The food and beverage industry had about 135 companies represented on this year's Inc. 500, a list of the fastest-growing privately held U.S. companies according to percentage revenue growth from 2008 to 2011.
A few quick-service brands, including Rita's Italian Ice and Bojangles, were represented on the list, but as with 2011, most of the restaurants represented were part of the fast casual segment.
Denver-based Smashburger, which was no. 99 overall last year, is at no. 405 this year, with a 3-year growth of 928 percent. The better-burger chain's 2011 revenue was $53.1 million, compared to $5.2 million in 2008. It was founded in 2007.
"2011 was a significant year of expansion for Smashburger and we are honored to be recognized a second year in a row for our brand's rapid growth and innovative concept, particularly as one of the top restaurant concepts on the list," said Dave Prokupek, chairman and CEO. "We look forward to the next chapter of Smashburger's growth as we continue expanding to new markets and introducing our premium menu offerings around the globe."
Other restaurant brands
Numerous restaurant brands and franchise groups made the top 5,000 list including:
At no. 1094, Utah-based Heirloom Restaurant Group has grown by 290 percent with $2.4 million in revenues in 2011. The company manages the Communal, Pizzeria Seven Twelve and Mountain West burrito restaurant groups.
San Francisco-based Patxi's Pizza, with 271 percent growth in three years, was no. 1161. The restaurant specializes in Chicago style deep-dish pizza and has several locations in the Bay Area.
Chicago-based Meatheads Burgers and Fries ranks No. 604. In the past three years, Meatheads has grown 603 percent, adding 150 new employees during this time. Revenue has jumped from $1 million in 2008 to $7.2 million in 2011.
Genghis Grill Franchise Concepts, at no. 1290, has grown by 240 percent. The Dallas-based company's 2011 revenues were $100.1 million, compared to $29.5 million in 2008. The restaurant specializes in "build your own" Asian stir-fry and exhibition-style cooking.
At no. 1457 was fast casual concept Zoup!, based out of the Detroit area. Zoup! has experienced a 206 percent growth rate with 2011 revenues of $17.4 million. The concept serves soup, salads and sandwiches and includes 43 locations.
Dallas' Dickey's Barbecue Restaurants' revenues jumped from $66.2 million in 2008 to $175.2 million in 2011, a 164 percent increase. The company, at no. 1734, offers slow-smoked meats and home-style side dishes.
Also based out of Dallas, Which Wich Superior Sandwiches, has grown by 108 percent in the past three years and turned in $6.2 million in revenues in 2011. The no. 2316th concept features more than 50 customizable sandwiches at its more than 200 locations in 30 states.
Another fast casual concept, HuHot Mongolian Grills, is no. 2425, with a 101 percent growth rate and 2011 revenues of $2.6 million. HuHot, based out of Montana, specializes in grilled Asian-style food.
At no. 2547 is Cafe Yumm!, with a three-year growth rate 95 percent and 2011 revenue of $12.9 million.
Russo's New York Pizzeria, at no. 2715, is the first pizza-centered concept on the list, with an 86 percent growth rate and 2011 revenues of $24.2 million. The Houston-based chain experienced a 51 percent growth in the past three years.
Boston's Boloco, at no. 3467, had a 54 percent increase, with 2011 revenues of $19.2 million. The concept serves burritos, bowls, salads and more.
At no. 3549, Las Vegas-based Capriotti's Sandwich Shop has experienced a 52 percent growth rate, with 2011 revenues of $44.8 million.
Texas' Wingstop has experienced a 50 percent jump and 2011 revenues of $44 million, good enough to finish at no. 3605 on Inc.'s list.
Bojangles' has the QSR segment represented at no. 3983 with a 36 percent growth rate and 2011 revenues of $299.9 million. The company serves homemade chicken, biscuits and biscuit sandwiches using proprietary recipes.
Campus staple Pita Pit USA, at no. 4256, has grown by 29 percent in the past three years, with $14 million in revenues in 2011.
Wallington, Conn.-based Edible Arrangements International has experienced a 22 percent growth rate with 2011 revenues of $23.5 million.
Philly sub concept Charley's Grilled Subs was no. 4535 with a 20 percent growth and 2011 revenues of $37.7 million.
Villa Enterprises Management, listed at no. 4664, is the parent company of casual dining franchises and full-service concept restaurants including its flagship pizza concept Villa Fresh Italian Kitchen. In three years, it has grown by 17 percent with 2011 revenues of $120.5 million.
The U.S. Pizza Company, no. 4790, makes and sells old fashioned thin-crust pizza using stone hearth ovens. U.S. Pizza offers appetizers, salads, sandwiches and pizza through regional restaurants. It has experienced a 12 percent growth rate with 2011 revenues of $9.2 million.
Rita's Italian Ice, no. 4836, offers Italian ices, frozen custard and blended frozen treats. It has jumped 11 percent with a 2011 revenue of $109.3 million.
Saladworks, no. 4888, has grown by 9 percent with $67.8 million in revenues last year. The Pennsylvania-based franchise sells salads, soups, wraps and Panini sandwiches.
No. 4895's Texas Subs, which has grown by 9 percent with $34.1 million in revenues, operates a large network of Subway restaurants, one Mooyah Burgers, and one OrangeCup franchise.
Finally, VooDoo BBQ & Grill, based out of Louisiana, is at no. 4987 with a 5 percent growth rate and $3.9 million in revenues in 2011.
To qualify, companies must have been founded and generating revenue by March 31, 2008. They had to be U.S.-based, privately held, for profit and independent — not subsidiaries or divisions of other companies — as of Dec. 31, 2011. The minimum revenue required for 2008 is $100,000; the minimum for 2011 is $2 million. Companies on the Inc. 500 are featured in Inc.'s September issue and online.
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Alicia Kelso has been a professional journalist for 15 years. Her work with QSRweb.com and PizzaMarketplace.com has been featured in publications around the world, including Good Morning America, Voice of Russia radio, Consumerist.com and Franchise Asia magazine.