This is part of Nation’s Restaurant News’ annual Top 100 report, a proprietary census ranking the foodservice industry’s largest restaurant chains and companies by sales and unit data, among other metrics.
There is nothing more telling about the future of an industry than what is seen from the up-and-coming players. In the restaurant industry, the future will undoubtedly be filled with fast-casual brands, premium ingredients, healthful menu items, craft beers and the ever-present value pricing. Seven of the 10 fastest-growing chains in the 2015 Top 100 — the real stars of the report — are limited-service in nature, mostly fast-casual in look, feel and pricing. Of those seven, six are either chicken or sandwich brands, with the remaining chain focused on Mexican-inspired burritos and bowls. Only two of the fastest-growing chains are full service, and both focus heavily on serving alcohol, while the remaining fast-growing brand is a c-store chain, representing that segment’s major push into foodservice territory.
What isn’t on this list? Burgers. Pizza. Varied-menu concepts. Former stars from those segments — think Five Guys Burgers & Fries, Little Caesars Pizza and Cheddar’s — have been performing well but are now eclipsed by even faster upstarts with refined brands targeted toward today’s customer. While the fastest-growing brands in any industry tend to be smaller in volume, four of the top 10 here rank in the top half of the Top 100. They are billion-dollar brands that prove maturity does not negate growth. The top 10 fastest-growing chains highlighted here are ranked by year-over-year percent growth in U.S. systemwide foodservice sales.