These 10 retail brands are the fastest growing in the U.S., Yelp says


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The new restaurant in your neighborhood may look familiar.

Chains owned by publicly traded restaurant companies accounted for half of the top 10 fastest-growing retail brands in the U.S. last year, according to a new Yelp report.

Review site Yelp compiled the list by using a blended metric that includes net new openings, searches on its platform from 2022 to 2023 and consumer interest that was measured by page visits, posted photos and written reviews. Of the 50 fastest-growing chains in Yelp’s report, 35 were restaurant brands.

Jack in the Box, First Watch and Dutch Bros were among the public restaurant chains included in the report, but they didn’t crack the top 10. Publicly traded retailers included Levi Strauss, Nordstrom and Costco.

Here are the top 10 fastest-growing brands, based on Yelp’s research:

1. Cava

CAVA, at the New York Stock Exchange during its initial public offering, June 14, 2023.
Source: NYSE

The Mediterranean fast-casual chain went public through an IPO 10 months ago, raising nearly $318 million. Cava said in a regulatory filing that it planned to use the offering’s proceeds for new location openings, as well as general corporate purposes. It opened 30 net new locations in the second half of 2023 and plans to open at least 48 this year.

2. Scooter’s Coffee

Mascots for Scooter’s Coffee race around the warning track during a Pacific Coast League game between the Omaha Storm Chasers and the Memphis Redbirds on April 26, 2019 at Werner Park in Omaha, Nebraska.
Zachary Lucy | Four Seam Images | via AP

The Midwestern coffee chain was founded in 1998 in Nebraska but has only recently begun aggressively expanding through franchised locations. Its standard, drive-thru-only location is only 664 square feet. The restaurant’s small size makes it cheaper to operate and quicker to build, helping the chain and its franchisees accelerate development quickly.

Scooter’s net new locations jumped 53% from 2022 to 2023, giving it the largest percentage growth of any restaurant brand on the list, according to Yelp.

3. LongHorn Steakhouse

Customers leave a LongHorn Steakhouse restaurant on June 22, 2023 in Skokie, Illinois.
Scott Olson | Getty Images

The Darden Restaurants steakhouse had more than 560 locations nationwide at the end of Darden’s fiscal 2023. Since the pandemic began, the casual-dining chain’s sales have consistently outperformed the restaurant industry’s average, fueled in part by the strong growth of its takeout business.

Parent company Darden plans to open at least 50 new locations across all of its brands in fiscal 2024.

4. The Habit Burger Grill

Source: Habit Burger Grill

When Yum Brands bought the California-based burger chain in 2020, its footprint was less than 280 restaurants, dwarfed by Yum’s other chains: Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and KFC. But Yum has been accelerating the Habit Burger Grill’s development ever since the deal closed. At the end of 2023, the chain had 378 locations on the East and West coasts.

5. Wawa

A Wawa store hiring sign in Bethany Beach, Delaware.
Stephanie Dhue | CNBC

While Wawa is a convenience store and gas station chain, its loyal fans probably know it more for its cheesesteaks and hoagies. The chain has been expanding outside its Philadelphia stronghold into new markets down the Atlantic seaboard. It’s also been opening drive-thru locations, encroaching further on restaurants’ territory.

6. Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen

Tim Hortons owner to purchase Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen. The parent company of Tim Hortons and Burger King said it will pay US$1.8 billion cash to buy the Popeyes chain. (Randy Risling/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Randy Risling | Toronto Star | Getty Images

The Restaurant Brands International chain’s famous chicken sandwich has helped fuel its new restaurant growth in the U.S. and beyond. Popeyes’ higher sales have encouraged franchisees to open more locations and led new operators to join the brand, Restaurant Brands executives have previously said.

In 2023, Popeyes surpassed KFC as the second-most popular chicken chain in the U.S. by sales, trailing only Chick-fil-A.

7. Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers

Freddy’s frozen custard and Steakburgers creates fresh, made-to-order, food in Lansing, Kansas.
Michael Siluk | UCG | Universal Images Group | Getty Images

Private equity firm Thompson Street Capital Partners bought the Midwestern fast-casual chain in 2021 for an undisclosed sum. Under its new ownership, Freddy’s has ramped up its development, opened restaurants in new locations like airports and signed on new franchisees. Last year, the burger joint opened 62 new locations, setting a new development record for the chain and surpassing 500 locations overall.

8. Rally House

Rally House staff members wait in a closed store following Super Bowl LV between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on February 7, 2021 in Kansas City, Missouri. 
Kyle Rivas | Getty Images

Rally House is the sole apparel retailer to crack the top 10 of Yelp’s report. The store, which sells team gear and sports apparel for professional and college teams, has been setting its own record for new openings. In August, it opened seven locations in a single weekend. While its footprint is largely concentrated in the Midwest, its stores now stretch from Pennsylvania to Arizona.

9. Olive Garden

A sign marks the location of a Olive Garden restaurant on June 22, 2023 in Lincolnwood, Illinois.
Scott Olson | Getty Images

The Italian-inspired chain is the gem of Darden Restaurants‘ portfolio, accounting for nearly half of the company’s overall revenue. It’s also the rare casual-dining chain to open locations, adding about 20 new restaurants in its fiscal 2023.

10. Jersey Mike’s Subs

A sign is posted in front of a Jersey Mike’s Subs shop on April 05, 2024 in Petaluma, California. 
Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

Jersey Mike’s is the second-largest U.S. sandwich chain, trailing only Subway by number of stores. Its current footprint hovers around 2,700 restaurants, but it’s growing rapidly. And despite its name and origin, most of its restaurants are now in California, Texas and Florida.

The privately owned sandwich chain is also reportedly looking for a buyer, according to a Wall Street Journal report last week. Blackstone’s interest in Jersey Mike’s has reportedly cooled, but a new owner could further ramp up the chain’s development.

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