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We’ve taken a slightly different approach to this year’s Top 200 special report, one that recognizes the dramatic changes wrought upon the industry in the last few months.

Meet the Top 200 restaurant chains in America

For nearly five decades, Nation’s Restaurant News has tracked the performance of the industry’s largest chains through its annual Top 200 research. And in most of those years, the data, which reflects the chains’ most recently completed fiscal year, revealed trends that would offer insight into the next year and beyond.

We don’t need to tell you this year will be different.

Coronavirus has rewritten all the rules, and we are only at the beginning stages of understanding its far-reaching impact on the country’s social and economic health. That’s why we’ve taken a slightly different approach to this year’s Top 200 special report, one that recognizes the dramatic changes wrought upon the industry in the last few months — after, or at the tail end of, most of the fiscal years reflected in the data. 

The features in this year’s report focus largely on what the country’s largest restaurant chains are doing right now and what they plan for the future. But it’s also important to know how they were doing as they entered this crisis. We draw on the momentum from the past to find answers to today’s biggest questions: What kind of business is going to fare best in a world upended by coronavirus? What will be the largest obstacles to recovery? Are the prevailing trends of the last few years still playing out — or are social distancing, economic unrest and cautious consumers sending them to the graveyard of trends past.

But one thing hasn’t changed: The industry-leading Top 200 data remains as comprehensive and indispensable as ever. Although the world has been turned upside down since the close of those fiscal years, there are essential lessons and benchmarking tools to be found in the data. Unfettered creativity and freewheeling innovation are key in the depths of a crisis, but it will take thoughtful data-based expertise to formulate plans for real recovery.

Packed with solid data for where the industry has been as well as forward-looking insights, the Top 200 report is your guide to this complex moment.

The methodology behind the Nation's Restaurant News Top 200

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As restaurants reopen to an altered landscape, one key question arises: Which businesses will be best suited for this new world? While there are still many unknowns, the businesses that have been able to survive — and in a few cases thrive — in the last few months offer clues. In this report, we look at three types of businesses that appear to be built for a post-coronavirus world: concepts with drive-thrus, brands that have heavily invested in delivery and digital platforms, and businesses with strong revenue streams outside of dining room sales. Here’s a closer look at how they’ve done it — and the valuable lessons they offer.

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