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Franchise vs. Startups: Pros & Cons for Aspiring Restaurant Owners 

Franchise vs. Startups: Pros & Cons for Aspiring Restaurant Owners 

Picture of Clarissa Buch Zilberman
Clarissa Buch Zilberman

Starting a restaurant is a big dream for many in the food world — and one of the first big decisions is whether to open a franchise or start from scratch. Each choice has its perks and challenges, depending on what you’re looking for, how much you can invest, and how much risk you’re willing to take on.

Franchises typically come with a proven business model and built-in brand recognition, potentially reducing risk. However, starting your own restaurant offers creative freedom and the excitement of launching a new brand, albeit with higher initial risks. As for the numbers, the percentage of startup restaurants that fail in their first year can range anywhere from 10% to as high as 60%, whereas more than 90% of franchises are still open after one year. 

Whether you’re drawn to the structured support of a franchise or the independence of starting your own restaurant, this guide is here to help aspiring restaurant owners, managers, and operators weigh the pros and cons of each path. 

Pros of restaurant franchises

Investing in a restaurant franchise presents numerous advantages that can significantly enhance your chances of success in the food industry.  

Here, let’s explore some of the key pros of buying a restaurant franchise: 

Established brand recognition

One of the most significant advantages of buying a restaurant franchise is immediate brand recognition. Franchises usually come with a loyal customer base that already knows and trusts the brand, which can reduce the effort needed to attract customers. This established trust can lead to a steady stream of guests from day one, allowing you to focus more on operations and less on extensive marketing efforts to build your customer base. 

Proven business model

Franchises offer a tried-and-tested business model. The franchisor has already ironed out the details, tested the market, and refined the processes. This reduces the risk of failure compared to starting a restaurant from scratch. The proven systems and operational guidelines provided by the franchisor can help streamline your path to success, ensuring that you avoid common pitfalls faced by new restaurant owners. 

Training and support

Franchisors typically provide extensive training and ongoing support. This can include initial training programs on restaurant operations, marketing support, operational guidance, and regular updates to help you run your restaurant successfully. This continuous support can be invaluable, especially for those who are new to the restaurant industry, as it offers a safety net and a wealth of knowledge to draw from. 

Easier access to financing

The established success record of a franchise can make it easier to secure financing. This financial backing can be crucial in covering the initial costs of setting up the restaurant and navigating the early stages of the business. 

Bulk purchasing power

Franchises often benefit from the bulk purchasing power of the franchisor. This can lead to significant cost savings on food supplies, kitchen equipment, and other essentials, as franchisors can negotiate better deals with suppliers. These savings can improve your profit margins and reduce the overall operational costs, giving you a financial edge. 


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Cons of restaurant franchises

On the other hand, there are potential drawbacks to buying a restaurant franchise, such as: 

High initial costs

The initial investment required to purchase a restaurant franchise can be substantial. Franchise fees, along with setup costs and ongoing royalties, can be a financial burden for some aspiring restaurant owners.  

Lack of flexibility

Franchisees must adhere to strict guidelines set by the franchisor. This lack of flexibility can be frustrating if you want to innovate or customize your menu and operations. You must also follow the franchisor’s rules regarding recipes, decor, and marketing. This can stifle creativity and make it challenging to adapt to local tastes or implement unique ideas. 

Ongoing royalty payments

Franchisees are usually required to pay ongoing royalties to the franchisor. These payments, typically a percentage of revenue, can cut into your profits and affect the financial performance of your restaurant.  

Reputation risks

The reputation of your franchise is tied to the overall brand. If other franchisees or the franchisor face negative publicity or legal issues, it can impact your restaurant regardless of your performance. This interconnectedness means that your business could suffer from incidents beyond your control, necessitating vigilance and proactive management to maintain a positive image. 

Pros of restaurant startups

For many aspiring restaurateurs, the decision to launch their own restaurant rather than join an established franchise is driven by the desire for creative freedom, control, and personal satisfaction.  

From the liberty to innovate and tailor your operations to the potential for higher profits and the profound sense of accomplishment that comes with creating something truly your own, here are some of the pros of creating a restaurant startup: 

Creative freedom

Starting your own restaurant provides complete creative freedom. You have the liberty to develop your concept, create your brand, and make decisions that align with your vision. This flexibility can be highly rewarding for creative and innovative restaurateurs, allowing you to experiment with unique culinary ideas, personalized customer experiences, and distinctive decor.  


As a startup restaurant owner, you have full control over all aspects of the business. From menu development to marketing strategies, you can tailor every detail of your restaurant to meet your goals and cater to your target audience 

This control enables you to adapt quickly to customer feedback, market trends, and operational challenges, ensuring that your restaurant remains dynamic and responsive.  

Potential for higher profits

Without franchise fees and royalty payments, startups have the potential for higher profits. All the revenue generated belongs to the business, allowing you to reinvest it as you see fit. This financial freedom can lead to greater flexibility in managing costs, pricing, and profit margins.  

Personal satisfaction

Building a restaurant from the ground up can be incredibly satisfying. Every milestone, from the first customer served to expanding your menu, reflects your hard work and dedication 

Cons of restaurant startups

Unlike franchises, which offer established business models and brand recognition, startups must build everything from the ground up. This journey is fraught with a high risk of failure, limited support, funding challenges, and the need for a substantial time investment. Aspiring restaurateurs must be prepared to navigate these hurdles with a robust business plan, a clear understanding of the market, and exceptional resilience.  

Here are some of the biggest disadvantages of restaurant startups: 

High risk of failure

Startups come with a high risk of failure. Without an established business model or brand recognition, startups often struggle to gain traction and establish a customer base. The rate of failure for new restaurants is significantly higher than for franchises, making it crucial to have a robust business plan and a clear understanding of the market.  

Limited support

Unlike franchises, startups do not come with a support system. Restaurateurs must navigate the challenges of starting and running a business on their own. This lack of guidance can be daunting and overwhelming, especially for those new to the industry. You must handle everything from regulatory compliance to staff training and marketing, often without expert advice or established resources.  

Funding challenges

Securing funding for a startup can be more challenging than for a franchise. Investors and lenders may be hesitant to invest in an unproven business model, making it harder to raise capital. This financial uncertainty can limit your ability to cover startup costs, invest in high-quality equipment, and sustain operations during the initial growth phase.  


Starting a restaurant from scratch requires a significant time investment. Entrepreneurs often work long hours and face a steep learning curve as they manage all aspects of the business. This can lead to burnout and stress, especially if the workload becomes unmanageable.  

Deciding what’s right for you

Choosing between a franchise and a startup depends on your individual circumstances, goals, and risk tolerance. Franchises offer a lower-risk option with established brand recognition, a proven business model, and ongoing support, but they come with high initial costs, ongoing royalty payments, and limited flexibility. Startups, on the other hand, offer complete creative freedom, control over operations, and the potential for higher profits, but they come with a higher risk of failure, limited support, funding challenges, and a significant time investment. 

Whether you choose a franchise or a startup, success will ultimately depend on your dedication, hard work, and ability to adapt to the ever-changing restaurant industry.  

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