Every December, we publish a list in Entrepreneur of what we predict will be the “hottest” categories for franchise expansion in the year ahead. And every summer we typically publish an update on that list—not updating the categories, but updating the information on the fast-growing or newly launched franchises within those categories.
But this year, as we prepared to update the list, we were faced with a question—should we change the categories from those we had listed in December, back when the world looked and felt a whole lot different? While businesses in some of these categories were deemed nonessential and were adversely affected by the COVID-19 shutdowns, many also found creative ways to keep serving customers during that time. And we believe that even those that didn’t will ultimately benefit from the fact that absence makes the heart grow fonder. It’s unlikely that anyone will ever again take for granted the ability to go to the gym or a family entertainment center. So in the end, we removed just a few categories (including breakfast, Mexican food, and juices/acai bowls, which you can find covered in our “Top 200 Food Franchises” list), and added one that saw a boost in popularity during the shutdowns: home improvement.
The road ahead will still hold many challenges for businesses in every industry, and different franchisors and franchisees will tackle those challenges differently. So keep in mind that this list is not an endorsement of any particular franchise company. It’s more important than ever to do your own research before investing in an opportunity. Read the FDD, consult with accountants and attorneys, and talk to existing and former franchisees to decide whether the franchise is right for you. For more information on a particular franchise, click on the company's name.
For essential workers who couldn't stay home with their little ones, childcare businesses proved even more vital than ever this year. And those parents who could stay home have likely gained a new appreciation for the work these businesses do to educate and care for their kids. As the economy opens back up and more parents head back to the office, this category should only keep growing.
Entertainment and recreation businesses were understandably deemed nonessential during the shutdowns. And yet, more than ever, people needed things to keep them occupied and take their minds off the world—and many of these businesses found creative ways to still meet that need, like offering take-home DIY projects and online party services.
When the pandemic hit, many fitness franchises were able to quickly pivot and offer classes to their customers online. Nevertheless, many people were eager to get back into the gym when restrictions began to be lifted, and with health more top-of-mind than ever, this already strong category should only see more growth going forward.
Being healthy has become more important than ever, so this small but growing category probably looks more appealing than ever to prospective franchisees. And there's something here for everyone, from traditional health services to more alternative offerings like acupuncture, cryotherapy, IV therapy, and cannabis.
Vegan health and beauty stores/cafes/vitamin and supplement stores
As shelter-in-place orders had people spending more time in their homes, many turned to home improvement, repair, and remodeling projects to keep themselves busy. Most home improvement stores and service business were able to stay open during this time, adjusting their services to maintain proper social distancing and sanitation, with some even pivoting to virtual consultations.
Americans spent an estimated $75 billion on their furry friends last year, according to the American Pet Products Association, and while spending in other areas has decreased, people are still willing to sacrifice for their pets. Plus, most pet stores qualified as 'essential businesses' during the shutdowns, and other businesses like doggy daycares stayed open to provide care for medical workers' pets.
Indoor dog training and socialization, pet products
Restoration service businesses have long had the reputation of being recession-proof, and they stand to prove that now. Since disasters don't stop occuring no matter the circumstances, these were obviously deemed essential businesses, and many found their services in even higher demand than usual during the shutdowns.