This year’s winner was Denver-based Smashburger.
When Smashburger opened its first unit in 2007, the better burger category was just beginning to emerge. Five years later, Smashburger is an industry leader and has moved both the better burger and fast casual segments forward in major ways.
David Prokupek, the chain’s chairman and CEO, called 2011 a “capstone year.” Not only did Smashburger increase sales 72 percent over 2010, the company signed several international development deals and continued its US-based growth, opening in 12 new markets. If that wasn’t enough, the chain was ranked by Forbes magazine as America’s Most Promising Company, a testament to the corporate and consumer culture chain has worked hard to develop.
This year—our 7th of publishing the Fast Casual Top 100—we decided, as did many of our brands last year, to add some new flavors to our mix.
In the past, the Top 100 focused exclusively on concepts. In so doing, it omitted a range of important factors that contributed to the continued growth of this innovative and rich segment. For this edition, our rankings include not only the top brands, but also the people, trends and technologies that contributed most to the segment.
Not only was Smashburger our top performer in 2011, Prokupek also was named as the year’s top mover & shaker, followed by Steve Ells, founder and Steve Ells of Chipotle Mexican Grill.
To determine the brands, people and trends that made the list, our first step was to request nominations from our readers. We received hundreds. Our panelists then pored over the results and set about ranking them.
Special thanks goes to our panelists: Darren Tristano, EVP, Technomic; Kathleen Wood, founder, Kathleen Wood Partners LLC; and Linda Duke, founder, Duke Marketing.
This year’s Top 100 is sponsored by Eaton, Ohio-based Henny Penny. Here’s a look at the Top 5 brands and Top 5 people that made the list:
- Zoes Kitchen
- Firehouse Subs
- Freebirds World Burrito
- Dave Prokupek, CEO, Smashburger
- Steve Ells, founder and CEO, Chipotle Mexican Grill
- Matthew Corrin, founder and CEO, Freshii
- Betsy Craig, founder, MenuTrinfo & Kitchens with Confidence
- Don Fox, CEO, Firehouse Subs
Click here to download the 2012 Top 100 Movers & Shakers