As Chain Store Guide heads into its 81st year of providing restaurant insight to the world, the foodservice industry continues to grow and evolve. New companies and concepts are emerging in every type of foodservice and every corner of the country, in spite of what some still consider a problematic economic environment. Venture capitalists and private equity groups still find restaurant operators desirable investments, and restaurant companies themselves are buying out competitors or complementary brands. The global economy beckons foodservice operators who have the mettle and wherewithal to venture into the unknown markets in South America, Asia, and the Middle East.

Chain Store Guide’s 2014 Directory of Chain Restaurant Operators is at the printers now and will be published on April 22. The latest version of the directory contains over 6,500 listings, including more than 740 new companies added since this time last year. The online Plus database, which also includes convenience stores with in-store foodservice as well as casinos with two or more on-site restaurants, culinary schools, and trade associations, now tops 7,900 listings. Total personnel counts for the online database exceed 35,000, and 67% of these names have personal emails attached .

In its annual forecast, the National Restaurant Association predicts a whopping $683.4 billion will be spent in nearly one million eating and drinking places in the U.S. this year, up 3.5% over 2013′s projection. The industry employs approximately 13.5 million, nearly 10% of the U.S. workforce, and 47% of the food dollar is spent in restaurants, nearly double what it was in the mid-1950s.

According to the NRA, more than one-third of foodservice sales will take place in what it calls Limited-Serve locations, e.g., counter-service, carry-out, delivery, cafeterias, grill-buffets, and other restaurants with limited employee-customer interaction. Another 31% of the sales volume will be spent in what NRA defines as Tableservice restaurants, e.g., family, casual, and fine­dining locations with a full menu and servers to take orders and deliver meals to the tables. Managed services, lodging places, noncommercial restaurant services (such as employee dining, transportation, hospitals, colleges, and other venues), and military restaurant services account for the remainder of the $683.4 billion.

In 2013, sales from all U.S. headquarter companies in the CSG database exceed $245 billion, up $9 billion (3.8%) from 2012.The number of total locations operated by the top 50 companies based in the U.S. jumped 5.4%, perhaps reflecting operators’ growing confidence in the economy and planning for the future.

Chain Store Guide‘s database of Chain Restaurant Operators shows the relationship between size and dollar volume. Although 89% of the total companies in the database operate 50 or fewer locations, they account for just 13% of total locations and 27% of the total Industry sales recorded for 2013. The 90 companies that operate and/or franchise more than 500 restaurants comprise just 1.6% of the total number of companies but represent 69% of all restaurants and took in more than 47% of total foodservice sales. Total sales from the five largest companies (McDonald’s, Yum! Brands, Starbucks, Darden, and Bloomin’ Brands) exceeded the combined sales generated by their 50 next largest competitors.

It was another blockbuster year for acquisitions, with nearly 7,000 locations coming under new leadership:

  • The largest of the deals was Roark Capital’s purchase of the 3,400+ locations owned and franchised by CKE Restaurants Inc., operator of Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s. Roark Capital also owns Arby’s, Corner Bakery Cafe, McAlister’s Deli, Miller’s Ale House, and Wingstop among other foodservice ¬†brands.
  • Centre Partners expanded its investment portfolio with the acquisition of the Captain D’s seafood chain.
  • Apollo Global Management took over CEC Entertainment Inc., better known as Chuck E. Cheese’s.
  • Finalized just as I sent the directory off to the printer, Sentinel Capital added Checkers Drive-In Restaurants Inc. to Huddle House in its foodservice portfolio.

It was also a big year for theatre operators to change hands – Hollywood Theaters, Rave Cinemas, Clearview Cinemas, Empire Theatres, Muvico Theatres, and Landmark Cinemas of Canada all began 2014 with new owners. All but the latter company were acquired by competitors.

All of these ownership changes represent opportunities for real estate professionals, systems integrators, contractors, executive search firms, and others that do business in the foodservice industry.

No other information provider can present industry-specific information with the same depth and breadth of Chain Store Guide‘s data, and no organization can match Chain Store Guide‘s quality and customer service. If you have any questions or suggestions on how CSG can better help you meet your daily challenges, please contact Senior Editor Linda Helman.

If you would like to see our data in action, please contact our office at 800-927-9292 and request a free demonstration of the Online databases.