Foodservice Equipment Reports

Top 500 Chains Grew 4.9% In 2012, Reports Technomic, While Noncommercial Segments Show Signs of Life

Restaurant chains’ sales rebounded in 2012, according to preliminary data from Technomic Inc.’s annual “Top 500 Chain Restaurant Report,” released March 21. Combined system-wide sales for the 500 concepts rose 4.9%. The year was a marked improvement over 2011, when sales for the Top 500 managed only a 3.5% gain.

In comparison, Technomic released a separate report in February that showed noncommercial and other “beyond restaurants” segments are forecast to grow 3.7% in 2013, up slightly from 2012’s 3.6% gain and well ahead of 2011’s 2.5% increase.

“It is certainly encouraging to see overall industry growth rates return to levels not seen since 2007,” said Technomic Pres. Ron Paul, in announcing the Top 500 data. But Paul also noted there remains a wide disparity of growth rates between individual chains “as organizations continue adapting their value proposition to meet consumer demands and refining operations to meet various industry challenges.”

Among the segments, Asian, bakery café and Mexican concepts showed the strongest growth last year. Overall, limited-service concepts grew 5.6%. Full-service is still struggling with the full-service concepts in the Top 500 growing 2.9%, only marginal growth over 2011’s 2.8%. Full-service steak and seafood concepts had the strongest growth among full-service chains.

Three of the five fastest-growing chains with sales above $200 million in ’11 were sandwich concepts. Firehouse Sub grew sales 33.5%, Jersey Mike’s Subs saw a 26.3% increase and Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwich Shop tacked on 24.6% in added sales. Dickie’s Barbecue Pit was the fastest-growing chain, boosting sales 46.5%. Others featured in the top 10 fastest-growing chains were Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers, Cheddar’s Casual Cafe, Buffalo Wild Wings, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Yard House and Panda Express.

The full “Top 500 Report” will be released in late April.

Among noncommercial segments expected to post higher-than-average growth are healthcare, with a forecast 4.5% increase in ’13 and business and industry at 4%. “Noncommercial foodservice players are looking to other segments like fast casual to adopt best practices. Whether they are traveling, attending school or work or just concerned about their children’s school lunches, they’ve come to expect better options, and operators need to deliver it.”

For those interested in an in-depth look at noncommercial and beyond restaurant segments, Technomic has developed the “Top 1,000 Noncommercial” online resource and companion report. The data includes exclusive rankings and profiles of the leading noncommercial segments, such as top colleges, top healthcare facilities, leading hotel brands, top foodservice management companies and the like.

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