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Big Restaurant Chains Double Meager 2010 Growth

Inside a Louisville-based Five Guys
Five Guys system sales grew by 33%, more by far than any major chain.

CHICAGO — Five hundred of America's largest restaurant chains registered a 3.4 percent annual sales increase in 2011, a sharp improvement over 1.8 percent in 2010.That's according to an annual report by foodservice researcher Technomic. The foodservice consultancy found that U.S. system wide sales for the Top 500 chains grew to an estimated $242 billion in 2011, up more than $8 billion over 2010.

"It is certainly encouraging to see overall industry growth rates nearly double in one year," said Ron Paul, President of Technomic. "On a chain-by-chain basis, however, performance varied substantially, reflecting the fact that many organizations are still redefining their value propositions for today's economy and tackling various industry challenges."

Among limited-service restaurants, growth came from the coffee and tea, other sandwich and Mexican categories with Starbucks, Subway and Chipotle Mexican Grill posting 2011 estimated sales growth of 7.5, 7.5 and 23.4 percent, respectively. McDonald's, the largest U.S. restaurant chain, boosted sales 5.5 percent in 2011, with total annual sales of $34.2 billion. Subway continues as the second largest restaurant chain in the U.S. by sales, followed by Starbucks, Wendy's and Burger King.






Rank

Chain

2011 U.S. sales (x million)

% sales change from 2010 to 2011

% unit change

1

Five Guys Burgers & Fries

$951

32.8%

24.7%

2

Chipotle (non-franchised)

$2,261

23.4%

13.0%

3

Jimmy John's

$894

21.8%

17.1%

4

Yard House

$262

21.5%

20.7%

5

Firehouse Subs

$285

21.1%

19.0%

6

BJ's Restaurant & Brewhouse

$621

20.9%

12.7%

7

Buffalo Wild Wings

$2,045

20.1%

11.6%

8

Raising Cane's Chicken Fingers

$206

18.2%

24.0%

9

Noodles & Company

$300

14.9%

11.4%

10

Wingstop

$382

14.7%

3.4%

 

Total

$8,207

22.1%

15.1%

Data: Technomic, Inc.

As a whole, limited-service restaurants saw a sales bump of 3.7 percent. Bakery café chains, which grew 7.1 percent, represented another limited-service sub-segment with above-average sales growth. Within this group, Panera grew 10.1 percent with 2011 sales of $3.3 billion. Other fast casual chains also contributed to stronger 2011 performance. A standout in the fast casual burger segment was Five Guys Burgers and Fries with sales growth of 32.8 percent.

Full-service restaurants experienced a 2.8 percent sales increase in 2011, following a flat year. The full-service seafood and steak categories showed healthy growth, with increases of 5.2 and 5.1 percent, respectively. Red Lobster, the category leader among seafood restaurants, outperformed the average, with a 6.2 percent sales increase. Among steak chains, LongHorn Steakhouse and Texas Roadhouse drove sales with increases of 13.1 and 9.2 percent, respectively.

In total, the top 10 fastest-growing chains' sales accounted for $8.2 billion, a 22 percent increase over 2010. Unit counts grew 15 percent.

More than 60 percent of the Top 500 restaurant chains posted at least nominal sales increases; only 193 of these chains suffered sales declines in 2011 compared to 231 in 2010. Both winners and losers appeared in every segment and menu category. These widely-mixed results demonstrate the overall competitiveness of the industry and the need for suppliers and operators to carefully identify and focus on the winners.

International performance by the Top 500 restaurant chains continued to outperform their domestic counterparts in 2011. International sales (up 6.4 percent) outpaced U.S. sales (up 3.4 percent); international unit growth was also up 6.5 percent versus 0.7 percent for U.S. units.

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