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5 Regional Food Franchises You Wish Were in Your City

From Midwestern burger joints to Cincinnati-style chili concepts, these franchise brands have had a big impact on their local customer base but have yet to expand nationwide.

It's hard to imagine, but even franchise brands as big as McDonald’s and Dunkin’ once operated with only a single location in a solitary market. As the regional chains built up strong followings, bolstering consumer offerings and implementing business models that were sure to translate to other markets, they began to expand their footprints and transform into the national juggernauts of franchising we know today. But some franchise brands never break out of that regional mold, even making the conscious choice to deliberately limit their footprints to one portion of the country, whether it be to cultivate exclusivity, keep franchisees close for support, or appeal to a local taste. 

Here are some of the regional franchise brands that we wish were in every city across the country. 


  • Units: 785
  • Startup costs: $2,398,000 to $5,432,000

Culver’s started as a small, family-owned restaurant in rural Sauk City, Wisconsin. Today, the restaurant has become widely known for its fresh frozen custard and ButterBurgers. While the company has a dedicated following and nearly 800 units, it has expanded to only six states throughout the Midwest and the South.


  • Units: 700+
  • Startup costs: $1,200,000

A trip to Texas wouldn’t be complete without a late-night stop at the Whataburger drive-thru. This regional restaurant chain in the American South and Southwest has earned a loyal following for its patty melts, saucy burgers and breakfast taquitos. With its red-and-white striped A-frame roofs and late-late-night breakfast menu, the brand is a staple of Southern culture and is unfortunately limited to that region of the country, as well as more recently in Colorado. 

Skyline Chili

  • Units: 150+
  • Startup costs: $500,000 to $2,000,000

This Ohio-based regional chain, which has become synonymous with the beloved dish known as Cincinnati-style chili, only offers franchise agreements that are within 300 miles of its Fairfield, Ohio, commissary. That is why the more than 150 Skyline Chili restaurants can be found in only four states: Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and Florida. 

Schoop's Hamburgers

  • Units: 18
  • Startup costs: $285,000 to $385,000

Although a favorite among local fans, Schoop's Hamburgers – a 1950s-style burger restaurant and diner – can be found only in Northwestern Indiana and the Southern Chicago suburbs. The menu includes fresh, never-frozen patties cooked to order on a grill and served on a toasted bun alongside fries, onion rings and classic soda shop beverages.


  • Units: 330
  • Startup costs: $303,600 to $1,443,000

Founded in Wilmington, California, in 1961 by John Galaridi, Wienerschnitzel has become widely known for its hot dogs, burgers and snacks. Today, the brand has primarily staked a significant claim in the Southwestern U.S.