With more access to funding for franchises versus a larger, publicly-funded model, chains are looking to expand the franchise way.
"As the credit markets have begun loosening up, more franchisees are starting to spread their wings and grow," according to Technomic's Chapman. "Many operators are signing new franchise agreements to open new stores or acquiring preexisting locations to expand their unit counts while also enhancing brand development and marketing."
Restaurant companies are shifting toward a franchise growth model by selling company-owned stores to raise money and reduce capital expenditures, she notes. This helps them focus more on the brand and less on operations. The fast-casual and quick-service segments in particular are seeing higher levels of appeal based on lower costs of entry and strong unit economic models. With recent closures, restaurant start-ups have jumped on the access to prime real estate.
To read our complete list of trends in 2013 click here.