9 Best Pizza Franchises in 2021

Best Pizza Franchises

It seems like pretty much everyone loves pizza—and the numbers bear that out. U.S. consumers spent over $37.8 billion at quick-service pizza restaurants in 2019.[1] One survey, conducted by pizza chain Cicis (which appears on this list), found that the average American will consume more than 6,000 slices over the course of their lifetime.[2] Or, to put it in pizza terms (assuming the standard eight slices per pie), 750 pizzas.

With numbers like those, it’s no wonder that there are so many energetic entrepreneurs eager to jump into the business space. And there are a lot of pizza franchise opportunities available to choose from. We delve into the details of the nine best options below, including franchise fees, advantages, and more. Let’s get the pizzas in the oven and start baking up some franchise options.

1. Domino’s

  • Initial franchise fee: $10,000
  • Estimated total initial investment: $144,450 to $582,500
  • Royalty fee: 5.5% of weekly sales

Domino’s is a massively successful enterprise. They ranked as the fifth-most valuable quick-service restaurant brand in the world in 2020, behind behemoths like McDonald’s, Starbucks, and KFC.[3] They were the highest-ranking pizza company on the list, just edging out competitor Pizza Hut. Furthermore, in 2019, their U.S. sales topped $7 billion, making them the most successful pizza chain in the country.[4]

If you want a piece of the pie, here’s what you need to know: Domino’s strongly prefers their franchise owners to have previous experience operating or managing an existing Domino’s location. If you already have this experience, you’re in a good position to become a franchise owner. If not, your best path forward is to work as a manager at a Domino’s restaurant first and then apply to open your own franchise.

Learn more in our guide to opening a Domino’s franchise.

2. Pizza Hut

  • Initial franchise fee: $25,000
  • Estimated total initial investment: $367,000 to $2,063,500
  • Net worth requirement: $700,000
  • Royalty fee: 6% of gross sales

Pizza Hut has the most locations of any pizza chain in the United States, so if you’re considering opening a Pizza Hut franchise, you’re in good company.[5] The corporation mentions on their website that they’re looking for franchisees who have previous experience owning or managing a retail or restaurant business, so if that’s you, you’re in good shape. 

Note that you’ll need to have a net worth of at least $700,000—half of which must be liquid—in order for your application to become a Pizza Hut franchisee to be considered. If you don’t meet those requirements, keep reading for some more options on this list.

Learn more in our guide to opening a Pizza Hut franchise.

3. Papa John’s

  • Initial franchise fee: $5,000 per unit
  • Estimated total initial investment: $300,000
  • Net worth requirement: $250,000
  • Royalty fee: 5% of net sales

Another pizza franchise powerhouse player is Papa John’s. Papa John’s has the lowest initial franchise fee of any restaurant on this list at just $5,000 per unit. So if the high barrier to entry for some of their competitors is a turnoff for you, Papa John’s may be a good fit.

Read more in our complete guide to opening a Papa John’s franchise.

4. Little Caesars

  • Initial franchise fee: $20,000
  • Estimated total investment: $355,000+
  • Net worth requirement: $250,000
  • Royalty fee: 6% of gross sales

This Detroit-headquartered corporation, famous for their marketing slogans “Pizza! Pizza!” and “Hot-n-Ready,” has more than 5,000 locations across all 50 states, plus locations in over 25 countries. In 2019, Little Caesars had the third-highest nationwide sales of pizza chains.[4]

If you’re interested in pursuing a Little Caesars franchise opportunity, you need to know that the initial franchise fee is $20,000 and the estimated total investment starts at $355,000, making Little Caesars one of the more affordable options on this list. Learn more on their franchise about page

5. Godfather’s Pizza

  • Initial franchise fee: $25,000
  • Estimated total initial investment: $457,200 to $835,500
  • Net worth requirement: $200,000
  • Royalty fee: 3%

Godfather’s Pizza has franchise locations in 40 states. If you’re interested in joining the family, here’s what you need to know: Godfather’s requires their franchise applicants to have a minimum net worth of $200,000 (half of which needs to be liquid), and at least one year of experience managing or operating a restaurant. If you don’t have restaurant management experience, you can hire someone who does to operate your franchise for you.

There are a few different Godfather’s Pizza restaurant models available for franchising, including a “traditional” restaurant, an “express” restaurant, and a “delivery/carryout” model. Learn more on the corporation’s website.

6. Cicis 

  • Initial franchise fee: $22,500
  • Estimated total investment: $686,445 to $1,033,180
  • Net worth requirement: $750,000
  • Royalty fee: 4% to 6%

Buffet pizza chain Cicis isn’t as widespread as some of the other options on this list, with just 430 restaurants across 30 states. While this means that Cicis doesn’t have the level of name-brand recognition as Pizza Hut or Domino’s, the flip side of that is, as a franchisee, you have the opportunity to enter into a less-saturated market. You can pursue a Cicis franchise opportunity in any state, but the corporation is specifically targeting current expansion in the South and Midwest.

7. Uno Pizzeria & Grill

  • Initial franchise fee: $40,000
  • Net worth requirement: $1 million
  • Royalty fee: 5% of gross sales

If you’re all about deep dish pizza, then an Uno Pizzeria & Grill franchise restaurant may be what you’re looking for. Currently, there are Uno Pizzeria locations in 21 states. The brand also has a presence in countries like Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and South Korea. 

In order to open an Uno Pizzeria restaurant stateside, you’ll need to have a minimum net worth of $1 million and at least three-quarters of that must be liquid. Their initial franchise fee is $40,000, giving Uno Pizzeria the highest financial barrier to entry of any pizza chain on this list.  

8. Papa Murphy’s

  • Initial franchise fee: $25,000
  • Estimated total investment: $286,919 to $524,205
  • Net worth requirement: $350,000
  • Royalty fee: 5% of sales

Founded in 1995, Papa Murphy’s, the Washington-based pizza chain, is one of the newer corporations on this list of the best pizza franchise opportunities. Papa Murphy’s food model also sets them apart from the other chains of this list. For one, there are no ovens, freezers, or dining on-site. Instead, Papa Murphy’s sells dough topped with ingredients, and customers bake their pizzas at home themselves—something the company refers to as “take ‘n’ bake.” 

You’ll need a minimum net worth of $350,000, a liquid cash requirement of $125,000, and a credit score of at least 670 in order to be considered as a Papa Murphy’s franchisee.

9. Sbarro

  • Initial franchise fee: $20,000 to $35,000
  • Estimated total investment: $282,500 to $585,300
  • Royalty fee: 5% to 7% of sales

Started as a salumeria in Brooklyn, New York, in 1956, Sbarro is now an international presence in 28 countries. All told, you can expect to pay between $282,500 to $585,300 to open a standalone Sbarro or $288,200 to $489,000 to open a location in a food court. Those figures include estimated costs for the initial franchise fee, a lease, equipment, a POS system, insurance, initial supplies, legal and accounting fees, and training expenses.

Sbarro is currently looking to expand across several states, including Texas, Florida, Georgia, California, Washington, New York, and New Jersey. See the full lists of states on the corporations’ website.

The Bottom Line

Hopefully, after reading this list of the nine best pizza franchises in the U.S., you feel better equipped to make your decision about which franchise opportunity is right for you. No matter which franchise you choose, it’s important to take the decision to start your own business seriously. You should weigh the pros and cons carefully, and consider working with an attorney throughout the process.

Article Sources:

  1. Statista. “Consumer Spending in Quick Service Pizza Restaurants in the United States.”
  2. NY Daily News. “Average American Eats More Than 6,000 Slices of Pizza in a Lifetime: Survey.”
  3. Statista. “Brand Value of the 10 Most Valuable Quick Service Restaurant Brands Worldwide in 2020.”
  4. Statista. “Leading Pizza Chains in the United States in 2019, by Sales.”
  5. Statista. “Leading Pizza Chains in the United States in 2019, by Number of Units.”

Sally Lauckner

Sally Lauckner is the editor-in-chief of JustBusiness and the editorial director at Fundera.

Sally joined Fundera in 2018 and has almost 15 years of experience in print and online journalism. Previously she was the senior editor at SmartAsset—a Y Combinator-backed fintech startup that provides personal finance advice. There, she edited articles and data reports on topics including taxes, mortgages, banking, credit cards, investing, insurance, and retirement planning. She has also held various editorial roles at AOL.com, Huffington Post, and Glamour magazine. Her work has also appeared in Marie Claire, Teen Vogue, Cosmopolitan, and ColoradoBiz magazines, as well as Yelp, SmallBizClub, and BizCrat.

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