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6 Brands That Became Franchises in 2020

Food, fitness and franchising influencers launched new concepts for the post-pandemic world and reveal how they survived COVID-19.

By Sarah Brown1851 Franchise Copy Editor
Updated 8:08AM 05/07/21

Businesses faced several challenges in 2020, including a global pandemic, lockdowns and a wave of closures. Some, however, managed to persevere and beat the curve.

And for some franchises, 2020 wasn’t just a year to survive, but one spent planning for growth in 2021. Now, with the pandemic’s end in sight, the International Franchising Association is predicting a massive year for franchise sales

1851 spoke with six brands that decided to start franchising in 2020, and their responses bring some light to an otherwise dark and unforgettable year.

Biscuit Belly

With a franchise program backed by Chuck Schnatter, brother of Papa John’s founder John Schnatter, and pharmacists-turned-restaurateurs Chad and Lauren Coulter, this quick-service brunch brand hopes to be the biscuit darling of the South — and eventually throughout the country. The Louisville-based brand offers breakfast and brunch dishes centered around one ingredient: biscuits. 

The brand decided to franchise in 2020 because the pandemic gave its leaders the downtime and the mental capacity to roll out a franchising organization.

“There aren’t many franchises in the biscuit space specifically,” said Lauren Coulter, the brand’s co-owner and director of franchise sales & development. “We don’t think of ourselves as fast food. What sets us apart is the different, quality customer experience we offer.”

Biscuit Belly, which describes itself as having damn-good-biscuits, is specifically looking for multi-unit operators who already have the necessary industry experience to grow the brand.

“We’ve gotten a lot of interest from people who just want to try something new,” said Lauren. “But we’re trying to be smart about our growth pattern. We hope to have 20-25 stores in development by the end of the year.”


The U.S. fitness/wellness industry’s revenue plummeted 58% in 2020, making it one of the hardest-hit industries by the economic impact of COVID-19. But P.volve, a fitness franchise that provides a new-to-market method that teaches its users to work with their body and not against it, found ways to adapt. The brand believes its point of differentiation from vanity fitness models is its priority of progress over pain, combining dynamic joint movement with patented resistance-based equipment to activate and strengthen every muscle.

With a pandemic on everyone’s minds, mental and physical health has become more important than ever, incentivizing them to pursue new workout options. The pandemic also ignited a spark of entrepreneurial pursuit, a trend P.volve believes will benefit their expansion plans.

“The fitness/wellness industry is proving to be recession-proof,” said Julie Cartwright, president of P.volve. “In that same vein, franchising typically does well in challenging economic times, especially within the fitness and wellness space, so the timing was right to invest in this sector of our business.”

When considering whether or not to pursue franchising, the brand put as much emphasis on selling franchises as it did on its customers. According to Cartwright, P.volve offers an omnichannel approach through which it meets customers wherever they may be (via on-demand access, live classes, innovative equipment and in-person studio access), which is a new customer expectation in the fitness space. But the brand also believes it has a strong support system for its franchisees, one that pushes them to be the best they can be while also offering them all the tools and resources they need to find success.

“We turned to franchising to motivate managers and entrepreneurs to become owners and offer long-term commitment and skin in the game. That truly allows for better quality management and ultimately an enhanced customer experience from our members,” emphasized Cartwright.

Combo Kitchen

Founded by franchising expert, restaurateur and CEO/Founder of Franchise Creator Hossein Kasmai, Combo Kitchen lives up to its name by combining the convenience of franchising with the efficiency of ghost kitchens, giving franchisees the opportunity to operate multiple reputable food concepts within one location.

Since in-store dining was limited during the pandemic, Combo Kitchen decided to capitalize on what they believe to be the future of the restaurant industry — virtual brands.

“We are efficient and strategic with our business model,” said Gage Anderle, the brand’s director of business development. “We place national brands in existing concepts through ghost kitchens. It’s quite revolutionary. And we’ve given restaurateurs the proof of concept they need to get with the modern times.”

The brand is seeking like-minded entrepreneurs with a forward-thinking mindset in 2021.

“The days of only owning a restaurant are gone,” said Anderle. “If you still have that old school mindset, you’re going to get left behind.”


When Ernesto Peralta decided to join the restaurant industry, he wanted to create a brand that appeals to a wide audience. During that process, he met and fell in love with his current wife, Amy. Together they built Cerealphoria, which offers a menu of milkshakes, parfaits, sundaes, root beer floats and cheesecake — all created with one common element: cereal.

“It’s a love story, if you may,” said Peralta. “Amy was a teacher, and she was working days and I was working nights. I wanted to find a way to spend more time together, so I decided to go into the cereal business.”

The brand started as a cereal-only concept, offering a variety of cereal choices, milk choices and toppings. Even then, Peralta said customers would ask if his concept was a franchise at least three or four times a week. Then COVID-19 happened.

“When the pandemic happened, we rebranded our entire concept and took it to distribution centers, festivals and HOAs,” Peralta said. “People started liking the idea, and we eventually finalized the franchise paperwork.”

Peralta wanted to turn his brand into a franchise for multiple reasons: He believes it is COVID-proof, Cerealphoria’s concept is very easily duplicatable, and most importantly, he believes in finding solutions during uncertain times.

“I wanted to grow a brand that is unique and multipliable,” he said. “I believe it is very much pandemic-proof. It’s all grab and go, it’s low overhead and it’s easy to manage. And when the pandemic happened, I had a choice — do I go home and complain about things, or do I find a solution to improve other people’s lives?”

Pizzeria Halt

Think it’s impossible to find health-conscious, quality vegan pizza? So did Pizzeria Halt CEO Sambit Duttaroy, until he founded his current pizza franchise, which was established to offer consumers more vegan pizza options.

The brand started franchising before the COVID-19 pandemic, but when the pandemic did come, it only made the brand more determined to bring health-focused pizza options to the masses.

“People sometimes drive half an hour for vegan pizza, and we wanted to change that,” said Duttaroy. “People really need this, especially now when people are focusing more and more on their health.”

Inspired by plant-based diets, Duttaroy wanted to develop a restaurant that is health-conscious.

“I was attending a seminar on cancer, and the dietician focused on a plant-based diet and how important it is for a cancer patient,” said Duttaroy. “Then I asked, ‘Where can I get organic products like these?’ And the dietician told me that organic products are a bit harder to find and are more expensive.”

His solution? Trying to make such products more widely available to people through Pizzeria Halt.

Bowl Boss Acai

Yet another franchise that prioritizes high-quality, clean ingredients, Bowl Boss Acai seeks to make health-conscious eating an immersive experience with a tropical, bright and welcoming atmosphere and food that is equally as joy-filled.

The brand had been considering franchising for some time before the pandemic and decided not to let COVID stop them.

“2020 was a time of great uncertainty,” said Jenna Stanton, founder of the brand. “But we did not want to allow 2020 to change our plans. Through it all, we are proud to have kept Bowl Boss alive to provide some sort of normalcy and comfort to our customers. And although times are still changing, we are confident Bowl Boss will remain a premier destination for all things acai.”

The brand believes 2021 will be a time of renewed hope and entrepreneurial energy, which will ultimately encourage people to pursue new career opportunities — and more specifically, franchising.

“We are expecting a significant amount of growth this year as we just started selling franchises in November 2020. Bowl Boss offers a wonderful opportunity for seasoned or new-to-the-table entrepreneurs to join a budding franchise on the ground floor,” said Stanton. “We are proud to offer training hours directly from our CEOs, an open-door policy for fresh ideas and two different franchise models (food truck or storefront) that both promote low-waste and environmentally-friendly/sustainable practices.”