Chains Grow Unit Count at Highest Rate in Years

Technomic says an upswing in openings, plus rising prices, helped grow Top 500 chain restaurant sales.

Tropical Smoothie Cafe Image
Some beverage concepts, like Tropical Smoothie Cafe, have seen double-digit sales growth.

Chain restaurants are gaining ground. Technomic reports that the domestic footprint of the Top 500 chain restaurants increased 1.8% in 2023, marking the highest rate of new location growth since 2016.

The finding comes from Technomic’s recently posted 2024 Top 500 Chain Restaurant Report.

Sales grew, too, by 7.8%, driven by rising prices and the upswing in openings, Technomic says in a release. It projects cumulative Top 500 sales to climb to $453 billion dollars in 2024, reflecting a forecasted increase of nearly 7% compared to 2023.

Offering a closer look, Technomic shares that the Top 500 limited-service sales growth surged by 8.5% in 2023, while full service saw a “notably slower” increase of 5%. Chicken chains and beverage concepts earn mention as well. Chicken chains saw double-digit growth (up more than 12%) for the fifth straight year, and beverage concept leaders  Tropical Smoothie Cafe and Smoothie King experienced double-digit sales growth. It notes that upstarts HTeaO and Swig surged into the Top 500 rankings for the first time.

In January, FER hosted a session on how to efficiently grow unit count at its Multiunit Foodservice Equipment Symposium.

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