Five of the best performing and fast growing niche franchises to keep an eye on

The franchising industry is vast and varied with an opportunity to turn almost any passion into a profit. Here we take a look at five niche franchises, from tropical smoothies to tech repair. All had strong performances in Entrepreneur’s 2021 Franchise 500: a top 30 spot, a higher ranking in 2021 than in 2020, and at least a 30% growth in units over three years.

Tropical Smoothie Cafe

  • 2021 Franchise 500 Rank: #14 (ranked #18 in 2020)

Its name is deceptive – as well as real fruit smoothies Tropical Smoothie Cafe offers quesadillas, flatbreads, sandwiches, wraps, salads and soups. A recent Mashed interview described it as one of the larger chains in the US – and according to its CEO Charles Watson, it is seeing a big acceleration this year.

Tropical Smoothie Cafe currently has about 1,000 units and available markets in most of the country (only a handful of states are still in ‘future development’ mode). Its goal to reach 1,500 by 2024 is roughly on the same trajectory as its 46% growth in units since 2018.

Its “guiding compass for strategic growth” is an effort to support franchisees and a focus on relationships, so it seems franchisees are in good hands. Indeed, ​​Tropical Smoothie Cafe is experiencing increased franchisee profitability on top of its strong growth. 

Emblazoned in the franchise section of its website are the words ‘passion-powered’. Talk with its franchisees and you’ll see that the brand is “built on a collaborative culture of trust, respect and transparency,” its website claims.

In 2020, Tropical Smoothie Cafe was ranked #20 in Franchise Times’ Fast & Serious ranking, created “to identify fast-growing franchise systems that also have staying power”, and #10 in Franchise Gator’s Top 100 Franchises of 2021.

Jersey Mike’s Subs

  • 2021 Franchise 500 Rank: #7 (ranked #8 in 2020)
  • Minimum investment: $169,000

When you think of subs, chances are you think of Subway. But the sandwich giant’s regular top ten spot in the Franchise 500 went off a cliff in 2017 and it wasn’t even ranked in 2021. Instead it has been replaced at the top by Jersey Mike’s Subs, which has been on a steady rise since 2012 – with three top ten spots in a row since 2019.

The New Jersey-based chain snapping at Subway’s heels is certainly on the rise. It has about 2,000 stores across 45 states, a 36% growth in units between 2017 and 2020 and high praise from Forbes, who called it “one of the most successful franchise programs in the United States”.

As for training, franchisees go through a “robust program, which concentrates on the entire business operation.” In a 2018 interview with Forbes, multi-unit franchisee Mitch Cohen said that after opening he received weekly calls from the brand team and exemplary support that hasn’t waned, and said he has been treated like family. “I would recommend Jersey Mike’s to any qualified franchise candidate,” he said. 

uBreakiFix

With a catchy name and a commendable service in our throwaway culture, uBreakiFix had to make this list – especially ranking at #18 in the Franchise 500 in such a niche business.

uBreakiFix offers mail-in and walk-in repairs for electronic devices including computers, smart phones, tablets, game consoles, smart speakers and even drones. It also sells second hand devices. 

It’s an authorized repair provider for a few products including Samsung Galaxy and Google Pixel smartphones, and it offers a free, no-obligation diagnostics on all gadgets.

It appears demand for such tech repair is growing – the brand achieved nearly 65% growth in units between 2018 and 2021. And with recent store openings in California, Tennessee, Massachusetts and Illinois, it is fast closing in on 700 units.

Its franchisee support starts with a three-week, on-site training program at its head office in Orlando, continues into lease negotiation and build-out, and remains once you’ve opened your doors. Just watch out for the slightly high royalty fee of 8%.

Sola Salon Studios

When it comes to hair care and franchising, Great Clips may be a brand that springs to mind. We’ve listed Sola Salon here because it experienced a 41% growth in units between 2018 and 2021 to Great Clips’ 5% – so we thought it deserved the attention. With more than 550 units across the US, there’s a lot of opportunity wherever you are. 

Franchise Gator says it’s the “one company in the beauty industry that’s reinventing the way things are done”, renting high-end, fully equipped salons to independent beauty professionals without the risks of owning the property outright. And it says that has meant record profits for franchise owners.

The accolades Sola Salon has received mirror its fast growth: in 2021, it got top spot on Franchise Gator’s Top 100 Franchises and made the top 50 of Franchise Business Review’s top franchises for women. The same review also recognised one Sola Salon franchisee in Illinois with the “Franchise Rockstar” award.

What are some of the benefits? According to its website, you can personalize your salon space with artwork, music, furniture and decor, and even set your own pricing. The confident brand offers “move-in-ready” studios together with support, educational resources, and cutting-edge technology designed exclusively for franchisees. “We empower independent stylists to live their best lives,” it proclaims.

Pet Supplies Plus

  • 2021 Franchise 500 Rank: #21 (ranked #50 in 2020)
  • Minimum investment: $436,600

With at least half of American households owning a pet, and with the pet industry hitting a historic high in 2020 (a casual $103.6 billion in sales), we couldn’t write this list without including a pet brand. Perhaps the pandemic gave it a boost with people spending more time with their animals in lockdown, but it at least shows the industry can be resilient in a recession.

Although the pet industry is incredibly diverse, from grooming and spa treatments to dog training and overnight boarding, it is Pet Supplies Plus that leads the pack. In 2021 it took its highest spot to date in the Franchise 500. This followed five consecutive years in the top 50, an appearance every year since 2013, and being first in its category for seven years running. If that wasn’t proof enough, in 2021 it won the Franchise Times ‘Puppy Love’ Zor Award.

Pet Supplies Plus is predominantly a supermarket-style pet retailer, selling pet food and supplies, but it also provides a grooming and pet wash service and hosts adoption events. The largest chain of independent pet stores was practically showing off in 2020 with an increase in average annual sales from $2.2 million to $2.4 million.

Pet Supplies Plus’ support package offers two weeks of in-store training and a complete online library of training videos that your team can use to sharpen their skills.

Add all this to a 31% growth in units since 2018, and markets available in at least 460 locations across the country, and there’s an unequivocal opportunity here to turn your love of animals into a lucrative business. 

Where to now?

These five brands are all going places but are still just a glimpse into the assorted mix of franchises out there. Only you can find out what niche is right fit for you and what kind of business would be a welcome addition to your local market. We recommend doing these five important things, and researching the costs involved, before you take the plunge.