5 stand-out growth chains

For more than 45 years, the NRN Top 200 has tracked the rise and fall of restaurant brands with unparalleled data on the performance of the country’s largest chains. Upstart concepts have blossomed into household names, and once-dominant brands have faded into memory.

The key barometer of those shifting fortunes, of course, is sales growth.

That’s why, ahead of the 2019 Top 200 report, which debuts next month, we take a closer look at five of this year’s fastest-growing restaurant chains. The brands profiled here all fall in the top 15 for year-over-year sales growth, and each offers its own compelling growth story. 

And while it’s easier for emerging chains to put up eye-popping growth rates on a smaller base, success knows no size. The brands examined in this report range in annual U.S. systemwide sales from $167 million to more than $10 billion.  

There’s MOD Pizza, which was the fastest-growing chain in the Top 200 for the second year in a row.

Shake Shack, meanwhile, has also been growing at a breakneck pace, with sales growth largely driven by unit expansion. The burger brand has nearly doubled its U.S. unit count in two years.

Chick-fil-A, with its $10.5 billion in U.S. sales in 2018, is the largest of the Top 200’s fast growers, by a wide margin. Yet despite its size, it has managed to continually post impressive growth stats by sticking to what it does best: fried chicken with a side of friendly service, and only six days a week. See how the 55-year-old brand is evolving to keep that streak going. 

Finally, we look at two brands making their debuts in the Top 200: Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar and True Food Kitchen. Both were cited as Top 200 Next Gen brands a year ago for their growth trajectories, and both have big plans to maintain that momentum.

All of these brands are far outpacing the overall Top 200 average sales growth rate of 3.2%. And they’re each doing it their own way.

Read on to see why these brands stand out from the pack. Then get full sales growth rankings when the complete 2019 Top 200 data is revealed next month.

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