Sales rose 3.5 percent for the 500 largest restaurant chains across the U.S. in 2013, but that increase was significantly lower than the 4.9-percent growth seen in 2012, according to an annual survey released Monday by research firm Technomic Inc.

U.S. systemwide sales for the Top 500 chains grew to an estimated $264 billion last year, rising more than $8.8 billion compared with 2012.

Still, the pace of growth appears to be slowing, said Ron Paul, Technomic’s president.

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“Competition for share of stomach is getting more and more challenging,” he said in a statement. “But brands that have found a way to differentiate themselves are gaining market share.”

Among limited-service restaurants, which saw sales increase 3.9 percent as a segment, the most growth occurred within the Asian, bakery café and coffeehouse categories, the survey found.

Segment leaders included Panda Express, which recorded sales growth of 10.7 percent; Panera Bread with sales rising 11.8 percent; and Starbucks, with a sales increase of 10.6 percent.

Source: Technomic, 2014

The nation’s largest restaurant chain, McDonald’s, however, saw minimal sales growth of 0.7 percent with annual sales of $35.9 billion in 2013, according to the survey.

Subway and Starbucks, the No. 2 and No. 3 largest chains respectively, recorded much stronger growth last year compared with the national burger chains. Subway, for example, had sales of $12.7 billion, an increase of 5.2 percent, in 2013. Starbucks saw $11.7 billion in sales, an increase of 10.6 percent.

Wendy’s, which ranked No. 4 in Technomic’s survey, by comparison recorded $8.8 billion in sales, rising a more modest 1.3 percent. Burger King ranked in fifth place with $8.5 billion in sales, a decline of 1.1 percent over the prior year.

Full-service restaurants as a segment saw sales increase 2.4 percent last year, with steak concepts leading the category, including Texas Roadhouse, with a sales increase of 11.1 percent, and LongHorn Steakhouse, with sales rising 12.8 percent.

Among varied-menu chains, which saw a 2.5-percent sales increase overall, the category leader was Buffalo Wild Wings, with sales rising 12.9 percent.

More information on Technomic’s data can be found at

The annual Top 200 survey from Nation’s Restaurant News is scheduled for release at the end of June.

Contact Lisa Jennings at
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