Top restaurant chains experiencing slower growth

by Staff
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CHICAGO — The 500 largest U.S. restaurant chains are growing at a slower pace than in the past and posted 3.4% annual sales growth in 2008, according to Technomic in its "2009 Technomic Top 500 Chain Restaurant Report."

"As the U.S. economy slid into recession last year, restaurant operators faced a host of challenges, including cost pressures followed by declines in consumer dining demand," said Ron Paul, president. "Many chains scaled back their U.S. unit expansion efforts, growing units by just 1.8% compared with 2.6% a year ago."

U.S. system-wide sales for the top 500 chains rose to an estimated $230.2 billion in 2008, up $7.6 billion over 2007.

Growth came from the limited-service bakery cafe, coffee and other beverage, and hamburger categories with Panera Bread, Starbucks and Burger King posting large sales increases. Panera had an estimated 16.2% sales growth, Starbucks had a 6.9% increase, and Burger King grew sales by 6.6%.

Limited-service chains accounted for more than 80% of all fast-food restaurants, and as a whole this group grew by 4.5% with the Asian category showing strong growth.

The top fastest-growing chains with sales of more than $200 million include Five Guys Burgers and Fries, Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwich Shop, Potbelly Sandwich Works, Noodles & Company, Wingstop, Peet’s Coffee & Tea, Buffalo Wild Wings and Chipotle.

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