More than any other industry, the COVID-19 pandemic devastated the restaurant business. The National Restaurant Association estimated that 110,000 restaurant locations either shuttered temporarily or closed permanently in 2020 as consumers cooked at home and restaurateurs retrenched in the face of the national shutdown.
This was not the kind of economic environment that would tempt a restaurant chain to open up new locations. But it wasn’t all doom and gloom either. Some hearty food entrepreneurs and franchise owners nevertheless braved the headwinds and planted flags in new markets.
To assemble a list of the fastest-growing restaurant chains in America in terms of new units added, 24/7 Wall St. consulted the latest data recently published by the top food service trade publication Nation’s Restaurant News, sourced through NRN’s partnership with the food industry research and data company Datassential and their proprietary Firefly database.
The chains on this list grew their footprints by at least 20% from 2019. Fortunately, none are among the American brands that went bankrupt during COVID.
Some chains already have a good number of units and are building on that. Mall munchie staple Wetzel Pretzels and well-known burger joint Shake Shack already operate more than 200 locations and are cooking up more growth. But the most dynamic growth is seen in newer chains that haven’t yet saturated the marketplace and therefore still have more opportunities to grow.
No. 1 on this list, Crumbl Cookies launched its first store in Utah in 2017. Cookie connoisseurs must crave their sweet treats because in just four short years, the brand shot up to 255 locations across the country. The bakery offers a rotating weekly menu of different cookies as well as deliveries in its signature pink box. Crumbl Cookies’ success proves that in hard times, people seek comfort foods, and there’s nothing more comforting than a chocolate chip cookie. For more delicious goodies, see popular desserts over every state you must try.