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Nine Free Franchise Ideas


I receive an intense number of emails about new brands starting to franchise or existing franchises entering new territories and new unit-count milestones—but after four years at Franchise Times there are a few concepts I’m still waiting for. Perhaps they don’t yet exist, but I want them—and this is an industry based on giving the people what they want. Here are nine free franchise ideas in the food, retail and experiential categories.


1.    Native American cuisine: This culinary genre is heating up in my hometown of Minneapolis, where we embrace our Native American roots more than most places. We have the Sioux Chef, Sean Sherman, and his forthcoming restaurant (and accompanying cookbook), as well as the incredibly addictive Mahnomin Wild Rice Porridge at the restaurant my husband works at, Hell’s Kitchen. It’s a shame more people aren’t familiar with the wonderful culture, traditions and food of our country’s original inhabitants. Give me bison meatballs, fire-roasted rabbit and corn pockets!

2.    Cambodian cuisine: Similar to Vietnamese, but different, Cambodian food is my very favorite. Delicious spring rolls, pickled vegetables and bright, bold soups tend to be far more than I can eat in one sitting. Rice soups and hotpots are starting to catch on. Given how delicious they are, I think every large city should have Cambodian cuisine on hand. If you’re ever in St. Paul, be sure to hit up Cheng Heng.

3.    Pho: This wonderful soup is one of the best parts of being alive, and it’s a travesty there aren’t scads of pho franchises. I am aware of Pho Hoa, but that 35-plus-year-old franchise isn’t nearly large enough to represent the demand for hot, fatty, beautiful and delicious bowls of pho—possibly the best soup in the world. Similar to other Asian soups, pho is a hearty meal that’s really all such a restaurant needs to serve, other than a side of hot chili sauce.

Honorable mention: I am still waiting for a franchised cereal restaurant. Don’t make me do this myself.


1.    Dog/cat oral care: There are pet-oriented franchises of all types—and you might be able to bribe your groomer—but brushing puppy or kitty teeth is an unpleasant task I would gladly pay to farm out. Putting together stellar average unit volumes might be tricky, but then again, my doggy Norman’s last tooth cleaning cost more than $500. Offer short-term financing as a side hustle.

2.    A better outdoor store: I’m a crabby old man and I’ll tell you what, I don’t like shopping at REIs or Dick’s Sporting Goods or Gander Outdoors. REI is far too expensive, exclusive and fashionable, while Dick’s and Gander feel like they are outlet stores. I see a window for an outdoorsy retail chain that’s right in the middle—less expensive than top-shelf outfitters, but without a whiff of the bargain basement feel from many players in this segment.

3.    Wedding and/or jewelry store: Admittedly I know nothing about the the jewelry business, but having taken my trip through the wedding-industrial complex last year, I know there is an opening for cool, creative jewelry and other wedding accessories that aren’t nearly as expensive as the exorbitant choices out there. Why spend thousands on a ring, when there are now such cool options that are more personal and cost significantly less. No mall required—put them in hip retail districts where the young and upwardly mobile couples actually shop.


1.    Adult slip-n-slides: Hear me out. If there can be franchised axe throwing bars, there should also be places where adults can enjoy some cocktails before throwing their bodies down extreme slip-n-slides that make for such terrific YouTube viewing. If insurance appears to be a barrier, just tell your agent, “If Axe Monkeys and Stumpy’s Hatchet House can get coverage, then so can I.”

2.     Off-road adventure tours: You’ve made it this far down my list of fantasy franchises, so stick with me for two more on the wilder end of the spectrum. The first is guided off-road adventure tours. All you need are tour guides, helmets, goggles, off-road vehicles and some safety training to bring city folks out into the great unknown. Visceral thrills are few and far between in our binary world, and I would be happy to guide after my eight years in the powersports industry.

3.    Sports car action: Years ago, I won a drawing to join a Motor Trend event that brought me, my pal Chris and several others out to a local track for an afternoon of burning rubber and crumpling road cones in fast cars. It was glorious, and another visceral thrill that is probably foreign to many young people, as the off-road sales and race track attendance have both declined. I’m a gearhead, so let’s just overlook the expense of buying a fleet of BMWs and insuring the joint, and instead focus on how much fun it is to see younger drivers, aging enthusiasts and even moms and grandmas behind the wheel of a speeding sports car. If it feels right, it probably is.

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The latest news, opinions and commentary on what's happening in the franchise arena that could affect your business.

Tom KaiserTom Kaiser is senior editor of Franchise Times. He can be reached at 612.767.3209, or send story ideas to tkaiser@franchisetimes.com.
Beth EwenBeth Ewen is senior editor of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3212, or send story ideas to bewen@franchisetimes.com.
Nicholas UptonNicholas Upton is restaurants editor at Franchise Times. He can be reached at 612.767.3226, or send story ideas to nupton@franchisetimes.com.
Laura MichaelsLaura Michaels is editor of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3210, or send story ideas to lmichaels@franchisetimes.com.
Mary Jo LarsonMary Jo Larson is the publisher of Franchise Times Magazine and the Restaurant Finance Monitor.  You can find her on Twitter at




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