U.S. restaurant growth, sales slow


SeafoodSource staff

Published on
March 24, 2010

The United States’ 500 largest restaurant chains registered a 0.8 percent decline in sales in 2009, compared to a 3.4 percent increase in 2008, Chicago foodservice consulting and research firm Technomic reported on Thursday.

In its annual Top 500 report, Technomic found that sales declined to USD 230 billion (EUR 173 billion) in 2009, down almost USD 2 billion (EUR 1.5 billion) from 2008.

As chains scaled back their expansion plans and closed underperforming restaurants, unit growth also fell, to just 0.3 percent last year, compared to a 1.8 percent increase in 2008.

This doesn’t bode well for fish, as upward of three-quarters of the U.S. seafood supply is consumed away from home.

Full-service seafood chains watched sales slide 4.2 percent in 2009, compared to a 2.9 percent drop for all full-service chains. Full-service Mexican and steak chains also saw sales decline 4 percent and 6.4 percent, respectively.

However, limited-service chains watched sales increase 0.1 percent last year, with much of the growth coming from the fast-casual segment.

“As the U.S. economy remained in a recession, restaurant operators continued to face a host of challenges, including cost pressures followed by declines in consumer dining demand. The data in this report clearly supports what we’ve been hearing in our consumer research surveys over the past year,” said Technomic President Ron Paul.

No seafood chains were listed among Technomic’s 10 fastest-growing chains with sales of more than USD 200 million in 2009. Five Guys Burgers and Fries led the way with a 50 percent jump, followed by Tim Hortons, Buffalo Wild Wings Grill & Bar, Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwich Shop and Wingstop.

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