Top 20 Burger Franchises of 2020 (Ultimate Burger Franchise Guide)

burger franchises

Burger joints make up the largest portion of restaurant franchises in America. This is because quick-service burger chains are convenient and inexpensive for customers. Plus, many consumers already are familiar with many of these restaurants and can be reached easily through marketing.

If you are looking into opening a burger franchise, it can be overwhelming to decide what franchise to buy. There are so many choices!

The hamburger market is continuing to grow, so getting on board can be a lucrative option for you. Here we have put together the Ultimate Burger Franchise Guide for 2020 to help jump-start your research into picking the best franchise to open!

1. Zac’s Burgers

Zac’s Burgers is a burger franchise looking to expand. They offer food truck services, take out, events, and burger catering– making them more versatile with franchise options than the others on this list. They also have many delicious and unique menu options available for a burger joint.

Zac’s Burgers tops the list, because they offer many helpful franchise training options that are perfect for someone looking to open a hamburger franchise for the first time.

At the moment, many of their locations are in PA, but could quickly spread- leading them to be one of the best franchises for you to open this year.

Those were the top 10 burger franchises for 2020! There is a lot to consider when looking to buy a franchise. Hopefully this Ultimate Burger Franchise Guide was able to assist you.

2. McDonald’s

McDonald’s is a classic and extremely well-known option for a burger franchise. They are currently testing a plant-based meat patty for a future menu item. They also were quick to adapt to using new technology with their digital kiosk system in many stores.

With McDonald’s franchising since 1955, they now total at 38,108 locations- with an astounding 22,235 located outside the U.S.

3.  Burger King

Burger King’s new meatless option became super popular, fast. This burger franchise is also taking the necessary steps to expand locations in other countries, as they recently signed off development rights for the Baltic countries.

Currently, BK has 17,796 running hamburger franchises in America.

4. Wendy’s

Now, we are getting into the more “big names” that you probably expected to see on this list. Wendy’s is mostly known for its square burgers, frosty desserts, and their current major rebranding of locations- adding digital menus, TVs, and even fireplaces to some stores.

Their marketing skyrocketed in the 80s with their “Where’s the beef” campaign that they became known for. Wendy’s has not had any ad campaigns as successful as that since then, but the brand well-known and a common name in any household.

The number of Wendy’s locations currently is at 6,711.

5. Hardee’s

Currently, Hardee’s is going through a brand refresh which consists of NASCAR and other country-themed elements. Hardee’s is run by the same company that owns Carl Jr.’s.

However, Hardee’s is a better choice for a family-oriented restaurant. In the 2000s, Hardee’s began to move away from racy ads in favor of family-friendly ones. Carl Jr.’s decision to keep on with their sexualized advertising.

Since starting franchising in 1962, the number of locations total at 2,229, and 392 of those are outside the United States.

6. Sonic Drive-In Restaurants

This burger franchise is unique to others on this list, because of their 1950s atmosphere. Drive-ins are a fun way to order food and a great way to relax! Customers pull into a drive-in stall, order food over an intercom, which is then delivered by a carhop (who usually wears rollerskates, in the spirit of the 1950s).

Since becoming a franchise in 1959, there are a total of 3,615 locations in the United States. The number of locations has been increasing slowly, but still makes for one of the best franchises to own for those looking for a unique dining experience.

7. Jack in the Box

Jack in the Box is a burger joint, however, their most popular selling menu item is their taco. The menu is also made up of 13 different signature burgers which are updated over time.

After being founded in 1951 and franchised in 1982, there are now 2,229 locations all in the United States.

8. Carl Jr.’s

Meatless options have been gaining popularity in recent years. Carl Jr.’s adopted this practice early on and have been developing it, giving meatless options a great taste. They have sold more than 4.4 million vegan patties since 2018, making them the most successful burger launch for the franchise.

After being founded in 1945, then franchised in 1984, Carl Jr.’s now has over 1,600 burger franchises open- of which 543 are located outside of the United States.

9. Five Guys Burgers & Fries

This hamburger franchise has a unique and impressive start-up story. When they decided to turn their idea into a franchise in 2003, they sold 300 franchises in only 18 months- all by relying on word of mouth! There was absolutely no paid advertising involved at the time.

The menu consists of hand-made burgers that can be built up with 15 free toppings. Plus, there are other delicious options such as, hot dogs, sandwiches- or complimentary roasted peanuts.

This franchise was founded by a family and got the name from the 5 sons who eventually would become owners. Since 2003, there are now more than 1,600 locations in America.

10. Whataburger

Until recently, Whataburger was a family-owned business. The family sold a majority of their stake to an investment company, allowing for more franchises to open. Now, the company has 820 locations in 10 states.

The stores are open 24/7, offer their signature burgers, and just started serving a new breakfast burger. Since then, the restaurants have seen a sudden spike in popularity. They also offer 36,864 different ways for customers to customize their burgers, giving them points for originality and more creative ways to serve a burger among the other franchises.

11. Johnny Rockets

Johnny Rockets is a unique franchise. If you love the 40s and 50s, you will enjoy this franchise restaurant. They are styled around the malt shops and diners of that time period and use vintage Coca Cola advertising for decorations.

They also feature jukebox stations, chrome accents, and those vintage red vinyl seats we all love so much. This is one of the best franchises to own if you are interested in capturing that old-timey diner aesthetic.

Johnny Rockets was founded in 1986 and started franchising a year later. There are now more than 400 locations in the United States, including 13 of them being located on cruise ships.

12. Smashburger

At a Smashburger, you order at a counter then receive your food at your table. This franchise’s creative name comes from how they prepare their burgers. Ground beef is smashed on the grill with a small iron tool, then seasoned and cooked in just under 3 minutes. This is a good option if you want customers to be able to customize their burgers.

This franchise restaurant was purchased by Jollibee Foods Corporation. Their main goal is to reignite the growth of the brand. They currently have more than 340 franchises operating in 37 states, plus in 9 different countries.

13. Fatburger

Fatburger is one of the best franchises to buy. Their goal is to serve up huge burgers- so large that they are made to be a meal alone. The menu consists of hamburgers and other goodies, such as fries, salads, and onion rings.

Fatburger is also offering a meatless Impossible Burger- something that many burger joints are started to do these days. They have plenty of options for people, on any diet.

They were founded by Lovie Yancie in 1947 and claim to have over 200 locations.

14. BurgerFi

This franchise restaurant is more modern than many other establishments of the same type. They are a major part of the “better burger” movement and give off a classy coffee shop vibe. They offer plenty of meatless options, but do still have meat burgers well.

Their menu consists of burgers, hot dogs, shakes, frozen custard, beer, wine, and other delicious sides. They always use natural Angus beef, with no hormones or steroids. You will be excited to know that they received an “A” from Consumer Reports on the quality of their beef!

They have been franchising since 2011 and have 106 locations, 5 are in foreign counties and 18 are company-owned.

15. Farmer Boys

This is one of the best burger franchises, as they offer 8 different signature burgers, plus salads, breakfast, sandwiches, and sides- all of which are guaranteed to be fresh from the farm! They locally source all their products, ensuring that their food tastes delicious.

They were founded by the Havadijas brothers in 1981 and franchised later in 1997. Their locations have been expanding recently, and they are currently up to 95 establishments.

16. Mooyah Burgers, Fries & Shakes

This is a “better burger” restaurant with 16 different unique burgers. They include turkey and veggie burger patties as options too. Plus, they also have fries, hot dogs, and shakes on their menu.

Mooyah was founded in 2007 and started franchising right then and there. However, their number of locations has recently started to decrease from 100 to 89.

17. Elevation Burger

This is one of the best franchises to won today, as they work hard to focus on organic and fresh food. They also want to be environmentally friendly and all of their buildings are certified by the United States Green Building Council.

They were recently purchased by Fat Brands- who also now own Fatburger, Ponderosa Steakhouse, and Bonanza Steakhouse, to name a few brands.

They were established in 2005, franchised in 2008, and currently have 26 locations in the United States. They also have locations in various countries in the Middle East.

18. Caliburger

Caliburger was founded in 2013 and now has 34 locations. Most of them are outside of the United States in 12 other counties.

You have to love California to buy this franchise. Their establishments are themed around it and make use of a robotic burger flipper named “Flippy”. They promote themselves as a better In-N-Out Burger, which is another California based chain.

19. The Counter Custom Burgers

This burger franchise claims to serve more than a million custom burger combinations! They are full-service with lots of peppy music and decorations. They are unique in the way they handle orders as well.

The customer receives a clipboard with an ingredient list and simply put a check next to everything that they want on their hamburger. This menu also features various desserts, sides, and alcoholic drinks.

They were founded in California in 2003 and franchised 2 years later. Their locations currently sit at 40, with 8 outside of the United States.

20. Liberty Burger

This family-owned brand is one of the best franchises to buy, as they are committed to getting their bread from bakeries that use only hand-grown ingredients.  Their meats also come from responsible sources and are minimally processed- without any additional hormones, stimulants, or other antibiotics.

Their menu consists of 12 specialty burgers and offers a couple of other sandwiches, plus some sides and desserts. They also have wine to offer, craft beers, and “adult shakes”. These are unique shakes infused with various types of alcohol.

They were founded by the Street siblings in 2011 in Texas and started franchising in 2014. There are only 6 locations with 5 of them being in Texas. They are not very big, but do have a lot to offer those looking to buy a restaurant franchise.


Zacs Food Truck

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