If it seems like there are more and more burger restaurants every week, don’t blame the Big Three chains. Small chains (and independents) are driving the burger category’s growth. For example, while there were 13,918 McDonald’s restaurants open in the U.S. at the end of 2008, that was a net increase of only 0.4% from the 13,862 operating at the end of 2007.
No. 2 Burger King’s net domestic size increased by just 14 stores between 2006 and 2008, and Wendy’s U.S. restaurant decreased from 5,955 to 5,905 over that two-year period. Operations tightening following ownership changes helps account for BK’s and Wendy’s stagnation. McDonald’s has focused on international opportunities while increasing its net domestic locations by only 144 in the past two years.
Considered as a whole, the 15 burger chains included in this chart logged a 2.5% increase in number of restaurants between 2006 and 2008. That growth is coming from smaller chains such as Five Guys Burgers and Fries, which nearly tripled in size between 2006 and 2008. Similarly, although Culver’s operates a relatively small number of U.S. stores, its 8.3% growth is far greater than that for the biggest chains.