Top 10 Franchise Times Stories of 2018
From the Zor Awards to Orangetheory’s crazy growth spurt, MidiCi and the second-largest Applebee’s franchisee landing in bankruptcy court, this was an unusually dramatic year in franchising according to web traffic stats of Franchise Times.
In the second year since its creation, our Zor Awards program that names best-buy brands in 10 industry categories was the most widely read story during these previous, glorious 12 months. Its position atop the list is a reflection of the intense interest coming from everyday people who are looking to get into franchising for the first time, as well as enthusiasts clicking to vote for their favorite brands in each category. Voting ends this Friday RIGHT HERE for next year’s Zor Awards.
Coming in second is Fast & Serious, which ranks the 40 smartest growing brands in franchising in the January issue each year. Orangetheory Fitness led last year's pack, with the Houston-based fitness powerhouse opening an average of six new clubs every week.
From third on down, most of the remaining top stories on FranchiseTimes.com have an element of drama to them, which is notable compared to recent years. In September we brought you the story of MidiCi landing in bankruptcy court after filing for Chapter 11.
The fourth, “The Culpability Question in RMH Franchise Bankruptcy,” is the tale of the second-largest Applebee’s franchisee that filed for bankruptcy protection and dragged a ‘zor-’zee spat out into the public sphere. In the Delaware bankruptcy court filing, the 159-location, 15-state operator called out the franchisor, saying, “specific managerial decisions made on behalf of it by its franchisor … have negatively impacted the debtors’ business operations and left them facing near-term liquidity issues.”
Fifth place goes to our Dealmakers Deal of the Year, with FAT Brands’ boss Andy Wiederhorn sharing details about racking up a $140 million fortune by age 32, his 14-month stint in federal prison in the mid 2000s and, more recently, bringing his company public through an uncommon Regulation A+, which requires far less paperwork and disclosures than traditional methods.
In sixth, Gigi’s Cupcakes faced a group of franchisees who launched a legal battle with the parent organization. Former operator Bruce Speidel alleged KeyCorp subsidiary Cupcakes LLC, which acquired the brand from its original ownership group in 2016, raised prices on key ingredients to an unsustainable level.
Breaking the dramatic streak, Goosehead Insurance’s story of building a franchised provider that’s intended to offer a better workplace than the titans of the insurance was an unexpectedly popular article based on clicks. Started back in 2003, Goosehead founder Mark Jones said his goal was making insurance sales a more lucrative and exciting career path than ever before.
Poké is still gaining steam based on our deets of four young poke concepts in franchising. Featuring Pokeatery, LemonShark Poké, Poké Bar and PokéMix, Laura Michaels wrote about four brands are expanding within the fishy space and bringing the Hawaiian food further into the mainstream.
Rounding out the final spots are two of my own stories. The first, in ninth place, is a blog where I recoiled in horror from Burger King’s new Double Quarter Pound Burger—two patties, more than half a pound of ground beef and an unusually pert press release announcing its latest gut bomb. Occasional indulging is fine, but how many studies do we need to read about America’s falling life expectancy before watching waistlines becomes a corporate, rather than solely personal, enterprise?
Last, but definitely not least, at 10th was my long-form profile of Smashburger founder and man of mystery Tom Ryan, who certainly left a mark as my favorite story to report on and write during the year. As one of the pioneers in better burgers, Smashburger is undergoing a massive reinvention fueled by Jollibee Foods Corporation pouring in hundreds of millions of dollars to expand and revitalize the brand.
Travel safely, enjoy the holidays and we’ll see your eyeballs next year!