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Technomic: Growth slows for largest chains

CHICAGO The pace of restaurant industry growth slowed in 2008, as the largest of chains faced a decline in consumer spending as well as increased cost pressures, according to new data from Technomic Inc.

In the foodservice consulting firm’s annual report covering the largest 500 U.S.-based restaurant chains, the group posted an annual sales gain of 3.4 percent in 2008, down from an increase of 5.0 percent in 2007. The total number of units increased 1.8 percent in 2008, compared with growth of 2.6 percent in 2007.

“As the U.S. economy slid into recession last year, restaurant operators faced a host of challenges, including cost pressures followed by declines in consumer dining demand,” said Ron Paul, president of Chicago-based Technomic.

Industry growth that was registered in 2008 was aided by chains in the bakery-café, coffee and other beverage, and hamburger segments, with Panera Bread, Starbucks and Burger King posting estimated 2008 sales growth of 16.2 percent, 6.9 percent and 6.6 percent, respectively, Technomic said. Subway continued to dominate what Technomic calls the “other sandwich” segment with 17.1 percent sales growth and total systemwide sales of $9.6 billion.

Limited-service chains, or quick-service brands, within Technomic’s report posted a sales growth rate of 4.5 percent in 2008. Fast-casual chain growth was aided by standouts Chipotle Mexican Grill and Qdoba Mexican Grill, which saw U.S. systemwide sales growth of 20.7 percent and 17.8 percent, respectively, Technomic said. Full-service chains increased total sales by 0.9 percent.

While 280 of the 500 restaurant chains in Technomic’s study posted nominal sales increases, 213 of the chains suffered sales declines in 2008.

The 10 fastest-growing chains, ranked by percentage increase in total sales from 2007 to 2008, were:

-- Five Guys Burger and Fries

-- Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwich Shop

-- Potbelly Sandwich Works

-- Noodles & Company

-- Wingstop

-- Peet’s Coffee & Tea

-- Buffalo Wild Wings

-- Chipotle Mexican Grill

-- Pei Wei Asian Diner

-- BJ’s Restaurant & Brewery

Contact Sarah Lockyer at [email protected].

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