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Gen Korean BBQ House with Top 500 logo.jpg Courtesy of Gen Korean BBQ House
Gen Korean BBQ, which went public last year, experienced nearly 11% sales growth and nearly 20% unit growth.

Globally influenced restaurants’ growth reflects a growing demand

Exposure and knowledge are driving consumers to seek out more globally inspired cuisines

In one very big way, the Top 500 reflects the National Restaurant Association’s 2024 “What’s Hot” report that examines the top culinary trends. The top three trends on the report this year include the descriptors “world stage,” “global” and “international” — and global concepts are all over the Top 500.

Simply put, American consumers are seeking out more globally inspired cuisines, a trend driven by a confluence of factors such as more exposure to and knowledge about such cuisines. Demographic shifts, immigration, and access to information have all contributed to our increasingly sophisticated and diversified palates. Likely driven in part by a growing demand, concepts like KPOT Korean BBQ and Hot Pot have generated staggering sales (251%) and unit count (243%) growth from 2022 to 2023.

Granted, not all globally inspired concepts had such meteoric numbers, but most have grown remarkably, nonetheless. Gen Korean BBQ, which went public last year, experienced nearly 11% sales growth and nearly 20% unit growth. Hawaiian cuisine is heavily influenced by a fusion of global flavors, and Ono Hawaiian BBQ turned in 11.3% sales growth and 6% unit growth last year, while L&L Hawaiian Barbecue was up 10.6% in sales and 6.1% in units. Further, Hawaiian Bros Island Grill increased sales by 10.2% and unit count by 29.7%, while Mo’Bettahs grew sales by over 40% and unit count by over 31% (more on that brand on page 42).

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Jinya Ramen Bar was up 21% in sales and 30% in units, while Teriyaki Madness was up nearly 19% and 14%. Further, BonChon, Bibibop, Rock N Roll Sushi, Kura Sushi, Nobu, and Panda Express all turned in impressive growth numbers — and that doesn’t even scratch the surface of other rapidly growing international cuisines, like Mediterranean.

As Rob Ertmann, CEO of Mo’Bettahs, explained, more people are exposed to global cuisines now and are figuring out what it is. Still, much white space remains; most of these concepts are emerging brands.

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All data courtesy Technomic Ignite Company data. Looking for more data? Click here to access the complete Technomic Top 500.

Contact Alicia Kelso at [email protected]

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