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Children play at Rockin’ Jump. Rockin’ Jump.

The 8 wackiest franchise stores you could own

Jul 11, 2014

If you had, oh, $100,000 or so in your pocket, where would you invest it?

You might want to skip the buzzy stock pick and look at a food or retail franchise.

You’ll pay a one-time franchising fee (anywhere from $10,000 to $40,000, depending on the sector), foot the bill to set up your location, and pay royalties to the parent company (typically 4-7 percent of your sales). And now you’re the proud owner of a [insert your dream here] store! The parent company gains expanded brand recognition; the entrepreneur gains training and a sense of ownership, if not always independence.

Franchising has become an increasingly popular mode of business expansion. For each of the past two decades, the number of franchises has risen, according to the International Franchise Association, by 50 percent. In 2014, franchises are expected to add 221,000 new jobs to the market. To accommodate this growing industry, Manhattan’s Javits Convention Center plays host to the annual International Franchise Expo, and this year over 500 franchises showed up, seeking to whet the appetites of bold entrepreneurs—the kind of entrepreneurs who might love to get a piece of a … pizza-in-a-cone business?

Read on for 8 of the wackiest franchising options around.

BurgerFi

While burgers may not exactly be a new idea (various sources track the burger’s beginnings to the 1800s), what lands BurgerFi on this list is that it brought a professional athlete to the IFE to help promote its all-natural burgers. Mike Miller, the 2001 NBA Rookie of the Year and two-time NBA Champion (Miami Heat, 2012-2013), is a BurgerFi franchisee. He is opening up a BurgerFi in Auburn, Ala., (that will be store number 51 in the US) and says his children can't get enough of the tasty, healthier meat. BurgerFi also sells craft beer and wine, which is unusual for most burger places. (We’re still not totally sold on whether wine goes with a burger.)

Beef Jerky Outlet

Bison jerky, elk jerky, pheasant jerky, alligator jerky, kangaroo jerky, moonshine jerky. This Outlet of all things Jerky has 22 open locations in the US, another four to five opening in the next few weeks, and 53 other locations already sold. Vegetarians and vegans beware: this is not the place for you. Inside their makeshift hut at the IFE, bags of meat lined the walls. The Beef Jerky Outlet, based in Seymore, Tenn., does not make its own jerky; it just sells it. Think of them as the Modell’s of beef jerky. And yet, you won’t find anything with alligator in it at a sporting goods chain.

Polaroid Fotobar

Are your photos trapped in the digital world? Are they begging to be set free, yearning to see the light of day? Have no fear—Polaroid Fotobar is looking to address this need. With five stores across the U.S. (four in Florida and one in Las Vegas), the chain hopes to have a thousand locations opened around the world in the next four years with which to liberate your photos. What makes Polaroid Fotobar different than a regular printing station is the iconic Polaroid white border around your photo. The stores also sell frames ranging in material from simple wood to steel.

The Original Soupman

Shaquille O’Neal will put his brand on anything these days, it seems. The former NBA big-man owns equity in Soupman, but it’s the fleet of trucks that sets this soup chain apart. Its pre-made cartons of soups are in 3,500 stores across America and the company says its 12 restaurants, including one in Atlantic City, are doing well, but the next step, “soup-mobiles,” will be hitting the road soon (100 in the next few years). One of these trucks was at the IFE, and the lobster bisque that came out of it was just as good as any in a restaurant. Some trivia: its original location in New York was the inspiration for the famous “Soup Nazi” episode of “Seinfeld.”

The Melting Pot

Fondue can be traced back as far as Homer’s Iliad in 800 BC, and this is what The Melting Pot specializes in. With 135 locations in the US, Canada, and Mexico, The Melting Pot is rewriting restaurant guidelines. The chain serves anything from a quick meal to a four-course dinner – a cheese fondue, salad, entrée cooked tableside, and chocolate fondue to finish. In addition to the cheese and chocolate fondues, it offers bread, fruit, and cake for dipping. One of its most popular dishes is the Flaming Turtle chocolate fondue, which combines milk chocolate, caramel and pecans. It sure looks like a fun way to eat. But to invoke “Seinfeld” again: no double-dipping.

Rockin’ Jump

Imagine a room with a trampoline floor and trampoline walls. You are imagining Rockin’ Jump, the “ultimate trampoline park,” which also boasts a foam pit, trampoline basketball and trampoline dodge ball. If your little tyke needs to release some energy, this is the place to do it. Sadly, there are only five locations in the US, but Rockin’ expects to open 25 more franchise locations within the next two years. For parents fearing boredom, don’t fret: Rockin’ Jump locations have flat-screen televisions, free wi-fi, couches and an observation platform. Now just pray House of Pain’s “Jump Around” isn’t constantly playing.

Chocolate Works

Are you familiar with “Cake Boss,” the television show where Buddy Valastro makes monumental sculptures out of delectable cake? This is sort of like that, but with chocolate. Not only is Chocolate Works a store that makes its own chocolate (10 open, 14 more sold, with plans to open hundreds within the next five years around the world), it also has over 12,000 molds with which to create pretty much anything you desire. The booth at IFE was home to a flowing chocolate fountain and business cards… made out of chocolate. Two of the craziest things the stores have ever made? A life-sized chocolate leg for the Broadway show “A Chorus Line” and a 3-D sculpture of a boy’s head for his Bar Mitzvah. But eating your own face may not be your thing.

KONO Pizza

You may have seen the Homer Simpson pizza-eating method: roll it up and stick the whole thing in your mouth. And now there is a pizza place that (almost) helps you do this. With 130 locations across 20 countries around the world, KONO is the leader in the burgeoning pizza-in-a-cone space. According to KONO, you just eat it the same way you would an ice cream cone—but, you know, with biting instead of licking. This portable pizza product is already entrenched in Europe, but is making it’s way into the U.S., with 15 franchise locations in the works. Using Italian ingredients, KONO is easy on the taste buds and as portable as any food on a stick.

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