Popular eateries thrive in area

April 12, 2012

By Amanda McElfresh. 28 March 2012

The Daily Advertiser

(c) Copyright 2012, The Daily Advertiser. All Rights Reserved.

Four chains, including one based in Louisiana, are among the top 10 fastest-growing restaurant companies in the country, according to a new study that measures the industry’s growth.

Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers, with headquarters in Baton Rouge, came in eighth on the list with sales of $206 million in 2011, statistics from the consulting firm Technomic Inc. showed. That was an 18.2 percent increase in sales from 2010.

Also making the list were Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwich Shop, which came in third with sales of $895 million, a year-over-year increase of 21.8 percent. The restaurant opened its first Lafayette location on Johnston Street last year.

Buffalo Wild Wings Grill & Bar was seventh, with sales of more than $2 billion, a 20.1 percent increase. Another wing specialty restaurant, Wingstop, rounded out the top 10 with sales of $382 million, a year-over-year increase of 14.7 percent. Both have locations on Ambassador Caffery Parkway.

The top fastest-growing chain, Five Guys Burgers and Fries, had sales of $951 million last year. That was a 32.8 percent increase over 2010. The restaurant plans to open its first Lafayette location later this year.

“The common theme in fastest-growing chains is both fast-casual in limited service and contemporary (dining), and more upscale casual dining restaurants that demonstrate higher consumer appeal and strong unit economic models driving unit growth and expansion,” said Darren Tristano, executive vice president of Technomic.

Raising Cane’s stands out because of its limited menu, which features only chicken fingers, cole slaw, Texas toast and French fries. That focus is deliberate and allows the company to put an emphasis on strong quality, said company spokesperson Julie Perrault.

“The concept has always worked for us. The reason why we’ve been so successful is our focus is so narrow, and I think that is unique in the restaurant industry,” Perrault said. “When people want chicken fingers, they want Cane’s. We will always look into considering other things, but for the time being, we really focus on what we do and that ‘one love’ philosophy.”

Tristano said the restaurant’s strategy and vibe also are contributing to its growth.

“Their culture had energy and appeal, and their contemporary, fast-casual, dine-in format and value-driven price point give them strong growth opportunity in the market with a differentiated concept,” he said.

Raising Cane’s now has three Lafayette locations, and Perrault said the community has embraced the chain since it opened its first location on West Congress Street.

“It’s always been a huge area of support for us, and we’ve been proud to support a lot of community efforts and (UL),” she said.

Lafayette’s popularity with top chains may be attributed to its population growth and the fact that it is home to thousands of individuals from various demographic segments.

“Chains generally look for demographic alignment with consumers that are representative of their customer base,” Tristano said. “Many of the chains we list are aligned very broadly across many consumer demographics with an emphasis on quality food, experience and attractive price points.”

Top Ten

The 10 fastest-growing restaurant chains and estimated 2011 sales

1. Five Guys Burgers and Fries, $951 million

2. Chipotle Mexican Grill, $2.2 billion

3. Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwich Shop, $895 million

4. Yard House, $262 million

5. Firehouse Subs, $285 million

6. BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse, $621 million

7. Buffalo Wild Wings Grill and Bar, $2 billion

8. Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers, $206 million

9. Noodles and Company, $300 million

10. Wingstop, $382 million

Source: Technomic Inc.

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