A few weeks ago, we all shared a collective “huh?” when a highly dubious tweet made the rounds claiming that MOD Pizza was the most popular fast food in as many as 12 of the 50 states. Many Twitter users replied that they’d never even heard of MOD Pizza, let alone spotted a MOD location anywhere near their communities. Yet in spite of the fact that MOD isn’t exactly a household name, the data shows that it was one of the fastest-growing restaurant chains in 2018, if not the most popular or top grossing one. In the world of fast-casual dining, “growth” is a key metric. And this month, Nation’s Restaurant News has released 2020's updated list of the top ten fastest-growing restaurant chains in the U.S.
A lot of the spots on the list seem surprising, but of course, that’s the point: they’re places that you’ve perhaps interacted with on some level, but whose national profile is steadily rising from relative obscurity. For the most part, you’re not going to see your old fast food mainstays on this list, which have been around for the better part of a century—though Chick-fil-A, founded in 1946, is a notable exception to this rule. NRN reports that Chick-fil-A saw a 21.14% growth in sales and greatly expanded its number of locations (it’s up to around 2,400 outlets nationwide).
NRN notes that the data is derived from the previous fiscal year, and that, “Given that timing, these results largely predate the impact of coronavirus, which continues to unfold. Still, they offer insights as to which brands had the strongest momentum coming into this year.” It’s almost impossible to predict the extent to which the global pandemic will slow that momentum to a crawl.
MOD Pizza, meanwhile, is still on the top ten list in 2020, but it has fallen to number three in the rankings. See if you can guess which two chains outpaced it this year.