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6 hot restaurant franchises to watch in 2016

Rocky road ice cream sandwiches, street-style tacos and falafel all have one thing in common: They are served by a group of restaurants Technomic says are franchisees to watch to 2016.

This year, franchising has drawn considerable attention as giants like McDonald's and Wendy's double down on refranchising their restaurants. Broadly, the business model enables companies to generate more consistent revenue streams and expand at a rapid clip without raising as much money.

Meanwhile, franchisees get to tap in to already-built brand equity and resources.

"For those with experience or lack of it in foodservice, getting on board with a franchise allows you to have a system in place to market and operate a business, because most people don't have a clue," Technomic President Darren Tristano said in a phone interview.

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Technomic's list includes several regional chains that are in the early stage of development — many of which cater to a niche food category.

"Overall, they tend to be newer, more contemporary restaurants," Tristano said. "I think better is the singular theme. These restaurants are striving to a do a better job — with food, service and the experience."

So which restaurants made the cut?

Cream, Inc. ice cream sandwich.
Source: Cream

CREAM

With an eye toward the kid at heart, CREAM sells premium ice cream sandwiches with ice cream flavors like caramel cinnamon chill, and cookie varieties such as snickerdoodle and turtle.

Short for "Cookies Rule Everything Around Me," CREAM is currently awarding area development agreements in the U.S. to qualified multi-unit operators. Right now, the chain has 22 locations in Nevada and California with plans for rapid development. Its goal is to have 120 by the end of 2017.

Famous Toastery

Founded before toast took an artisanal turn in the last few years, Famous Toastery markets itself as a breakfast and lunch spot with fresh food.

Currently only in the Southeast, the chain is looking for franchise partners in New York, Philadelphia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Florida and Virginia.

Little Greek Restaurant

This Greek fast player just opened its 25th location, most of which are franchise operated. Next year, the restaurant chain plans to open seven more locations serving Mediterranean fare like falafel and gyros.


R Taco

The Mexican street-style taco joint has one food truck and 10 locations with another set to open in mid-January.

Known more for its wings than pizza, Buffalo Wild Wings made a majority investment in the chain last August while it was still known as "Rusty Taco."

To become a franchisee, R Taco requires liquid capital of $750,000 and a net worth of $1.5 million. Initial start-up costs can reach $622,000.

Slim Chickens

With more than 30 locations dotting the country, Slim Chickens serves fast casual fare including chicken tenders and Buffalo wings.

To get a franchise up and running, franchisees can expect to shell out $400,000 to $927,000. Once they sign an agreement, franchisees have one year to open for business.

Blaze Pizza

The fast-casual pizza segment is one of the most closely watched in all of the industry. Technomic Associate Editor Lauren Hallow described it as a "lucrative opportunity" for franchisees.

Blaze has 103 locations and already has franchise agreements in place for large parts of the country — with one exception.

It is looking for a multi-unit operator to bring the chain to Seattle.

Correction: This version corrected Tristano's title to Technomic's president.