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Top restaurant groups that dominate the world's dining

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8th.creator // Shutterstock

Top restaurant groups that dominate the world's dining

When thinking of the “largest restaurant groups in the world,” one immediately starts picturing the ubiquitous global brands, the ones with name recognition and venues on every street corner. Everyone has had a Grande Latte or a Big Mac, at least once — they are worldwide cultural cornerstones and true trademarks of the global experience.

This, however, is not the whole picture. The reality is that many of the largest restaurant groups worldwide are in fact diversified holding companies that many have probably never heard of. They own chains most people definitely know, but it’s everything else they own that makes them truly global players. Gone are the days of your local Mom’n’Pop, and similarly gone are the days are when a restaurant is just a restaurant. These days, if they aren’t branching into hospitality, corporate catering — and hey, maybe even a magazine — they’re simply not competing.

Stacker has put together the definitive list of the 73 largest restaurant groups worldwide, based on yearly revenue, market capitalization, and employee count. The data is based on numerous sources and all values were checked manually by researchers at Statista. Fun fact: many of these groups are from the United Kingdom. Who said British food was bland?

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Wikimedia Commons

#73. Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen Inc

Headquarters: Atlanta, Georgia, United States

2016 revenue: $269 million (+3.8% year-over-year)

2016 market capitalization: n/a

2016 employees: n/a

In 1972 Alvin C. Copeland Sr. would open “Chicken on the Run” in the Arabi suburb of New Orleans, serving your typical Southern-style fried chicken. They struggled to attract any customers, and after a few months he rebranded the restaurant “Popeyes” and switched to the spicier style of fried chicken typical to New Orleans. With current locations topping 2,600, they haven’t looked back since. As of 2017, Popeyes is a subsidiary of #11 on our list: Restaurant Brands International.

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cherry-hai // Shutterstock

#72. China Quanjude (Group) Co Ltd

Headquarters: Beijing, China

2016 revenue: $282 million (-5.3% year-over-year)

2016 market capitalization: $1.08 billion (+14.7% year-over-year)

2016 employees: 5,201

Quanjude can rightfully claim that its recipes have been tested for generations: founded in 1864, they’ve been serving their trademark Peking Roast Duck since the Qing Dynasty. Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai explains the meaning behind their name: "Quan (全) means perfection without a flaw, Ju (聚) means gathering without departing, and De (德) means virtues to be supreme."

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Shinya Suzuki // Flickr

#71. Habit Restaurants Inc

Headquarters: Irvine, California, United States

2016 revenue: $284 million (+23.1% year-over-year)

2016 market capitalization: $449 million (-25.2% year-over-year)

2016 employees: 4,707

Habit Burger has been around since 1969, but it wasn’t until its 2007 acquisition by KarpReilly that the chain began to really grow. Specializing in charbroiled burgers, the chain is still mostly centered in the American West, with one long-lost outpost in the United Arab Emirates.

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Tansh Global

#70. Xiao Nan Guo Restaurants Holdings Ltd

Headquarters: Shanghai, China

2016 revenue: $305 million (-6.6% year-over-year)

2016 market capitalization: $104 million (-8.8% year-over-year)

2016 employees: 5,064

Now rebranded as the TANSH Global Food Group, Xiao Nan Guo Restaurants Holdings takes a truly holistic approach to food and beverage. While they do operate a hundreds of restaurants, they also specialize in supply chain management, talent acquisition, hotel services, IT implementation and software sales. Their leading brand is Shanghai Min, founded in 1987 and now with nearly 70 locations.

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Kourakuen

#69. Kourakuen Holdings Corp

Headquarters: Fukushima, Japan

2016 revenue: $316 million (-10.3% year-over-year)

2016 market capitalization: $245 million (+13.7% year-over-year)

2016 employees: 1,190

With nearly 500 ramen shops in Hokkaido alone, Kourakuen has definitely claimed its spot on the ramen scene, but that’s not all: they’ve diversified into advertising, catering, location design — and hamburgers. They were founded in 1954.

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Nandaro // Wikicommons

#68. Monogatari Corp

Headquarters: Toyohashi, Japan

2016 revenue: $325 million (+8.3% year-over-year)

2016 market capitalization: $228 million (-17.3% year-over-year)

2016 employees: 9,989

Operating more than 350 branches and seven different styles of restaurants, the Monogatari Corp is one of Japan’s largest food service conglomerates. Although they’ve been around since 1949, it’s recently that they’ve been really taking off: sales have increased more than 145% since 2012.

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LoneStarMike // Wikicommons

#67. Chuy's Holdings Inc

Headquarters: Austin, Texas, United States

2016 revenue: $331 million (+15.2% year-over-year)

2016 market capitalization: $546 million (+5.6% year-over-year)

2016 employees: 8,200

In 1982, founders Mike Young and John Zapp binge-watched Star Wars and thus arrived at the name of their iconic Mexican-style restaurant. The franchise emphasises an “unchained” feel, with each of their 91 locations having a unique format — giving rise to their motto “If you’ve seen one Chuy’s, you’ve seen one Chuy’s!” They host Elvis’ Birthday Bashes at most locations every year on the 8th of January.

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Sato Restaurant Systems Co Ltd // Facebook

#66. Sato Restaurant Systems Co., Ltd

Headquarters: Osaka, Japan

2016 revenue: $331 million (-6.7% year-over-year)

2016 market capitalization: $246 million (-0.9% year-over-year)

2016 employees: 1,168

Managing subsidiary brands like Katsuya and Miyakobito, Sato Restaurant Systems (SRS) is another Japanese conglomerate originally founded during the “economic miracle” era after World War II. Their high-end restaurants can be found in nearly every Asian country.

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Del Friscos

#65. Del Frisco's Restaurant Group Inc

Headquarters: Southlake, Texas, United States

2016 revenue: $352 million (+6.1% year-over-year)

2016 market capitalization: $396 million (+5.3% year-over-year)

2016 employees: 4,809

Can someone say “mahogany”? Del Frisco’s Restaurant Group manages three complementary styles of steakhouse, pairing award-winning wines with prime cuts and fresh seafood. Their model is certainly efficient: they only operate a few dozen locations across the U.S. but they are extremely high-grossing.

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Wcam // Wikicommons

#64. Ajisen (China) Holdings Ltd.

Headquarters: Hong Kong, Hong Kong

2016 revenue: $363 million (-11.2% year-over-year)

2016 market capitalization: $444 million (-8.2% year-over-year)

2016 employees: 10,339

Originally starting as a noodle and soup factory in 1972, Ajisen is today one of the largest ramen franchises in the world, with more than 600 locations in China alone. The company moved into the United States in 2016.

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Ken Wolter // Shutterstock

#63. El Pollo LoCo Holdings Inc

Headquarters: Costa Mesa, California, United States

2016 revenue: $380 million (+7.1% year-over-year)

2016 market capitalization: $473 million (-2.3% year-over-year)

2016 employees: 5,355

When it was just getting its feet off the ground in the Sinaloa region of Mexico, El Pollo Loco offered a very simple choice: either half a chicken, or a whole chicken, with tortillas and a cup of salsa. Since then they’ve launched a wide variety of supporting dishes, but they’ve managed to stay true to their commitment to fresh ingredients prepared from scratch in sight of diners and guests. El Pollo Loco is currently owned by Trimaran Capital Partners.

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Karl Baron // Flickr

#62. Ruth's Hospitality Group, Inc.

Headquarters: Winter Park, Florida, United States

2016 revenue: $386 million (+3.4% year-over-year)

2016 market capitalization: $559 million (+5.9% year-over-year)

2016 employees: 4,728

Ever wondered why it’s called “Ruth’s Chris Steak House”? What’s up with that possessive 's'? It all began with founder Ruth Fertel mortgaged her home to buy “Chris Steak House,” a New Orlean’s favorite. Ten years later a kitchen fire burned it all down and she had to relocate — but the Chris Steak House name legally wasn’t allowed to. Ruth decided to just put her name in front, and that was that. Today they operate worldwide.

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Thomas Lillis IV // Flickr

#61. Luby's, Inc.

Headquarters: Houston, Texas, United States

2016 revenue: $403 million (+2.2% year-over-year)

2016 market capitalization: $124 million (-3.9% year-over-year)

2016 employees: 7,988

The classic Luby’s experience is their cafeteria — but did you know that they own Fuddrucker’s and Cheeseburger in Paradise, too? The original San Antionio Luby’s Cafeteria was opened in 1947 and focused on feeding servicemen returning from overseas.

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Monika Wahi // Wikicommons

#60. Potbelly Corp

Headquarters: Chicago, Illinois, United States

2016 revenue: $407 million (+9.2% year-over-year)

2016 market capitalization: $324 million (+5.2% year-over-year)

2016 employees: 7,400

This classic Chicago submarine chain was started in 1977 by Peter Hastings, and fostered its unique look simply through the fact that the storefront nextdoor sold antiques. It wasn’t until 20 years later that the second store was opened. It would be another decade after that they sold their first salad!

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WhisperToMe // Wikicommons

#59. Xiabuxiabu Catering Management (China) Hldgs Co Ltd

Headquarters: Beijing, China

2016 revenue: $420 million (+8.1% year-over-year)

2016 market capitalization: $737 million (+75.5% year-over-year)

2016 employees: 15,544

A Chinese hot-pot chain owned by Americans? That’s right! Xiabu Xiabu started in Beijing in 1998, and was acquired by the US-based private equity firm General Atlantic in 2012 from their previous owners, Actis Capital — a London based equity firm. Their story is truly global!

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Ken Wolter // Shutterstock

#58. Del Taco Restaurants Inc

Headquarters: Lake Forest, California, United States

2016 revenue: $452 million (+109.8% year-over-year)

2016 market capitalization: $553 million (+33.9% year-over-year)

2016 employees: 7,368

Serving heavily-Americanised Mexican food since 1964, Del Taco’s “UnFreshing Believable” marketing campaign tells one everything they need to know about their spice content (or lack thereof). Another telling fact is that they were owned for three decades by W.R. Grace & Company — a chemicals-manufacturer.

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Jonathan Weiss // Shutterstock

#57. Noodles & Co

Headquarters: Broomfield, Colorado, United States

2016 revenue: $487 million (+7.0% year-over-year)

2016 market capitalization: $1.11 billion (+314.1% year-over-year)

2016 employees: 10,900

Pepsi marketing executive Aaron Kennedy sincerely felt that there were simply not enough noodles to go around, and raised nearly $300,000 to start his own noodle shop. They lost $42,000 of that in the first three months, which, along with a flash flood, inspired a serious redesign. In the words of their previously critical reviewers: “It worked.” They’re now in more than 410 locations.

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ChameleonsEye // Shutterstock

#56. Domino's Pizza Group PLC.

Headquarters: Milton Keynes, England, Great Britain

2016 revenue: $504 million (+3.4% year-over-year)

2016 market capitalization: $2.49 billion (-7.7% year-over-year)

2016 employees: 999

Domino’s is so big that it’s on this list twice. Domino’s Pizza Group PLC is just the British branch of the iconic pizza chain. They expanded into the U.K. in 1985 when the first store opened in Bedfordshire — and now they’re selling 90 million British pizzas a year.

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Jonathan Weiss // Shutterstock

#55. Denny's Corporation

Headquarters: Spartanburg, South Carolina, United States

2016 revenue: $507 million (+3.2% year-over-year)

2016 market capitalization: $916 million (+21.2% year-over-year)

2016 employees: 8,700

Did you know that the original Denny’s was called Danny’s, and that it was a donut stand? Within a few years they would become a coffee shop — it wasn’t until 8 years after its original founding that they became a diner.

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Michael Rivera // Wikicommons

#54. Bojangles Inc

Headquarters: Charlotte, North Carolina, United States

2016 revenue: $532 million (+8.9% year-over-year)

2016 market capitalization: $682 million

2016 employees: 9,850

Bojangles serves its classic cajun food in more than 600 locations across the United States, mostly in the south. They put on the Bojangles’ Southern 500, a premier NASCAR race held in Darlington, South Carolina.

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walterericsy // Shutterstock

#53. Saint Marc Holdings Co., Ltd.

Headquarters: Okayama, Japan

2016 revenue: $546 million (-4.0% year-over-year)

2016 market capitalization: $716 million (+13.8% year-over-year)

2016 employees: 721

Saint Marc Holdings operates eight different chains in Japan, including everything from sushi to pasta. It is chiefly known for its cafe brand, St. Marc Cafe, which ties inventive gastropub fare with industrial-chic locations.

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Exploringlife // Wikicommons

#52. Tao Heung Holdings Ltd

Headquarters: Hong Kong, Hong Kong

2016 revenue: $552 million (-5.8% year-over-year)

2016 market capitalization: $255 million (-9.4% year-over-year)

2016 employees: 8,521

Tao Heung specializes in mass-market Chinese food — without MSG or artificial colorings. They manage 18 separate brands and more than 112 restaurants, going public in 2007.

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Craigeditswiki // Wikicommons

#51. Daisyo Corporation

Headquarters: Tokyo, Japan

2016 revenue: $588 million (-4.7% year-over-year)

2016 market capitalization: $298 million (+14.3% year-over-year)

2016 employees: 3,231

How should people feel about the Daisyo Corporation? Well, their company philosophy is to “serve the richness of heart and health of mankind.” They also claim to “pursue happiness relentlessly.” Anyone who doesn’t already think that way about food should go ahead and try their sushi. Fun Fact: One of their leading brands is the meat-specialty chain, “Rump Cap.”

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Tony Hisgett // Flickr

#50. Punch Taverns plc

Headquarters: Burton upon Trent, England, Great Britain

2016 revenue: $605 million (-8.8% year-over-year)

2016 market capitalization: n/a

2016 employees: 441

One would think that Punch Taverns (owned by Patron Capital) might be the leading cause of drunkenness in the United Kingdom, as they operate 1,300 pubs across the Isles. However, they’re only #52 — and we have a few more British pub conglomerates to cover before we’re done. Punch Taverns operates on a “build your own pub” model, helping make dreams come true since 1997.  

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Lars Plougmann // Flickr

#49. Sonic Drive-In

Headquarters: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, United States

2016 revenue: $606 million (+0.0% year-over-year)

2016 market capitalization: $1.19 billion (-25.6% year-over-year)

2016 employees: 9,620

Is there anything more iconic than Sonic carhops on rollerskates? The classic hamburger chain started in 1953 as a rootbeer stand under the name “Top Hat” in Seminole, Oklahoma. They hold an annual competition to determine the top skater employee, “So You Think You Can Skate?

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Anthony92931 // Wikicommons

#48. DineEquity Inc

Headquarters: Glendale, California, United States

2016 revenue: $634 million (-6.9% year-over-year)

2016 market capitalization: $1.39 billion (-11.2% year-over-year)

2016 employees: 960

DineEquity Inc might not be a household name but the brands it manages certainly are: IHOP and Applebee’s. Their former CEO, Julia Stewart, has one of the most inspiring stories out there: she started as a waitress, working her way up to CEO, where she led the company to 18 consecutive quarters of growth (among many other accomplishments on the way).

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Andreas Praefcke // Wikicommons

#47. Fiesta Restaurant Group Inc

Headquarters: Dallas, Texas, United States

2016 revenue: $712 million (+3.5% year-over-year)

2016 market capitalization: $803 million (-10.9% year-over-year)

2016 employees: 12,080

Fiesta Restaurant Group manages Pollo Tropical and Taco Cabana, the “patio cafe” concept Mexican-food joints popular throughout the southern United States and Central America. For a decade they were owned by Carrols Restaurant Group — a Burger King franchiser — before spinning off and going public in 2012.

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Wikicommons

#46. Dunkin Brands Group Inc

Headquarters: Canton, Massachusetts, United States

2016 revenue: $829 million (+2.2% year-over-year)

2016 market capitalization: $4.81 billion (+21.9% year-over-year)

2016 employees: 1,163

If you’re not from New England, you don’t understand Dunkin’ Donuts. You might’ve tried it, but you can't truly understand why America runs on them. They operate more than 19,000 locations in 60 countries — including 7,600 Baskin-Robbins restaurants.

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Ildar Sagdejev (Specious) // Wikicommons

#45. Biglari Holdings Inc

Headquarters: San Antonio, Texas, United States

2016 revenue: $850 million (-1.3% year-over-year)

2016 market capitalization: $978 million (+45.3% year-over-year)

2016 employees: 21,519

One of the more truly diversified holdings companies on this list, Biglari Holdings operates Steak n Shake, Maxim magazine, First Guard Insurance and Western Sizzlin’. Burgers, buffet, men’s magazines and insurance — you could say that Sardar Biglari is hedging his bets, or you could say he’s a man with a voracious appetite: he started his own ISP at the age of 18 by raising $15,000.

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Michael Gray //Flickr

#44. Create Restaurants Holdings Inc

Headquarters: Tokyo, Japan

2016 revenue: $853 million (+30.8% year-over-year)

2016 market capitalization: $873 million (-0.7% year-over-year)

2016 employees: 3,171

Operating a diverse variety of food services, including everything from fine-dining italian to outlet mall food courts, Create Restaurant Holdings is one of the younger major contenders in the Japanese restaurant-conglomerate scene: they were only founded in 1999, and already manage more than 700 locations.

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Eteixido // Wikicommons

#43. CEC Entertainment Inc

Headquarters: Irving, Texas, United States

2016 revenue: $924 million (+0.1% year-over-year)

2016 market capitalization: n/a

2016 employees: 18,000

Did you know that the founder of Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza Time Theatre is also the founder of Atari? Nolan Bushnell brought Pong to the world, and the perfect place to play it. Not only did he create Atari, Pong, and Chuck E. Cheese’s, he was also Steve Jobs’ mentor.

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Sorbis // Shutterstock

#42. Carrols Restaurant Group, Inc.

Headquarters: Syracuse, New York, United States

2016 revenue: $944 million (+9.8% year-over-year)

2016 market capitalization: $546 million (+30.9% year-over-year)

2016 employees: 21,500

Carrols Restaurant Group is a franchise company best known for operating more than 750 different Burger King locations. They were originally an offshoot of Tastee-Freez, but ran their own brand of restaurant (Carrols). Unfortunately, public interest in Carrols diminished, and the last existing branch of the original brand closed in 2012. Now they are almost exclusively focused on their Burger King franchises.

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Taisunmples // Wikicommons

#41. Cafe de Coral Holdings Limited

Headquarters: Hong Kong, Hong Kong

2016 revenue: $976 million (+2.9% year-over-year)

2016 market capitalization: n/a

2016 employees: 17,575

Cafe De Coral claims to be the “undisputed market leader” in Hong Kong fast food, serving 300,000 customers a day in that city alone. They operate a number of different brands, including Super Super Congee & Noodles, Mixian Sense, and Oliver’s Super Sandwiches.

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Ewan Munro // Flickr

#40. Restaurant Group PLC

Headquarters: London, England, Great Britain

2016 revenue: $989 million (-6.2% year-over-year)

2016 market capitalization: $908 million (-57.2% year-over-year)

2016 employees: 15,570

Another British pub conglomerate, Restaurant Group PLC manages several brands, including Garfunkel’s, Frankie & Benny’s, Coast to Coast, Joe’s Kitchen, Brunning & Price, and Chiquito. They were founded in 1987.

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M.O. Stevens // Wikicommons

#39. BJ's Restaurants, Inc.

Headquarters: Huntington Beach, California, United States

2016 revenue: $993 million (+8.0% year-over-year)

2016 market capitalization: $914 million (-14.7% year-over-year)

2016 employees: 22,000

BJ’s Brewhouses puts a Southern California twist on Chicago-style pizza, coupling them with beers they brew themselves. They claim to brew 60,000 barrels a year, and have existed since 1978.

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Ildar Sagdejev (Specious) // Wikicommons

#38. Ruby Tuesday, Inc.

Headquarters: Maryville, Tennessee, United States

2016 revenue: $1.09 billion (-3.1% year-over-year)

2016 market capitalization: $196 million (-42.7% year-over-year)

2016 employees: 28,900

Bob Hope told founder Sandy Beall to name his restaurant after a Rolling Stone’s song, and, well, he did. With $10,000 from a manager of several Pizza Huts, and another $10,000 from his fraternity brothers, Beall put together the first location in 1972 in Knoxville, Tennessee.

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Corpse Reviver // Wikicommons

#37. Plenus Co Ltd

Headquarters: Fukuoka, Japan

2016 revenue: $1.20 billion (-16.4% year-over-year)

2016 market capitalization: $791 million (+23.2% year-over-year)

2016 employees: 1,429

Plenus Co’s leading brand is Hotto Motto, which sells balanced food in small containers as an attempt to promote healthy eating. They also operate Yayoi-ken and Shabushabu Dining MK.

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Luis // Wikicommons

#36. Nando's Group Holdings Ltd

Headquarters: Johannesburg, South Africa

2016 revenue: $1.24 billion (+27.7% year-over-year)

2016 market capitalization: n/a

2016 employees: 16,101

You might know them as a meme for being cheeky, but Nando’s is actually a South African Portuguese-style chicken chain chiefly operating in the U.K. Hows that for international?

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Wikicommons

#35. Saizeriya Co., Ltd.

Headquarters: Yoshikawa City, Japan

2016 revenue: $1.24 billion (+2.4% year-over-year)

2016 market capitalization: $1.20 billion (-6.7% year-over-year)

2016 employees: 4,920

Yasuhiko Shōgaki was an employee working at the Italian-style Saizeriya when he was a student at the Tokyo University of Science. He must’ve had that special something, because the manager believed in him enough to gift him the restaurant upon graduation. He adjusted the pricing and the brand, and the company took off — they now operate more than 1,000 locations.

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Paul Robertson // Flickr

#34. Greggs plc

Headquarters: Newcastle Upon Tyne, Great Britain

2016 revenue: $1.25 billion (-3.1% year-over-year)

2016 market capitalization: $1.37 billion (-33.2% year-over-year)

2016 employees: 20,908

The first Greggs opened in 1951 as a bakery in Newcastle upon Tyne, after founder John Gregg permanently chained up the delivery bike he’d been using for a decade to sell flour and eggs. Their 1,800 outlets are famous for their meat pies and sausage rolls.

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Robert Young // Wikicommons

#33. Costa Limited

Headquarters: Dunstable, Great Britain

2016 revenue: $1.27 billion (+4.8% year-over-year)

2016 market capitalization: n/a

2016 employees: 11,052

The second largest coffee company in the world (now owned by #8 Whitbread PLC), Costa Coffee is notorious for delivering coffee by drones to sunbathers in Dubai. They operate more than 3,400 locations, but have none in the U.S.!

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Cbraccialini // Wikicommons

#32. Red Robin Gourmet Burgers, Inc.

Headquarters: Greenwood Village, Colorado, United States

2016 revenue: $1.30 billion (+3.1% year-over-year)

2016 market capitalization: $723 million (-14.0% year-over-year)

2016 employees: 29,293

Red Robin is named after a barbershop quartet’s favorite song, “When the Red, Red Robin (Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin’ Along)”. It was originally a college pub near the University of Washington, and now their burgers and beer can be found in more than 500 locations.

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Elliott Brown // Flickr

#31. Marston's PLC

Headquarters: Wolverhampton, England, Great Britain

2016 revenue: $1.32 billion (+0.2% year-over-year)

2016 market capitalization: $1.09 billion (-26.0% year-over-year)

2016 employees: n/a

Marston’s is one of the oldest companies on our list, having starting brewing back in 1834. Today they manage 1,700 pubs in the U.K., serving as one of the most popular places to relax with a pint and commiserate.

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Billy Hathorn // Wikicommons

#30. Bob Evans Farms Inc

Headquarters: New Albany, Ohio, United States

2016 revenue: $1.34 billion (-0.8% year-over-year)

2016 market capitalization: $1.05 billion (+29.7% year-over-year)

2016 employees: 6,400

Bob Evans is one of the few restaurant groups on this list in the United States that doesn’t operate on a franchise model — all of their locations are corporately owned. They focus on a connection to country living and try and emulate the “farm feel.” They started as a truck stop diner in Rio Grande, Ohio.

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Nheyob // Wikicommons

#29. Wendy's Co

Headquarters: Dublin, Ohio, United States

2016 revenue: $1.44 billion (-23.3% year-over-year)

2016 market capitalization: $3.32 billion (+12.8% year-over-year)

2016 employees: 12,100

Wendy’s social media team is probably the greatest corporate twitter presence of all time, but they’re only a continuation of a long-standing tradition of non-traditional slogans. Special consideration must be given to the 1983 classic: “Parts is parts.”

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Billy Hathorn // Wikicommons

#28. Jack in the Box Inc.

Headquarters: San Diego, California, United States

2016 revenue: $1.60 billion (+3.8% year-over-year)

2016 market capitalization: $3.53 billion (+32.7% year-over-year)

2016 employees: 22,200

How Jack in the Box became this successful despite having a very creepy clown mascot is a mystery. Well, maybe it’s not: they’re responsible for introducing the drive-through to mass-market America. They now have 2,200 locations, including Qdoba Mexican Grill.

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Michael Rivera // Wikicommons

#27. Papa John's Int'l, Inc.

Headquarters: Louisville, Kentucky, United States

2016 revenue: $1.71 billion (+4.7% year-over-year)

2016 market capitalization: $3.14 billion (+46.2% year-over-year)

2016 employees: 23,100

Papa John’s was started in the backroom broom closet of Papa John’s papa’s bar. Papa John sold his Camaro to finance the operation, and 26 years later he bought it back. Among a litany of other successes, they convinced Peyton Manning to franchise 21 locations in Denver.

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Mike Mozart // Flickr

#26. Buffalo Wild Wings, Inc.

Headquarters: Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States

2016 revenue: $1.99 billion (+9.6% year-over-year)

2016 market capitalization: $2.70 billion (-10.7% year-over-year)

2016 employees: 3,400

Buffalo Wild Wings may be named after the city of Buffalo, but it was started in Columbus, Ohio. Two Buffalo ex-pats, Jim Disbrow and Scott Lowery, pined for their hometown’s signature wings and couldn’t find them anywhere. Clearly, the only solution was to make the wings themselves.

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Dwight Burdette // Wikicommons

#25. Texas Roadhouse Inc

Headquarters: Louisville, Kentucky, United States

2016 revenue: $1.99 billion (+10.1% year-over-year)

2016 market capitalization: $3.41 billion (+35.9% year-over-year)

2016 employees: 52,500

In another case of misleading names, Texas Roadhouse wasn’t actually started in Texas — the first location was in Indiana, and there might be a trend here. Every Texas Roadhouse has a unique mural on its walls, and each mural is approved by founder Kent Taylor before it’s painted. They run 430 locations in nearly every state.

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Miosotis jade // Wikicommons

#24. Groupe le Duff

Headquarters: Rennes, France

2016 revenue: $2.23 billion (+17.0% year-over-year)

2016 market capitalization: n/a

2016 employees: 35,420

Groupe le Duff is a French restaurant conglomerate, best known in the United States for its chain La Madeleine. They serve a million customers every single day, have more than 1,900 locations in 90 different countries, and are also diversified into agribusiness, but what’s really impressive is that — despite French cuisine being deservedly famous world-wide — they are the only French company to make this list.

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Anthony92931 // Wikicommons

#23. Cheesecake Factory Inc

Headquarters: Calabasas Hills, California, United States

2016 revenue: $2.28 billion (+8.3% year-over-year)

2016 market capitalization: $2.84 billion (+6.7% year-over-year)

2016 employees: 38,800

The first official Cheesecake Factory opened in Beverly Hills in 1978, but before that founder Evelyn Overton sold cheesecakes out of her basement for three decades. What’s notable about them (besides their fantastic cheesecakes) is the care they put into treating their employees right: they’re the only restaurant on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For.

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Rept0n1x // Wikicommons

#22. J D Wetherspoon plc

Headquarters: Watford, Great Britain

2016 revenue: $2.38 billion (-0.6% year-over-year)

2016 market capitalization: $1.37 billion (0.0% year-over-year)

2016 employees: 36,678

The J.D. part of this pub-chain’s name comes from the sheriff in The Dukes of Hazard, J.D. “Boss” Hogg. The Wetherspoon part of the name comes from company founder Tim Martin’s teetotalling geography teacher, who told Martin that he would never amount to anything. How’s that for conscious branding?

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Judgefloro // Wikicommons

#21. Jollibee Foods Corp

Headquarters: Pasig, Philippines

2016 revenue: $2.42 billion (+8.1% year-over-year)

2016 market capitalization: $4.37 billion (-14.7% year-over-year)

2016 employees: 5,019

Today Jollibee’s is best known for their “Chickenjoy” fried chicken, but they actually started as an ice cream parlor called Magnolia in Quezon City. They transitioned to hot foods later in the 70’s, and managed to outcompete McDonald’s (to this day!) by staying true to local taste buds.

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The Pizza Review // Flickr

#20. Domino's Pizza, Inc.

Headquarters: Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States

2016 revenue: $2.47 billion (+11.6% year-over-year)

2016 market capitalization: $7.67 billion (+26.2% year-over-year)

2016 employees: 14,100

This is the second time Domino’s appears on this list, due to the splitting up of international brands. One has to wonder how co-founder James Monaghan feels about trading in his half of the business for an old Volkswagen Beetle, so he could focus on being a mailman. Where would he be now?

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Miosotis jade // Wikicommons

#19. Panera Bread Co

Headquarters: St. Louis, Missouri, United States

2016 revenue: $2.80 billion (+4.2% year-over-year)

2016 market capitalization: $4.71 billion (-2.2% year-over-year)

2016 employees: 21,000

Panera Bread was originally known as St. Louis Bread Co., until Au Bon Pain bought them up in 1981 and orchestrated a rebrand. They are now in nearly every state, with more than 2,000 locations, including some that are “pay what you can,” where the menu prices are suggested donations instead of set amounts.  

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KF// Wikicommons

#18. SSP Group PLC

Headquarters: London, England, Great Britain

2016 revenue: $2.90 billion (+1.5% year-over-year)

2016 market capitalization: $2.56 billion (+7.9% year-over-year)

2016 employees: 29,942

SSP Group manages franchises of 450 different brands, including notable ones like Starbuck’s and Upper Crust. They’re also heavily involved in transportation catering, providing passengers on trains and airplanes with gourmet food options.

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Billy Hathorn // Wikicommons

#17. Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc.

Headquarters: Lebanon, Tennessee, United States

2016 revenue: $2.91 billion (+2.5% year-over-year)

2016 market capitalization: $4.01 billion (+32.2% year-over-year)

2016 employees: 73,000

Cracker Barrel sold gas when it first opened in the 60’s, marketing itself as a better alternative to truck-stop fast food options. This practice ended when the OPEC oil embargo upset the market, but it might be making a greener comeback: 32 current stores have electric vehicle charging stations.

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David Schott // Flickr

#16. Arcos Dorados Holding Inc

Headquarters: Montevideo, Uruguay

2016 revenue: $2.93 billion (-4.1% year-over-year)

2016 market capitalization: $1.14 billion (+73.7% year-over-year)

2016 employees: 83,348

Arcos Dorados (Spanish for “golden arches”) is the largest McDonald’s franchisee in the world, operating the chain’s Latin American and Caribbean locations. They have classic McDonald’s options on the menu, like the Big Mac, but they also include location-specific foods like dulce de leche sundaes and flan.

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Tagishsimon // Wikicommons

#15. Mitchells & Butlers plc

Headquarters: Birmingham, England, Great Britain

2016 revenue: $3.05 billion (-7.0% year-over-year)

2016 market capitalization: $1.45 billion (-34.1% year-over-year)

2016 employees: 43,495

Another classic British pub chain management company, Mitchells & Butlers opened in 1898, and now annually sell roughly 435 million drinks. Their brightest days might be behind them, however — in the 1980’s they operated more than 7,000 pubs, a number that’s roughly 1,700 today.

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Elliott Brown // Flickr

#14. Greene King plc

Headquarters: Bury St Edmunds, England, Great Britain

2016 revenue: $3.14 billion (+46.8% year-over-year)

2016 market capitalization: $3.01 billion (-31.8% year-over-year)

2016 employees: 41,486

If #15’s 1898 founding date impressed you, Green King has another century on them: founded in 1799, Green King is one of the oldest still-existing restaurant groups in the world, and is now the U.K.’s largest pub retailer and brewer with roughly 3,000 pubs. Their growth is largely fueled by mergers and acquisitions, and the dozens of other pub brands they’ve ingested have earned them the nickname “Greedy King.”

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Michael Rivera // Wikicommons

#13. Brinker International, Inc.

Headquarters: Dallas, Texas, United States

2016 revenue: $3.26 billion (+8.5% year-over-year)

2016 market capitalization: $2.46 billion (-11.9% year-over-year)

2016 employees: 58,335

Brinker International is the management company for Chili’s and Maggiano’s, operating 1,600 of the brands worldwide. The name “Brinker” comes from CEO Norman Brinker, who took over Chili’s from founder Larry Lavine in 1983, taking the company public and guiding it over the next two decades to phenomenal success.

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Aranami // Flickr

#12. Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc.

Headquarters: Denver, Colorado, United States

2016 revenue: $3.90 billion (-13.3% year-over-year)

2016 market capitalization: $10.92 billion (-25.6% year-over-year)

2016 employees: 64,570

The most important thing to know about Chipotle is that one gets about 70% more food if they order the burrito bowl with a tortilla on the side. The second most important thing to know is that they have a secret menu that includes nachos and quesadillas. The third most important thing to know is that particularly persuasive diners can order a quesarito, which is a burrito wrapped in a quesadilla.

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Luis // Wikicommons

#11. Restaurant Brands International Inc.

Headquarters: Oakville, Canada

2016 revenue: $4.15 billion (+2.3% year-over-year)

2016 market capitalization: $11.10 billion (+31.7% year-over-year)

2016 employees: 4,300

Restaurant Brands International was formed in 2014 when Burger King and Tim Hortons decided to join forces to become the third-largest fast food operators on the planet. “On the planet” is especially relevant: they’re based in Canada, owned by Brazillians (3G Capital), and operate more than 23,000 restaurants in over 100 countries. Since the merger, they’ve focused on expanding Tim Hortons’ market penetration, and also acquired Popeyes.

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Bonefish Grill // Wikicommons

#10. Bloomin' Brands Inc

Headquarters: Tampa, Florida, United States

2016 revenue: $4.25 billion (-2.9% year-over-year)

2016 market capitalization: $1.87 billion (-7.0% year-over-year)

2016 employees: 97,000

Bloomin’ Brands owns and operates Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba’s Italian Grill, Bonefish Grill and Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse. They’re also heavily involved as a political super-PAC, donating to both Republicans and Democrats in the 2016 election.

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Kuha455405 // Wikicommons

#9. Zensho Holdings Co Ltd

Headquarters: Tokyo, Japan

2016 revenue: $4.34 billion (-9.1% year-over-year)

2016 market capitalization: $2.61 billion (+39.0% year-over-year)

2016 employees: 7,563

Zensho Holdings is Japan’s largest restaurant group, operating dozens of different brands and more than 4,800 restaurants. 35.5% of their sales comes from beef bowls — that’s a lot of beef! Their stated mission is to eradicate hunger and famine world-wide.

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Pixabay

#8. Whitbread PLC

Headquarters: Dunstable, Great Britain

2016 revenue: $4.45 billion (+3.5% year-over-year)

2016 market capitalization: $9.64 billion (-22.0% year-over-year)

2016 employees: 41,175

Whitbread PLC started as a brewery in 1742, then transitioned into hospitality and hotel management, and now operates the second largest coffee chain in the world, Costa Coffee. Their history is chock-full of interesting anecdotes — for example, they were the first brewers on the planet to involve an engine in their process, when they installed James Watt’s famous steam engine on the factory floor in 1784. They were also the company to introduce mass-market bottled beer, which was previously a luxury item.

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Mike Baird // Wikicommons

#7. YUM! Brands, Inc.

Headquarters: Louisville, Kentucky, United States

2016 revenue: $6.37 billion (-1.1% year-over-year)

2016 market capitalization: $23.24 billion (-24.2% year-over-year)

2016 employees: 90,000

Yum! Brands operates Taco Bell, KFC, Pizza Hut and WingStreet worldwide, except for China. It started as a subsidiary of Pepsi, before spinning off in 1997 as Tricon Global Restaurants. After a series of acquisitions (including Long John Silver’s and A&W Restaurants), they became Yum! In 2002. They operate more than 43,000 locations.

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Maksym Kozlenko // Wikicommons

#6. Yum China Holdings Inc

Headquarters: Plano, Texas, United States

2016 revenue: $6.75 billion (-2.3% year-over-year)

2016 market capitalization: n/a

2016 employees: 420,000

The Yum China holdings spun off from the main Yum! Brand in 2016, and now operate more than 7,600 locations across mainland China.

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Michael Rivera // Wikicommons

#5. Darden Restaurants, Inc.

Headquarters: Orlando, Florida, United States

2016 revenue: $6.93 billion (+2.5% year-over-year)

2016 market capitalization: $9.03 billion (+10.6% year-over-year)

2016 employees: 150,000

Darden Restaurants specializes in full-service dining, managing entry level eats like Olive Garden up to fine dining brands like The Capital Grille. They were started by Red Lobster founder William Darden, with the seafood house being its primary brand until it was sold in 2012. They now manage 1,168 locations throughout the U.S. and Canada.

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Bmarks13 // Wikicommons

#4. Aramark

Headquarters: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States

2016 revenue: $14.42 billion (+0.6% year-over-year)

2016 market capitalization: $8.79 billion (+12.9% year-over-year)

2016 employees: 266,500

Aramark might’ve started in 1936 as only a vending machine company servicing aviation factory workers, but now they do a little bit of everything. They’re chiefly involved in food service, facilities, and uniform services on behalf of places like schools, hospitals, offices, hotels and prisons.

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4028mdk09 // Wikicommons

#3. Starbucks Corporation

Headquarters: Seattle, Washington, United States

2016 revenue: $21.32 billion (+11.2% year-over-year)

2016 market capitalization: $80.90 billion (-9.3% year-over-year)

2016 employees: 254,000

Starbucks was started by two teachers and a writer in 1971, selling only coffee beans, teas, and spices. It wouldn’t be until Howard Schultz joined the company in the 80’s that they began selling drinks. A believer in rapid growth, Schultz propelled the company into being by far the most ubiquitous coffee chain in human history, operating more than 27,000 locations. They are notorious for averaging two new stores every day from 1987 to 2007 — twenty straight years.

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NNECAPA Photo Library // Flickr

#2. McDonald's Corporation

Headquarters: Oak Brook, Illinois, United States

2016 revenue: $24.62 billion (-3.1% year-over-year)

2016 market capitalization: $101.08 billion (-5.6% year-over-year)

2016 employees: 375,000

There’s an endless amount of fun facts one could list about McDonald’s. They service more people daily than the population of Great Britain (65 million), 1 in 8 workers in the U.S. has been hired by McDonald’s at some point, they sell 75 burgers a second, and so on — but perhaps the most telling is that their golden arches symbol is more widely recognized than the Christian cross.

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Howellboy//Wikimedia Commons

#1. Compass Group plc

Headquarters: Chertsey, Great Britain

2016 revenue: $28.61 billion (+4.2% year-over-year)

2016 market capitalization: $34.33 billion (+15.4% year-over-year)

2016 employees: 527,180

The largest restaurant group in the world is the Compass Group, serving over 4 billion meals a year in locations like offices, factories, schools, hospitals, stadiums, mines, prisons, and oil rigs — if it exists, Compass probably serves food there. They were originally founded as a canteen manufacturer during World War Two by Jack Bateman. The number of mergers and acquisitions since then is truly astronomical. They own Bon Appetit. They own Chick-fil-A, Quizno’s and Einstein Bro’s. They own Canteen, Culinart, Morrison and a sizable number of Wolfgang Puck’s. The list goes on and on, and they serve as the most telling model of what it takes to be a successful restaurant group today.

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