Special Report | August 2011 | By Sam Oches

The 2011 QSR 50

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21/Quiznos

Taking the biggest unit tumble of 2010, Quiznos’ net store count dropped by a whopping 600 units from 2009. The sandwich concept did work to encourage sustainability through its packaging and suppliers, and even jumped on the smaller-portion bandwagon with a Choose 2 menu that let customers choose two items among Quiznos’ Toasty Bullets, flatbread Sammies, soups, and salads for $5.

22/Panda Express

The top Asian concept’s popular talking pandas, Eddie and Tom-Tom, returned to talk up Panda Express’ first-ever premium shrimp entrée. Then a Korean-influenced dish, Kobari Beef, hit the menuboards in September. Panda Express also tested online ordering in select stores with its Order Panda program.

23/Carl’s Jr.

Carl’s Jr. has always aimed for the “young, hungry male” and in 2010 added two new burgers aimed squarely at that demographic: the Grilled Cheese Bacon Burger and the Philly Cheesesteak Burger. Still, a Teriyaki Chicken Sandwich, Hand-Breaded Chicken Tenders, and Hawaiian Grilled Chicken Salad spoke to customers looking for something lighter, and this year’s addition of a Turkey Burger really wowed the health-conscious.

Did we mention there was also a marketing campaign featuring Kim Kardashian?

24/Little Caesars

Little Caesars is clawing its way back into the upper pizza echelon and proving that not all Detroit-based companies are doomed. Once the third-biggest pizza chain, Little Caesars has used its value offering of the $5 Hot-N-Ready pizza to hold firm at No. 24 and, in 2010, added 152 new stores. A continued investment in its new college football bowl game, meanwhile, hopes to lure sports fanatics.

25/Whataburger

A Texas mainstay since 1950, Whataburger celebrated its 60th year in 2010 with new chicken menu items like the Grilled Chicken Melt and the Honey BBQ Chicken Strip Sandwich, plus a contest to find the company’s biggest fans. Stoking the passion of its consumer base may be key to keeping up Whataburger’s growth, since the In-N-Out juggernaut is moving into Dallas and “better-burger” newbie Mooyah Burgers is homegrown in Texas.

Next: QSR 50 Profiles 26 - 30

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