U.S. restaurant chains show signs of improving economy

March 21, 2012

The top 500 U.S. restaurant chains registered a 3.4% annual sales increase in 2011, a sharp improvement over 1.8%, according to data from Technomic. In its annual reporting on the top U.S. restaurant chains, the foodservice consultancy found that U.S. system-wide sales for the largest 500 chains grew to an estimated $242 billion in 2011, up more than $8 billion over 2010.

“It is certainly encouraging to see overall industry growth rates nearly double in one year,” said Ron Paul, President of Technomic. “On a chain-by-chain basis, however, performance varied substantially, reflecting the fact that many organizations are still redefining their value propositions for today’s economy and tackling various industry challenges.”

Among limited-service restaurants, growth came from the coffee and tea, other sandwich, and Mexican categories with Starbucks, Subway, and Chipotle Mexican Grill posting 2011 estimated sales growth of 7.5, 7.5 and 23.4%, respectively. McDonald’s, the largest U.S. restaurant chain, boosted sales 5.5% in 2011, with total annual sales of $34.2 billion. Subway continues as the second largest restaurant chain in the U.S., followed by Starbucks, Wendy’s, and Burger King. As a whole, limited-service restaurants saw a sales bump of 3.7%.

Full-service restaurants experienced a 2.8% sales increase in 2011, following a flat year. The full-service seafood and steak categories showed healthy growth, with increases of 5.2 and 5.1%, respectively. Red Lobster, the category leader among seafood restaurants, outperformed the average, with a 6.2% sales increase. Among steak chains, LongHorn Steakhouse and Texas Roadhouse drove sales with increases of 13.1 and 9.2%, respectively.

Press release