The Subway restaurant chain has once again been named the No. 1 franchise opportunity for 2009 by Entrepreneur magazine in its Annual “Franchise 500” rankings. The brand was also named the No. 1 global franchise opportunity.

This is the 16th time in 22 years of rating franchises that the Subway chain has been recognized with the overall top honor. When the chain was first named the No. 1 franchise by Entrepreneur in 1988, it had about 4,000 locations, mostly in the U.S.

This year, the chain passed the 30,000 location mark, spanning 87 countries and territories around the globe, putting it only about 3,000 locations away from becoming the single largest fast food chain in the world.

The “Franchise 500” rankings are the most comprehensive franchise rankings in the world and considers many factors, including financial strength and stability, growth rate, size of the system and start-up costs.

John Musco, who has been with the brand as a developer working with franchisees for the past 32 years, said the success of the Subway system is linked to the amount of support available to franchisees.

“The amount of franchisee support provided throughout the whole system—and the fact that someone can pick-up a phone and talk to a person —makes us more personable and that kind of support is a big deal to people. Our system is designed to help, but we also give the franchisees the freedom to be their own boss, the freedom to be an entrepreneur,” said John, who, along with his business partner Paul Landino, started out as franchisees in 1976.

Company co-founder and President Fred DeLuca attributes the brand’s success to the thousands of people—franchisees and support personnel—who make up what he calls “the number one franchising team in the history of the industry!”

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