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 growing at nearly three times the rate of the restaurant industry as a whole, according to Restaurant Business Online and Technomic.
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 more than $5.7 billion in 2018. Runner-up Chipotle grew two years in a row after sales went stagnant in 2016 and reached sales of $4.8 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.