Skip navigation
Panda Express storefront

From the editor: Welcome to the 2017 Top 100

This is part of the Nation’s Restaurant News annual Top 100 report, a proprietary ranking of the foodservice industry’s largest restaurant chains and parent companies.

Nation’s Restaurant News is proud to introduce this year’s Top 100 report.

The Top 100 is a primer for how restaurant chains and companies stack up when you look at the cold, hard numbers.

Use this report as a guide to compare chains’ and companies’ U.S. performance based on systemwide sales, unit counts, franchisee growth, market share and estimated sales per unit. 

The methodology we use for this proprietary ranking cuts through the fat and delivers clear winners and losers for the Latest Year. The NRN team also provides deep dives on restaurant segment performance as well as analysis on what these numbers mean for foodservice players.

One takeaway from this year’s report is that the definition of foodservice continues to morph every day.  As some restaurant segments struggle — like Casual Dining and Family Dining — the C-Store segment continues to grow its share of the foodservice pie with 6.2 percent sales growth in the Latest Year. The C-Store segment still represents a small percentage of the overall total Top 100 sales, but smart operators will make sure to keep an eye on this rising competition.

Another interesting finding was that several of the big growers on the list were not newer concepts. Longtime industry heavyweights like Chick-fil-A and Panda Express showed that it’s possible to grow a large legacy business in a significant way.

Later this summer NRN will issue our companion reports, the Second 100 and the Next 20, which review the next, smaller tier of restaurant companies as well as up-and-coming concepts with the potential to break into the Top 200.

With its strict methodology, the Top 200 ranking, now in its 44th year, has long been an industry standard for foodservice business measurement. The backbone of these reports is NRN’s data expert Alan J. Liddle, who has been compiling and managing the database and providing analysis for 25 years. These reports benefit from his deep industry knowledge accumulated over his 33-year tenure at Nation’s Restaurant News.

The restaurant industry never stands still, so read through this guide for insights into where it has been and where it is headed next.

Jenna Telesca, Editor-in-Chief

E-mail: [email protected]

Twitter: @jennatelesca

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.