The restaurant industry is certainly never dull.
Menu innovation like the Doritos Locos Tacos, engaging marketing campaigns like Arby’s “We Have the Meats,” digital advancement like Chili’s tabletop tablets and fresh concepts like Naf Naf Grill all add up to an industry ever changing.
Looking back at the last 18 months, we’ve seen a stalwart of “food with integrity” hit by major food safety incidents, breakfast (finally) served all day and a restaurant concept invested in by Whole Foods, challenging how and where consumers choose to dine. Let’s also not forget how quickly it became nearly mandatory for restaurants to offer digital ordering, payment and delivery to simply stay in the game.
Like I said, never dull.
But when you follow the money, things can get even more interesting.
The Nation’s Restaurant News Top 100 report tracks and analyzes the largest restaurant chains based on U.S. systemwide foodservice sales. With 21 metrics for each brand — three years of data covering sales, unit counts, estimated sales per unit, market share, and more — it is the best industry census looking brand by brand, segment by segment, and dollar by dollar.
Some of the largest themes this year include Domino’s rising to the 10th-largest restaurant chain, bumping Applebee’s — and the only casual-dining chain represented — out of the top 10 rankings. The result is both a statement on Domino’s success, and casual dining’s challenges.
Exciting growth was found in chains franchising fast and offering consumers on-trend menu items. Jersey Mike’s Subs, Marco’s Pizza, Wingstop, Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers and Chick-fil-A make up some of the top 10 fastest-growing chains. (It’s safe to say consumers can’t get enough chicken. Zaxby’s is also on the list at No. 10.)
Overall, the Top 100 chains booked aggregated sales growth in 2015 that bested any year since the last recession and was one of the biggest jumps in NRN’s Top 100 history. Never dull.
NRN would not be able to produce this amount of data or quality of analysis without our Top 100 lead, Alan Liddle. This year’s report marks the 43rd year of Top 100, and Al has led the charge for more than 20 years of his 32-year tenure at NRN. There is no better expert.
At NRN, we like to be as exciting as the industry we cover. This year we reenergized the design of this report, making the data more accessible and the analysis more prominent. It may not be as tasty as a Doritos Locos Taco, but it is just as satisfying. Dig in.