Are you dreaming of starting your own restaurant business, but worried about the high start-up costs? Well, a restaurant franchise might be the perfect option for you. In this article, we will explore the world of low-cost restaurant franchises and discuss the top 10 cheapest food franchises to open. Whether you're a seasoned entrepreneur or just starting out, this article will provide valuable insights into the world of restaurant franchising.

Introduction to Restaurant Franchise

What is a Franchise?

A franchise is a business arrangement in which one party, known as the franchisor, grants the rights to operate a business under its established brand to another party, known as the franchisee. In return for obtaining the franchise rights, the franchisee pays the franchisor certain fees and royalties. The franchisor provides the franchisee with a proven business model, ongoing support, and access to their brand and marketing materials.

Benefits of Starting a Food Franchise

Starting a food franchise offers several benefits compared to starting a standalone restaurant. One of the key advantages is the brand recognition and customer loyalty that comes with an established franchise. Customers are more likely to trust and frequent a well-known franchise, which can result in higher sales and profitability. Additionally, as a franchisee, you will benefit from the expertise and guidance of the franchisor, who will provide training, marketing support, and operational assistance.

Restaurant Industry in the US

The restaurant industry in the US is thriving, with a steady growth rate expected in the coming years. According to recent reports, the restaurant industry is projected to reach $1.2 trillion by 2023. This presents a tremendous opportunity for aspiring entrepreneurs looking to enter the food industry. However, with the high costs associated with starting a new restaurant from scratch, many individuals are turning to low-cost restaurant franchises as a more affordable and less risky option.

Factors to Consider for Low-Cost Restaurant Franchises

Franchise Fees

When considering low-cost restaurant franchises, one of the first factors to consider is the franchise fee. The franchise fee is the upfront payment that the franchisee pays to the franchisor in order to acquire the rights to operate the franchise. It is important to carefully evaluate the franchise fee and compare it to the potential profitability of the franchise. While a low franchise fee may seem appealing, it is essential to ensure that it aligns with the value and support provided by the franchisor.

Initial Investment and Startup Costs

In addition to the franchise fee, it is vital to consider the overall initial investment and startup costs associated with opening a low-cost restaurant franchise. Startup costs typically include expenses such as leasehold improvements, equipment, furniture, inventory, and working capital. As a potential franchise owner, it is important to thoroughly review the franchisor's disclosure documents, which outline the estimated initial investment required, and ensure that you have the necessary funds available or can secure financing.

Royalty Fees and Advertising Costs

Another factor to consider when evaluating low-cost restaurant franchises is the ongoing royalty fees and advertising costs. Royalty fees are typically a percentage of the franchisee's sales that are paid to the franchisor on a regular basis. These fees are in exchange for the continued use of the franchisor's brand and ongoing support. Additionally, most franchises require franchisees to contribute to a national advertising fund. It is crucial to understand and factor in these ongoing expenses when assessing the overall profitability and affordability of the franchise.

Top 10 Cheapest Food Franchises to Open

Now that we have explored the key factors to consider when evaluating low-cost restaurant franchises, let's dive into the top 10 cheapest food franchises to open. These franchises provide excellent opportunities for aspiring entrepreneurs with limited capital.

Baskin Robbins

Baskin Robbins is an internationally recognized ice cream franchise with a low initial franchise fee and startup costs. With a wide range of flavors and a strong brand reputation, Baskin Robbins presents an appealing opportunity for those looking to enter the ice cream industry.

Sweetberry Bowls

Sweetberry Bowls is a fast-growing franchise that specializes in healthy and delicious acai bowls and smoothies. With a focus on fresh ingredients and a modern, Instagram-worthy aesthetic, Sweetberry Bowls is a great affordable option for health-conscious individuals.

Cold Stone Creamery

Cold Stone Creamery is a well-known ice cream franchise that offers a unique and interactive experience for customers. With customized ice cream creations and an enthusiastic staff, Cold Stone Creamery is a low-cost franchise with high potential for success.


Chick-Fil-A is a fast-food franchise known for its delicious chicken sandwiches and exceptional customer service. While the initial investment for a Chick-Fil-A franchise may be higher compared to other options on our list, its loyal customer base and strong brand reputation make it a worthwhile investment.

Chester's Chicken

Chester's Chicken is a fast-food franchise specializing in Southern-style fried chicken. With low start-up costs and a simple menu, Chester's Chicken provides an affordable opportunity for entrepreneurs interested in the fast-food industry.

Firehouse Subs

Firehouse Subs is a sandwich franchise that offers a variety of tasty sub sandwiches and salads. With a focus on quality ingredients and hearty portions, Firehouse Subs is a low-cost franchise with a loyal customer base.


Quizno's is a sandwich franchise with a unique selection of toasted subs. With a low initial investment and ongoing support from the franchisor, Quizno's offers an affordable entry point into the fast food industry.

Taco Bell

Taco Bell is a well-known fast food chain specializing in Mexican-inspired cuisine. With affordable franchise options and a strong brand identity, Taco Bell is a popular choice for aspiring entrepreneurs.

Mucho Burrito

Mucho Burrito is a fast-casual Mexican restaurant franchise that offers a variety of customizable burritos, tacos, and bowls. With low start-up costs and a rapidly growing customer base, Mucho Burrito presents an excellent opportunity for those looking to enter the fast-casual dining scene.

Papa John's

Papa John's is a pizza franchise that is known for its quality ingredients and dedication to customer satisfaction. With a low initial investment and ongoing support from the franchisor, Papa John's offers a low-cost entry point into the pizza industry.

Scooter's Coffee

Scooter's Coffee is a coffee franchise that specializes in high-quality coffee and specialty drinks. With low start-up costs and a focus on exceptional customer service, Scooter's Coffee is an affordable option for coffee enthusiasts.

If you are considering starting your own restaurant franchise, it is essential to carefully evaluate your options and conduct thorough research. While low-cost restaurant franchises can provide an excellent opportunity for aspiring entrepreneurs, it is crucial to ensure that the franchise aligns with your goals, financial capabilities, and personal interests. By selecting the right franchise and leveraging the support and proven business model provided by the franchisor, you can increase your chances of success and achieve your entrepreneurial dreams in the competitive world of the restaurant industry.

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