The 500 largest U.S. restaurant chains registered a 3.5-percent annual sales increase in 2013, a 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, 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," Ron Paul, president of Technomic, said in a news release. "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."
The five fastest-growing chains with sales over $200 million
Ranked by percentage increase in sales in 2013 vs. 2012:
The five fastest-growing chains with sales under $200 Million
Ranked by Percentage Increase in Sales in 2013 vs. 2012:
More than 67 percent of the top 500 restaurant chains posted at least nominal sales increases. Only 156 of top 500 chains suffered sales declines in 2013, compared to 168 in 2012.
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.
Asian, bakery-café, coffee lead growth
Among limited-service restaurants, the highest growth came from the Asian, bakery-café 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.
New chicken 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 subsegment 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.
According to a news release, both winners and losers appeared in every segment and menu category, and "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."