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. 

Pros

  • 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.

Cons

  • 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

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.

You might also be interested in

We know how important same-day payments are for veterans of the service industry who are accustomed to quick cash — and we’re now seeing that same demand expand into other industries as well. 

Kickfin co-founder Justin Roberts joined MasterCard’s InConversation Webinar series to discuss why immediate payment disbursal is key for the restaurant industry and the gig economy as a whole.

Watch the webinar here or read our recap for the highlights: 

People live paycheck-to-paycheck

Not just some people are living paycheck to paycheck. Most people are. 

That’s right: around 64% of U.S. consumers are just getting by. Even more shocking, 51% of consumers who earn over six figures are still living paycheck to paycheck, despite their higher tax bracket. 

It’s a major reason why employees need access to their earnings sooner rather than later. The pressure of watching your bank account slowly drain in the two weeks between payday is putting a lot of pressure on people, leading to a much greater demand for instant payments than ever before. 

Instant payouts are now table stakes

A PYMNTS study found that people of all ages prefer to be paid out immediately, as well as some other interesting statistics:

  • When given the choice, 68% of respondents said they would opt for an instant pay out
  • 40% of gig workers surveyed were willing to pay a fee for an instant disbursement
  • 81% of respondents were willing to switch jobs to an employer that offers instant access to earned wages and tips

It’s safe to say instant payouts are becoming the expectation for today’s modern workforce. But not all instant payouts are created equal.

Consumers are much more likely to engage with an instant payout system if they aren’t required to share their bank account and routing numbers and can access funds with just their debit card credentials. Why? It’s faster, more convenient, and feels more secure. 

Instant payouts and tip management: a perfect use case.

Instant payout innovation has come at the perfect time for the restaurant industry, which is struggling more than ever with the hassles and cost of cash.

If you’re in the restaurant biz, then you know: Most consumers pay with credit cards these days, not cash. That means there’s rarely enough cash on hand to pay out tips at the end of a shift. But employees still want and need instant access to their tip earnings.

Enter: instant payouts. Offering employees the option to receive their tip earnings directly to their bank of choice, the second their shift ends, can go a long way in improving employee satisfaction and ensuring their financial security.

But instant payouts are more than a work perk for employees. The operational benefits for employers range from reduced administrative burden and significant time savings to stronger compliance and streamlined reporting.

Modernizing your tip management strategy: 5 best practices 

There are three key components to your tip management strategy: 

  • Tip pool policy: How are you divvying up tips among your staff? 
  • The payout method: How are you distributing those payments?
  • The systems and tech: What are you using to facilitate those payments?

Under the current circumstances, restaurant operators are under immense pressure to bring their tip management into the future. 

5 best practices for tip management 

Based on our experience working with restaurant operators across the country, we’ve found that these five practices are the perfect recipe for building a successful tip management system.  

  1. Determine the right model and method for your restaurant, based on your location and tech stack
  2. Get a written tip policy (and get it legally approved
  3. Solicit employee feedback in a structured way
  4. Leverage technology for efficiency, accuracy, and compliance
  5. Don’t over-complicate (but do over-communicate!)

Tip management solution must-haves

When seeking a new tip management solution, make sure you carefully vet each system to see if it really meets your needs, or if it’ll be just as frustrating as cash. Here are a few suggestions for what should be on your checklist: 

  • Instant payouts
  • Direct to bank of choice
  • Availability of employee funds
  • Payroll option 
  • Integrations 
  • Simple implementation + onboarding process 
  • Around-the-clock customer service 

Big emphasis on strong customer support teams. Restaurants and bars don’t have “typical” business hours, so neither should your tech support.

Bar Louie automates payouts with Kickfin 

In a recent case study, we took a deep dive into our partnership with Bar Louie, a chain with over 60 locations that took advantage of our new integration with Toast. They made the switch from cash payouts to Kickfin’s instant, direct-to-bank payouts and haven’t looked back.  

Two-minute tip-outs

Before Kickfin, managers spent an average of 45 minutes per shift working through Bar Louie’s complex tip out policy and counting cash. The tip pooling rules were important to them — it’s what makes the entire staff feel like they’re getting their fair share. 

Using the Kickfin0Toast integration, Bar Louie was able to automate the tip pool calculation process and send tips straight to employees in under two minutes – a potential annual savings of 15,000 labor hours across all locations.

>> See more customer success stories 

Do you want to see these kinds of cost-saving results at your business? Let’s talk. Get a demo of Kickfin and see why restaurant owners and employees alike trust us to manage their tips.

Kickfin’s best-in-class tip calculation tool has some exciting new bells and whistles.

If you’re already using Kickfin’s tip pool calculator, then you know how much time and hassle you’re saving by automating everything. (And if you’re not? Head over to our tip pooling software page to see how it works!)

As we partner with more restaurants to bring their tip management into the future, we’re continuing to innovate our product so we can address their biggest pain points.

In this case, that means enhancing our tip pooling features so you can auto-calculate tip amounts even for the most complex or unique tip pool or share policies.

Check out a few of our latest features that will make tip calculations easier than ever.

New Release: Splitting Large Party Tips 

If your restaurant often hosts large parties, you know that the tip share can get confusing. Say one server is taking care of a party of 40 with a bartender assigned to only make drinks for that party. Meanwhile, the server has a few other two-top tables that are getting drinks from the main service bar. At the end of the night, how do you ensure that the large-party bartender gets their fair share of the tip out (without spending an hour on your phone calculator)? 

Kickfin can now automate that process for you, alleviating questions from your event bartender and saving time and effort on the part of your managers. 

Seamless Integrations 

Kickfin is partnering with your POS system to integrate seamlessly with your existing restaurant tech. Already, we’re serving Toast customers through our integration — and your POS just might be up next. 

Kickfin integration users get access to new product features first, like our new tip-out transparency tool. Your employees can log into their Kickfin accounts and see exactly how their tips have been split between team members, offering them full transparency into your tip policy in action.

Manager Tips 

We’re always listening to feedback to improve the Kickfin experience, and this one goes out to all of our restaurant partners who asked us to streamline the manager tip reallocation process.

>>Learn more about managers & tipping laws

In most cases, managers are not allowed to earn tips since they are salaried employees. But we all know that managers often step in and take care of tables to help servers get out of the weeds. Well-meaning guests will most likely leave a tip, not knowing that the manager technically can’t accept them — so where does that money go?

Kickfin now features a default pool, where tips “paid” to a manager are automatically redistributed to tipped staff based on your restaurant’s tip policy. 

Improved Labor Data Accuracy

We all know how easy it is for an employee to forget to clock out after a long shift. And sure, they aren’t going to get paid for a 16-hour overnight shift, but when payday comes around, those extra hours create a nightmare for your payroll team. 

With Kickfin, all employees are required to be clocked out in order to finalize payments — so you’ll catch the labor data mistake long before your payroll team has to sort it out. 

Even Better Security 

We’re committed to protecting you and your employees’ hard-earned money, so we’re adding an extra layer of security for certain transactions. You can now enable double approval of payments that meet certain conditions:

  • First payment for new employees
  • Employees getting their first payout in X number of days
  • Employees receiving more than X payouts in a 24-hour period. 

With these extra guardrails in place, you can always be sure that the right money is going to the right person. Reach out to our support team to configure your custom security measures.

Using Kickfin is a win-win for operators, managers, and employees alike. Restaurateurs save on cash delivery and labor costs, managers shave hours off their workload, and servers have the same instant payment that they’re used to — without the hassle and uncertainty of cash. 

Want to learn more about Kickfin? Let us show you the ropes with a demo

You heard it here first: 2024 is the year of integrations. 

In an effort to make Kickfin even more user-friendly and adaptable for our partners, we’re working with restaurant tech leaders to integrate our tip management solution with their existing systems. 

First up — Toast! A trailblazer for cloud-based restaurant management technology, Toast is a favorite POS system for restaurants, food trucks, and bars. You probably know them best for being the first to create handheld POS devices, drastically changing the entire restaurant ecosystem. To make life easier for their customers, Toast partnered with Kickfin to create an integration that makes tip pooling, tip distribution, and calculation smoother. 

As restaurant tech innovators ourselves, this partnership is the perfect fit for Kickfin. 

Our goal at Kickfin is always to save time for managers, prevent loss for operators, and create more financial freedom for hospitality employees through pioneering technology that digitizes many of the analog processes that the restaurant industry is built on. 

As a member of the Toast Partner Ecosystem, we’ll be able to deliver our product to Toast customers and modernize their tip management systems with ease. Using technology that they’re already familiar with, Toast customers can reap the benefits of Kickfin with minimal ramp-up upon implementation.

“No two restaurants split tips the same way, but invariably, it takes too long and involves too much risk,”  said Justin Roberts, the co-CEO of Kickfin. “This integration allows for the utmost customization with a near-zero learning curve — truly the best of both worlds for restaurants that want to save time, reduce labor costs and make life easier for their team.”

And one of their partners is already enjoying the ROI with Kickfin. Bar Louie takes great pride in making tip distribution equitable for all of their employees, so they rely on a complex tip pooling system to ensure fair pay. Prior to using Kickfin, managers at each of their 60 locations spent 45 minutes at the end of every shift to make calculations and divvy out funds to all of their servers. Now, they’ve streamlined their tip-out process with Kickfin — and managers are doing the same work in less than a minute! That’s an annual average of 15,000 hours saved across their entire chain. 

>> Hear more Kickfin success stories

After implementing Kickfin, managers can spend their time on what matters most: delivering excellent customer service. That means more table touches, more support for your staff, and more time to focus on server training. 

With managers spending more time on the floor (instead of counting cash in the back), you’ll see better customer reviews, better service, and increased sales — all from digitizing your tip-outs with Kickfin.

We’re excited about our new partnership with Toast and the opportunity to make digital tipping a reality for their customers. For restaurants who aren’t using Toast, don’t worry! We look forward to providing similar integrations across the restaurant tech industry.  

Want to see these results for yourself? Find out how to become a Kickfin integration partner or check out a demo of our platform.

No growing pains here! 

We’re thrilled to announce that Inc. listed Kickfin in their list of the top 10 fastest growing companies in the Southwest. (In fact, we earned the #1 spot in the software category and were listed as #9 overall!) We’re honored to be included alongside innovative companies that are making a big difference in our region. 

Inc. measured Kickfin’s growth from 2020 to 2022 — which wasn’t an easy time for the restaurant industry, to say the least. In spite of the challenges posed by the pandemic, restaurant concepts across the country embraced Kickfin’s technology. 

As a group, the 2024 Inc. honorees averaged 136% growth and created 17,606 new jobs over a two-year period. Individually, Kickfin grew by a whopping 1,304% (yes, really!).

We want to recognize and thank both our amazing customers and the Kickfin team for being part of our success story and allowing us to be a part of theirs. 

Our Customers

For years, restaurants manually calculated and paid out cash tips — despite the increasing hassle and liability those old-school methods entail. It’s not because operators are tech-averse; there simply wasn’t a good way to automate the process that didn’t create new friction or require new workarounds. 

That’s precisely why we developed Kickfin. Of course, we’re proud of what we built and the team behind it (more on that below). But we owe a great deal of our success to the customers who trusted us enough to give Kickfin a shot — especially those early adopters who are now some of our longest-standing customers.

There’s a leap of faith involved when you partner with a vendor and layer in new technology, particularly when it impacts something as important and sensitive as how you pay your people.  We don’t take that lightly, and we are incredibly grateful for the opportunity to serve each and every customer who’s been on this journey with us.

>> Hear from our customers about their experiences with Kickfin

Our Team 

Every person on our team wholeheartedly believes in our mission and vision for the future. In short: we’re here to make the tip management process insanely easy for everyone so that paying out your people is (almost!) as great as getting paid. 

As backstory: Our co-founders, Brian and Justin, came up with the idea for Kickfin while dining out together and noticing that an armored car was dropping off cash. They asked why a restaurant would need a cash delivery when most patrons pay by card; the manager explained the cash was needed to pay out tips at the end of the shift. The inefficiency (and expense, and risk…) of that process was a lightbulb moment for Brian and Justin.

They set out to build a team who not only understood the problem, but could think critically and creatively about a solution — and bring it to life. 

From sales and marketing to product and support, every Kickfin employee has had a hand in the growth and success of our company, thanks to their passion for our purpose and their commitment to being best in class.

We’re proud of what we’ve achieved thus far, and we’re excited to continue collaborating with our customers, innovating on their behalf, and taking Kickfin to the next level together. Onward and upward!

See Kickfin in action!