Special Report | August 2016

The QSR 50 Ethnic Segment

Ranking the top Asian and Mexican brands in quick service and fast casual.
image used with permission.

Fast casual has stormed the QSR 50 in the last few years, with Panera Bread entering the top 10 and Chipotle close at its heels. That trend continued in 2015; Panera and Chipotle each padded their sales, with the latter leap-frogging both Sonic and KFC in the rankings. (Of course, Chipotle’s food-safety woes struck at the end of 2015, a sales hit that will likely be reflected in next year’s QSR 50). Elsewhere in fast casual, a pair of sandwich chains—Jersey Mike’s and Firehouse Subs—continued their incredible momentum up the list, while Wingstop similarly managed to jump multiple spots in the rankings.

Meanwhile, legacy quick-service chains were a mixed bag in 2015. McDonald’s finally found its footing after years of disappointing sales returns, and Taco Bell managed to jump Wendy’s and solidify a spot in the QSR 50’s top five. But KFC ceded more ground in the chicken wars, slipping to spot No. 14 overall—only six spots and just over $1 billion in sales ahead of Popeyes, which enjoyed a major boost in 2015.

Click column headers to sort
Segment Ranksort descendingQSR 50 RankCompany2015 U.S. Systemwide Sales (millions)2015 U.S. Average Sales per Unit (thousands)Number of Franchised Units in 2015Number of Company Units in 2015Total Units in 2015Total Change in Units from 2014
15Taco Bell$8,820.2$1,460.05,2278946,121170
322Panda Express$2,550.1$1,487.0851,7051,79061
434Qdoba Mexican Eats$753.7$1,169.033932266123
537Del Taco$700.2$1,376.6247297544-3
643Moe's Southwest Grill$638.1$1,163.0633563857

* Includes figures estimated by QSR
1 Numbers are projected by QSR based on past performance
2 Includes 2014 unit counts


Need to re-think how ethnic is defined. Doubt anyone calling themselves Hispanic or Asian would think of these brands as "ethnic".

Are you serious? These are ethnic restaurants??? No way! What ever happened to places like L&L Hawaiian Barbecue and Kula Sushi in LA? Coming from an "ethnic" background, I think you need to redefine what you meant by "ethnic". Either that or you just need to get out there more! Thanks for considering.

None of these restaurants serves authentic ethnic cuisine. These "Mexican" restaurants serve a very poor Americanized version of one of the most renowned and varied cuisines in the world. As more independent restaurateurs develop "fine-fast" concepts with truly authentic, high quality food, a new category will have to be defined/named to recognize that greater numbers of aware/informed consumers seek more authentic food that connects them emotionally more deeply with foreign cultures. You can make REAL mexican food and still deliver it in 12-15 minutes, with feasible portions, upscale presentation, exceptional quality, and price-points to work very well in the upscale-fast or fine-fast market segment. Fast casual entrepreneurs who are willing to do the extra work of managing an operation that makes high quality, indigenous, artisanal goods will be rewarded for their willingness to create a better product, and produce a more satisfying and interesting customer experience..
For an idea of how excited patrons and mass media can get about a concept with more authentic and interesting products, you might find this video valuable:

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