Published on 27 Oct 2023 Time 6 min read Last update by 2 Nov 2023

Top 3 Businesses with the Most Franchises in the World: A Close Look

most profitable franchises

Franchising has long stood as a beacon of enduring success and universal appeal in the realm of global business. For aspiring entrepreneurs seeking established brands with a proven track record, certain industry titans have emerged as pioneers in this thriving sector. According to the esteemed global franchise rankings by Entrepreneur, these three names reign supreme as the top 3 businesses with the most franchises in the world: McDonald’s, Taco Bell, and KFC.

In this in-depth expedition, we venture into the bustling world of franchising, illuminating the unparalleled success stories of these industry giants. From their modest origins to their current commanding presence on the global stage, we dig deep into the unique qualities that set these franchises apart, uncovering the visionary strategies that have propelled them to the summits of prosperity.

Join us as we unravel the secrets behind the extraordinary success of McDonald’s, 7-Eleven, and KFC, and acquire invaluable insights into the realm of franchising that are certain to ignite the passions of entrepreneurs and business enthusiasts alike.

How Does Entrepreneur Magazine Evaluate Opportunities?

The rankings by Entrepreneur Magazine are meticulously compiled using a refined version of their renowned Franchise 500 formula, with an emphasis on assessing international size and growth. This modified formula also takes into account various other crucial aspects, including costs and fees, the level of support provided to franchisees, the robustness of the brand, and the financial strength and stability of the franchise. In order to be eligible for consideration, companies were required to actively seek new franchisees beyond the borders of the United States and have a minimum of five operational units abroad as of July 2022.

MicrosoftTeams image 4 1

Top 3 Businesses With The Most Franchises In The World

businesses with the most franchises in the world 18

#3 – About Taco Bell

top 3 businesses with the most franchises in the world

Taco Bell stands as an iconic American multinational chain of fast-food restaurants, with its origins dating back to 1962 when it was founded by Glen Bell in Downey, California. Today, Taco Bell operates under the umbrella of the esteemed Yum! Brands, Inc. Within its vibrant menu, patrons can savor a diverse array of Mexican-inspired culinary delights, spanning from traditional tacos and burritos to quesadillas, nachos, as well as an assortment of unique novelty and specialty items. In addition, Taco Bell prides itself on offering a value menu tailored to cater to a wide range of preferences and budgets.

The inception of Taco Bell traces back to Glen Bell’s entrepreneurial journey, which began with the establishment of a hot dog stand named Bell’s Drive-In in San Bernardino, California, in 1948. It was here that Bell keenly observed the substantial queues forming at the Mitla Cafe, a neighboring Mexican restaurant renowned for its signature hard-shelled tacos. This observation would ultimately serve as the inspiration for the creation of Taco Bell, shaping it into the thriving franchise we know today.

Investment Range: $576K-$3.37M

Total U.S. Locations: 7,513

U.S. Franchised Units: 7,049

Royalty Fee: N/A

Estimated Profits: Click here

Estimated Resale Value: Click here

#2 – McDonald’s

top 3 businesses with the most franchises in the world

McDonald’s stands as an American corporate powerhouse, boasting one of the largest networks of fast-food restaurants worldwide. With an impressive presence spanning 119 countries and territories, McDonald’s commands a staggering 36,000 stores, solidifying its position as the second-largest fast-food chain globally, surpassed only by the renowned submarine sandwich chain, Subway.

The McDonald’s saga commenced in 1954 when Ray Kroc, a distributor of a specialized milkshake mixing machine, was captivated by the McDonald brothers’ request for eight mixers. Recognizing the immense potential in their innovative restaurant concept, Kroc took on the role of a franchise agent for the visionary siblings. In April 1955, Kroc inaugurated McDonald’s Systems, Inc., later rebranded as McDonald’s Corporation, in Des Plaines, Illinois, concurrently unveiling the first McDonald’s franchise east of the Mississippi River. By 1961, Kroc had acquired full ownership of the enterprise from the McDonald brothers.

Investment Range: $521K-$2.5M

Total U.S. Locations: 13,455

U.S. Franchised Units: 12,764

Royalty Fee: 4%

Estimated Profits: Click here

Estimated Resale Value: Click here

#1 – KFC

top 3 businesses with the most franchises in the world

KFC, officially known as Kentucky Fried Chicken, is an esteemed American fast-food chain headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky, renowned for its delectable specialty in fried chicken. Boasting an impressive global presence, KFC holds the distinction of being the world’s second-largest restaurant chain in terms of sales, trailing only behind the colossal McDonald’s empire. As of December 2019, KFC had established an extensive network of 22,621 locations across 150 countries. This culinary giant operates under the umbrella of Yum! Brands, a prominent restaurant conglomerate that also oversees the operations of Pizza Hut and Taco Bell.

The roots of KFC trace back to Colonel Harland Sanders, an enterprising visionary who embarked on the venture of selling fried chicken from his humble roadside eatery in Corbin, Kentucky, amidst the challenges of the Great Depression. Recognizing the immense potential in the franchising concept, the inaugural “Kentucky Fried Chicken” franchise emerged in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1952. KFC revolutionized the fast-food landscape by introducing chicken as a formidable competitor to the reigning dominance of the hamburger, fundamentally reshaping the industry.

Investment Range: $1.05M-$3.77M

Total U.S. Locations: 3,888

U.S. Franchised Units: 3,842

Royalty Fee: 5%

Estimated Profits: Click here

Estimated Resale Value: Click here

Let’s Put Them Into Comparison

According to our Franchise Comparison Tool, McDonald’s, KFC, and Taco Bell each offer unique investment opportunities in the fast-food industry. McDonald’s presents an investment range spanning from $521,000 to $2.5 million, with an extensive presence of 13,455 locations across the United States. The potential earnings for an owner-operator stand at an impressive $660,531, while for a semi-absentee owner, it amounts to $492,081. On the other hand, KFC demands a higher initial investment, ranging from $1.05 million to $3.77 million. Despite a more modest total of 3,888 U.S. locations, owner-operators can expect earnings of $240,376, while semi-absentee owners may earn around $179,075.

Taco Bell, with an investment range of $576,000 to $3.37 million, maintains a substantial presence with 7,513 U.S. locations. While specific earnings figures were not provided, it’s noted that owners can anticipate an annual income ranging from $80,000 to $90,000. These statistics illustrate the varying investment requirements and potential earnings associated with these three prominent fast-food franchises.

CTA-franchise comparison tool


In conclusion, this comprehensive analysis provides a valuable insight into the world of franchising, spotlighting three industry giants: McDonald’s, KFC, and Taco Bell. Each of these iconic brands offers unique investment opportunities, catering to a diverse range of entrepreneurs. McDonald’s, with its extensive global presence, presents a range of $521,000 to $2.5 million, offering impressive earnings potential for both owner-operators and semi-absentee owners.

KFC, commanding a higher initial investment, boasts a substantial network of locations and competitive earnings figures. Taco Bell, nestled in between the two, maintains a strong presence with a wide-ranging investment spectrum and promising income potential. Aspiring entrepreneurs have a wealth of options to explore within the fast-food industry, each with its own set of advantages and considerations. The Franchise Comparison Tool serves as a valuable resource for individuals seeking to make informed decisions in their pursuit of franchise ownership.

Speak to a franchise specialist today.

Discover which franchise is best for you.

Speak to a franchise specialist today

Visit Franchise Profiles mentioned

See more profiles

Access to unbiased franchise data.

Easy to access franchise data for everyone from first time franchise buyers to institutional investors buying whole franchise systems to everyone in between.