Two weekends ago my husband, who works for an international company, invited a colleague who had just relocated from overseas and his family to dinner. They have two daughters about the same age as ours, meaning both sets of girls are at that budding-teen stage when friendships seem to change with moods and the quest for independence shifts into overdrive.
After the girls went off to compare cultures and learn each other’s native swears, we asked the parents what had motivated them to make such a courageous move at such a challenging time. The reason was simple, the husband said, “I’ve always wanted to live in America.”
I have to admit, I was surprised. We hear so much in this country about America losing its status as a global leader and competitive powerhouse that I assumed the rest of the world felt the same way.
Compound that sentiment with an economy that continues to lurch about like a standard car with a student driver behind the wheel, lawmakers with the skill of illusionists in diverting attention from the real issues, and a growing divide among the beliefs and wellbeing of the electorate, and any frustrated American might question the promise of our land.
Others, however, apparently do not.
Take the many international brands  looking to make their mark on the U.S. foodservice landscape. In a story beginning on page 1 and continuing in the Business Intel section, we examine a new group of restaurant concepts emigrating to the United States, undaunted by our seeming challenges. You might be as surprised to hear some their reasons as I was to hear my new friend’s. While U.S. operators no doubt face growing economic and regulatory adversities, they can pale in comparison to those faced abroad — such as a minimum wage nearing $21 an hour.
An increasingly adventuresome American palate is also working in the newcomers’ favor, a fact underscored in the 2012 Second 100  survey results showcased in this issue.
While this second installment of Nation’s Restaurant News’ Top 200 census ranks the chains and companies between Nos. 101 and 200 based on domestic systemwide sales and revenues, it also explores what makes them work — possessing an ethnic or niche orientation, for example. Segments boasting chains with such specialized menus as Pollo Tropical and Pei Wei Asian Diner tended to record some of the most impressive growth rates in both sales and units.
The section starts on page 1 and jumps to the Special Report pillar, where you will find our proprietary Second 100 data, analysis of the findings, snapshots of the Second 100 segments and a close examination of the group’s growth and market share trends.
The 2012 Top 100 can be found in the June 25 issue of NRN, and the survey’s inaugural international component — in which we look at the major players overseas and those American concepts that are thriving away from their homeland — is scheduled to appear in the Aug. 20 issue.
When you think about it, the 2012 Top 200 reflects exactly what is great about America. It includes chains ranging from front-runner McDonald’s with U.S. systemwide sales of $34.17 billion, to Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. at No. 200 with domestic sales of $154 million. Each brand began as the vision of industrious individuals who over years of hard work were able to parlay their ideas into healthy and thriving businesses — oftentimes both here and abroad.
America may not be perfect, but it remains a land of opportunity and a magnet for the rest of the world. I, for one, am very happy to call it my home.
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