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Are There Any COVID-19-Proof Franchises Out There?

Don Daszkowski
Don Daszkowski

While there's no guaranteed COVID-proof investment, some sectors are better positioned than others. Here are eight franchise business areas that have done well through the pandemic.

Opening a business at any time can be scary. There's always some risk involved, especially when you're launching something from scratch. People turn to franchising to mitigate that risk. With a proven system and support, there is a greater chance for success. In fact, right now, folks are flocking to franchising for that very reason. If you're asking yourself if you should invest in a franchise despite the pandemic, the answer is a big fat YES! This is a great time. Lending is cheap, landlords are willing to make deals, and the job market is terrible. But, before you jump into anything, you have to make sure a franchise is right for you and you for it. 

The truth is, franchisees are the ones that guarantee success for themselves. Following the franchisor's system is the most important part of that. It's already been proven, after all. If you're not willing to do that, forget franchising altogether. Not adhering to a franchisor's playbook is one of the main reasons franchisees fail. It's also important to believe in the concept, align with the brand's values and, generally be excited by the brand. With all of those factors in place, you can play it really safe with a brand that is considered recession-proof. These franchises contain elements that withstand – and even flourish – through economic downturns. Many of these are also considered COVID-19-proof.

One of the qualities of a COVID-proof franchise is its essential status. Being deemed essential or not has been decided locally by cities and states, with some standards countrywide. Food franchises, for example, have been deemed essential and have been able to keep doors open since the pandemic hit, but that hasn't guaranteed success. Some thrived while others didn't fare as well. So, what's the bullet-proof combination? Is there one? Being able to adapt, pivot and embrace technology certainly help. In franchising, we have seen a lot of impressive moves that have kept businesses going and positioned for success once restrictions lifted – even without essential status. 

While there's no iron-clad guarantee of success with a recession- or COVID-proof investment, some sectors are certainly better positioned than others. Here, we look at eight franchise business areas that did well through the pandemic.     

1. Senior care

The demand for in-home care providers has increased with the pandemic. With the elderly population at high risk for COVID-19, many families have opted to relocate loved ones from nursing facilities to be safer at home. Considered essential and recession-proof, senior care franchises are a great investment option for more than monetary reasons.

A feel-good business, most senior care franchises are extremely scalable, and offer an opportunity to hire and build large teams. Most people are attracted to these businesses because they want to make a difference and help others. After all, what could be more rewarding than knowing you're helping a person spend their senior years with dignity and on their own terms? 

2. Commercial cleaning/restoration

Since the pandemic surfaced, phones have been ringing off the hook with sanitizing requests at commercial cleaning and restoration franchises. Brands that normally provided sanitation as just part of their businesses pivoted to meet the extra demand. For example, restoration franchises typically handle jobs that clean up damage from water, fire, smoke, and mold, with biohazard and virus cleanup as just part of the equation.

The pandemic turned sanitizing into a full-time business for them, at least in the short term, and they were prepared to answer the call. Some commercial cleaners temporarily lost business as their clients shut doors, but had an influx of sanitizing requests as the country reopened. Customers requested more frequent and thorough cleaning jobs, which are predicted to continue for the long term.

3. Business services

Franchises that serve other businesses have been in demand through COVID. Even brick-and-mortar signage franchises found themselves with a slew of requests for social distancing floor decals and sneeze guards to help other businesses reopen.

Even though some of their customer's doors were closed, franchises that service other businesses kept working. Customers opened doors to have a multitude of services done while employees were out of the office. Everything from painting, plumbing, window cleaning, and even upholstery and surface repair services were being performed while the country was on lockdown.   

4. Junk removal/hauling 

While folks were sheltering in place, a funny thing happened. They started looking around their homes and realized it was time to purge. Junk removal proved to be COVID-proof. In fact, it was booming due to the pandemic.

A useful and in-demand service, junk removal franchises tend to be owned by people who like building teams and enjoy community involvement. By joining local groups and sponsoring community events, franchisees can successfully build and scale their businesses.  

5. Home services

Home service franchises were deemed essential in most areas of the country through the pandemic, making them COVID-proof. In fact, with more people working from and staying home, folks had a unique opportunity to have work done in their homes they might not have had time to accomplish earlier.

Among these are painting services, flooring, plumbing and carpet cleaning. It really runs the gamut. Home-service franchises are popular for their low cost of entry, low overhead and home-based models. Even marketing is practical with these brands. The vehicles used to run these businesses are often wrapped with company logos and serve as mobile billboards.

6. Fast-casual food

Many fast-casual franchise brands survived, and even thrived, through the pandemic. After all, food is essential. The restaurant industry took a giant hit, but brands with smaller footprints and quick service options proved to be more COVID-resistant.

Despite closed dining rooms, the brands that had technology in place for curbside pickups and deliveries kept moving. Those that didn't quickly adapted. Depending on local ordinances, some food brands set up makeshift drive-throughs and added additional outdoor seating options to bring in more customers.

Lessons learned from COVID-19 gave the food sector a giant push forward toward technology. Food brands were well positioned to give back during the pandemic and rallied communities in their efforts. Stir-fry meals, pizzas, smoothies and many other treats were donated to frontline workers at the heat of the pandemic. Local franchisees could run and market programs developed by their corporate teams who often matched customer's donations.   

7. Franchise consulting

The pandemic has caused an uptick in franchising.  With people spending more time working from home, laid off, or furloughed, folks have begun to rethink their options. Franchise consultants help change lives by matching aspiring business owners with franchise investments.

Through the pandemic, consultants have been busier than ever with more qualified and interested candidates who finally had the time to take that first step. Consultants have lots of flexibility running their businesses and can work from home part or full time. They are paid generous commissions from franchisors once a contract is signed. 

8. Property management

The thought of staying at a hotel or resort amid a pandemic is unnerving for most people. In fact, many resorts and hotels have shut their doors temporarily. Sadly, some have shut down for good. People feel safer taking their family on vacation in a controlled environment, and that's what they get from a rental house. The popularity of rental houses has increased in the past decade, and because of COVID, the demand is even higher now.

Folks are flocking to rental houses for vacations and more people are investing in them as a source of income. That's where property managers come in. They help property owners find and serve their tenants as well as protect their valuable assets. As a property manager, there is little overhead to operate this simple business. Many owners can run the entire operation themselves, with no need for employees. The ability to sell is key for building a client base but pays off with recurring revenue.

As with any business, even a COVID-proof, recession-resistant franchise can fail. Before you make any investment, it's important to do your due diligence. Working with a franchise consultant is a great way to explore your options. These professionals can present business opportunities you might not ever heard of. Plus, just like with real estate brokers, their services are free. What can be a better value proposition than that?


Image Credit: Prostock-Studio / Getty Images
Don Daszkowski
Don Daszkowski Member
Don Daszkowski is a serial entrepreneur and founder of the International Franchise Professionals Group (IFPG). IFPG trains individuals to become Certified Franchise Consultants and earn money selling franchises. Don’s expertise is in marketing, branding and creating new technology. For more than 10 years he has led the development of platforms to help franchise professionals better their businesses. Along with his innovative team at IFPG, Don has raised the bar industry-wide in the franchise sales process. Don’s work through IFPG has received many accolades, including being named the 2020 top franchise broker network by Entrepreneur Magazine.