For those who want to be entrepreneurs but don’t have a big idea, franchising offers a color-by-number opportunity. The dream is that if you buy the right franchise and run it well, you can be your own boss and make a fortune. The reality, of course, is a little more complicated and depends on what franchise you buy, how much you pay for it and where you set up shop. That’s why we’ve created this guide, which includes our third annual list of best and worst franchises in America and a number of other articles about franchising.To create the list, franchise industry research firm FRANdata ranked the winners and losers according to the price of admission: economy franchise opportunities have entry costs up to $150,000; coach opportunities have costs between $150,001 and $500,000; and first-class will run you $500,000 and up. FRANdata looked at five-year growth rates and five-year continuity rates, a measure of how often an individual franchise has changed hands, among other factors, to make its determination. If you’re interested in a deeper dive into the methodology, FRANdata’s Edith Wiseman has the skinny here. Intriguingly, most of the best franchises on last year’s list have staying power – one notable exception is Auntie Ann’s, the soft pretzel chain now owned by Roark Capital – but most of the worst are newcomers.The best franchisors will support you with strong brands, innovative products and creative marketing. The worst may be struggling with failed business models and squeezing their franchisees with hefty fees in an effort to keep the cash rolling in at the corporate level. Many are somewhere in between those two extremes. To help you do your due diligence, we’ve prepared two helpful guides: “12 Things To Do Before Buying A Franchise” and “Thinking of Buying A Franchise (Like Long John Silver’s)? Here’s How To Read the Disclosure Document.” Read them along with our Q&A with franchise attorney Robert Zarco before you buy.We’ve rounded out the package with a couple of stories that are just good yarns. In “The Coffee Cult,” Susan Adams looks at how Dutch Bros. is turning its “bro-istas” into wealthy franchisees, and in “How Canada’s Serruya Family Made Some $300 Million Off A Bunch Of Faded Food-Service Brands,” I delve into the saga of Kahala Brands, parent of Cold Stone Creamery and Blimpie. We’ve also got a few interviews with franchising entrepreneurs, including one with Julia Stewart, who is trying to help Applebee’s escape “the sea of sameness,” and another with a former corporate attorney who wound up planning a revival of a $12 million chicken-and-biscuits chain.While franchise businesses often fall under the radar, their numbers have been increasing since the recession: This year, the total number of franchises should reach 795,932, employing 9.1 million people and contributing $552 billion to GDP, according to a forecast by IHS Economics for the industry’s trade group, the International Franchise Association. Given those numbers, count on us writing more about them going forward.