Technomic’s Top 500 Report reveals that the restaurant industry overall fared well in 2016, but full-service restaurants experienced highs and lows, with annual sales growth dipping to 1.4 percent and unit growth remaining flat.

Traditional casual-dining chains most heavily contributed to the segment’s troubles. The top five largest full-service brands, four which are casual dining, had negative or slow sales in 2016.

Bright spots within full-service include polished/upscale and cotemporary casual-dining chains, which increased sales by 4 percent and 4.5 percent respectively. Fine dining saw sales growth rise by 4.9 percent due to the affluence of the sector’s customer base, quality of offerings found at these brands, and the overall appeal this segment has with consumers today.

Growth categories include:

  • Asian: The 4.3 percent sales jump of this category represents consumer interest in more specialty-focused brands as well as the continued appeal of ethnic cuisine.
  • Sports bars: The 3.9 percent sales increase for this menu category demonstrates that opportunities exist for brands to appeal to consumers with a varied craft beer selection, pub food fare like burgers and wings, and an overall sports-focused atmosphere.
  • Steak: This segment, which saw sales up 2.9 percent, had strong results from Texas Roadhouse (up 8.8 percent). Steakhouses are finding favor with consumers because they marry quality food and service with an inviting atmosphere.