These 10 franchises brands with 50-plus units are making healthy eating big business.
The quick-service restaurant industry is in the midst of a significant transformation due to increasing demand for high-quality offerings. Brands must cater to a growing crowd of health-conscious consumers who still require speedy and efficient service that fits into their schedules. These are the franchises that have built a winning model in a segment that is only going to get bigger.
Unit count: Over 2,000 locations in the U.S. and Canada
Investment range: $942,000-$1,600,000
Panera Bread is the kingpin of the health-conscious fast-casual segment with its hybrid bakery-cafe concept. Established in Missouri in 1987, the chain has quality-centric fresh food offerings that appeal to the masses and has built out its menu to be even more healthy with the changing of customer preferences in recent years. Because of its established presence in markets nationwide, Panera is now only signing franchise agreements for multi-unit owners. In the last year, the brand has revamped a staple by creating the double bread bowl and expanded its delivery initiative to couple with the addition of drive-thrus.
Unit count: More than 600 locations across 11 countries
Investment range: $216,354-$435,102
Canadian-born quick-service restaurant Pita Pit opened its first U.S. location in 1999. In the years since, the brand has risen to national prominence due to its novel concept and offering. Its menu of customizable, made-to-order pitas provides a welcome alternative to more traditional fast-food offerings, evident in the brand’s popularity and rate of growth. A straightforward offering of grilled meats and vegetables served with cheese and sauces in a fresh-baked pita keeps its service fast and accessible. Recently, Pita Pit has continued innovating by developing new menu items and establishing key partnerships to revamp its loyalty program and delivery app.
NrGize Lifestyle Cafe
Unit count: More than 80 locations
Investment range: $7,500-$30,000
NrGize Lifestyle Cafe is a fruit smoothie and meal-replacement shake concept that has been around and franchising since 2006. Nrgize Lifestyle Cafes are predominantly located in the vicinity of gyms, health clubs and other exercise venues, a strategic measure that helps conveniently and expeditiously serve the brand’s most popular clientele, health-focused consumers. Beyond smoothies and shakes, NrGize Lifestyle Cafes serve juices, coffee, tea, energy bars and small breakfast items that are all high-quality and nutrient-filled. Nrgize Lifestyle Cafe is part of Kahala Brands, which franchises a number of other quick-service concepts.
Unit count: More than 90 locations
Initial investment: $415,273-$596,455
When the Saladworks brand came about in 1986, it was the first fast-casual salad concept on the market. Fast-forward 15 years to 2001 and the brand was experiencing enough success to begin franchising, a move that has led to the establishment of locations in 13 states and two countries at present day. After a recent opening in Atlanta, Saladworks is creeping up to the development of its landmark 100th unit. The brand has had staying power in the crowded quick-service restaurant industry due to its healthy offering. All salads are made-to-order and customers can choose to either build their own or select from a list of signature and seasonal options, in addition to a selection of freshly-made sandwiches and soups.
Unit count: More than 900 stores worldwide
Initial investment: $263,550-$844,485
Smoothie King is a New Orleans, Louisiana-based franchise company serving a simple and flavorful low-calorie smoothie offering to supplement the health-conscious customer’s lifestyle. By blending its smoothies with fresh fruit and adding nutrient boosts, the brand rose to prominence by providing customers tons of variety with its dense menu. Smoothie King also offers a number of nutritious retail products like sports beverages, energy bars and vitamin supplements. Founded in 1973 and franchising in 1989, the brand has developed a worldwide presence, operating in countries like South Korea, the Caymans and Trinidad and Tobago. Cornering the market before the current health-conscious trend took hold, Smoothie King continues to grow throughout the U.S. with recent store openings throughout the Midwest, including St. Louis, Missouri.
Unit count: Over 300 restaurants worldwide
Investment range: $170,000-$470,500
Freshii was established in 2005 with the goal of capturing the magic of a classic New York City corner deli by providing the same fresh food, but faster and more accessible. The concept took off, and the brand now operates in more than 85 cities in 20 countries. Freshii offers a variety of convenient and affordable options like customizable brown rice and quinoa bowls, soups, and salads, and prides itself on its ever-evolving menu designed to keep up with the latest health food trends. Freshii was named the number one brand in Fast Casual’s Top 100 Movers & Shakers in 2018 and has established partnerships with Air Canada and Shell to develop new grab-and-go products.
Tropical Smoothie Cafe
Unit count: More than 600 locations nationwide
Investment range: $222,095-$569,335
First conceived as a beachfront smoothie stand on the Florida coast, Tropical Smoothie Cafe opened its first store in 1997 that used only fresh ingredients to inspire a healthy lifestyle. After experiencing success with its limited offering, the brand quickly recognized the opportunity in a health-conscious product and added food items to its menu in 1999, serving wraps, sandwiches, flatbreads and salads at every meal. On-staff chefs and nutritionists develop and maintain an evolving menu to cater to guests’ changing tastes and preferences. The brand is continuing to grow with no signs of slowing down, evident in the opening of 59 restaurants and signing of 129 franchise agreements in 2018.
Unit count: 50-plus locations nationwide
Investment range: $180,000 – $300,000
Founded on a commitment to bring quality to the communities in which it operates, Vitality Bowls Superfood Café serves organic acai, acerola, pitaya and graviola bowls, smoothies and fresh juices along with soups, salads and panini. The brand was established in 2011 in California to be consumed as breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack or dessert. The brand’s commitment to promoting a healthy lifestyle with fresh, antioxidant-rich and readily available products has resonated with customers, leading to growth beyond the Golden State into 13 other states and counting.
Unit count: Over 60 locations in the U.S. and New Zealand
Investment range: $157,800-$438,000
Young but mighty, Poké Bar is a Los Angeles-based franchise that opened in 2015 and is on track to hit 100 units by the end of 2018. One of the first to adapt the dish to a build-your-own, assembly line quick service concept, Poké Bar’s offering was developed from founder Yoon Ju’s experience serving the dish in his parents’ Japanese restaurant. Poké is a marinated fish salad that includes raw, sushi-grade fish with salt, pepper and soy sauce mixed in a bowl with different toppings that originated in Hawaii. The brand’s offering is a sushi/Hawaiian-style poké hybrid, leading to immense popularity as evidenced by the brand’s California footprint and fast-tracked expansion.
Taco Del Mar
Unit count: 260 restaurants across the U.S and Canada
Investment range: $156,700-$374,500
Taco Del Mar is a fast-casual franchise that focuses on coastal Mexican fare. The restaurant layout is Baja, California-inspired, as is the menu, which is full of fresh ingredients and primarily features fish over beef and chicken. This focus on fish is one way the brand makes its offering more appealing to customers that are focusing more on quality and nutrition, even when it comes to tacos. Menu features include lard-free beans, whole wheat tortillas, and a 320-calorie chicken burrito. All food is made-to-order in an assembly line setting. In July 2018, the brand was acquired by High Bluff Capital Partners, a move that is aimed to bring the franchise beyond its Pacific Northwest stronghold.
*Brands marked with an asterisk are clients of 1851 Franchise or No Limit Agency.