At Gyu-Kaku, the customer is the chef—literally. The Japan-based franchise, which has locations in New York, Chicago and L.A., features tapas-style Japanese cuisine prepared on table-mounted grills by the customers themselves. Founded in 1996, the company grew rapidly in Japan, beating both McDonald’s and Starbucks as the first to reach 500 units in that country. Gyu-Kaku’s growth in the U.S., however, has not been as prolific. “I would say close to 90 percent of the public knows about our brand in Japan,” speculates VP Aki Yamaguchi. “Here that number is probably around 0.9 percent or less.” With locations in Hawaii, Chicago, New York City and numerous neighborhoods around L.A., the chain’s national visibility is on the rise.

LocationGardena, Calif.
2010 Systemwide Sales$31,500,000*
% Change in Sales5.7%
2010 U.S. Units13
% Change in Units8.3%
2010 Average Unit Volume$2,500,000*
% Change in AUV2.0%
Future 50 Year2011