2018 Military Times Best: Franchises rankings announced

We invited franchise brands across the country to fill out a rigorous survey about their companies as well as their accommodations for military service members and veterans. Fifty-three made the cut for our latest Military Times Best: Franchises rankings.

The latest Military Times Best: Franchises rankings are out, and 53 companies have made our 2018 list of the best franchises for veterans and military-connected franchisees.

To qualify for the rankings, companies filled out a detailed survey about their franchise operations, which we evaluated in-depth, examining their company culture, investment quality, overall franchising costs, military discounts and other benefits and support. We also considered information in their most recent franchise disclosure documents, which provide information on franchise costs and performance.

Only franchises that did well on this evaluation made the list.

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See a complete breakdown of franchise brands that made our list here.

See our methodology here.

Dream Vacations/CruiseOne again holds the top slot in our rankings. The company, headquartered in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, has more than 1,000 franchises in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., and has one of the lowest initial investment costs of all the companies on our list.

Drew Daly, general manager of network engagement and performance, said veterans are a good fit as travel-agent franchisees for the company because of their interest in travel. “One of the things that stands out is there’s this desire and yearning to explore the world. They already have traveled, they’ve seen the world and they want to encourage others,” he said.

Army veteran Chris Petty said one of the benefits of owning a Budget Blinds franchise is the support he receives from his parent company — everything from help with specific product questions to marketing and business coaching. Budget Blinds, a brand of Home Franchise Concepts, has more than tripled the number of veteran-owned franchise units in the last three years, according to information provided in the survey.

A smaller subsidiary of Home Franchise Concepts, Tailored Living did well in the portions of our evaluation that looked at investment quality and non-financial support for franchisees from the franchise brand.

“All of our concepts are built around providing an opportunity for people to own their own business and own their own lives,” said Home Franchise Concepts CEO Shirin Behzadi, adding that veterans “shine” as franchisees because they are hard-working and very good at following franchise guidelines.

Waco, Texas-based Boulder Designs specializes in customized boulders for residential and commercial signage. Two of its selling points are “little to no competition,” and the flexibility to run the business either full-time or part-time, according to the brand’s website. Air Force veteran Todd Crawford decided to open a Boulder Designs franchise from his Georgia farm last year for those reasons, he told Military Times, praising the “uniqueness of the product.” The company’s veteran-owned franchises had higher rates of continuity and growth from 2013 to 2016 than the company’s franchises overall.

A franchise system since 1982, Color Glo International offers veterans a 10-percent discount on their initial franchise fee. And while the overall number of franchise units in the color restoration and repair company fell over the last three years, veteran-owned franchises grew by 7 percent, according to the survey.

“The stats show that our military individuals outperform nonmilitary individuals,” said Stewart Vernon, founder and CEO of America’s Swimming Pool Company. A few years ago, the company started focusing more attention on recruiting military franchisees, with incentives, such as a 15-percent initial franchise fee discount and a yearly giveaway. There are two reasons for these efforts, Vernon said: “There’s just the thanks that we have for (veterans) serving our country, and then there’s the business side of it, which is that they make better business owners.”

Snap-on Tools is the largest company in the top 10, with more than 3,300 franchises in 2016 — 354 of which were owned by veterans or their family members, according to information provided in the survey. The company has multiple veterans in leadership, including President and CEO Nicholas Pinchuk. Snap-on scored highest in our evaluation of company culture, and veteran franchisees get a $20,000 discount on startup costs.

With high growth and continuity rates across the board, Marco’s Pizza outshined its competitors in the area of investment quality. The company’s franchise operations date back to the late 1970s, making it the oldest franchise system in the top 10 and one of the oldest on our list.

Former Army Capt. Joe Walker, a Marco’s Pizza franchisee, told Military Times last year that veterans in his position should have faith in the leadership and teamwork skills they learned in the military, but they shouldn’t constrain themselves based on their military occupational specialty. “Franchising brings a set of operational systems,” he said. “Build your platoon around your mission.”

The ninth company on our list offers a 50-percent franchise fee discount to veterans looking to own their own floor-care business. It’s also one of only five companies in our top 53 to say it offers deferred costs and management assistance to reservist franchisees who are called to active duty. Grout Doctor had 10 veteran-owned franchises in 2016, which made up 14 percent of the company’s overall units.

Rounding out the top 10 is Spring-Green Lawn Care Corp., a franchise system of landscaping businesses headquartered in Naperville, Illinois. According to the company’s franchise disclosure document, a franchisee’s initial investment with the company is just over $109,000, and veterans get a $5,000 franchise fee discount. Eleven of Spring-Green’s 110 franchise units in 2016 were owned by veterans.