40 units Family-friendly and focused on authentic Tex-Mex cuisine and ambiance, this popular brand, which boasts it has been ranked the No. 1 Mexican Restaurant by Consumer Reports every year since 2006, is adding three or more units a year, primarily in its existing markets. Two leases are already signed for 2018.
Arooga’s Grille House & Sports Bar
Connecticut, Florida, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas
14 units A tech-savvy brand, Arooga’s offers a cardless loyalty program (guests simply sign up online); it also has online ordering capabilities and catering services. Ten of the 14 locations are company-owned and four are franchised; five additional franchise units will open through the end of this year and into the first quarter of 2018.
Connecticut, Massachusetts, and the District of Columbia
9 units Part of the Locals 8 Restaurant Group, b Restaurants raised the bar on premium burger and brew venues when it added bourbon to its mission statement. This month hails the conclusion of the brand’s Tour d’Pappy promotion, which started in January at the flagship West Hartford location and ran across seven locations where prix fixe five-course dinners were paired with the legendary Pappy Van Winkle bourbons.
Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar
Colorado, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee
23 units In 2015, Good Times Restaurants spent $21 million to acquire Bad Daddy’s, a brand in which it already had a 48 percent stake. Good Times has its sights set on growth, with a total of eight new units planned for this year, which would bring the portfolio to a total of 28 locations by year-end. Performance numbers remain healthy, with average per-person checks coming in at $17, alcoholic beverage sales running 14 to 24 percent of total sales, and traffic balanced between 40 percent lunch and 60 percent dinner.
Barcelona Wine Bar & Restaurant
Connecticut, Georgia, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Virginia, and the District of Columbia
13 units The consummate wine bar for adventuresome foodies, this concept is known for its tapas from Spain and the Mediterranean region—and even more so for its robust collection of Spanish-focused wines. Wine Enthusiast sings the praises of its list of some 400 wines, with 40 available by the glass. And the experience is unique to each setting, with design elements that capture the identity and culture of local surroundings. No wonder the AUV tops $3.7 million.
New York City
Seven states, the District of Columbia, Canada, Germany, Japan, and United Arab Emirates
42 units Winner of the 2016 James Beard Foundation “Blended Burger Project,” Bareburger remains an odds-on favorite to be in the running again this year. (Winners will be announced this month.) Meanwhile, the brand merits praise for its sustainable practices and commitment to fresh, clean food and doing right by its people, processes, and product.
Black Angus Steakhouse
Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, New Mexico, Washington
44 units The only company among our FSR 50 to own units in Alaska and Hawaii as well as the continental U.S., Black Angus is a true beefeater’s steakhouse—with average sales at each unit topping $3.6 million. And the brand’s tagline says it best: “Here’s to the nights you can’t remember and the steaks you won’t forget.”
Blue Sushi Sake Grill
Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Nebraska, Texas
11 units Blink your eyes and that unit count will be up: This sushi brand’s on a roll. Two additional locations are opening this year, in Dallas and Indianapolis. Who’d have guessed there would be such demand (AUV comes in at $3.25 million) for sushi and sake in landlocked states across America’s Heartland?
Alabama, Colorado, Ohio, Missouri, Minnesota, Illinois, Texas, London, and United Arab Emirates
40 units With a mix of company-owned and franchised locations, parent company Consolidated Restaurant Operations has taken its Tex-Mex brand to 12 states, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom. The menu gives traditional Mexican fare a modern interpretation, and everything is prepared fresh daily.
Carolina Ale House
Raleigh, North Carolina
Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia
30 units Owned by Lou and Joy Moshakos, LM Restaurants—the parent company of Carolina Ale House—is truly a family-operated business with their three daughters helping run the burgeoning restaurant empire, which now extends from the Carolinas across neighboring states Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, and Virginia.
Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant
Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Missouri, Ohio, Virginia, WIsconsin
28 units In addition to the chef-driven cuisine in its restaurants, the brand is known for its award-winning wines. Cooper’s Hawk has won more than 300 local, national, and international wine awards, and its winery produces 5 million bottles annually. Its signature wine club has 250,000 members who are invited to signature wine dinners in the restaurants as well as to other special events and perks. Founder and CEO Tim McEnery was honored earlier this year with the 2017 LEAD Award for Corporate Leadership, presented by HR.com, the largest social networking and resource site for HR professionals. For locations open three years or more, the average annual sales volume is $9.4 million, and the company is moving its winery and headquarters to a 125,000-square-foot facility in Woodridge, Illinois.
Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House
Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, and the District of Columbia
13 units The big city crown jewel in the DFRG portfolio, Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House boasts an average check of $115 and a loyal following in the cities it serves. A bump in first- quarter sales (up 3.7 percent from last year) was attributed to increased weekly revenues at relocated units in Dallas and Orlando. Clearly this is a brand that knows all the right moves.
Del Frisco’s Grille
12 states and the District of Columbia
24 units This is Del Frisco Restaurant Group’s answer to making its fine-dining brands, Double Eagle Steak House and Sullivan’s, more accessible and affordable. The $48 average Grille check plants this brand squarely in the polished-casual segment—that plus its varied and inventive menu that speaks millennial on every level. In its financial statements, the group says the Grille will be the “primary driver of new unit growth in the near term.” Smart move, since sales for the quarter that ended March 21 were up 10 percent from the same period last year.
Syracuse, New York
Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey, New York
9 units Barbecue may not come to mind when thinking of New York, but Dinosaur Bar-B-Que is squashing preconceived notions. With nine locations throughout the Northeast, the casual brand offers guests slow-smoked meats, homemade sides, live music, and, of course, local and seasonal beer.
Arizona, California, FLorida, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia
17 units Darden Restaurants proves a corporate group can absolutely deliver on fine-dining excellence. The company reported that Eddie V’s set new sales records during key holidays in the previous year, and in the third quarter of this fiscal year (December through February), Eddie V’s saw same-restaurant sales spike an impressive 11 percent.
Arizona, California, Idaho, Oregon, Washington
26 units This brand got its start back in 1960 when it operated under the name Elmer’s Colonial Pancake House and was owned by Walt and Dorothy Elmer. It was all about home cooking then, as it still is now, and Walt’s original pancake recipe remains a menu foundation. Eight locations are company-owned and 18 are franchised units. Like all prolific families, Elmer’s recently spun off another concept, Egg N’Joe, which is open for breakfast and lunch only. There are two Egg N’Joe units open in Arizona, with a third under construction. The company plans to build out the Phoenix market and begin franchising this brand by the end of the year.
California, Colorado, Idaho, Texas, and Washington
22 units Within its inviting rustic industrial settings, this brand has coined the “eatertainment” experience—one that is filled with exceptional food, beer, spirits, and music. Expansion plans call for new locations in Southern and Northern California, along with an opening in Las Vegas. All units are company-owned, with an average sales volume of $3.2 million and total company sales ringing in at $70 million.
Huntersville, North Carolina
Colorado, Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia
22 units A popular breakfast, brunch, lunch concept since it launched in 2005, the company hit a true millennial nerve when it decided to focus on boozy brunches. Last summer the brand added a signature pairings selection to its menu, and sales jumped 35 percent. With annual sales approaching $30 million, the company expects to open 10 locations in the coming year. Of the existing 22 units, six are company-owned and 16 are franchised.
Firebirds Wood Fired Grill
Charlotte, North Carolina