CHICAGO – The 500 largest U.S. restaurant chains registered a 3.5 percent annual sales increase in 2013, a significant decline from 4.9 percent the prior year.
According to data released today by Technomic, Inc. in its annual reporting on the top U.S. restaurant organizations, the foodservice consultancy found that U.S. systemwide sales for the Top 500 chains grew to an estimated $264 billion in 2013, up more than $8.8 billion over 2012.
“Although we have seen overall growth within the Top 500, the pace has slowed since last year,” said 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.”
Among limited-service restaurants, the highest growth came from the Asian, bakery cafe and coffee cafe categories. Segment leaders were Panda Express (10.7 percent sales growth), Panera Bread (11.8 percent) and Starbucks (10.6 percent).
McDonald’s, the largest U.S. restaurant chain, saw minimal sales growth of 0.7 percent in 2013, to reach annual sales of $35.9 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 3.9 percent. Chicken chains, which grew 5.1 percent, represented another limited-service sub segment with above-average sales growth. Chick-fil-A grew 9.3 percent with 2013 sales of $5.1 billion and surpassed KFC as the top chicken chain.
Full-service restaurants experienced a 2.4 percent sales increase in 2013, a slight decrease over the 2.9 percent seen in 2012.
The full-service steak category continued to show healthy growth, with an increase of 6.2 percent. Gains in the steak category were driven by Texas Roadhouse (11.1 percent) and LongHorn Steakhouse (12.8 percent). Among varied-menu chains, which increased sales by 2.5 percent overall, the category leader, Buffalo Wild Wings boosted sales 12.9 percent.
The Five Fastest-Growing Chains with Sales Over $200 Million
Ranked by Percentage Increase in Sales in 2013 vs. 2012
U.S. Sales ($MM)
% Sales Change
% Unit Change
Dickey’s Barbecue Pit
Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers
Jersey Mike’s Subs
The Five Fastest-Growing Chains with Sales Under $200 Million