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    Fast-Casual Continues to Lead U.S. Restaurant Growth

    The top 150 fast-casual restaurant chains grew 8.4 percent to $21.5 billion in 2011.

    CHICAGO -- The top 150 fast-casual restaurant chains grew 8.4 percent to $21.5 billion in 2011, further strengthening their gains in the restaurant industry as a whole.

    In comparison, according to Technomic, 2011 sales growth for the Top 500 U.S. chains was only 3.5 percent. Additionally, fast-casual's growth in 2011 outpaced its 6.6 percent growth in 2010.

    Total fast-casual units among the Fast-Casual Top 150 increased 5.2 percent to 17,447. This group made up more than three-quarters of the fast-casual industry's sales, which total $27 billion annually, according to the "Technomic Fast-Casual Top 150 Chain Restaurant Report.” This year Technomic expanded its reporting from 100 to 150 fast-casual chains, ranking these chains by sales through monitoring and tracking the performance of more than 400 fast-casual brands.

    "Fast-casual operators continue to outshine every other segment within the U.S. restaurant industry," said Darren Tristano, executive vice president of Technomic. "Fast-casual restaurants fill the gap between quick service and casual dining. People want fast, fresh, quality meals at a fair price point. This segment seems to hit that sweet spot right now."

    The cluster has a strong consumer appeal and major emerging fast-casual chains demonstrate healthier average unit volumes (AUV) compared to traditional quick service dining establishments, the company added.

    The fast-casual segment leaders were: Panera Bread (bakery café), Chipolte Mexican Grill (Mexican), Zaxby's (Chicken), Panda Express (Asian/Noodle), Five Guys Burgers and Fries (Better Burger), Jason's Deli (Sandwich) and Donatos Pizza (Pizza).

     

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