When Americans want their burger, fries, tacos or chips, but they also want to take it up just a notch, they opt for fast-casual dining chains. These restaurants that are just a tiny bit fancier than your average fast food chain have been exhibiting the fastest growth rate in the restaurant industry even amid a general slowdown, according to Restaurant Business Online and Technomic. While in 2019, the restaurant world was still in one piece, the 2020 coronavirus outbreak has since turned the industry upside down.
Ahead of the pack is sandwich and bakery chain Panera, which has been growing on a delivery model and increased sales from $4.8 billion in 2015 to almost $6 billion in 2019. Runner-up Chipotle grew three years in a row after sales went stagnant in 2016 and reached a revenue of $5.5 billion. Because many companies in the segment are not publicly listed, industry publication QSR estimated the figures for several chains on the list.
The biggest winner in the segment apart from Panera was Louisiana chicken joint Raising Cane's, which at least doubled its sales and entered the top 10 in 2018. In 2019, the chain overtook competitor Wing Stop in sales, peddling fried chicken worth almost $1.5 billion to customers.