The 500 largest U.S. restaurant chains saw a 1.8 percent increase in sales last year. Research by Technomic showed that sales for these restaurants increased more than $4 billion over 2009, by around $234 billion.

The growth was driven by fast-casual and limited service restaurants but was also seen in other segments. The top five chains that saw sales increases were: Five Guys Burgers and Fries; Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwich Shop, Chipotle Mexican Grill, BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse; and Yard House.

In total, the top 10 fastest-growing chains’ sales accounted for $7.8 billion—an 18 percent increase over 2009. Unit counts grew 14 percent. More than 50 percent of the top 500 restaurant chains posted at least nominal sales increases; only 231 of these chains suffered sales declines in 2010 compared to 283 in 2009. Both winners and losers appeared in each segment and menu category.

According to Technomic, these widely mixed results demonstrate the overall competitiveness of the industry and the need for suppliers and operators to carefully identify and focus on the winners.

Finance, Industry News, NextGen Casual