The Best of the Year

As 2018 comes to a close, we decided to take a look at the FSR stories that got people talking throughout the year. From our list of the top 50 emerging restaurant chains to the young chefs who are making headlines across the country, here are the most popular stories of 2018.

Pictured above is BJ’s, one of the hottest chains in America, which hit the 200-store milestone earlier this year.

1. The Top 50 Emerging Restaurant Chains

Performance and potential earned restaurants a spot among this year’s FSR 50—that, and the fact that each has a portfolio of fewer than 50 units. We’re talking emergent chains, those that have a growing presence and a penchant for progress, be it defined as menu innovation, sales growth, brand expansion, or community support. We’ve included brands like Snooze, which got its start just 11 years ago but has already awakened the Denver region to a heightened appreciation for polished breakfast service and exceptionally sustainable processes. As well as new concepts like Lazy Dog and Bartaco. Read more about the FSR 50 here.

2. FSR’s 40 Under 40 Rising Stars

Chefs, owners, bartenders—some barely in their 30s—filled this year’s list of Rising Stars. This list shows stars can be born anywhere, in as expected a place as under the tutelage of Eric Ripert at Le Bernadin or, quite the opposite, washing dishes in a family restaurant or taking a job bussing tables just to break into the industry.

Read more about the chefs and restaurateurs who embody the new wave of restaurant professionals.

3. 8 Restaurant Franchises Ready for the Big Time

In full service, the franchising model isn’t nearly as widespread as limited service. There are a few reasons why. For starters, it’s typically far more expensive and labor intensive to open a sit-down restaurant. There’s more staff. More training. More equipment. Larger footprints, and thus, more complicated real estate. And those are just the basics. But there’s no denying its financial lure for some. Emerging brands, especially those with decades worth of history, can be one partner away from scaling across the country.

Read more about the chains on the rise who have their sights set on growth.

4. Squeezed by Labor, Texas Roadhouse Won't Change What it Stands For

Texas Roadhouse has battled labor inflation for some time now. That’s not an uncommon thread throughout the industry, especially as unemployment continues to drop and the market tightens. Brands have lifted prices, or turned to technology, like kiosks and tablets, to lessen the burden in many cases. But Texas Roadhouse isn’t your average restaurant company.

Read more about how the 540-unit steakhouse is driving traffic and sales into its restaurants.

5. BJ's is Officially One of the Hottest Restaurants in America

The calendar might say one thing, but BJ’s Restaurants’ struggles feel like they were ages ago. Since the third quarter of fiscal 2017, which ended October 3, 2017, the 200-unit chain has transformed from a brand on a six-quarter negative sales streak into one of the hottest concepts in casual dining. Thanks to digital growth and a differentiated concept, the casual chain is on fire right now. Read more about BJ’s here.

Casual Dining, Chain Restaurants, Chef Profiles, NextGen Casual, Slideshow