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What's the best franchise to buy? At Franchise Times, we get that question over and over. We usually mumble, “it depends,” which isn't a very satisfying answer. So we created the Franchise Times Zor Awards, our new project to identify a top pick in each of 10 popular categories, which we will present each year in March.

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Many players crowd the fast-casual pizza space, those choose-your-own ingredients restaurants with high-heat ovens that make pizza an option for lunch. But it's surprising how few publish detailed financial information on profitability at the store level—which helped us quickly narrow the list to four finalists.

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Three models plus our adorable spokesdog strike a pose to help readers imagine what kind of franchisee they'd like to be. Left to right: Liz Olson poses as a healthcare operator and Xavier Brantley-Schauls wrangles Norman (whose parent is FT's Tom Kaiser) as a pet-care franchisee. See more on our “types” throughout this package.

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I can hear growling, and it's getting closer. My palms are sweating. I only have a few minutes to find a key in the darkness and escape before I'm devoured by genetically modified wolves. I blurt out a very Minnesotan, “Oh jeez,” as someone—or something—pounds on the flimsy metal door. Jim Llewellyn and Alex Reece laugh; it's just another day in Orlando for them.

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The Oliphants and Josbergers were such close friends they could invite each other over to break bread and end up chopping wood in the backyard together. On one such occasion, Mark Oliphant and Stu Josberger took a break from their lumberjack activities and began throwing the hatchet at a tree already on its last root, a victim of Hurricane Sandy.

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The management team that built The Joint from eight units to more than 340 over six years is now starting over with a new concept, and they believe they've learned a few things that will make the expansion of Modern Acupuncture go more smoothly.

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Whether high end, middle-of-the-road or down to the studs, restaurant renovations take creativity to pull off. A wide variety of financiers are in the game to help, and they say operators who can show a sales bump from the remodel will fare best.

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Kuwaitis love chicken and sauces, says Alghanim Industries' Phil Broad, making a partnership with U.S. fast-casual concept Slim Chickens the right move for the Kuwait-based company as it grows its franchise portfolio.

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Picture your last trip to Las Vegas, looking down at the cityscape from your high-rise hotel room. In this strange, dreamlike oasis where empty lots abut massive hotel complexes and golf courses, it's easy to see where the next wave of development will occur—usually a huge pile of sand guarded by chain link.