The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic impacted restaurant chains throughout the Top 500, from the largest national brands to emerging regional players. In a world turned upside down, survival, not growth, became the priority for many.
As a group, the Top 500 chains saw their total sales shrink 4.3% in 2020 and they collectively ended the year down 3,616 restaurants. All of the major restaurant segments saw negative sales trends, with full-service segments taking the biggest hit. Less than two-fifths of the Top 500 — or 197 chains — had positive year-over-year sales growth in 2020.
But there were bright spots.
A handful of chains — generally large limited-service brands with strong digital infrastructure — didn’t just survive. They thrived. A few of them managed to achieve double-digit sales growth last year. Others expanded their reach with unit expansion that continued apace.
Over the coming months, we’ll take a look at the fastest-growing chains throughout the Top 500, but in this gallery, see which of the largest brands managed to grow even in the face of unprecedented challenges.
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- See the largest restaurant chains in America ranked by sales, units and more
The Top 500 report is presented by Nation’s Restaurant News and Datassential, using insights from Datassential’s proprietary Firefly platform. Datassential’s Firefly is the ultimate strategic tool — No. 1 operator database, lead generator, customer marketing and intelligence platform, all-in-one. Learn more about getting complete access at datassential.com/firefly
Update July 8, 2021: The Top 500 report has been updated to reflect newly available information, including revised figures for some restaurant chains.