The good news is that it's easier than ever to bootstrap and start something part time. Many of the most enduring businesses were started in recessions, and, let's be honest, after a year you can really only be engaged in heavy-duty job searching for a few hours a day, without going insane.
We can all have our own 20% time, just like the "20% time program" at Google, because the Internet has made the cost of technology and experimenting with a business idea basically free, and easier than ever before. When my friend is not job searching, he can be spend the rest of his time working on a new business project.
If you're trying to decide between starting a business and buying a franchise, before investing a lot of money in a franchise, start to experiment on your own. Depending on your idea (my suggestion is with an information or service business in mind) decide on a small dollar amount to invest, say $1,000, and experiment on your own first. You'll learn a lot about what you'll be doing with a franchise, because, aside from the infrastructure and support you get with a franchise, the work will be largely the same and 99% on the franchisee. Whenever you're ready, the franchise will be there.
I understand my friend's attraction to the franchise versus striking out on his own. A franchise feels "safer". Franchises offer a critical piece of the entrepreneurial puzzle, the business model, and then an entrepreneur builds a life around that. Franchises can also work very well if you know the industry and have the drive to achieve escape velocity beyond breakeven.
The challenge with a franchise is that you're taking on a partner that you may not know very well. Also, if you're new to the industry, the presence of the partner may not only cost more up front, but also make things more difficult and/or less flexible during the early stages.
My friend is considering service-based franchises, ones that do not require heavy up front investment, or fixed costs, such as a store lease or equipment for a restaurant, so it's less risky as an investment. But still, IMHO, the less overhead the better when you're figuring things out. The Internet offers new entrepreneurs endless "variable infrastructure" that comes in the form of SAAS technology, programming expertise, and part time help. Avoid fixed costs for as long as possible.