The 2011 QSR 50

  • The top quick-serve and fast-casual brands in the nation.

    Download Last Year’s QSR 50 in PDF Format

    46/Tim Hortons

    The Canadian coffee staple continued its U.S. invasion, finishing the year with 39 more stores and $29 million more in sales than in 2009. A move into more nontraditional markets, like its January opening at Naval Station Norfolk and its addition of several more kiosks at Tops Friendly Markets in New York and Pennsylvania, expanded the number of channels where Tim Hortons could deliver its signature coffee.

    47/Captain D’s

    Captain D’s continued its slide down the QSR 50 ranks, as well as its six-year-long systemwide sales decline, but leadership changes in 2010 gave the brand reason to be optimistic.

    Sun Capital Partners acquired the seafood chain in May, and when former CEO David Head jumped ship for O’Charley’s in September, the company hired industry veteran Phil Greifeld to replace him. Greifeld has already positioned the Nashville, Tennessee–based brand for growth by canceling planned price increases and refocusing both the franchising and lunch-menu strategies. Part of the lunch strategy includes two new sandwiches that debuted this year: a chicken sandwich and a cod sandwich.

    48/Einstein Bros.

    One of the earliest Facebook-giveaway success stories was Einstein Bros.’ free bagel offer for new Facebook fans in January, which gave the brand an explosive start to 2010. The Einstein Bros. fan page—which was brand new at the time—climbed from 4,700 fans to more than 450,000 fans in just one week. Additional coupon offers on its Facebook page throughout the year helped the brand maintain active engagement with consumers online.

    49/Cold Stone Creamery

    Cold Stone entrenched itself in product innovation in an effort to grab a bigger piece of the dessert pie. The Gold Cone collection of flavors launched in April 2010 offered a new LTO ice cream flavor each month, and a line of Ice Cream Cookie Sandwiches also debuted in stores. The biggest product innovation, however, loomed on the horizon for early 2011 in the form of a new spinoff concept: frozen yogurt.


    Cult favorite Krystal made a push for sports fans across the South by rolling out new Game Time Wings. But it’s the opportunities it gave its avid fan base to become a more intimate part of the company that supported the brand through slight downsizing. Early in 2010, Krystal plastered Hall of Fame members’ faces on its iconic Krystal boxes, and later in the year the company invited customers to craft their own design of the boxes online. Vice president of marketing Brad Wahl says Krystal will expand its customer design promotion to other packaging options and merchandise, like T-shirts.

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