Some restaurant chains fared better than others amid the pandemic — a lot better.
Sales at the top 500 U.S. chain restaurants sales fell by $27 billion in 2020, decreasing by more than 8% compared to 2019, according to Technomic’ 2021 Top 500 Chain Restaurant Report, which includes findings and insights into the sales performance of U.S. chain restaurants from 2020.
The report found that chains with larger footprints fared much better than their smaller counterparts.
"As many small chains and independent restaurants struggled to simply stay in business over the last year, market share for the industry's largest chains expanded significantly,” said Kevin Schimpf, senior research manager at Technomic.
The winners were led by drive-thru and delivery-centric chains, which dominated 2020 as industry giants including McDonald's, Chick-fil-A and Domino's all achieved positive sales results. At the other end of the spectrum were full-service restaurant chains. With their interiors closed in many locations for a good part of the year, no full-service concept made it into this year's top 20 group.
Other winners in 2020 included chicken chains, whose sakes hit double digits driven by the strong momentum of players that included Wingstop, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen and Raising Cane's Chicken Tenders. And Wendy's rode the success of its breakfast launch to become the fifth-largest chain overall.
In another finding, location closures stayed relatively minimal. The Top 500's overall location footprint shrank by just 2%.