No. 200: True Food Kitchen
The Casual-Dining chain took the No. 200 spot on the list with $167 million in Latest-Year sales and a year-over-year growth rate of 22.2%, making it the seventh-fastest-growing brand in the Top 200.
That Latest-Year performance comes on the heels of several years of growth. In a two-year period, the chain nearly doubled its sales — from $85.4 million to $167 million — and added nine locations to end the Latest Year with 25 restaurants.
And it has no plans to slow down: CEO Christine Barone recently said True Food will “remain committed to its aggressive growth strategy.”
The Phoenix-based chain, which last summer got an equity investment from Oprah Winfrey, has its sights set on national expansion and recently shored up its executive team, adding its first chief people officer to support growth. It also introduced its first loyalty program this spring and has “jumped in with both feet” on delivery.
No. 195: Wetzel’s Pretzels
Pasadena, Calif.-based Wetzel’s Pretzels makes its Top 200 debut with Latest-Year systemwide sales of $170.6 million, up 5.2% from a year earlier. Jennifer Schuler, who was named CEO in January, says the 25-year-old brand, long known for its presence in malls, is constantly evolving in response to both the changing retail landscape — and the changing consumer. Initiatives have included a sleek new prototype, a splashy flagship location at Downtown Disney in Southern California and even a test of a ghost kitchen for delivery.
No. 194: Golden Chick
The Richardson, Texas-based quick-service chicken chain boosted its sales 10.6% in the Latest Year to reach $171.9 million. Unit count increased 5.8% in the period.
Jim Stevens, a franchisee who took over as president in May, said the Top 200 debut after more than five decades in business — the first restaurant opened in 1967 — validates Golden Chick’s slow yet steady approach to growth. The chain, now approaching 200 units, plans to open another 25 units this year and aims to reach 500 locations by 2030, he said.
No. 191: Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar
The 30-unit dog-friendly comfort food spot known for its diverse menu of everything from burgers and sandwiches to pizza and noodles saw a 27.1% increase in sales growth in the Latest Year to $176 million. The brand has had double-digit growth in both sales and units for two years running.
The Costa Mesa, Calif.-based aims to bring a mountain lodge vibe to guests. The menu features casual comfort foods like burgers, ribs and pizzas, and most units offer a membership-only craft beer program for $35 per quarter, which offers guests the opportunity to try new craft beers and get exclusive beer swag.
No. 190: Firebirds Wood Fired Grill
“Polished casual” brand Firebirds Wood Fired Grill is one of several brands breathing new life into the casual-dining segment. The chain grew domestic systemwide sales 11.2% in the Latest Year, $179.4 million, to vault to the No. 190 spot.
Stephen Loftis, Firebirds’ vice president of marketing, recently told NRN that it’s the little details that set the “polished casual” chain apart from the competition: warm, damp towels are served with orders of ribs or wings, frosted glasses are replaced halfway through martini orders and salad forks and plates are chilled. The brand also is working to be more accessible for Millennial parents and their families.
Charlotte, N.C.-based Firebirds was acquired earlier this year by J.H. Whitney Capital Partners.