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Nation's Restaurant News' top 20 galleries of 2021

This year, Nation's Restaurant News' Menu Tracker showcased new items from KFC, McDonald’s, Taco Bell and more. Fazoli’s, Subway and Your Pie have also introduced low-carbohydrate options. Buffalo Wings & Rings has introduced three chicken sandwiches of its own, and Firehouse Subs has a new chicken gyro. Vegan chicken substitutes are on offer at Panda Express and Toppers Pizza, while Baja Fresh and Little Caesars have new items with plant-based protein meant to simulate beef and pork, respectively. Also, Firebirds Wood Fired Grill has some new seasonal entrées and cocktails, Rusty Bucket Restaurant & Tavern has reworked its whole menu and Auntie Anne’s has a new line of meat-and-cheese filled Pretzel Rollups.

Also this year, Big Chicken, with the creative and financial backing of Shaquille O’Neal, is starting to cast a franchise-concept shadow as long as the basketball great’s 7-foot-1 frame. The Las Vegas, Nev.-based brand, with three stand-alone locations, has a wide range of deals, from a just-debuted Walmart presence with Canada-based Ghost Kitchen Brands to an expanding deal with Carnival Cruise ships.

Every year, Nation’s Restaurant News ranks the largest restaurant chains by domestic systemwide sales, giving a detailed look at the biggest players in the industry. This year, we partnered with Datassential and its Firefly data platform to provide information for 500 chains — more than ever before.

In other news, long-term indoor dining closures have devastated the casual-dining industry throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, leading many restaurant groups in the sector to declare bankruptcy. Victims have ranged from Ruby Tuesday to Sizzler. See which restaurant chains and franchisees have so far declared bankruptcy during the pandemic. 

Click through the gallery to check out which other galleries made it on this years top performing stories. 

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