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All things considered, 2022 must be seen as a win for restaurants after two wackadoodle years.

Meet the 2023 Top 500: The biggest restaurant chains in America

This year’s Top 500, presented in partnership with Datassential, shows an industry stabilizing even as challenges persist

It would be a mistake to say that 2022 was a return to business as usual for restaurant companies. After all, “usual” for restaurants doesn’t typically include white-hot inflation, an impossibly shallow labor pool and a tangled supply chain that prevents access to basic materials necessary for opening storefronts.

Still, all things considered, 2022 must be seen as a win for restaurants after two wackadoodle years. A full 456 chains on this year’s Top 500 — that’s 91% of them — enjoyed sales growth in 2021, according to figure reported by Datassential and its Firefly 500 platform. Store-count growth wasn’t quite as rosy of a picture — about 60% of chains on the Top 500 were flat or had positive growth — but when compared with 2020 and 2021, the industry’s footprint largely stabilized in 2022.

There are caveats to the numbers you’re about to dive into. For one, many companies increased menu prices in order to keep up with rising food costs. Increases of 10-15% were common, driving sales growth even as traffic was flat or trending downward. In addition, these figures are comparing against a 2021 that was wildly volatile, unpredictable and unevenly experienced on a category-by-category basis.

But those caveats don’t change the fact that restaurant leaders have reasons for optimism. American consumers are still clamoring for food away from the home even as prices surge and the economy wavers. The challenges of the past three years have led operators to maximize efficiencies in both the front and back of the house, driving improved unit economics and smarter decision making.

Nation’s Restaurant News is excited to once again partner with Datassential in presenting you with this Top 500 report, offering the industry’s premier benchmark in measuring your success against that of your peers. The sales and unit data in this report provide a powerful tool for industry decision makers to turn to again and again as they position their brands for success; keep this report bookmarked as you chart a path forward for your business — presumably into a future that’s at least a little bit more “usual.”

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The Top 500 report is presented by Nation’s Restaurant News and Datassential, using insights from Datassential’s proprietary Sales Intelligence platform. Datassential is the ultimate strategic sales tool in foodservice — the nation’s largest and most robust operator data, combined with key data points like menus, LTOs, and much more.  Learn more about Datassential’s offerings in both insights and sales intelligence at

TAGS: Finance
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