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ID NEWS: Top 100 chains remain 'dynamic' in 2002

In 2002, the Top 100 chain operators matched their 2001 performance, despite a weakened economy and growing concerns over war in the Middle East, according to a yearly survey conducted by Technomic, Inc., Chicago.

The annual growth rate for the 100 leading chain restaurant companies was 4.7%. System-wide U.S. sales rose to $145.8 billion, a gain of $6.6 billion over 2001, on a same-chain basis.

Such growth supports the perception that foodservice--and the restaurant industry in particular-- has become "relatively insulated" to swings in the economy and remains a "dynamic player" in the U.S. business environment, the industry consultant notes.

The Bakery/Other Sandwich category of the survey enjoyed the highest rate of growth: 13.7%. Donuts were a close second, at 13%. Other foodservice segments with sales growth over 8% included the full-service categories of Broad Menu and Italian.

Quick-casual chain growth has slowed but continues to claim "substantial and well-deserved" attention. The 15 largest chains in this category achieved collective sales growth of more than 12%, down from 17% in 2001. The fastest-growing quick-casual chain was Atlanta Bread Company, with an increase of more than 59%.

Starbucks was largest of the fastest-growing chains, with an increase of 23%. Five other major chains with sales of more than $1 billion also achieved double-digit gains in 2002, including Ruby Tuesday (17%), Subway (16%), Chili's (13%), Golden Corral (12%) and Sonic (11%).

While growth was strong overall among the Top 100 chains, individual results varied significantly. Growth ranged from 14% to 68%, and 24 of the chains registered declines for the year.

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