Top 28 Burger Franchises of 2021 (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.

21. Checkers and Rally’s

This top burger franchise opportunity used to be two unique restaurants, but they have been joined to form one really great franchise opportunity. This is a drive-thru model, and their unique offering to customers is that there are always two drive-thru lines at each store.

This franchise has a great mobile app that is already developed, and it is partnered with DoorDash and numerous other delivery services to help expand its reach. This is a nice thing not to have to deal with as a new franchise owner and a big benefit for the current landscape.

Checkers and Rally’s has been around since 1986 and started franchising in 1989, so they know their way around this space. There are currently 859 locations, 254 of which are in the US. This is only slightly down from last year’s 862, so they are holding pretty steady.

22. Wayback Burgers

This is a great franchise choice on the franchise list if you want to offer some unique menu options to your customers. Wayback has hotdogs on the menu as well as various sandwich options, chicken tenders, salads, and milkshakes. They are famous for their house-made potato chips as well.

They offer delivery service, which fits in with the demands of owning a restaurant these days, and they also partner with the Boys and Girls Clubs of America for their charitable giving drives and events. These are both means by which this top franchise can offer up flexibility and exposure while doing the right thing by its customers and community.

The original restaurant came about in 1991 and they have been franchised since 2006. The locations keep climbing in number, and there are now 148, only 5 of which are company-owned. Many of the locations are in the US as well.

23. Burger 21

This is an upscale franchise opportunity that offers up 21 chef-inspired burgers and hand-spun shakes. Also on the menu are hot dogs, salads, sides and desserts. This franchise promotes a hipster vibe, and their menu is populated with clever names like B-Saucy, B-Different, B-Comfortable, and so forth.

On the 21st of each month, all locations donate 10% of the proceeds from that day is given to a local charity or school.

This franchise was founded by the owners of The Melting Pot in Tampa, FL in 2010 and they franchised in 2011. There are 19 locations in total, so this is the chance to get involved with a smaller franchise from the beginning.

24. BGR-Burgers Grilled Right

This used to be BGR-The Burger Joint but has since changed its naming convention. These are flame-grilled burgers that are made to order and to temperature. They rotate the menu for seasonal options, and there are Korean BBQ, The Reuben, Buffalo Blue, and In Guac We Trust as part of the cycle of fun burger options.

This franchise was founded in 2008 in Maryland, and there are 18 locations at this time, 16 in the US and 2 in Kuwait. This is a unique burger restaurant and one that will give you a boutique presence without the boutique price.

25. Big Smoke Burger

This is a Canadian burger franchise for sale that is very popular. It’s kind of like a Better Burger with handcrafted signature gourmet burgers on the menu, fries, and chicken burgers. However, there is also poutine on the menu, some sides and milkshakes.

This franchise was born in Toronto in 2007, and franchising began in 2011. The franchise numbers have come down some lately, with 8 in Canada and 3 in the United Arab Emirates at this time. This is a pretty cool and totally different franchise that has a strong foothold in Canada.

26. Built Custom Burgers

This is another better burger concept with the major difference that they use humanely-raised, antibiotic-free, and 100% natural beef, chicken, turkey, and veggie burgers. This is a counter custom burgers related franchise and was created by the same team.

An order begins with the basics of protein choice, bun, cheese, and any alternate choices that someone might want for the basics. Then customers can add toppings, sides, and beverages as the order progresses.

This is a new top franchise chain and it has recently been purchased by franchisor MTY Food Group from Canada. They also own Kahala Brands. Built Custom has been around since 2013 and franchised in2014. There are 5 locations in the US that are spread out from North Carolina to Los Angeles, and there is a Toronto location as well.

27.Fuddruckers

This is a really fun and unique franchise that offers up cooked-to-order burgers that are ordered from the register and then dressed with a huge variety of toppings and condiments by the customer. Milkshakes are on the menu here as well, and they offer up various protein choices that include meatless options.

There are 156 of these restaurants across the US and globally. They are one of the most familiar franchises in the US, especially on the West Coast, and are very popular. The self-serve feature for toppings and sides is one of the most-talked-about features of this franchise and seems to set it apart from other, more basic burger franchises for sale.

28. Burgerim

This cleverly-named franchise list offering has 11 main varieties of burger and then adds in lamb, salmon, and other alternate protein sources. They also have a great veggie menu. Salads and toppings are high-quality here as well, making this a well-rounded option for general dining.

This is originally an Israeli burger franchise for sale that opened its first US location in 2016 and has now grown to over 200 locations. This is already a big franchise on the move, but it has such a unique menu that it might be the perfect fit for the needs of your area. If you are opening a location in a college town or another place where there are already many burger places, the special items on the Burgerim menu will make all the difference for you.

The unique franchises list offers ownership opportunities that often stand the test of time better than basic ones because this is a popular franchising space and also a competitive one.

Zacs Food Truck

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *