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The largest brands in the Franchise Times Top 200+ keep getting larger, but there is plenty of growth across the exclusive ranking of franchised brands by systemwide sales. The top 10 added $14.3 billion in sales during 2017, a 5 percent surge. That's nearly double the cohort's sales growth last year of $7.8 billion. The top 10 now account for more than $300 billion in annual sales—that's almost half of the entire top 200, which recorded sales of $644.8 billion in 2017.

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Hardee's and Carl's Jr. being the same concept with different names is one of those things we hungry Americans have accepted without protest—like the Midwest actually being in the center of the country, social media making us feel more isolated or round pizza delivered in square boxes—just deal with it and keep moving, people.

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When Aslam Khan first took over as CEO of TGI Fridays, he and CFO Giovanna Koning embarked on a learning and listening tour of the brand. “We wiped out the past, good, bad and ugly. We're on a new mission here,” said Khan back then. “Most of the franchise businesses are run top down. My mission is to go bottom up. I want to help support and empower franchisees to engage and participate in that mission.”

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For its first 16 years of operation, the street food cart that birthed the concept now taking its chicken, gyros and falafel nationwide—and making its Top 200+ debut—didn't have a formal name. “The combo platter cart” is what most people called it, recalls Ahmed Abouelenein. “It wasn't until 2006 that it officially became The Halal Guys,” he says. “It was suggested by a customer and it stuck.”

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Outdoor Living Brands CEO Chris Grandpre has been playing a long game since founding his home improvement parent company in 2008. Ten years on, after growing OLB to five home exterior-focused brands assembled primarily through acquisitions, he and President and COO Scott Zide's master plan is coming into focus.

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One Cannabis is franchising the marijuana business with a homegrown mission of making the industry as welcoming to soccer moms as it is to old hippies and college-age tokers.

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Michelle Lewis says luck has had a lot to do with her success operating Painting with a Twist franchise locations in Michigan but she adds, “that luck is also coupled with pursuing the opportunity at hand.”

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Tell me about your upbringing. I grew up in Brownsville, which is about as far south as you can go in Texas. Born and raised. I have one sister. I grew up in a single parent home with my mother who was in the real estate business, and that's a pretty tough business.