C-Stores, Chicken Claim Spots in Franchise 500

Greg Lindenberg, Editor, CSP

entrepreneur franchise 500

CHICAGO -- McDonald’s unseated 7-Eleven Inc. for the top spot in Entrepreneur magazine’s 39th annual Franchise 500. Irving, Texas-based 7-Eleven seized the No. 1 spot last year, the first time in a decade for a c-store brand.

The list ranks the top franchise opportunities based on an evaluation of financial strength, stability, growth rate and brand power.

Here are the c-store and related brands that made the 2018 list …

7-Eleven (No. 2)

7 eleven

7-Eleven's origins date back to 1927, when an employee of Southland Ice Co. in Dallas began selling milk, bread and eggs in addition to ice. Joe Thompson bought Southland Ice, turned it into Southland Corp., and began opening convenience stores. The first stores went by the name Tote'm, since customers "toted" away their purchases, but in 1946, when the stores' hours were extended from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., they got a new name. Although 7-Eleven stores are now open 24 hours a day, the name stuck.

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  • Irving, Texas-based 7-Eleven is No. 1 in CSP’s 2017 Top 202 ranking of convenience stores by number of stores.

Chester’s Chicken (No. 153)

chesters chicken

W.O. Giles started Chester's in 1952, and although he started out frying doughnuts with his patented fryers, it was fried chicken that became the focus of his business. His son, Ted Giles, is the current CEO of the company, which began franchising in 2004 after previously following a licensing business model. Chester's has locations in college campuses, airports, convenience stores, truckstops and supermarkets.

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Circle K (No. 208)

circle k

The Circle K convenience store chain got its start in 1951, when Fred Hervey bought three Kay's Food Stores in El Paso, Texas. The company began franchising in 1999. Now owned by parent company Alimentation Couche-Tard, Circle K franchises can be found in more than 20 states, as well as more than 10 other countries.

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  • Laval, Quebec-based Alimentation Couche-Tard, the owner of the Circle K brand, is No. 2 in CSP’s 2017 Top 202 ranking of convenience stores by number of stores.

Orion Food Systems (No. 212)


Orion Food Systems franchises a variety of quick-service brands that place locations within nontraditional locations such as convenience stores, hospitals, colleges, sports arenas, shopping centers, airports and military bases. Brands include Hot Stuff Pizza, SmashHits Deli, Eddie Peppers and Lettieri's Food To Go.

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ampm (No. 334)

am pm logo

The first ampm location opened in Southern California in 1978. There are now hundreds of combination gas station and convenience stores across the United States, offering nearly 2,200 different hot and cold snack food and drink items.

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  • LaPalma, Calif.-based BP America, owner of the ampm brand, is No. 8 in CSP’s 2017 Top 202 ranking of convenience stores by number of stores.

Gateway Newstands (No. 451)

gateway newstands

Gateway Newstands was founded in 1983 by Michael Aychental and David Goldman, who started franchising the concept the same year. A family-owned and -operated partnership based in Canada, Gateway has grown to more than 300 stores in North America, including locations in Toronto, New York and Chicago. Gateway emphasizes a hands-on business approach, putting a franchise owner in each of its locations. Franchisees work from kiosks or stores in large office buildings, selling snacks, drinks, candy, cards, tobacco, reading material, lottery tickets and other impulse buys. Open from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Gateway stores have less demanding working hours than most convenience stores.

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Champs Chicken (No. 281)

Under the brand names Champs Chicken and Cooper’s Express, Holts Summit, Mo.-based PFSbrands distributes more than 30 million pounds of chicken, seafood, breadings, sauces and a variety of side dishes annually to more than 1,000 grocery stores and convenience stores nationwide.

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And click here to view the full Franchise 500 list.