Technomic predicts a 2.3 percent unit growth rate over 2013 among the Top 500 largest U.S. restaurant chains.
The increase is slightly higher than the 2.1 percent growth rate from 2012 to 2013 and much greater than the 0.5 growth rate in 2009.
"Unit growth will continue to rise in both the full- and limited-service segments," says Darren Tristano, executive vice president at Technomic. "Fast-casual concepts still show high levels of unit growth, as do limited and full-service Asian concepts."
Among full-service restaurant menu segments, Asian will increase units by 5.1 percent, followed by seafood (3.9 percent) and steak (3.4 percent). Asian/noodle also leads the limited-service menu segments, increasing unit counts by 8 percent, while bakery cafes and coffee cafes will grow units by 5.2 and 4.2 percent, respectively.
Many full-service brands have positioned themselves to expand this past year. The largest growth has been at Buffalo Wild Wings, which will have added 65 units, Mellow Mushroom (32 units) and LongHorn Steakhouse (24 units).
As a whole, limited-service restaurants are expected to gain a sales bump of 3.5 percent. Fast-casual chains should see a 10.8 percent increase in sales, while quick-service chains increase a nominal 2.3 percent.
Full-service restaurants will experience a 2.5 percent sales increase in 2014, similar to the 2.4 percent increase in 2013. The fine dining category continues to show healthy growth and should increase sales by 5.8 percent. Gains in casual-dining and midscale restaurants will be 2.8 and 0.5 percent, respectively.