Irving, Texas-based Cheddar's Casual Cafe Inc. was founded in 1979 as a casual-dining restaurant focused on neighborhood clientele, scratch-kitchen food preparation and value-oriented pricing. The company now has more than 150 company-owned and franchised locations in 28 states. Cheddar’s units are typically 8,000 square feet and seat 288 guests.
 Cheddar’s ranked No. 1 in value in the Nation's Restaurant News/WD Partners' 2014 Consumer Picks survey.

Cheddar’s ranked No. 4 for U.S. systemwide sales growth in 2013, rising 24.5 percent to $613.2 million from $545.8 million in 2012. Overall, Cheddar’s ranked No. 68 in the 2013 Top 100 and claims 10th place in the Top 10 Growth Chains.

This year's top 10 growth chains at a glance >>

Cheddar's

Keys to Growth:

Unit expansion. Cheddar’s ended the year with 150 units, up 16.3 percent from the 129 in the prior year. Of the 150, 86 were company-owned and 64 franchised.

Leadership. Cheddar’s in January appointed co-founder Douglas H. Rogers as interim chief executive, after the departure of Kelly Baltes, who had been CEO since 2007. Rogers said in a statement that “under Kelly’s leadership, Cheddar’s … experienced an exciting period of growth, including the significant expansion and evolution of the brand through new units in new geographies.” That foundation left Cheddar’s well positioned for the future. Rogers co-founded Cheddar’s in 1979.

Healthier menu. In 2013, Cheddar’s introduced a Lighter Side section to its menu with entrée items at less than 575 calories. Cheddar’s director of culinary research and development Robert Pesch said the new items reflect the chain’s “appreciation that some people are changing the way they eat for health reasons.”

Crowd-Sourced menu. Cheddar’s developed two new burgers — a Mushroom Swiss Cheeseburger and a Jalapeño Burger — by tapping its email-club members and asking them to answer the question, “What does a great burger mean to you?” More than 20,000 members responded, the company said.

Updated design. The 35-year-old brand in 2013 reimaged a number of its restaurants with new copper awnings and exterior signage, new upholstery and seating, granite bars, butcher-block tabletops, new lighting and stacked-stone interior walls.

View the full 2014 Top 100 report >>

Contact Ron Ruggless at ronald.ruggless@penton.com.
Follow him on Twitter: @RonRuggless