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Restaurant Chains Dominate Top 10 Fastest-Growing Retail Brands

yelp growing brands

Yelp has released its first-ever list of the 50 fastest growing retail brands in the U.S. The review site compiled its report by using a blended metric that includes net new openings, searches on its platform from 2022 to 2023, and consumer interest.

Of the 50 fastest-growing chains, 35 were restaurant brands. Furthermore, chains owned by publicly traded restaurant companies account for half of the top ten.

Notably, the data demonstrates momentum for “challenger” food, restaurant, and retail brands that are quickly becoming the next class of household favorites.

Challenger brands—defined as businesses that are not market leaders but aim to compete by disrupting their industry—make up over 70% of the brands on the list.

Here are Yelp’s top ten fastest-growing retail brands, with additional reporting by CNBC:

10. Jersey Mikes

Jersey Mike’s is the second-largest U.S. sandwich chain after Subway. Its current footprint hovers around 2,700 restaurants, but the chain is growing rapidly. Despite its name and origin, most of its restaurants are now in California, Texas, and Florida.

9. Olive Garden

The gem of Darden Restaurants’ portfolio, Olive Garden accounts for nearly half of the company’s overall revenue. The Italian-inspired chain casual-dining chain also opened new locations recently, adding about 20 new restaurants in its fiscal 2023.

8. Rally House

The sole apparel retailer to land a place in Yelp’s top 10, Rally House sells team gear and sports apparel for professional and college teams. The company has been setting its own record for new openings. In August, it opened seven locations in a single weekend.

7. Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers

This Midwestern fast-casual chain sells comfort food that reflects the nostalgic warmth and familiarity of the region’s cuisine. Last year, Freddy’s opened 62 new locations, setting a new development record for the chain and surpassing 500 locations overall.

6. Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen

In 2023, Popeyes surpassed KFC as the second-most popular chicken chain in the U.S. by sales, trailing only Chick-fil-A.

As the “Chicken wars” top contender, Popeyes led a pack of comfort food spots touting fried chicken with a nationwide consumer interest increase of 34%. The chain was also the third fastest-growing brand in the Northeast, where it saw a 52% bump in consumer interest.

5. Wawa

Known for its made-to-order cheesesteaks and hoagies, Wawa has been expanding outside its Philadelphia stronghold into new markets down the Atlantic seaboard. The convenience store and gas station chain has also been opening drive-thru locations, encroaching further on restaurants’ territory.

  • Yelp Challenger Brand: Wawa saw an 88%increase in consumer interest nationwide from 2022 to 2023.

4. The Habit Burger Grill

When Yum Brands bought The Habit Burger Grill in 2020, its footprint was less than 280 restaurants. At the end of 2023, the chain had 378 locations on the East and West coasts.

  • Yelp Challenger Brand: The Habit Burger Grill saw a 29% increase in consumer interest nationwide from 2022 to 2023.

3. LongHorn Steakhouse

Since the pandemic began, sales at the casual-dining chain LongHorn Steakhouse have consistently outperformed the restaurant industry’s average, fueled in part by the strong growth of its takeout business.

  • Yelp Challenger Brand: LongHorn Steakhouse saw a 38% increase in consumer interest nationwide from 2022 to 2023.

2. Scooter’s Coffee

Founded in in Nebraska 1998, Scooter’s Coffee has only recently begun aggressively expanding through franchised locations. The Midwestern coffee chain’s standard, drive-thru-only location is only 664 square feet, making it quick to build and cheap to operate.

Scooter’s net new locations jumped 53% from 2022 to 2023, giving it the largest percentage growth of any restaurant brand on Yelp’s list.

  • Yelp Challenger Brand: LongHorn Steakhouse saw a 38% increase in consumer interest nationwide from 2022 to 2023.


As a Yelp Challenger Brand, CAVA saw a 54% increase in consumer interest nationwide from 2023 compared to 2022, not to mention claiming the fastest growing brand spot in California, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Alabama.

Best known for its Mediterranean-inspired bowls, fast-casual restaurant’s drinks are now rising in popularity. Yelp’s review insights revealed that CAVA’s beverages, including pineapple apple mint and blueberry lavender, are what keep customers coming back. Yelp users continually praise these drinks for their taste, quality, and customization options.


The Food Institute Podcast

From lattes to chicken sandwiches to desserts, it seems every restaurant is hopping on the limited-time offer (LTO) craze to drive traffic and check growth. But is this really having the desired effect? Datassential vice president of sales Megan Lynberg discusses the historical data on LTOs, popular LTO items, and other strategies companies are using to inspire growth.