Methodology

The Nation’s Restaurant News annual Top 100 and Second 100 reports are comprehensive looks at the restaurant industry's largest chains generated through exclusive research by NRN’s editors.

The reports provide a detailed, brand-by-brand assessment and three-year performance comparison of the largest individual organizations in foodservice.

Combined, the reports make the Top 200 census, NRN’s annual endeavor to compile and rank results of the industry’s cash-cow brands and corporations. This year’s reports give readers a panoramic view of the market battles being waged for the hearts, minds and dining budgets of America’s consumers.

More focused than other rankings of the industry’s largest organizations, Top 200 seeks to present relevant comparisons of the largest foodservice competitors by tracking only consumer foodservice sales and revenue generated in the United States. Parallels therefore exist between the federal government’s shift in emphasis from gross national product, which included overseas results of U.S.-based multinationals, to the gross domestic product standard for assessing today’s economy.

In addition to excluding foreign results, the Top 200 series of reports factor out business activities not directly related to consumer foodservice. For example, McDonald’s Corp.’s estimated $1 billion-plus in annual revenue derived from franchisees’ rent payments, contract foodservice companies’ revenue from facilities maintenance, and franchisors’ sales of equipment or food items to their own franchisees are not included.

By virtue of an apples-to-apples focus on food and beverage sales, the Top 200 series yields what we believe is a more relevant appraisal of U.S. market warfare among the industry’s leading combatants and the fast-advancing emerging chains.
To augment company sources, NRN’s editors tapped corporate documents and research studies as well as information from government agencies, chain officials, franchisees and industry analysts. The resulting data were collated and organized into the study’s rankings by various criteria, including segment comparisons that portray fluctuating market-share results of direct competitors within specific business categories.

The final reports are analytical tools that can help define which chain concepts and market segments are prospering or struggling and where consumers are spending their dining dollars.

As the basic criterion for inclusion in Top 200’s statistical universe, the study first ranks individually branded chains on the basis of domestic systemwide sales for their most recent fiscal years ended closest to Dec. 31, 2012.

Separately, companies are ranked on the basis of their domestic foodservice revenue. Qualifying organizations then also are assessed over a three-year span on the basis of their sales and revenue growth rates, estimated annual average sales per location, growth in average sales per location, and rates of expansion in total outlets and franchised units.