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Fast Food Restaurants

The Biggest Restaurant Chain Winners And Losers Of The Pandemic

Photo: Elliot Cowand Jr // Shutterstock

The COVID-19 pandemic has left much of the restaurant industry devastated. Numerous closures and capacity restrictions left many restaurants struggling, and an alarming amount closed their doors permanently.

Chain restaurants weren’t free from this despite their size, and many took massive hits as well. However, some were able to grow drastically despite the pandemic and are poised to continue to spread and succeed as vaccinations continue.

Nation’s Restaurant News looked at the biggest restaurant chains over the past year and analyzed how much sales each brought in during 2020. Based on the change compared to 2019, they were able to see which chains had the largest percent increases and decreases over the last year.

It should come as no surprise that the leader in the fast food chicken wars, Popeyes, has done really well over the past year. The chain brought in $4.58 billion in sales, netting a whopping 20% increase in money brought in.

The only chain that did better on the list? Wingstop, who posted a 21% increase in sales and netted $1.61 billion. Other spots that did well include the big pizza empires of Domino’s (up 11% to $7.35 billion) and Papa John’s ($3.48 billion, 19% increase).

Photo: Rob Crandall // Shutterstock

As for the chains that got hit hardest, many of them were sit-down restaurants that couldn’t recoup numbers through take out and delivery the ways others could.

These include The Cheesecake Factory, who fell over 28% to $1.53 billion in sales, and IHOP, who lost a quarter of their sales compared to the last year and brought in $2.51 billion.

The biggest loser, however, was Applebee’s, who fell a staggering 31% in sales to $2.78 billion. They definitely still made a lot of money, but losing that much in the long run is going to seriously hurt.

With restaurants starting to reopen, many of the largest losers will likely be trying to recoup lost sales, while the biggest winners could use their revenue to trial new products, go heavy on marketing, or even just grow and expand their empires. They’re coming out of the near end of this pandemic unscathed (or better than before), and will be able to take advantage as a result.

By Constantine Spyrou

Constantine's life revolves around eating, studying, and talking about food. He's obsessed with eggs, gyros, and the future of food.