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Buying a Cheap Franchise Can Get Expensive

3. Papa John's
Start-up minimum: $15,000
With more than 3,400 restaurants, Papa John's (PZZA - Get Report) doesn't seem like the typical company that might have franchises available for low costs. According to the IFA, though, start-up can be as low as $15,000.

Besides traditional stores, the company offers what it calls "nontraditional locations" such as sites at universities, airports, military bases, stadiums, theme parks, amphitheaters and convenience stores.

The franchise fee for a nontraditional location is $5,000 per unit, far less than the $25,000 for a stand-alone store. While monthly royalty fees of 5% stay the same, monthly marketing contributions are only about one-quarter of the normal payments for nontraditional locations. Still the total estimated initial investment required for a nontraditional restaurant ranges from about $56,850 to $260,000, according to Papa John's Web site.

This year though, Papa John's is also promoting its 2012 U.S. Development Incentive Program, according to the Web site. Approved franchisees can take advantage of a waived franchise fee, up to $50,000 in free equipment and zero royalty payments until June 2013, the company says.
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