Many Future 50 chains from years past have continued to grow, some faster than others. Some have new blood in leadership positions, while a number have stuck with their founders or original partners. We went back to seven of these chain leaders to glean insights on how they've prospered through ups and downs in the economy, consumers' changing preferences and other challenges over the past 10 years.
1. Nader Masadeh
President and CEO, Buffalo Wings & Rings
2014 sales: $74 million
Year on The Future 50: 2008
When we opened our first store in 2005, we were too small and unknown to interest restaurant-industry veterans in franchising. So we turned our attention to people who didn't have any restaurant experience but wanted to own a business. They were very green ... it took a lot more hand-holding and training to get them up to speed. But several of these franchisees now are on their third or fourth stores and have been instrumental in our growth.
2. Russ Bendel
CEO, The Habit Burger Grill
2014 sales: $175 million
Years on The Future 50: 2010, 2011
In 2007, we put ourselves in a position to grow aggressively. Site selection is essential to successful growth. We looked at the demographics and planned on 75 percent growth on the West Coast, 25 percent East Coast, plus some nontraditional locations.
3. Jeff Martin
COO, HuHot Mongolian Grill
2014 sales: $90 million
Years on The Future 50: 2007, 2008, 2009
To get our franchisees on board, it was critical to show them we were equally invested in the concept. So we're moving from a 100-percent franchised model to around 70 percent franchised. We still want to grow through franchising, but we want to bring back some control of the brand into the founders' hands for better balance.
4. Corey Bowman
President, Pita Pit
2014 sales: $85 million
Years on The Future 50: 2008, 2009
In 2005, a group of franchisees bought the 10 U.S. locations. The key to our growth: All the people in leadership positions were once franchisees and have grassroots experience.
5. Tim Pulido
President and CEO, Pollo Campero
57 U.S. units
2014 sales: $100 million
Year on The Future 50: 2006
Have the courage to be true to your identity. We didn't think through how to mainstream our brand and lost our way for a few years, then the recession hit. We gained traction by going back to our roots, telling our story of authenticity. That really resonated with millennials and now we are a top millennial brand.
6. Jerry Murrell
CEO, Five Guys Burger & Fries
2014 sales: $1.3 billion
Year of The Future 50: 2006
Stick to what you set out ot do and make sure you have fun doing it. So many people tell you what you're doing wrong and will try to pull you away. But if you're doing hot dogs and selling a lot of them, don't start serving grilled cheese.
7. Greg Dollarhyde
CEO (chief energizing officer), Veggie Grill
2014 sales: $47 million
Years on The Future 50: 2014, 2015
It's all about the people—who you hire, how you train them, how you mentor, the culture you create and the voice you give your team members. They have to feel an emotional connection to the brand and help it grow.
To view the full Future 50 list, click here.