Growth spurt: Inc. 500 list full of fast casual concepts

The food and beverage industry had strong representation on this year's "Inc. 500," which features the 5,000 fastest growing privately-held companies in the United States. The fast casual segment, in particular, was heavily represented on the list.

The 2011 Inc. 500, unveiled in the September issue of Inc. magazine, is available on newsstands now through Nov. 15 and on Inc.com.


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This year's rankings were based on the percentage of revenue growth from 2007 through 2010. To qualify, companies must have been founded and generating revenue by March 31, 2007. Additionally, they had to be based in the United States, privately held, for profit, and independent — not subsidiaries or divisions of other companies — as of Dec. 31, 2010. Since this deadline, a number of companies on the list, including Dunkin' Brands, have gone public or been acquired.

Notable food & beverage industry and related companies on the list include:

  • Denver-based Smashburger, No. 99. The fast casual "better burger" concept, founded in 2006, turned in a 3-year growth rate of 2,673 percent. The more than 100-unit chain had a 2007 revenue of $1.4 million, and a 2010 revenue of $39.4 million.
  • Signature Foods, No. 102: The Georgia-based company, founded in 2003, packs, distributes and markets specialty and private-label foods for institutional food distributors, wholesalers, trade groups and Internet food marketers. It had a growth rate of 2,648 percent between 2007-2010.
  • Grub Hub, No. 246: Chicago's GrubHub.com displays restaurant delivery menus from more than 13,000 restaurants. Diners can order directly online, by phone or through the GrubHub iPhone and Android apps. The company's 2007 revenue was $590K, and its 2010 revenue was $8.3 million.
  • Genghis Grill Franchise Concepts, No. 932: Texas-based Genghis Grill Franchise Concepts sells franchises of Genghis Grill, a fast casual restaurant that specializes in "build your own" Asian stir-fry and exhibition-style cooking. Its 3-year growth of 328 percent is based on revenue increases from $16.4 million in 2007 to $70.3 million in 2010.
  • Which Wich Superior Sandwiches, No. 1104: This Dallas-based fast casual franchise serves more than 50 varieties of customizable "wiches." It grew 272 percent from 2007-10, with revenue jumping from $16 million to $59.5 million during that time.
  • Café Yumm!, No. 1406: Café Yumm! Franchises fast casual restaurants and manufactures Yumm! Sauce and dressings. The concept offers simple, healthy items such as rice and beans. It grew 202 percent from 2007-10 with a revenue jump from $3.6 million to $10.8 million.
  • Patxi's Chicago, No. 1851: San Francisco-based Patxi's includes several locations in the Bay Area serving Chicago-style deep-dish pizza, thin-crust pizza, salads, appetizers, and beer and wine. Its 141 percent growth is based on a revenue jump of $2.1 million to $5 million in three years.
  • Secure Connect, No. 1974: SecureConnect's three-year 129-percent sales growth rate stems from its managed security and PCI compliance services.
  • Zoup! Fresh Soup, No. 2304: This fast casual concept includes 26 locations throughout Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Connecticut and New Jersey. It has grown 105 percent, with revenue jumping from $4.7 million to $9.7 million
  • Wingstop Restaurants, No. 2696: This Texas-based, 445-unit fast casual concept grew 84 percent in three years, with revenue increasing from $20.5 million to $37.7 million.
  • Noodles & Company, No. 3187: The Colorado-based fast casual chain grew 62 percent in three years, with 2007 revenue at $136.7 million and 2010 revenue at $220.8 million.
  • Russo's New York Pizzeria, No. 3463: Texas-based Russo's includes Russo's NY Pizzerias and Russo's Coal Fired Italian Kitchens, with a 51 percent growth in three years ($14.5 million to $21.9 million).

Chains growing 40 percent or less include:

  • Boloco's, No. 3664: The Boston-based fast casual concept grew 43 percent ($11.2 million to $16 million)
  • Capriotti's Sandwich Shop, No. 3714: The Las Vegas-based fast casual sandwich chain grew 41 percent in three years, from $27.9 million to $39.4 million.
  • Raising Cane's Chicken Fingers, No. 3715: The Baton Rouge, La.-based fast casual concept jumped 41 percent, from $95.6 percent to $135 million.
  • Dickey's Barbecue Pit, No. 3720: Dallas-based Dickey's, a fast casual barbecue concept, grew 41 percent, from $65.8 million to $92.8 million.
  • Bojangles' Famous Chicken 'n Biscuits: Charlotte, N.C. quick-service concept Bojangles, recently sold to Advent International, grew 31 percent - $209.1 million to $274.2 million.
  • Charley's Grilled Subs, No. 4033: Columbus, Ohio-based Charley's specializes in Philly cheese steaks and has grown 31 percent in three years – from $26.9 million to $35.2 million.

Concepts growing less than 20 percent include:

  • U.S. Pizza Company, No. 4475: Makes and sells old-fashioned thin-crust pizza to regional restaurants, up 19 percent ($7.9 million to $9.4 million).
  • Contingent Network Services, No. 4476: This Ohio-based company deploys network infrastructure for companies and grew 18 percent ($13.6 million to $16.1 million)
  • Pita Pit USA, No. 4512: The fast casual chain grew 17 percent ($9.2 million to $10.8 million)
  • Flying Pie Pizzaria, No. 4563: The specialty pizzeria grew 16 percent ($2.1 million to $2.4 million)
  • Saladworks, No. 4667: The fast casual concept grew 13 percent, from $5.3 million to $6 million.
  • Dunkin' Brands, No. 4708: The Massachusetts-based company operates Dunkin' Donuts and Baskin-Robbins brands and recently went public. Prior, it grew 12 percent from 2007-10, with revenue jumping from $516.9 million to $577.1 million.

In a stagnant economic environment, median growth rate of 2011 Inc. 500|5000 companies remains at 94 percent. The companies on this year's list report having created 350,000 jobs in the past three years, and aggregate revenue among the honorees reached $366 billion, up 14 percent from last year.

Read more about franchising and growth.

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