Top 10 Fast-Food Chains To Watch

Mixing some old faces with new, the fast food landscape is quickly changing! Check out the biggest movers and shakers in the industry.
Trace Mannewitz

The future of food is looking bright— companies old and new are looking for exciting ways to create delightful customer experiences. Here are ten badass chains looking to continue their growth and make a splash in the food industry. 

1.    Scooter's 

Originating from Omaha, Nebraska, Scooter's is a coffee shop boasting over 650 locations across the US. They pride themselves on providing premium, responsibly sourced coffee with a convenient drive-thru kiosk. 

So what sets them apart? Same-store sales increased by 55-60% between 2019-2021, and their success isn't slowing down. The brand focuses on keeping things simple and sticking to its established blueprint for success. They keep their coffee shops purposely small and easy to maintain, with most having a single drive-thru option— keeping labor costs low and efficiency high. 

2.    Jersey Mike's

Known as the fastest-growing fast food brand in the US, Jersey Mike's made a name by diving into the sub industry and providing delicious sandwiches at a reasonable price. They were arguably the biggest winners during the pandemic, showing a 64% jump in sales between 2019 and 2021. 

But Jersey Mike's is about more than having it your way. They prioritize the training and knowledge of their staff— putting a lot of faith that if their people can take pride in the product they're making, they're less likely to face heavy employee churn. 

3.    Chicken Salad Chick

Coming in with a relatively niche take within the fast-casual space, they offer fresh chicken salad to all their customers, serving them well. On pace to surpass 250 locations in 2023, they bring you a healthy, flavorful meal in record time. 

Growth options are looking equally delicious. This brand is primed to explode into the larger fast-casual market with solid franchising, a robust support system, and a simple operations model. 

4.    Tropical Smoothie Cafe

A second entry into the healthy fast-casual space, Tropical Smoothie Cafe brings smoothies, sandwiches, and salads to the table. TSC's biggest strength is their diverse revenue stream for a single location— they offer drive-thru, dine-in, delivery, catering, and a suite of ordering options to ensure that their customers can engage with them however they want. 

Showing steady growth over the past five years, they have been recognized by Entrepreneur and Nation's Restaurant News as one of the fastest-growing franchises in the nation. 

5.    Just Salad

Showing an average 13% growth in sales over the past three years, Just Salad is an up-and-coming health brand aiming to become a household name. Still relatively new in the industry, they don't have the infrastructure set up for their franchising that others do, but keep an eye on them in years to come. 

One of their more exciting aspects is their reusable bowls— their focus on the environment will set them apart in upcoming years, especially by tying it to incentives in future visits. 

6.    Dominos

If Just Salad is the new kid on the block, Domino's is an old resident. Founded in 1960, Domino's Pizza is the world's largest pizza company, claiming over 20,000 stores; even more impressive because 99% of those stores are franchises. 

While we don't need to explain how Domino's operates, they're still bringing some innovative ideas to the table— most recently, by implementing DOM, Domino's Interactive AI chatbot. Their new AI allows you to order your pizza by voice or keyboard.

7.    Bb.q Chicken 

No, it's not barbecue— Originating in South Korea, Bb.q Chicken (or "Best of the Best Quality) is just starting to make its foray into the United States, but don't be surprised when it shows meteoric growth over the next couple of years. 

They're making a splash with their unique technological ideas, which include ordering food from a kiosk or online and picking it up at an Amazon-style locker — making food entirely on the customer's time and limiting any waiting they may have to do.  

8.    Bubbakoo's Burritos

An increasingly popular burrito joint, Bubbakoo's Burritos isn't the newcomer you'd expect. They opened their doors in 2008 and only recently started setting their sights on growth— much to their success. After opening franchising four years ago, they've quadrupled their store count. 

The best part? Their starting franchises were all current managers who wanted to buy into the company. By starting small and working with people they know, they've maintained high-fidelity service and quality as they expand further into the market.

9.    Dos Toros Taqueria

Staying in theme, Dos Toros Taqueria has been showing impressive growth in recent years (we've heard pretty good things about the loyalty software they use as well). Bringing authentic tastes to New York, brothers Oliver and Leo focus on bringing healthy and fresh ingredients to everything they make. 

They keep a personal nature in their 18 NYC stores, with a special playlist curated by the brothers. 

10.    Duck Donuts

Rounding out our top 10 with something sweet, Duck Donuts' made-to-order pastries are a colorful delight for anyone who opens their distinctive boxes. Duck Donuts is another brand that allows its success to be led by simplicity and an involved support group. 

A standout in an industry where it's common to order a dozen of the same type of donuts, being able to customize your order to your tastes is sure to make a splash, leading to the brand's continued success in the ensuing years.