The 10 Fastest Growing Burger Chains In America

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Americans have spoken, and they want their burger chains to focus on the burgers.Smaller hamburger joints are driving rapid growth within the industry, with overall sales growing 16.4% in 2010, according to an AdAge report on data from Technomic.

Part of the appeal is that, where the bigger chains are concentrating on sideshows like breakfast and advertising, the smaller ones are concentrating on making a great burger, and customers appear to be prioritizing quality.

Particularly impressive is Denver brand Smashburger, which increased to $46 million in sales from $24 million last year.

Although McDonald’s was the biggest dollar gainer in U.S. sales, small companies are clearly closing the gap.

#10 The Counter

$8,000,000 increase in U.S. sales (19.5%)

The Counter plays the burger game a little differently: customers walk in and build their own burger by filling out a form with ingredients. The chain's website boasts of more than 312,120 different burger combinations, saying that 'rarely is the same burger made twice in one day.'

(Source: Technomic)

#9 Jack's

$11,000,000 increase in U.S. sales (11.8%)

First started in Homewood, Alabama, Jack's has spread across the south, with locations in Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Georgia. The menu sticks to the basics, and the burgers come with signature crinkly fries.

(Source: Technomic)

#8 The Habit Burger Grill

$13,800,000 increase in U.S. sales (49.3%)

The Habit Burger Grill's motto is 'There's no substitute for quality,' which is a common refrain throughout this list. Using a beach-grill theme, the company's signature is the charburger, which is chargrilled on an open flame.

(Source: Technomic)

#7 In-N-Out Burger

$15,500,000 increase in U.S. sales (3.4%)

The legendary In-N-Out Burger, which is more or less synonymous with California, has begun to spread beyond the Western states, with a growing presence in Texas. All told, there are 267 locations now.

(Source: Technomic)

#6 Culver's ButterBurgers & Frozen Custard

$33,064,000 increase in U.S. sales (5.0%)

Based out of Wisconsin, Culver's puts emphasis on Midwestern-raised beef and dairy. Known for their signature Butterburger, the chain is located mainly in Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, and Minnesota, but has a presence stretching as far as Arizona.

(Source: Technomic)

#5 Hardee's

$35,000,000 increase in U.S. sales (2.1%)

Hardee's is the second-biggest chain on this list but saw the lowest percentage increase in sales, which seems to add credence to the idea that it's the smaller and medium-sized joints that are really growing rapidly.

Recently, Hardee's has pursued a strategy of both trying to make the biggest burgers possible, such as its Steakhouse Thickburgers, and offering healthy options, like turkey burgers.

(Source: Technomic)

#4 Smashburger

$45,703,000 increase in U.S. sales (194.5%)

By an enormous margin, Smashburger was the fastest growing burger chain by percentage last year. Based out of Denver, the company was founded by a former VP at McDonald's, and there are actually plans to expand to the Middle East, AdAge reports.

Aside from the national offerings, Smashburger caters particularly to local markets with burgers tailored for the area. These include the Texas Burger, featuring American cheese, tomato, lettuce, onion, pickles, and mustard, and the Colorado Burger: grilled mild green chilies, melted cheddar cheese, pepper jack cheese, lettuce, tomato and mayo on a spicy chipotle bun.

(Source: Technomic)

#3 Whataburger

$48,657,000 increase in U.S. sales (4.1%)

Originating as a stand in Corpus Christi, Texas, Whataburger now spans 10 states with over 700 restaurants. The chain places a huge emphasis on customisation and is still family-owned.

(Source: Technomic)

#2 Five Guys Burgers and Fries

$171,500,000 increase in U.S. sales (37.8%)

Five Guys keeps it basic, but so far that's been a successful recipe--2010 saw an estimated $625 million total sales. In addition to the burgers--the default is a double sandwich, though you can get a single patty by ordering a 'little' burger--the chain also provides free in-shell peanuts to customers.

(Source: Technomic)

#1 McDonald's

$1,363,000,000 increase in U.S. sales (4.4%)

The biggest purveyor of burgers in the world continues to expand. Though the other chains on this list might be growing quicker, they've still got a long way to go before any one has the name recognition that McDonald's does.

(Source: Technomic)

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