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Top 25 Chains with the Happiest Franchisees, 2012

Auntie Anne's franchisees test new food with franchisor staff at company lab
Franchisees create new products with franchisor staff. photo/Auntie Anne's

LINCOLN, Neb. — A researcher of franchise owners has identified the top 25 brands with the happiest, most satisfied franchise owners. Jeff Johnson, founder of The Franchise Research Institute/FranSurvey, observes that franchisees are happier in these top franchise chains because their businesses have acceptable returns on investment. According to him, these 25 also stand out in their franchisors' ability to involve franchisees in major brand decisions and to listen and communicate.

The 2012 survey results are conducted with the chain's franchisees, each one of them, guaranteeing their complete confidentiality. Franchisees were asked about franchisor communication, ongoing training, product and support.  

Most satisfied franchisees of 2012

  1. Auntie Anne's (pretzel shops) 
  2. BrightStar Care (homecare services)  
  3. Children's Lighthouse Learning Centers
  4. City Wide Maintenance (building maintenance) 
  5. ColorGlo (color restoration) 
  6. CMIT Solutions (technology) 
  7. ComForcare Senior Services (home care)  
  8. Comfort Keepers (home care) 
  9. Compound Profit (business consultancy) 
  10. CruiseOne (travel retailer)  
  11. Express Employment Professionals (staffing) 
  12. Express Oil (car service)  
  13. Fast Signs (printing) 
  14. Fibrenew (repair) 
  15. Goddard School (learning centers)
  16. The Interface Financial Group (discounting) 
  17. Liquid Capital  (financial) 
  18. Miracle-Ear  (hearing aids)  
  19. Money Mailer
  20. Mosquito Squad (outdoor pest control)
  21. Pop-A-Lock (locksmith) 
  22. Re-Bath (bath remodeling) 
  23. Speedpro Imaging (printing) 
  24. Spherion Staffing Services
  25. Spring-Green Lawn Care

At the top of the list is Auntie Anne's. 72 percent of franchisees weighed in anonymously, with 99 percent rating the opportunity provided by the franchise system as okay to excellent. "The franchisor makes us feel like a family," writes one unnamed franchise owner in the annual survey.

Critics of the research ask what the other 28 percent of Auntie Anne's franchise owners who did not elect to take the survey might be gloomily thinking. But Johnson rebuts that each of the surveys that he conducts has at least a 95 percent confidence level. That's the statistical estimate of accuracy for an unknown population.

"The confidentiality of franchisee responses is critical, because franchisees are reluctant to say anything negative if they can be identified," states Johnson. "Confidentiality reduces bias and 'false positive' responses."

The largest national brands are noticeably absent. There is no Subway, with its 30,000 franchisees, McDonald's, Domino's or Marriott hotels on this list. The top 25 franchise chains are the best of hundreds of brands that Franchise Research Institute has surveyed. "Our franchisee surveys have been conducted as large as 1,500 franchise owners under a brand to as small as a chain with only a dozen franchisees," says Johnson. He reminds the leaders of franchising's largest brands that it is important not to forget to conduct independent, third-party surveys to measure the mood and wants of their franchisees. It should be part of their listening process to their franchisee base.

"A company can provide a terrific product or service, which is well received by the public, and franchisees can still fail," says Johnson. He observes that the best franchisors focus keenly on franchisee success, which in turn supports the success of the brand.

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