FSR 50: Top 10 Upscale-Dining Chains

The Capital Grille

Impressive metrics, like Del Frisco’s $13.8 million average unit volume, suggest upscale dining’s rebound from the recession may be real.

Upscale dining, characterized primarily by dinner-focused concepts with extensive beverage programs and check averages above $50, was battered by the recession’s money-saving realities. But things are finally looking up for the restaurant industry’s upscale-dining stalwarts—with sales growth and unit growth in 2012 among most of the segment’s major players.

The category was hard hit during the recession because it suffered from the double impact of falling corporate expense accounts and tightening consumer wallets. Now, upscale-dining’s leaders are enjoying an upswing thanks to the economic recovery that has modestly resurrected business spending and unleashed pent-up demand from diners eager to treat themselves.

The top 10 players averaged a 5.4 percent jump in sales led by a trio of chains recording double-digit sales increases: Texas de Brazil tallied an impressive 19.4 percent spike; The Capital Grille boasted a strong 14.2 percent uptick; and Del Frisco’s accomplished an 11.9 percent growth in year-over-year revenues.

Bellwether Food Group’s Jon Jameson, however, cautions that the cheery numbers can be misleading. He prefers to think of upscale dining as rebounding rather than thriving.

“Many of these concepts were the hardest hit during the economic downturn, so they’re facing easier comps to roll over,” he notes.

Even so, optimism is carrying the day at many of upscale dining’s corporate headquarters.

Texas de Brazil director of marketing, Candyce Hedlund, credits strategic site selection and a festive dining experience with driving the Dallas-based chain’s list-leading sales gains.

Click column headers to sort

Company Namesort descending2012 U.S. Sales ($000)2011 U.S. Sales ($000)% Change2012 U.S. Units2011 U.S. Units% Change2012 AUV ($000)
Del Frisco's Steak House124,692111,38711.910911.113,800
Fleming's Prime Steakhouse252,000255,000-1.265641.63,929
Fogo de Chao150,000*137,000*9.5191711.88,350*
Melting Pot224,735227,662-1.3135137-1.51,665
Morton's The Steakhouse265,000*277,4884.56572-9.73,875*
Palm Restaurant121,000*120,000*0.82728-3.64,400*
Ruth's Chris Steak House510,000*484,2005.31191171.74,670
Shula's Steak House119,000*119,000*0.031310.03,850*
Texas de Brazil Churrascaria172,000*144,000*19.423219.57,850*
The Capital Grille316,200276,80014.248456.76,800

*Technomic estimate / Source: 2013 Technomic Top 500 Chain Restaurant Report


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