Special Report | August 2011 | By Sam Oches

The 2011 QSR 50

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26/Church’s Chicken

A “Chicken Genius” ad campaign ramped up exposure for Church’s Spicier Spicy Chicken offering, and Crispy Chicken Tacos gave customers an option that fit in different dayparts.

But the biggest change for Church’s, the one that really set it up for future success, was the shakeup in management; a new president of U.S. operations, vice president of advertising, and executive vice president of supply chain all joined the fold, among other new management hires.

27/Steak n Shake

The 77-year-old Midwest burger fave announced that it would do something it had never done before: move west of Texas. The concept opened its first unit in Las Vegas in December, significant not just because it established West Coast roots for the chain, but also because it was a rare urban location. Much of the hype now rests on the shoulders of the concept’s new prototype, which shrinks the store footprint and offers a sleeker look.

28/Zaxby’s

The fried-chicken fast casual took advantage of its 20th anniversary in 2010 by opening its 500th unit. Also, a steady stream of celebrities has been in and out the Zaxby’s doors to lend the company some marketing help, including Terry Bradshaw and Jaime Pressly in 2010 and later Ryan Stiles and Giuliana Rancic in early 2011.

29/Jimmy John’s

Never one to spend much time with product innovation, Jimmy John’s instead spent 2010 focused on its steady growth. The company opened its 1,000th store, grew sales by about $130 million, and boasted one of the biggest unit expansions in the industry with 162 new stores in the year. But the concept’s home turf of progressive college towns may be coming back to haunt it; the company made headlines all year as employees in several stores attempted to unionize.

30/Five Guys

Five Guys continued its meteoric rise into the quick-serve elite, experiencing the biggest rankings jump in the QSR 50 this year. In fact, only Subway and Dunkin’ Donuts opened more stores than Five Guys’ 195 new units in 2010.

Five Guys’ biggest success in 2010, however, may be in the Better Burger wars. The company continued its growth into West Coast markets and strengthened the roots it planted on In-N-Out’s turf two years before. Not only does Five Guys have deals in place to have almost twice as many units than In-N-Out has in Southern California, but there are also whispers that the East Coast chain is forcing even the fiercest of In-N-Out fans to reconsider their brand loyalties.

Next: QSR 50 Profiles 31 - 35

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