Pooling tips, also known as “tip pooling” or “tip sharing,” is a common practice in the hospitality industry. It involves combining all or a portion of employees’ tips into a shared pool, which is then divided among a group of employees. The aim of tip pooling is to promote a collaborative work environment where all staff members share in the business’s success. 

In the U.S., an employer can require employees to participate in a tip pool or share tips with other employees. However, this is only allowed among employees who customarily and regularly receive tips, such as servers and bartenders. Back-of-house staff, such as cooks and dishwashers, can’t be forced to participate in a tip pool unless the employer pays the full minimum wage and doesn’t take a tip credit. 

If you’re thinking about having employees pool tips, first familiarize yourself with local laws to ensure your tip pooling policies are compliant. You need to create a written tip-pooling policy, make employees aware of this policy from the outset, and effectively communicate any changes.