According to Technomic’s Top 500 Chain Restaurant Report, the foodservice consultancy’s annual update on the top U.S. chain restaurant organizations, U.S. systemwide sales for the group grew to an estimated $264 billion in 2013, up more than $8.8 billion over 2012.

The 500 largest U.S. restaurant chains registered a 3.5 percent annual sales increase in 2013, a decline from the prior year’s 4.9 percent.

"Although we have seen overall growth within the top 500, the pace has slowed since last year," says Ron Paul, president of Technomic. "Competition for share of stomach is getting more and more challenging. But brands that have found a way to differentiate themselves are gaining market share."

Full-service restaurants experienced a 2.4 percent sales increase in 2013, a slight decrease over the 2.9 percent seen in 2012. This compares with limited-service restaurants that saw a bump of 3.9 percent.

The full-service steak category continued to show healthy growth, with a solid increase of 6.2 percent. Texas Roadhouse and LongHorn Steakhouse led the pack, with gains of 11.1 percent and 12.8  percent, respectively.

Among varied-menu chains, which saw a sales uptick of 2.5 percent overall, the category leader, Buffalo Wild Wings, boosted sales 12.9 percent.

Dickey’s Barbecue Pit and Smashburger were among the five fastest growing chains with sales over $200 million. Dickey’s Barbecue Pit, coming in at the No. 1 spot, had sales of $331 million in 2013, a 32.9 percent sales increase over 2012, and a 29.8 percent unit increase. Smashburger, in the No. 2, spot, delivered U.S. sales of $215 million, a 32 percent sales increase and 29 percent unit increase over the previous year. 

Del Frisco’s Grille and Twin Peaks are two of the five fastest-growing chains with sales under $200 million. Del Frisco’s is in at No. 2 , with $44 million in U.S. sales for 2013, an 83.9 percent sales increase and 120 percent unit change over 2012. Twin Peaks, at No. 3, had U.S. sales of $165 million, a 68.4 percent sales gain over the previous year, and a 64.3 percent unit increase.

More than 67 percent of the top 500 restaurant chains posted at least nominal sales increases. Only 156 of the chains suffered sales declines in 2013, compared to 168 in 2012. Both winners and losers appeared in every segment and menu category. 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.

International performance by the top 500 restaurant chains continued to outperform domestic growth in 2013. International sales increases (4.4 percent) outpaced U.S. sales growth (3.5 percent); international unit growth was up 9 percent versus 2.2 percent for U.S. units.


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