Special Report

Restaurant Chains Whose Sales Actually Increased in 2020

Wolterk / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

The COVID-19 pandemic decimated the American restaurant industry, with many establishments shuttering for good as indoor dining was banned in many cities and would-be diners hunkered down in their homes. (These are the saddest restaurant closings of 2020.)

The nationwide shutdown took an enormous chunk out of the dining industry’s revenues. The National Restaurant Association’s most recent state-of-the-industry report revealed restaurant sales hit $659 billion last year — a whopping $240 billion less than what was forecast.

Yet that’s an industry-wide national number. Some nimble restaurant operators quickly shifted to takeout orders, delivery, outdoor dining options, contact-less ordering and payment, and other innovations to stay afloat. 

To assemble a list of restaurant chains whose sales actually increased in 2020, 24/7 Tempo consulted the latest data published by the top food service trade publication Nation’s Restaurant News (NRN). Sourcing data through a partnership with the food industry research and data company Datassential and their proprietary Firefly database, NRN recently revealed the top 500 restaurant companies in the nation based on domestic systemwide sales. They also broke out metrics covering increases in sales percentages, determining that some 34 chains had shown noticeable gains in sales over 2019.

It shouldn’t be surprising to see who made the list. Almost all are well-established national or regional chains serving mostly grab-and-go fast-food fare. Unlike fine dining establishments, casual food outlets already did a robust business with takeout, so they probably weren’t hurt as much by a lockdown. Name recognition and reasonable prices didn’t hurt either. (These are America’s 50 most successful restaurant chains.)

Click here to see restaurant chains whose sales actually increased in 2020

Topping the list is Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, which saw its 2020 sales soar by 20% over the previous year. Places serving chicken and burgers also registered strong increases, but pizza was popular as well.  

Of course, McDonald’s, everybody’s favorite fast-food haunt, made the list — albeit in last place. It’s sales grew by less than 1% — not a lot in comparison, but still equivalent to almost $40 million.  

Source: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

McDonald’s
> U.S. systemwide sales (2020): $39.53 billion
> Year-over-year increase since 2019: 0.4%

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Source: Keithready / Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Del Taco
> U.S. systemwide sales (2020): $833.3 million
> Year-over-year increase since 2019: 1.0%

Source: KathyDewar / Getty Images

Krispy Kreme
> U.S. systemwide sales (2020): $876.3 million
> Year-over-year increase since 2019: 1.5%

Mod Pizza
> U.S. systemwide sales (2020): $409.8 million
> Year-over-year increase since 2019: 1.8%

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Panda Express
> U.S. systemwide sales (2020): $3.6 billion
> Year-over-year increase since 2019: 2.3%

Source: jetcityimage / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

Wing-Stop
> U.S. systemwide sales (2020): $1.61 billion
> Year-over-year increase since 2019: 21.0%

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Buffalo Wild Wings
> U.S. systemwide sales (2020): $4.06 billion
> Year-over-year increase since 2019: 2.3%

Source: georgie56 / Flickr

Jack in the Box
> U.S. systemwide sales (2020): $3.61 billion
> Year-over-year increase since 2019: 2.5%

Source: Aneese / Getty Images

H00TERS
> U.S. systemwide sales (2020): $841.1 million
> Year-over-year increase since 2019: 2.7%

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Culver’s
> U.S. systemwide sales (2020): $1.73 billion
> Year-over-year increase since 2019: 3.0%

Five Guys
> U.S. systemwide sales (2020): $1.57 billion
> Year-over-year increase since 2019: 3.0%

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Source: Tim Boyle / Getty Images

Arby’s
> U.S. systemwide sales (2020): $3.95 billion
> Year-over-year increase since 2019: 3.4%

Source: J. Michael Jones / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

Bojangles’
> U.S. systemwide sales (2020): $1.29 billion
> Year-over-year increase since 2019: 3.5%

Portillo’s Hot Dogs
> U.S. systemwide sales (2020): $501.6 million
> Year-over-year increase since 2019: 3.7%

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Source: Wolterk / Getty Images

Chick-Fil-A
> U.S. systemwide sales (2020): $10.8 billion
> Year-over-year increase since 2019: 3.8%

Source: Wolterk / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

Taco John’s
> U.S. systemwide sales (2020): $387.6 million
> Year-over-year increase since 2019: 3.8%

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Source: J. Michael Jones / Getty Images

Zaxby’s
> U.S. systemwide sales (2020): $1.94 billion
> Year-over-year increase since 2019: 3.9%

Source: jetcityimage / Getty Images

KFC
> U.S. systemwide sales (2020): $4.7 billion
> Year-over-year increase since 2019: 4.0%

Source: AWSeebaran / Getty Images

Wendy’s
> U.S. systemwide sales (2020): $10.29 billion
> Year-over-year increase since 2019: 4.8%

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Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/86530412@N02/

Chipotle Mexican Grill
> U.S. systemwide sales (2020): $5.34 billion
> Year-over-year increase since 2019: 5.5%

Source: typhoonski / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

Whataburger
> U.S. systemwide sales (2020): $2.7 billion
> Year-over-year increase since 2019: 5.6%

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Dairy Queen
> U.S. systemwide sales (2020): $3.98 billion
> Year-over-year increase since 2019: 5.9%

Source: krblokhin / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steaks
> U.S. systemwide sales (2020): $541.9 million
> Year-over-year increase since 2019: 6.9%

Jersey Mike’s
> U.S. systemwide sales (2020): $1.29 billion
> Year-over-year increase since 2019: 7.0%

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Papa Murphy’s Pizza
> U.S. systemwide sales (2020): $805.4 million
> Year-over-year increase since 2019: 7.6%

Source: jetcityimage / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

McAlister’s Deli
> U.S. systemwide sales (2020): $795.4 million
> Year-over-year increase since 2019: 9.0%

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Source: Mr. Blue MauMau / Flickr

Marco’s Pizza
> U.S. systemwide sales (2020): $668.6 million
> Year-over-year increase since 2019: 9.7%

Source: J. Michael Jones / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

Domino’s Pizza
> U.S. systemwide sales (2020): $7.35 billion
> Year-over-year increase since 2019: 11.0%

Tropical Smoothie Cafe
> U.S. systemwide sales (2020): $586.4 million
> Year-over-year increase since 2019: 11.3%

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Smoothie King
> U.S. systemwide sales (2020): $479.6 million
> Year-over-year increase since 2019: 11.5%

Source: igboo / Flickr

Hungry Howie’s Flavored Crust Pizza
> U.S. systemwide sales (2020): $442.1 million
> Year-over-year increase since 2019: 12.7%

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Raising Cane’s
> U.S. systemwide sales (2020): $1.72 billion
> Year-over-year increase since 2019: 17.5%

Source: Ildar Sagdejev / Wikimedia Commons

Papa John’s
> U.S. systemwide sales (2020): $3.48 billion
> Year-over-year increase since 2019: 19.0%

Source: jetcityimage / Getty Images

Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen
> U.S. systemwide sales (2020): $4.85 billion
> Year-over-year increase since 2019: 20.0%

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