Chart Of The Week: Number Of Outlets In Top U.S. Restaurant Categories

First, apologies for this hard to read, hard to interpret graphic, but they’re all like that, so we’ll take what we can get. Because wow, what a trove of information about how America eats! First of all, there are a lot more quick service restaurants than full service, but nothing like an order of magnitude. It’s impossible to tell exactly from this limited dataset, but we’d guesstimate that it’s less than double. But anyway, why don’t we take each category separately?

First, the quick service: it’s certainly a testament to something that there are almost a third more pizza places than hamburger places. We wonder what percentage of each is chain/franchise stores vs. independently owned and operated. The gut says more of the pizza places are independent than the burger places (both as a percentage and in total number), but we don’t get far enough out of big urban areas often enough to know this for sure. Tell you one thing, there are a lot of sandwiches on this list (never mind that burgers are just hot beef sandwiches), and what might “other sandwiches” refer to that isn’t subs and deli sandwiches? Could they be referring to the proliferation of panini cafes? Our final thought on this section is that Mexican is going to overtake frozen sweets by the end of the decade - the demographics demand it.

But the real surprise is in the full service section. Casual Asian is number one? Over bar and grill? Which itself wouldn’t strike us as necessarily the most popular category. Maybe some of the issue is how these categories are assigned. We’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this issue since it’s our job (my job, even) to determine a cuisine for all the restaurants we put on P.F. Chang’s! Why would Mexican restaurants be divided between the full and quick service sections, but not the Chinese restaurants? Sloppy and lazy statisticians, what’s why.

Now that we’ve glanced at the national picture, what does it look like in Chicago? Well, our database is biased and our labeling subjective, but who are we to complain? So, of the 2938 restaurants currently in our database, here are our rankings:

1) Sandwiches (490)

2) American Traditional (449)

3) Italian (373)

4) Mexican (349)

5) Pizza (320)

6) Chinese (254)

7) Bar Food (236)

Maybe if you massaged the data, you could get the same order as the NPD people! But anyway, this order makes way more sense to us, and will continue to do so until someone explains what goes on at “restaurants,” ostensibly the nation’s 7th most common type of restaurant.

[Photo: Pizza sector sports the most units, NRN]

Chart Of The Week: Number Of Outlets In Top U.S. Restaurant Categories