What it costs to open 12 of the biggest fast-food chains in the US, including McDonald's, Chick-fil-A, and Taco Bell


Owning a fast food franchise can be a lucrative business, but it requires a lot of cash.

You must have at least $US500,000 in liquid assets to open a McDonald’s, $US750,000 to open a Taco Bell, and $US2 million to open a Wendy’s, for example.

Potential franchisees need a lot of cash available to help fund startup costs, which exceed $US1 million for most major fast food chains in the US.

In addition to startup costs, franchisees have to pay ongoing monthly fees for royalties, advertising, and other services that can add up to more than 10% of gross sales.

We compiled a list of some basic financial requirements for becoming a franchise owner of 12 of the biggest fast-food chains in the US.

Following the name of each restaurant chain is the average total startup costs to open one new restaurant in the US.


McDonald’s: $US1.3 million to $US2.2 million

Startup costs: $US1.3 million to $US2.2 million. This total is determined by the geography and size of the restaurant, the selection of kitchen equipment, signage, style of decor, and landscaping. The sum includes construction and equipment expenses.

Minimum liquid asset requirement: $US500,000

Franchise fee: $US45,000

Ongoing fees:McDonald’s charges a monthly service fee equal to 4% of gross sales. Franchisees must also pay rent to the company, which is a percentage of monthly sales.

Average per-unit sales*: $US2.7 million

*2017 figures according to QSR Magazine.


Chick-fil-A: $US10,000

Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images

Startup costs: $US0

Franchise fee: $US10,000

Minimum liquid asset requirement: none

Minimum net worth requirement: none

Ongoing fees:Chick-fil-A charges a fee equal to 15% of sales plus 50% of pretax profit remaining, the company told Business Insider.

It’s also important to note that Chick-fil-A prohibits most of its franchisees from opening multiple units, which can limit franchisees’ potential profits.

Chick-fil-A says this limitation is meant to enable its franchisees to be intimately involved in the day-to-day operations of their restaurants.

Average per-unit sales*: $US4.1 million

*2017 figures according to QSR Magazine.


Subway: $US116,000 to $US263,000

Startup costs: $US116,000 to $US263,000

Liquid asset requirement: $US80,000 to $US90,000

Franchise fee: $US15,000

Ongoing fees:Subway charges franchisees a weekly fee of 12.5% of gross sales minus the sales tax. The company says 8% goes toward the franchise royalties and 4.5% goes towards advertising.

Average per-unit sales*: $US417,000

*2017 figures according to QSR Magazine.


Burger King: $US1.9 million to $US3.3 million

Startup costs: $US1.9 million to $US3.3 million for a free-standing Burger King.

Franchise fee: $US50,000

Ongoing fees: Burger King charges an advertising fee (4% of gross sales) and royalty fee (4.5% of gross sales).

Average per-unit sales*: $US1.4 million

*2017 figures according to QSR Magazine.


Taco Bell: $US1.2 million to $US2.9 million

Startup costs: $US1.2 million to $US2.9 million. This includes the franchise fee and other startup expenses such as real estate and construction. The costs are slightly lower – between $US175,000 and $US1.8 million – for franchisees to acquire an existing Taco Bell restaurant.

Minimum liquid asset requirement: $US750,000 minimum

Minimum net worth requirement: $US1.5 million

Franchise fee: $US45,000 for a new traditional Taco Bell restaurant. Fees are lower ($US25,000) for an in-line or end-cap restaurant.

Ongoing fees: Taco Bell charges a royalty fee equal to 5.5% of gross sales and a marketing fee equal to 4.25% of gross sales.

Average per-unit sales*: $US1.5 million

*2017 figures according to QSR Magazine.


Wendy’s: $US2 million to $US3.5 million

Startup costs: $US2 million to $US3.5 million

Minimum liquid asset requirement: $US2 million

Minimum net worth requirement: $US5 million

Franchise fee: $US50,000

Ongoing fees: Wendy’s charges franchisees ongoing fees for local and national advertising (4% of gross sales) and royalties (4% of gross sales).

Average per-unit sales*: $US1.6 million

*2017 figures according to QSR Magazine.


KFC: $US1.4 million to $US2.8 million

Startup costs: $US1.4 million to $US2.8 million for a “traditional” KFC location.*

Minimum liquid asset requirement: $US750,000*

Franchise fee: $US45,000*

Ongoing fees: KFC charges franchisees about 10% of gross revenues (5% for royalties and 4.5% for advertising).*

Average per-unit sales**: $US1.2 million

*According to Franchise Direct, which cited a 2019 KFC Franchise Disclosure Document.

**2017 figures according to QSR Magazine.


Dairy Queen: $US1.1 million to $US1.8 million

Startup costs: $US1.1 million to $US1.8 million

Minimum liquid asset requirement: $US400,000

Minimum net worth requirement: $US750,000

Franchise fee: $US35,000

Ongoing fees: Dairy Queen charges a royalty fee equal to 4% of sales and a marketing fee equal to 5% to 6% of sales.

Average per-unit sales*: $US1.3 million

*2017 figures according to QSR Magazine.


Sonic: $US1.22 million to $US3.53 million

Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

Startup costs: $US356,500 to $US977,300 for a “non-traditional” unit and $US1.22 million to $US3.53 million for a “traditional” unit. These figures exclude the cost of land.

Minimum liquid asset requirement: $US500,000

Minimum net worth requirement: $US1 million

Franchise fee: $US22,500 for a “non-traditional” unit 45,000 for a “traditional” unit. There is an additional area development fee of $US10,000 per location.

Ongoing fees: Sonic charges a royalty fee of up to 5% of gross sales and advertising fees of at least 3.25%, according to Franchise Direct.

Average per-unit sales*: $US1.3 million

*2017 figures according to QSR Magazine.


Papa John’s: $US300,000

Kate Taylor

Startup costs: $US300,000

Minimum liquid asset requirement: $US75,000

Minimum net worth requirement: $US250,000

Franchise fee: $US25,000

Ongoing fees:Papa John’s charges a monthly royalty fee of 5% of net sales that is due on a monthly basis. Papa John’s also requires that franchisees spend 8% of net monthly sales on marketing.

Average per-unit sales*: $US968,000

*2017 figures according to QSR Magazine.


Dunkin’ Doughnuts: $US229,000 to $US1.7 million

Startup costs: $US229,000 to $US1.7 million

Minimum liquid asset requirement: $US250,000

Minimum net worth requirement: $US500,000

Franchise fee: $US40,000 to $US90,000

Ongoing fees: Dunkin’ Doughnuts charges franchisees advertising fees (5% of gross sales) and royalties fees (2% to 6% of gross sales).

Average per-unit sales*: $US733,000

*2017 figures according to QSR Magazine.


Arby’s: $US320,550 to $US2 million

Total startup costs: $US320,550 to $US2 million

Minimum liquid asset requirement: $US500,000

Minimum net worth requirement: $US1 million

Franchise fee: $US6,250 to $US40,900

Ongoing fees: Arby’s charges a royalty fee equal to 4% of sales and an advertising fee equal to 4.2% of sales.

Average per-unit sales*: $US1.1 million

*2017 figures according to QSR Magazine.

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