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Is the U.S. still the global restaurant leader?

Photograph: Shutterstock

Politicians say the United States may be losing some of its political influence on the world. But it remains the dominant force of the global restaurant market—at least for now, according to new data and analysis from Technomic. 

The researcher, a sister operation to Restaurant Business, provided a snapshot last week of the $3.3 trillion global foodservice market. Here are a few highlights, as heard during the Global Restaurant Leadership Conference in Dubai.

  • The U.S. remains the world’s largest restaurant market, as ranked by sales volume, with $906 billion in revenues last year. But restaurant spending in mainland China ($724 billion), No. 2 on the list, is growing more than five times faster in deflated terms than the American market. 
  • The U.S. is home to 62 of the 150 largest global restaurant chains, the most of any nation by far. The next closest is Japan, with 23 headquarters, followed by South Korea, with 12.
  • Burger concepts capture by far the biggest portion of limited-service chains’ global sales, with $136 billion collected in 2017. Coffee cafes are second, though far back at $50 billion in total revenues.
  • Among the foreign-based chains expanding most quickly are four quick-service brands from Asia: Pepper Lunch (Japan), a concept where customers cook their own steaks; Jollibee (Philippines), the source of such unusual fare as sweetened spaghetti; Chowking (Philippines), a chain offering Chinese food adjusted to Filipino and American tastes; and Bonchon Chicken (South Korea), a specialist in sweet and savory fried chicken. All now have beachheads in the United States.
  • About three of every four consumers on the planet (74%) visit a foodservice establishment at least once a week. The United Arab Emirates (UAE), a nation less than three decades old, has one of the highest incidences, with 87% of the population buying at least one restaurant meal per seven days.
  • A good portion of that business is going to homegrown chains. Of the UAE’s top 100 chains, 39 are based there. An equal number are headquartered in the U.S. 


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