I have always been fascinated with franchises: on the one hand they represent the entrepreneural spirit given shape, structure and support — for a hefty fee of course — but on the other they represent the march of the formulaic, unimaginative and monochromatic across the global landscape.
In the big picture, I lean toward the former interpretation, though am cognizant and wary of the realities of the latter.
Anyway, it's going well: the top 200 U.S.-based franchises did $390.5 billion in sales worldwide in 2004, according to a survey by Franchise Times magazine, a nearly 20 percent increase from the year before. Those sales were generated at some 390,000 franchise units across the globe, 82 percent of which were operated by franchisees.
McDonald's occupies the No. 1 spot, a position it's held onto since the first list in 1999. Rounding out the top five are 7-Eleven, Carlson Wagonlit Travel, Ace Hardware and KFC. Burger King is No. 6, with fellow burger rival, Wendy's, at No. 8. Restaurants make up 42 percent of the Top 200 chains, with retail second at 21 percent, and lodging third at 14 percent.