Foodservice Equipment Reports

Independents Grew Faster Than Big Chains Last Year, Reports Technomic

It’s been a rule of U.S. foodservice for decades that chain restaurant operators grow faster than independents. And big chains—those with more than 500 units, which tend to be big quick-service brands—appear to remain dominant in terms of traffic and sales growth.

But new data from Technomic Inc.’s just released annual Top 500 Report and its revised estimate of overall 2012 foodservice industry growth (see accompanying article) reveal a very interesting statistic: In 2012, independent sales growth outpaced growth of the Top 500 chain brands of all service types.  Top 500 chains were up 4.9% versus 5.6% for independents, though the QSRs in the list, led by the monster chains such as McDonald’s, Subway and the like matched independents’ 5.6% sales growth rate.

Independents are mostly found in the full-service sector of the market, with its higher check averages. According to Joe Pawlak, v.p. at Technomic, “Consumers tell us that they are experiencing ‘fatigue’ when it comes to full-service chains.  Little differentiation among various chains in terms of offerings and ambiance is an issue. Value is also an issue. Although many chains are discounting or offering deals, consumers feel that independents can provide better value in terms of unique menu items, unique experiences and fair price points.”  Pawlak notes there are exceptions, “But in general, consumers feel this way about “chains” in full service.”The full Technomic Top 500 Chain Restaurant Report, which includes hundreds of pages of analysis and data, is now available. Information on purchasing the study can be found at or by calling 312/876-0004.

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