Franchisee definition: An In-Depth Guide to Franchise Ownership


Explore the world of franchise business ownership in this comprehensive guide. From understanding the role of a franchisee to diving into the franchisee/franchisor relationship, and uncovering the pros and cons of franchise ownership, this article provides valuable insights. Discover how iconic franchises like McDonald’s have thrived and what it means to be a franchisee. Whether you’re a seasoned entrepreneur or considering your first venture, this guide sheds light on the opportunities and challenges of owning a franchise business.


Franchise businesses have become a ubiquitous part of the American entrepreneurial landscape. From fast-food giants like McDonald’s to service-oriented businesses like home health care, franchises are a compelling option for those seeking to own a business with a proven track record. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the role of a franchisee, explore the franchisee/franchisor relationship, highlight the pros and cons of franchise ownership, and provide key takeaways for potential franchisees.

What is a franchisee?

A franchisee is an independent business owner who operates a third-party retail outlet called a franchise. In doing so, the franchisee has purchased the right to use an existing business’s trademarks, associated brands, and proprietary knowledge to market and sell the same brand and uphold the same standards as the first business.

Understanding franchises

Franchises are an extremely common way of doing business in the U.S., with examples including McDonald’s, Subway, UPS, and H&R Block. When a business wants to expand its market share or geographical presence at a lower cost, creating a franchise using its product and brand name is a common strategy. The franchisor is the original business that sells the right to use its name and business model, while the franchisee is the individual who purchases this right.

The franchisee/franchisor relationship

The relationship between a franchisee and a franchisor is one of advisor and advisee. The franchisor provides guidance and support on various aspects of business operations, including staff hiring and training, setup, advertising, and supply sourcing. In return, the franchisee typically pays a startup fee and an ongoing percentage of gross revenues to the franchisor. At the start, the franchisor ensures that franchisees have exclusive locations to avoid competition.

Weigh the risks and benefits

Here is a list of the benefits and drawbacks to consider.

  • The costs of opening a franchise can be lower compared to starting a company from the ground up.
  • The business has immediate brand recognition, a ready-built supply system, and a professional marketing campaign already in place.
  • Franchisees adopt the business practices of their franchisors rather than create them from scratch.
  • The franchisor is invested in the success of its franchisees and will take an active advisory role.
  • Franchisees must adhere to the established business model, including location, furnishings, products, and decor, limiting autonomy.
  • All marketing campaigns must be approved by the franchisor.
  • The franchisee is responsible for offering only approved products and services, limiting creative control.

Franchise example: McDonald’s

A prime example of a franchise success story is McDonald’s. Founded in 1940 by the McDonald brothers, it was Ray Kroc who opened the first official franchise in 1955, leading to the global phenomenon we know today. As of 2023, McDonald’s boasts over 38,000 restaurants in more than 100 countries, with 93% of them owned and operated by local business people. McDonald’s requires franchise buyers to have substantial personal resources, typically at least $500,000.

One key to McDonald’s success is its commitment to maintaining consistent standards in its food. Whether you’re in Los Angeles or London, a Big Mac should taste the same. Franchisees manage their pricing and staffing decisions while benefiting from the brand equity and global experience of McDonald’s.

Does a franchisee own a business?

Yes, a franchisee is the owner of the business, but with certain limitations. The owner is licensed to use products supplied by the franchisor and is contractually obligated to use only approved products and services, limiting their scope and autonomy. For example, a McDonald’s franchisee cannot sell unauthorized items or make décor choices outside of McDonald’s guidelines.

Is a franchisee the same as a franchisor?

No, the franchisor is the entity that owns the intellectual property, patents, and trademarks of the brand or business being franchised. A franchisee, on the other hand, buys the right to operate a location of the franchisor.

Can a franchisee be fired or removed?

Yes, a franchisee can effectively be removed. The franchisor has the authority to shut down a licensed operator that violates the rules and regulations, including health and safety guidelines and other infractions.

The bottom line

The franchise model is evolving beyond traditional businesses like McDonald’s. Newer franchising models are emerging in services businesses such as home health care and tax preparation, as well as business distribution franchises. These models offer exclusive rights to sell a supplier’s goods within a certain area. Ultimately, a franchise business is best suited for individuals who want to invest in a proven business model rather than starting from scratch.

Frequently asked questions

What types of businesses can be franchised?

Franchising is not limited to a specific industry. While fast-food chains like McDonald’s and Subway are well-known examples, businesses in various sectors, including retail, service, and even education, can be franchised.

How much does it cost to buy a franchise?

The cost of buying a franchise varies widely depending on the brand, industry, and location. Some franchises may require a significant initial investment, including franchise fees, while others may have lower startup costs. It’s essential to research and understand the financial requirements for the specific franchise you’re interested in.

Is owning a franchise a guaranteed path to success?

No, owning a franchise does not guarantee success. While franchises often come with established brand recognition and support from the franchisor, success still depends on factors like location, market demand, and effective management. It’s important to conduct thorough research and due diligence before investing in any franchise.

Can I sell my franchise once I own it?

Yes, in many cases, you can sell your franchise to another qualified buyer. However, the process of selling a franchise may be subject to the terms and conditions outlined in your franchise agreement. It’s advisable to consult with the franchisor and legal experts when considering selling your franchise.

Are there ongoing fees associated with owning a franchise?

Yes, most franchises require franchisees to pay ongoing fees, which may include royalties based on a percentage of sales and marketing/advertising fees. These fees contribute to the support and services provided by the franchisor. Be sure to understand the fee structure before entering into a franchise agreement.

What support can I expect from the franchisor?

Franchisors typically provide various forms of support to franchisees, including initial training, ongoing training, marketing support, and assistance with site selection and setup. The level of support can vary between different franchises, so it’s essential to inquire about the specific support offered by the franchise you’re interested in.

Can I make changes or innovations to my franchise’s offerings?

Franchisees are generally required to adhere to the franchisor’s established business model and brand standards. Making significant changes or innovations may require approval from the franchisor. While some flexibility exists, franchisees are expected to maintain consistency with the overall brand image.

Is owning a franchise suitable for first-time entrepreneurs?

Franchising can be an excellent option for first-time entrepreneurs because it provides a proven business model and ongoing support from the franchisor. However, it’s crucial to assess your own skills, experience, and financial readiness before committing to franchise ownership. Many successful franchisees had no prior business experience.

Are there financing options available for buying a franchise?

Yes, there are various financing options available for buying a franchise. These may include traditional bank loans, Small Business Administration (SBA) loans, and financing offered directly by the franchisor. Some franchisors also provide assistance in securing financing for qualified franchisees.

Key takeaways

  • Franchisees are business owners licensed to operate branded outlets.
  • The franchisee/franchisor relationship involves guidance and support from the franchisor in exchange for fees.
  • Benefits of franchise ownership include lower startup costs and immediate brand recognition.
  • Drawbacks include limited autonomy and the need to follow the franchisor’s business model.
  • Franchisees can be removed by the franchisor for rule violations.
View article sources
  1. A Consumer’s Guide to Buying a Franchise – Federal Trade Commission
  2. Buying a franchise –
  3. Buy a franchise –