Some restaurant chains and retail markets kept growing through the depressed economy and are poised to come out of the Great Foodservice Recession with new growth momentum. New studies and reports from Technomic Inc. and ChainLinks Retail Advisors detail the players and metro areas. While not all dealers have big chain customers, the studies help clarify the concept trends and the metro areas most likely to be hot in the next two years.

Coming out of the foodservice and economic crashes of 2009, a number of chains were able to maintain double-digit sales and unit growth, according to preliminary data from Technomic’s Top 500 Chain Restaurant Report. The complete report will be available later this spring.

For chains with overall sales of more than $200 million, Five Guys Burgers and Fries, Jimmy John’s, Chipotle, Firehouse Subs, Noodles & Co. and Panda Express were among the quick-serve and fast-casual chains posting double-digit sales gains in ’10, Technomic reports. But even a few casual dining concepts bucked the negative trend to post strong gains in sales and unit counts, including BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse, Yard House, Cheddar’s Casual Café and Buffalo Wild Wings. And a number of smaller chains also posted double-digit growth. Information on how to purchase the entire Top 500 report can be found at

ChainLinks Retail Advisors, a Sacramento, Calif.-based real-estate services and brokerage firm, recently released two studies, according to Nation’s Restaurant News, one detailing chains with above average growth plans in ‘11 and another pinpointing the most healthy metro retail markets in the country.

ChainLinks analyzed metro areas by a matrix of macroeconomic factors and retail vacancy, absorption, building and rental rates to highlight the leading areas. Lower than average unemployment and inexpensive rental rates, even in areas with higher unemployment, were key measures. The Top 10 metro areas are Washington, D.C, San Francisco, New York City, Boston, San Diego, San Jose/South Bay, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Seattle and Pittsburgh.

The group named 19 restaurant chains projected to add at least 100 new units in ’11, including giants Subway (700), Dunkin’ Donuts (350) and Denny’s (111). Buffalo Wild Wings (100), Chipotle (130), Five Guys (225), Panda Express (100), Panera Bread (100) and Smashburger (100) will continue their aggressive expansions, according to the firm.

For information on the complete reports, go here.


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