In addition to the investigations I mentioned in my other blogs on this topic, I recommend that anyone considering buying a franchise also attend a Discovery Day held by the franchisor. Understand that it is a marketing effort by the franchisor, however it presents a good opportunity to learn more about the franchisor and the franchise.
As I stated in an earlier blog, the last (and I think, the most important) step in researching a franchise opportunity is to retain an experienced franchise attorney to review the documents and advise you (even if the franchise agreement is not negotiable). A franchise agreement is not like other contracts and an attorney who is not experienced in franchise law will not understand the implications of the terms nor what is typical and what is of concern.
There are some excellent resources available to those looking to buy a franchise – FTC – http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/invest/inv05.shtm; Illinois Attorney General publication – http://www.illinoisattorneygeneral.gov/publications/pdf/b4ubuy.pdf; the Small Business Administration (SBA) – http://www.sba.gov/smallbusinessplanner/start/buyafranchise/SERV_SBP_S_FGUIDE.html. Also, see my posting on the importance of retaining experienced franchise counsel.