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Nothing Bundt Cakes cracked the coveted top 200 this year, landing at No. 196 as it put up impressive sales and unit growth. Executives and franchisees say their tactics aren't all that complicated but require consistency. Like almost any business, it comes down to quality in people, systems and, in this instance, cake.

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The worst day ever at Window World, the franchise helmed by Chairman and CEO Tammy Whitworth, is easy for her to cite because of sad circumstances in 2010. “The day Todd died, because of the uncertainty, being scared,” she said about her late husband, Todd Whitworth, age 40 at his death and at the time Window World's chief executive.

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At Tom Keller's Kiddie Academy in Des Peres, Missouri, kids can participate in the chess academy, take a cooking class and learn to play soccer. In Pasadena, California, there's child-friendly yoga, while in Edina, Minnesota, karate lessons are part of the enrichment offerings.

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I think all of us could use a little positive news right now, even if it means looking backwards. And our annual Franchise Times Top 200+ ranking, based on 2019 sales, is a beacon of the power of franchising: Sales at the biggest 200 brands grew by 4.5 percent over the prior year, for a total of $702.9 billion in worldwide sales. Franchise Times Restaurants Editor Nicholas Upton outlines other imposing stats in his overview article on page 24.

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Set your benchmarks, this year's Franchise Times Top 200+ may be the last look at the old world before 2020 results change everything. Based on 2019 systemwide sales, franchising's strongest brands gained strength, emerging hot brands kept bringing the heat and brands on the decline continued to slow. Aside from a few surprises, the momentum of franchising continued on the same upward trajectory seen in the last few years.

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Monica Hailey Sharpe, owner of a Carolina Hemp Co. store in Mint Hill, North Carolina, gets a kick out of her clients and the products they prefer. Oils and edibles laced with CBD are popular, of course. But the oldsters really dig their joints, filled with ground-up hemp flower rather than marijuana buds.

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Old Southern BBQ, the second barbecue brainchild of Famous Dave's founder Dave Anderson, hit all the notes of a hole-in-the wall joint, but with a little extra polish and modern flavors. My wife and I both got plates, brisket and smoked chicken for me (written Chick'n for some annoying reason).