Entrepreneur Magazine recently published its annual rankings of the 500 top franchise opportunities, many of which can be found in the Lake Norman region, such as Subway and Denny's.

I scanned the Franchise 500 looking for restaurant concepts not available around Lake Norman. I excluded ones frequently found in high-traffic kiosks, such as Auntie Anne's Pretzel Perfect and Cinnabon.

My hope is some of our business-savvy readers will consider investing their savings toward these franchises to give us even more dining options.


1. Carl’s Jr.

• Concept: While there isn’t a Carl’s Jr. restaurant on the East Coast, you can order several of its signature charbroiled burgers from Hardee’s locations in Denver, Huntersville and Mooresville. CKE Restaurants owns both restaurants brands. Carl’s Jr.’s menu, however, offers a few mouthwatering Western-style variations, such as the Teriyaki Burger and Guacamole Bacon Six Dollar Thickburger.

• Closest location: Shreveport, La.

• Entrepreneur rank: 46


2. Church’s Chicken

• Concept: The restaurant’s website proudly exclaims, “Chicken is our universe.” You can order original, spicy and boneless chicken, as well as tender strips and various sandwiches. Southern-inspired sides include honey-butter biscuits, mashed potatoes with gravy, and fried okra.

• Closest location: Charlotte

• Entrepreneur rank: 49


3. Wingstop

• Concept: Wingstop bills itself as “The Wing Experts.” The restaurant serves classic wings, boneless wings, boneless strips and gliders. The menu consists of 10 sauces, including teriyaki, Hawaiian and garlic parmesan.

• Closest location: Charlotte

• Entrepreneur rank: 77


4. Hungry Howie’s

• Concept: The restaurant describes itself as “Home of the Original Flavored Crust Pizza.” Customers can order free seasoning at the edge of the pizza, including asiago cheese, Cajun, sesame, ranch, garlic herb and butter cheese.

• Closest location: Charlotte

• Entrepreneur rank: 84


5. Culver’s

• Concept: Culver’s specializes in ButterBurgers and fresh frozen custard. ButterBurgers consist of fresh, never frozen Midwestern beef, served with Wisconsin cheese and a lightly butter toasted bun. Culver’s website showcases 80 flavors of custard, including salted double caramel pecan and Kit Kat swirl.

• Closest location: Fort Mill, S.C.

• Entrepreneur rank: 88


6. Charley’s Philly Steaks

• Concept: The restaurant is known for its Philly steaks, like the Bacon 3 Cheese Steak with swiss, cheddar and provolone. The menu includes chicken and deli subs, as well as gourmet fries and grilled salads.

• Closest location: Concord

• Entrepreneur rank: 108


7. Carvel

• Concept: Carvel specializes in soft-serve and hand-dipped ice cream, as well as ice cream cakes and shakes. Signature cakes, such as Fudgie the Whale and Cookie Puss, include chocolate and vanilla “crunchies” to separate the layers of ice cream.

• Closest location: Charlotte

• Entrepreneur rank: 110


8. Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt

• Concept: The self-serve frozen yogurt restaurant features many non-fat, low-carb and low-fat flavors, including apple pie, cotton candy, eggnog, fresh baked snickerdoodle and red velvet royale. You can also find tart toppings.

• Closest location: Charlotte

• Entrepreneur rank: 116


9. Pita Pit

• Concept: The company considers itself a healthy alternative to fast food joints. What makes it so healthy? Lean meats, fresh vegetables wrapped in soft pita bread. Vegetarians can rejoice in spicy black bean, hummus, falafel and cheese-flavored pita sandwiches.

• Closest location: Charlotte

• Entrepreneur rank: 119


10. Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt

• Concept: Mooresville use to have an Orange Leaf franchise, but it closed. Orange Leaf touts itself as a creamier brand of froyo. Some of its unique flavors include taro, pomegranate, gingerbread latte, pumpkin pie and salty caramel.

• Closest location: Hickory

• Entrepreneur rank: 127


What do you think? Let us know what restaurants you’d like to see in town by emailing us at news@huntersvilleherald.com.