10. Boston Market
> Headquarters: Golden, Colorado
> 2018 systemwide sales: $557.8 million
This pioneering rotisserie-chicken chain has been downsizing. At the end of 2018, it had 454 locations around the country, but this July the chain announced that it was shuttering 45 of them. Though it still has a place on NRN’s top 10 list, sales have been declining steadily since a peak of $615 million in 2014. Overexpansion, a menu that lags behind consumer preferences, and the ubiquity of rotisserie chickens at the nation’s supermarkets have been cited as among the reasons for its decline.
9. Church’s Chicken
> Headquarters: Atlanta, Georgia
> 2018 systemwide sales: $753.7 million
A 67-year-old chain with about 1,045 U.S. locations, Church’s is one of America’s favorite places to get chicken. In addition to its hand-battered fried chicken, Church’s offers Southern-style sides, including fried okra, honey-butter biscuits, and jalapeños, either pickled or in the form of “Cheese Bombers.”
8. El Pollo Loco
> Headquarters: Costa Mesa, California
> 2018 systemwide sales: $868.4 million
A rarity in the fast food chicken world because its birds are marinated in citrus juices and spices and then flame-grilled instead of battered and deep-fried, El Pollo Loco reported a systemwide 1.2% sales growth at the end of 2018, compared with a 1.5% growth the previous year. The chain, which has 484 restaurants around the country, offers chicken burritos, tostadas, and quesadillas as well as combination plates, including beans, rice, and tortillas or chips.
7. Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers
> Headquarters: Baton Rouge, Louisiana
> 2018 systemwide sales: $1.18 billion
A 400-outlet operation founded in 1996, Raising Cane’s — named after a yellow Labrador belonging to one of the founders — recorded a category-topping 22.5% systemwide sales growth in 2018. The specialty, obviously, is chicken fingers — boneless, battered, and deep-fried. Crinkle-cut fries, coleslaw, and Texas toast fill out the menu.
> Headquarters: Dallas, Texas
> 2018 systemwide sales: $1.21 billion
With almost 1,150 units around the U.S., Wingstop experienced a 15.3% sales increase in 2018, over its 2017 number. Wings and fries are the focus of the business, and the chain takes pride in not offering gluten-free, paleo, or vegan options. “We’re not a flavor-of-the-month brand by any stretch,” the company’s CEO, Charlie Morrison, told Restaurant Business earlier this year.
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