While the deep recession and grindingly slow recovery have battered many in the restaurant industry, leading fast-casual chains like Chipotle, Five Guys and Panera thrived during that period, says new research from The NPD Group. The Port Washington, N.Y.-based research firm found that customer counts at the nation’s largest fast-casual concepts rose 17 percent over the past three years, logging traffic gains of 7 percent in 2008, 4 percent in 2009 and 6 percent in 2010. In comparison, ...

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