People typically fall into one of two camps when it comes to math: They either love it or they hate it. Those who love it tend to relish the order and indisputable conclusions it draws; those who detest it find those conclusions restrictive and lacking in nuance; they also bemoan the equation-solving process. As a self-described nerd throughout my school years, I was one of those odd students who enjoyed math, as well as English, history, and the more qualitative subjects. (This is how you end up in journalism.)

Editor Nicole Duncan

As it turns out, the marriage of numbers and words is exactly the kind of approach that makes reports like the FSR 50 so comprehensive. In looking at the top-performing full-service chains under 50 units, sales figures and unit counts serve as a guiding light to zero in on the most competitive players. This year we tapped the expertise of Darren Tristano, founder of Foodservice Results and an industry vet with nearly 30 years of experience gleaning restaurant insights. But to land a spot on the list, brands had to also demonstrate traits that go beyond the numbers: a unique business proposition, ace leadership, the admiration of their peers, and a proven growth strategy.


JINYA Builds the Great Growth-Ready Ramen Franchise

Eggs Up Grill Heats Up Expansion

Lupe Tortilla Finds Success at Its Own Pace

Some of these companies you’ve already heard of. Chains like Firebirds and Cantina Laredo have stamped out too large a footprint to go unnoticed, while others have garnered enough celebrity buzz to make them household names (remember the time when Oprah invested in True Food Kitchen?). Still, there are likely a few names in the report that you haven’t encountered, particularly those that have thus far stayed in their home markets. Keke’s Breakfast Cafe has built a robust system but has yet to venture outside Florida. Ditto that for Panini Kabob Grill in California and Aubrey’s in Tennessee.

Potential can be measured by past performance, but future trajectory also hinges on less concrete factors. As unscientific as it may sound, a hunch can be a key metric. That’s why the FSR 50 includes a by-the-numbers chart, as well as individual brand profiles detailing the reasons why we think the restaurants are worth watching. There’s plenty to dig into here, whether you’re a data aficionado or not. And we promise: no calculations required.

Expert Takes, Feature