This story is part of NRN’s Top 100 special report, a proprietary census ranking the foodservice industry’s largest restaurant chains and companies by sales and unit data, among other metrics.
Examining year-to-year growth in sales is one of the most effective ways of determining the overall health of a concept. This year’s field of top growth chains was dominated by Limited-Service brands, which took eight of the top 10 spots. LSR/Sandwich players Firehouse Subs and Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches claimed the top two positions, while a mixture of large and smaller fast-casual and quick-service concepts rounded out the group. Just two Casual-Dining brands, Cheddar’s and Buffalo Wild Wings Grill & Bar, represented the full-service sector. Chains are ranked by percent growth in U.S. systemwide sales.
10. Panda Express
Rounding out the top 10 is quick-service Asian concept Panda Express, which bested Preceding-Year sales growth of 11.8 percent for a Latest-Year finish just behind No. 9 growth chain Zaxby’s.
With growth of $139.5 million in sales from the Preceding Year to the Latest Year as well as Latest-Year and Preceding-Year gains in segment market share, chicken specialist Zaxby’s has steadily been gaining ground.
8. Little Caesars Pizza
The originator of the Hot-N-Ready Pizza was the only chain in the Pizza segment that cracked the top 10 in sales growth, falling just 0.2 percent behind Moe’s Southwest Grill for a No. 8 growth ranking.
7. Moe’s Southwest Grill
Although it claims just 3.8 percent of the LSR/Mexican segment’s market share, Moe’s Southwest Grill gave segment leader Chipotle Mexican Grill a run for its money when it came to sales growth in this year’s Top 100.
6. Chipotle Mexican Grill
Chipotle Mexican Grill’s sales growth spurt continued in the Latest Year, affording the chain a sixth-place finish. The burrito behemoth grew its estimated sales per unit by nearly $110,000 in the Latest Year.
Just trailing fourth-place finisher Buffalo Wild Wings Grill & Bar is limited-service competitor Wingstop, whose Latest-Year unit growth drove sales gains that allowed the chain to move up 10 places from its Preceding-Year Top 100 sales rank.
4. Buffalo Wild Wings Grill & Bar
Chicken-wing specialist Buffalo Wild Wings Grill & Bar drove its estimated sales per unit up nearly 10 percent, the highest gain of all chains in the Casual-Dining category.
Claiming the No. 3 growth position, Cheddar’s bested its own strong Preceding-Year sales growth in the Latest Year and continued to boast the largest sales gain in the Casual-Dining segment.
2. Jimmy John’s Gourmet sandwiches
In the No. 2 growth spot for the second year in a row, Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches grew its systemwide sales by $250 million in the Latest Year, with net growth of 232 units.
1. Firehouse Subs
Firehouse Subs may be making its Top 100 debut in the bottom spot based on total sales, but the chain increased its sales in the Latest Year by $95.5 million, placing it in the No. 1 growth position.