Which chain restaurants fared best during the disaster that was 2020?

As you all know, the pandemic has been rough on all restaurants, chains and independents alike. But some chains actually grew, due to their reliance on technology that others didn’t have, like drive-thrus, delivery options, and digital sales channels.



a close up of a sign: hand holding wings in front of wingstop truck


© Photo: Daniel Boczarski / Stringer (Getty Images)
hand holding wings in front of wingstop truck

According to this piece from trade publication Restaurant Business, many chains took some hits. Take Subway, for example, whose sales plummeted a whopping 18.5% (ouch), and Starbucks, whose sales fell 13.5%. But others did very well; Wendy’s overtook Burger King in the second spot under the burger category due to its new breakfast menu with an increase of 4.8%. All of the big fried chicken chains saw some growth too, like Wingstop (31%), Popeye’s (20%), KFC (4.3%), and Chick-fil-A (13.7%). Another notable surge in sales came from Domino’s, where sales rose 17.6%.

While that’s fine and dandy for the big players, the median sales change for the bottom 450 chains on the ranking was a decline of 19.4%, an illustration of how skewed the numbers became once the powerhouses were out of the picture. But the most surprising piece of information is how few actual storefronts shuttered. The total number of locations in the top 500 dropped by 2% (around 4,500). The closures spread out through the top 500 meant that when averaged out between all of them, most chains came through with a few store closures, with the exception of Subway, whose shuttered locations accounted for 40% of all the storefronts that closed down. The chain closed about 1,800 of its approximately 40,000 locations last year.

None of this accounts for mom-and-pops, and I’m scared to see how they fared through this whole thing, because it’s not over yet.

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