Honorable Mentions

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The FSR 50 report highlights the industry leaders, but some brands that were conspicuous in their absence deserve a mention as well.

The decision to divvy the 2015 FSR 50 report into five groups of Top 10 high-performing chains produced interesting results. We settled on metrics that speak to the characteristics of operators who are leading restaurants into next-generation dining. Measures like improved year-over-year sales and impressive AUV (average unit volume).

As we conducted our research and narrowed the lists to the highest performers, it was surprising to see some names were conspicuously absent. Several that didn’t make the cut are brands that certainly fall in the “ones to watch” category, and some were so close it was hard not to mention them.

Like Texas de Brazil—which opened its 37th location in June—was on the cusp of inclusion in the FSR 50 with an AUV approaching $8 million—just a few dollars short, so it seems, of competitor Fogo de Chao.

Similarly, Chuy’s had nearly a 20 percent increase in sales to end 2014 at $245 million, and achieved its 18th quarter of comp-sales growth and 12 quarters of comp-restaurant-traffic growth.

Company revenues at Buffalo Wild Wings were also up almost 20 percent in 2014 to $1.5 billion—but what makes the brand stand out is its ability to deliver at the franchise level. Typically, restaurant chains see higher performance in company-owned units. BWW is much more an equal-opportunity performer: Both company-owned and franchise stores boast AUVs that hover around $3 million—but franchises are more likely hitting a notch above $3.1 million.

And then there are those that are smaller in scale, but have big appetites for growth. BJ’s Restaurants is a good example. The brand grew sales 9 percent last year, is dappling with two Grill concepts, and the Brewhouse is a proven entity (with 143 units) while the 10 Brewery locations are also noteworthy. Looking ahead, the company expects to grow its 158-store portfolio to 425 BJ’s nationwide.

But if we’re going to highlight hearty appetites, First Watch Restaurants may top the list. First Watch hatched a breakfast coup with the acquisition of The Egg & I Restaurants in May—positioning itself as the largest and fastest-growing breakfast and brunch restaurateur in the country, with 267 locations in 26 states, plus 18 under development. Even before the brands merged, each was a force in its own right with 2014 sales at $143 million* for First Watch and $97 million* for The Egg & I.

If the ones not in the FSR 50 are this exciting, then those that did make the Top 10 lists are truly worth a read.

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