Technomic just released one of the most highly anticipated reports, the 2021 Top 500 Chain Restaurant Report, which includes expert findings and insights into the sales performance of U.S. chain restaurants from 2020. The report is built using decades of historical data with detailed analysis into the foodservice industry and overarching trends, including the impact of COVID-19 and performance rankings, as well as annual sales and unit counts by chain and segment.

“Disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Top 500 chain restaurants saw sales fall by $27 billion in 2020, decreasing by more than 8% compared to 2019,” explains Kevin Schimpf, senior research manager at Technomic. “As many small chains and independent restaurants struggled to simply stay in business over the last year, market share for the industry’s largest chains expanded significantly.”

Key findings include:

  • Drive-thru and delivery-centric chains dominated 2020, as industry giants like McDonald’s, Chick-fil-A and Domino’s all achieved positive sales results.
  • Location closures stayed relatively minimal as the Top 500’s overall location footprint shrank by just 2%.
  • Sales growth for chicken chains hit double digits, driven by the strong momentum of players like Wingstop, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen and Raising Cane’s Chicken Tenders.
  • Wendy’s rode the success of its breakfast launch to become the fifth-largest chain overall.
  • No full-service concepts made it into this year’s top 20 group, as rankings slid for most full-service chains.

Technomic has been producing a ranking of top U.S. chain restaurants since 1978. The latest ranking is available for purchase now:

Source: Technomic