This is the powerhouse list of groups that own and operate the industry’s highest-performing full-service chains. Ranked based on the group’s 2014 U.S. sales, each parent company owns at least two chains and more than 40 brands are represented in this who’s who of chain operators.
From the biggest corporate restaurant groups in the U.S. to high-performing micro-chains that have only five to nine units, the FSR 50 showcases the full-service brands that achieved significant measures of success in 2014 and that continue to show promise, even as many evolve the dining experience and reinvent the prototype of their flagship brands.
Spoon and StableMinneapolisThe cuisine is American in thought and French in technique, with a foundation of classical sauces, bases, and cooking preparations.Opened ∕ November 2014Average Check ∕ $55Chef/Owner ∕ Gavin Kaysen112 EateryMinneapolisRenowned for its tasty late-night dining (the restaurant is open until 1 a.
Virtù Honest CraftScottsdale, ArizonaMediterranean cuisine in a posh Bed and Breakfast setting, where delicacies such as ox tail and the grilled Spanish octopus are standouts, and this James Beard semifinalist for Best New Restaurant in 2014 elegantly blends wines and cocktails with Chef Osso's approachable menu.
LangbaanPortland, OregonThai comfort food crafted with no open-flame cooking; only ovens and induction burners.Opened ∕ March 2014Annual Sales ∕ $1–$3 millionAverage Check ∕ $65 (without alcohol)Chef/Owner∕ Akkapong Earl NinsomThe Squeaky BeanDenverA pop culture–driven atmosphere grounded by a garden-inspired menu (produce is grown in the neighborhood) and creative cocktails defines The Squeaky Bean, where weekend bingo is a popular draw.
The 404 KitchenNashville, TennesseeHoused in a shipping container with an herb garden on its rooftop, The 404 Kitchen and Chef Matt Bolus give a modern interpretation to European cuisine.Opened ∕ October 2013Annual Sales ∕ $1.
RhubarbAsheville, North CarolinaThe restaurant upholds old-school traditions such as Sunday Supper with specials like Fried Green Tomato and Pickled Shrimp, Fried Hominy, and Lobster Corn Dogs.Opened ∕ October 2013Annual Sales ∕ $1–$3 millionAverage Check ∕ $45Chef/Owner∕ John FleerHeirloomCharlotte, North CarolinaWith a sustainable, farm-to-fork focus, Chef Barlowe uses the entire animal and also sources everything—from all the beer, wine, and spirits to the Outer Banks sea salt—from within North Carolina.
GraffiatoRichmond, VirginiaChef de Cuisine Matthew Robinett delivers Italian-inspired small plates with a Southern flair, in this upscale take on casual, hip dining, housed in a historic building with massive windows lining the dining room—a legacy item from the early 20th- century furniture showroom that was the original tenant.
Gaurav “G” Patel and his broker, Sam DiFranco Jr. of Trinity Partners, have a little joke. Patel first approached DiFranco to be his broker nearly eight years ago, when he was 23 years old and just starting out in the restaurant business.
A few weeks ago, Tim McEnery was at a supermarket in the suburbs of Chicago, perusing the cereal aisle, shopping basket dangled nonchalantly over the crook of his elbow. He glanced from name to name on the shelves—did he want his favorite, Frosted Flakes, or a more robust wheat bite?—while tugging on his polo, which had a logo of a delicate white feather in the corner, along with a few inscrutable words that dissolved into a wrinkle.
Chef Jonathon Sawyer is having a moment. He’s rhapsodizing about the pork chop at his Cleveland restaurant, The Greenhouse Tavern, voice cresting as he describes the delicate flavors, the opaque gravy, the creamy purée that finishes the plating.
In 2014, Food News Media, publisher of FSR and QSR magazines, posed a simple question to the industry: Can chain restaurant food be healthy? The response that flooded in from operators, chefs, and industry experts was, overwhelmingly, yes.
For San Diego seafood institution the Brigantine, the road to a new menu began with an old website.The Brigantine is one of those restaurants that’s been around for quite a while. Founded in 1969 by Mike and Barb Morton—and now run by their son Mike Jr.
It’s a crisp 57-degree Sunday morning in Santa Clara, California. The late-autumn sun sits shrouded behind clouds. On the corner of Tasman Drive and LaFayette Street is Levi’s Stadium, the 70,000-seat home to the San Francisco 49ers that opened in fall 2014.
Rising protein prices last year did not discourage chefs from going hog-wild over pork. In Puerto Rico in particular, chefs are advancing pork in ways the U.S. can learn from, like incorporating pig fat to infuse more flavor into a dish and thinking of texture to invoke a pleasant surprise in the mouth.