Multi-unit franchisees: 10 of the biggest players operating today | Global Franchise
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Monday 6th February, 2023

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Multi-unit franchisees: 10 of the biggest players operating today


Multi-unit franchisees: 10 of the biggest players operating today

It’s certainly been a better 2021 than 2020, with multi-unit franchisees taking on expanded deals and signing new ones. Here is a rundown of 10 major multi-unit franchisees and their 2021 and some of the franchising deals they’ve signed

Flynn Restaurant Group 

The Flynn Restaurant Group (FRG) was founded in 1999 by Greg Flynn, when he purchased eight Applebee’s in Washington. It later added Taco Bell in 2013, Panera Bread in 2015 and Arby’s in 2018 to its portfolio. Through its wholly-owned subsidiaries, it now owns over 460 Applebee’s, 270 Taco Bells, 130 Panera cafes, and 360 Arby’s. This represents $2.4bn in sales, and the business directly employs 48,000 people across 24 states. 

In 2021, FRG acquired all Pizza Hut’s and some Wendy’s locations from the recently bankrupt NPC for $801m. 

Carrol’s Restaurant Group 

Carrol’s started out in the 60’s as Carrol Systems, as a division of a larger firm. During the mid 70’s, Carrol’s signed a deal with Burger King and became its franchisee, and converted many of its Carrol’s locations into Burger Kings. Today, the Carrol’s Restaurant Group manages over 1,000 Burger King and Popeyes locations. 

The group’s chairman and CEO announced his retirement in late September. Daniel T. Accordino had been with the company for over 50 years and served as its CEO for nine years and as chairman for six. It also acquired 19 Burger King units in Indiana and Michigan in early July. 

Sun Holdings 

Sun Holdings was founded by Guillermo Perales, who started out with one Golden Corral location. The company has grown enormously since its modest beginnings, and now operates 140 Burger King, 169 Popeyes, 147 Arby’s, 35 IHOP, 244 T-Mobile, 14 Papa John’s, 131 Applebee’s, 55 GNC locations, 117 Taco Bueno and 10 restaurants in various airports.  

Papa John’s signed a sizeable deal with Sun Holdings to open 100 stores across Texas through 2029. The franchisee also acquired RMH Franchise Holdings from Acon Investments L.L.C.  

Dhanani Group 

Shoukat Dhanani, the founder of the Dhanani Group, came to the U.S. to study at the South Texas Junior College in 1972 and went on to buy his first gas station in Houston with support from Shell in 1976. He later used a failed deal to acquire Burger King locations to place them in some of his gas stations, and has never looked back since with QSR brands. Today, it operates 503 Burger King units, 284 Popeyes, 37 La Madeleine locations. 

The Dhanani Group hasn’t made any major moves this year, but its affiliates have steadily opened locations across the country, like the 2,300 sq. ft location in Colorado Springs. 

KBP Foods 

KBP Foods was founded by Gary Zancanelli and his son Gary Jr. when the business was called ‘Zancanelli Management Corp’. The company started life when the pair bought five KFC restaurants in Colorado in 1999. Michael Kulp brought bring private investors on board who bought the company out and renamed it KBP Foods in 2015. KBP prefer acquiring restaurants, as their history has shown. It now has over 800 restaurants in 25 plus states, and employs more than 15,000 people. 

In July, KBP Foods signed a deal with the on-demand food ordering and delivery platform, Waitr. 

Muy! Brands 

James Bodenstedt founded Muy Brands in 2003 after working for McDonald’s and eventually undergoing training to become a general manager at the age of 17. He started out by acquiring 18 restaurants in 2003 to get the company going. By 2016, Muy! Had 635 locations to its name and today boasts over 780 Pizza Hut, Wendy’s and Taco Bell locations in its portfolio. 

Muy! Brands is building a Taco Bell unit where a Carl’s Jr. once stood in Poughkeepsie and is also developing a Taco Bell location near the border of the Hanover Township and Wilkes-Barre. 

Pilot Flying J 

Pilot Flying J (known as Pilot Travel Centers prior to the merger) was founded in 1958 by James Haslam, who acquired an existing gas station for $6,000. By 1998, it was the 25th biggest restaurant franchisee in the U.S. and the nation’s largest supplier of diesel to over-the-road trucks. It then merged with Flying J Inc to form Pilot Flying J, creating a company with a combined 550 travel centers. The company serves 1.6 million guests a day and employs over 28,000 people. 

Pilot Flying J acquired SC Fuels in December to strengthen its supply chain, guarding it against any unforeseen issues in the future. 


The Davidson Brothers, Davre and Henry founded Aramark in 1936. It was named Automatic Retailers of America in 1959, and went through a slew of names before finally arriving at Aramark. The company has had had numerous ventures, from its first Olympics in Mexico in 1968 to entering the career and apparel industry in Japan in 1976. It operates over 40 restaurant brands with more than 630 locations. 

Aramark acquired Next Level Hospitality for an undisclosed amount. It also bought a minority stake in Starr Restaurants

Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores 

Love’s Travel Stops & County Stores started in 1965, Tom and Judy Love spent $5,000 to lease an abandoned gas station. Within eight years, the company was named Musket Corporation and had 40 operational gas stations. Over time, the pair added more to their stations, they started with adding convenience stores and now have numerous co-branded stations across the country. The company has over 550 locations and employs more than 32,000 people. 

Love’s has not been involved in any major deals this year, but has steadily continued to open new locations across the U.S. 

Army and Air Force Exchange Services 

While the Army and Air Force Exchange Services is a subsidiary of the U.S. Department of Defense, it’s also one of the largest franchisees in the U.S. The purpose of the exchange is to provide troops and airmen on foreign tours with home comforts at exclusive pricing. When headed up by civilian leadership, the exchange modernized and flourished as a result. With over 530 locations to its name, the exchange houses brands such as Subway, Slim Chickens, QDOBA Mexican Eats and many more. 

The exchange carried out a $9.3m upgrade to the Goodfellow Air Force Base shopping center in early August. 

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