This article was published in Franchise Times on 9/31/21. It has been edited to fit this format.

The Top 200+ is now the Franchise Times Top 400. We’ve renamed our annual ranking of the largest U.S.-based franchise systems by systemwide sales to better encompass the biggest brands in franchising along with promising young concepts in growth mode. Our rigorous approach to research remains the same.

  • The Franchise Times Top 400 is the most comprehensive ranking of the 400 largest U.S. franchise systems.
  • It’s backed by more than 20 years of research and is the only objective ranking available.
  • Each year we deploy seven researchers and reporters for a five-month process to collect, verify and analyze the numbers.
  • Franchising is all we cover all year around, enhancing the credibility of the Franchise Times Top 400.

In a five-month research process and building upon a database that began in 1999, our research team uses a combination of companies’ voluntary reports and publicly available data, including the franchises’ most recent franchise disclosure documents and Securities and Exchange Commission filings.

Our research team spends months compiling information for the rankings, the five-year sales history graphs, Top 10 lists and industry subcategories, and then reconciling to ensure all published data is accurate and all estimates are based on a solid sales formula.

The research process is as follows:

  1. We begin in late April with our first email and a Top 400 survey, which contains contacts from a wide range of databases dating back to 1999.
  2. We enter all the survey information into our database, and during that process we update our records with any changes to ownership, top executives, addresses, etc.
  3. We verify survey information is being reported accurately by reconciling sales, units and unit volumes to prior years from our database. If any discrepancies are found, we contact the person who completed the survey to verify the information submitted is correct.
  4. If we get no response from the company and have no prior data in our database, we research the companies franchise disclosure documents, including Item 19, Item 20 and financial statements to ensure we portray accurate information on our rankings.

To qualify, a company must be a legal U.S. franchise. Franchisees must own at least 15 percent of the company’s total units. The company must also be based in the United States or have at least 10 percent of its total units in the United States.

Systemwide sales is defined as the total sales for both franchise and company units. Those sales figures should represent sales to customers, and not corporate sales to franchisees or prospective franchisees, such as royalty revenue or franchise fees. Other revenue not directly related to franchising should not be included.

If two companies reported the same systemwide sales, the higher ranking is given to the company with the most units. Preference is also given to companies that voluntarily report their systemwide sales, rather than those companies for which we must estimate the sales figures.