Once upon a time, when I started working for the SBDC a decade and a half ago, getting an SBA-backed loan for a franchise was, I was told, a torturous event. Even SBA acknowledged that "inconsistent decisions", "excessively long processing time" and "failure to understand industry differences" plagued the process.
Now, "in a major effort to help small business owners, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) offers the Franchise Registry that will expedite the processing of loans to small business franchisees." Some franchises will be vetted so that the potential franchisee doesn't have to do so much work.
Franchise Registry.com is in "a partnership with FRANdata, the only objective information company that researches and reports on franchising." It has some useful information, both free and for a fee; among the latter are UFOCs, Uniform Franchise Offering Circulars, which sell for $220 (older versions of the documents for $270). You SHOULD be able to get this from the franchisor if you are a serious candidate for buying into a franchise, at least in New York State. Questions about franchises should be directed to
State Department of Law
Investor Protection Bureau
New York NY 10271
(212)416-8236 or (212)416-8637