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Top 3 surprises from 2011's Future 50

A look through all six installments of our annual Future 50 report triggered some double-takes about the chains on this year’s list. Here are the top three aha’s.

Surprise #1: Just when you think the pizza market is too packed for even another anchovy to find elbowroom, eight pie specialists finish on our list of up-and-comers, making that the most prevalent type of 2011 Futurist. A close second: Mexican concepts, another seemingly mature segment, with six finishers.

Surprise #2: The vernacular has certainly changed for growth chains. On our 2008 Future 50 list, a standout component of finishers’ brand names was “wood-fired,” “fired” or “wood” (Whiskey Creek Wood Fire Grill, Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza, Wood Ranch BBQ.) Then “grill” had its vogue, appearing in the identities of 11 finishers in the 2010 ranking alone. Now the tendency is to use a term more descriptive than a catchall like “grill.” Note the inclusion in this year’s names of words like “shop,” “factory,” “hut,” “saloon” and “pub.”

Surprise #3: Wings had a stronger showing on this year’s list, with Roosters and Wings to Go appearing for the first time. But how about breasts? The general media have been filled with observations that “breastaurants” a la Hooters have been making a strong comeback. This year’s Future 50 includes only two, Brick House, a concept known as much for suds as salaciousness, and Twin Peaks. 

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