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Chain Restaurants That Are Going To Be Everywhere In 2024

Chicken waffles
Chicken waffles - Facebook / Maple Street Biscuit Company

Chain restaurants have changed over the years, and we are here for it. Classic fast food joints like Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, and McDonald's have offered quickness and convenience for decades. Today, the fast-casual restaurant concept has modern society in its grip — but that isn't a bad thing, because now there are more chains than ever to try out. Many of these places offer diverse cuisine options and tasty, quality food that falls outside the typical confines of greasy drive-thru eats or the expected fare of family restaurant chains. Best of all, several eclectic chains are poised for expansion in 2024.

All chain restaurants have to start somewhere, and expanding takes time, yet a crop of eateries have recently been popping up all over the U.S. — and are even opening abroad. Some are fairly new, and others have been around for decades. What they have in common is current growth, made possible through innovation, mass appeal, and a loyal customer following. We looked at current dining trends, sales growth percentages, expansion plans, and annual revenue data to determine what some of the biggest restaurant chains will be in the coming year. Keep an eye out for these places, they just might be headed to a street near you.

Read more: The Healthiest Fast Food Chains In The U.S.

Tatte Bakery & Cafe

Tatte Bakery interior
Tatte Bakery interior - Instagram / Tatte Bakery

If you stepped into Tatte Bakery & Cafe and got a "Panera 2.0" vibe, you were right on the money. Tatte Bakery & Cafe offers everything you love about a trusty cafe chain like Panera Bread (Panera's CEO is a major stakeholder in Tatte) with a chic yet cozy ambiance resembling the charming coffee shops of Europe. Tatte's tiny-tiled floor, lofty ceilings, and effortlessly posed pastries illuminated by the glow of overhead pendant lights make it the kind of place you want to enter with a novel under your arm. We love the idea of grabbing a table by the window and sipping from a ceramic mug while we brush up on Proust, but there's more to Tatte Bakery and Cafe than style points. The food is good too.

Tatte Bakery & Cafe's intellectual aesthetics are right at home in the Boston and D.C. metro areas, where it has been rapidly expanding. More than a few chains have built their brand on espresso drinks and pastries, but Tatte ups the ante by serving full meals at reasonable prices, like roasted salmon with winter vegetables, braised short rib, and three kinds of shakshuka, a delicious North African dish of eggs atop a thick, flavorful sauce and served with bread. Tatte started in 2007 when owner Tzurit Or started the business out of her home kitchen. Now it's a familiar and much-appreciated fixture throughout Greater Boston and Washington D.C. with 35 locations between the two regions so far.

Freddy's Frozen Custard And Steakburgers

Burger with pickles and onion
Burger with pickles and onion - Instagram / freddysusa

Frozen custard, steakburgers, and shoestring french fries with a secret dipping sauce are the kinds of foods high school kids in the 1950s craved, but you don't need a time machine to enjoy these fast food classics when there's a Freddy's nearby. Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers pays homage to the food and feel of mid-century America, but it's only been around since 2002. Freddy's began in Wichita, Kansas, founded by brothers Bill and Randy Simon and Scott Redler. The eatery is named for the Simons' father, a decorated World War II hero and 56-year veteran of the hospitality industry. Freddy Simon passed away in 2020 at the age of 95.

Freddy's built its brand on customer care, ensuring that every steakburger is cooked to order and seasoned to perfection. All-beef hot dogs, crispy chicken sandwiches, chicken tenders, plus a collection of signature shakes, custards, and malts speak to the restaurant's retro inspiration, yet Freddy's recent spike in expansion shows that the company's eyes are on the future. Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers has exploded throughout the Midwest and South and is making its way up to the northern regions of both U.S. coasts and into Canada. In late 2020, the chain celebrated the opening of its 400th restaurant. By the summer of 2023, Freddy's announced it would be creating a National Training and Innovation Center in Wichita to allow for company-wide training seminars and the implementation of cutting-edge technology throughout its many locations.

Lazy Dog

Beet veggie burger on brioche
Beet veggie burger on brioche - Instagram / lazydogrestaurants

Lazy Dog's founder and CEO Chris Simms was well-versed in the business side of restaurants when he opened the flagship location in Huntington Beach, California in 2003. Scratch-made meals and locally sourced, seasonal ingredients served in a stylishly rustic environment were always the culture at Lazy Dog, and although Simms isn't the originator of the farm-to-table concept, he was certainly one of the few turning it into a multi-chain operation in the early 2000s.

Don't let the name get you thinking Lazy Dog is a hot dog-focused affair. Lazy Dog partly refers to the dog-friendly policy that's been a custom of the eatery since the beginning, whereas the food is a vast selection of homespun American eats with a contemporary twist — think St. Louis-style ribs beside peanut sesame slaw and umami fries, or Lumberjack Pancake Tacos filled with bacon candy, eggs, cheese, and hash browns. Lazy Dog's creativity ventures beyond its in-house menu. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it promoted a line of neo-retro TV dinners and a beer subscription program that are still a big part of its business today. Innovation and culinary risk-taking are core principles behind Lazy Dog's business identity, and Simms credits the chain's success to a longtime commitment to both. Lazy Dog has consistently grown throughout California and expanded throughout several other states to amass around 50 locations nationwide. Come 2024, Lazy Dog plans to open its first Pennsylvania restaurant in King of Prussia and to increase its presence in Texas, Illinois, and California.

Tropical Smoothie Cafe

Wrap on floral plate
Wrap on floral plate - Facebook / Tropical Smoothie Cafe

If you have never visited a Tropical Smoothie Cafe, chances are you will come across one in 2024. Tropical Smoothie Cafe began as a single location on the beach in Destin, Florida in 1997 and expanded to Tallahassee the following year. Now, the franchise has hit the big time, opening 141 new storefronts by the third quarter of 2023, bringing its total chain restaurant number to 1,335 locations. This kind of success doesn't come from resting on your laurels. CEO Charles Watson has set his sights on upping the number of locations to a staggering 1,500 by the end of 2024.

Tropical Smoothie Cafe is currently one of the fastest-growing chains in America, bolstered by a menu full of unique, fresh-fruit smoothies (vitamin and mineral supplements are available as add-ons) and a line of somewhat health-conscious flatbreads, wraps, salads, and more. The power of franchising is a driving force behind Tropical Smoothie Cafe's admirable expansion — 70% of the new locations are being opened by franchisees who already own at least one of the chain's existing locations. Another is a knack for marketing, paired with a heart for the community. The café is behind some ongoing customer loyalty via holidays, like National Flip Flop Day, when every customer who enters the store wearing flip flops gets a free smoothie (psst, it's May 31st), and implementing a donation program to benefit No Kid Hungry, a nonprofit organization that helps fight child hunger in the U.S.

The Habit Burger Grill

Fried chicken sandwich
Fried chicken sandwich - Facebook / The Habit Burger Grill

It's been "stoking the flame" since 1969, but the Habit Burger Grill is on the hot track to being everywhere in 2024. What started as a walk-up burger window in beachy Goleta, California has become a multi-national chain with over 330 posts between the U.S. and international locations in China and Cambodia. Many casual burger spots default to impersonal counter service and drive-thru windows to keep business moving — the Habit Burger Grill is not one of those places. It encourages customers to dine in, although it does offer a drive-thru, self-ordering kiosks, and delivery for customers on the go.

After all, it's a family-owned restaurant at heart. The Habit Burger Grill's single location in Goleta expanding throughout Santa Barbara County and eventually other regions of California as well. It wasn't until 2007 when The Habit Burger Grill decided to franchise, in hopes of spreading its popular char-grilled burgers beyond The Golden State. It was purchased by Yum! Brands -- the juggernaut operation behind chains like KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell -- in 2020. The Habit Burger Grill remains a cut above its fast food company by offering cooked-to-order burgers, chicken or steak sandwiches, and even ahi tuna, courtesy of its signature open-flame grill. Newsweek named the Habit Burger Grill one of America's Favorite Restaurant Chains in 2022 and 2023. Meanwhile, expansion is steady, with locations regularly opening on the East Coast, and plans to continue breaking ground in new territory.

True Food Kitchen

True Food Kitchen dining area
True Food Kitchen dining area - Instagram / livetruefood

History has shown us that when Oprah thinks something is cool, everyone else gets into it too. So when the Mother of all Influencers became an investor, board member, and consultant for health-minded restaurant chain True Food Kitchen in 2018, the buzz was immediate. Fast forward a few years and the stylish eatery received another investment — this time $100 million — which would be used to expand True Food Kitchen's reach on a larger scale. True Food Kitchen is based in Phoenix, Arizona, and has amassed 45 locations since its founding in 2008 by holistic guru Dr. Andrew Weil. Organic foods that are ethically sourced and in-season are the name of the game here, and an open kitchen in each location shows off the preparation of scratch-made meals for guests. Alongside a recent declaration that only avocado and olive oil will be used in True Food Kitchen's recipes are plans to open a brand new restaurant in Raleigh, North Carolina's upscale North Hills district in 2024. This will be the chain's first location in the state.

Vegan options, grass-fed beef burgers, and artisan pizzas with unexpected ingredients (think butternut squash or smoked gouda) are the kind of meals you can expect to see from True Food Kitchen. Consumer demand for healthy food that doesn't forgo flavor or creativity is sure to remain high in 2024, and True Food Kitchen's ethos is in step with the wave of the future.

Teriyaki Madness

stir fry and noodle bowls
stir fry and noodle bowls - Instagram / teriyaki.madness

With a three-year growth percentage of 170%, Teriyaki Madness (or TMAD for those in the know) just might be your new go-to for quick-grab Asian food. The restaurant chain keeps the menu pretty simple, offering a selection of rice or soba noodle bowls with fresh vegetables and a choice of protein. Takeout-inspired sides like crab rangoon, chicken eggrolls, and chicken potstickers give a comfort food feel, and all the sauces are made in-house.

The first Teriyaki Madness locations opened in Las Vegas in 2003, where its wok-fried bowls and Seattle-style Teriyaki sauce caught on well enough to let the franchising begin. In late 2023, franchisees in Connecticut announced plans to open eight TMADs in the state, increasing the chain's national presence to a total of 36 states. Teriyaki Madness has already ventured beyond U.S. borders, first breaking ground in Canada in 2018 and opening over 65 outposts in Central America — with plans to add more in 2024. There's probably a TMAD being built nearby as we speak — the booming restaurant chain currently has more than 130 locations to its name.

Maple Street Biscuit Company

Stacked biscuit sandwiches
Stacked biscuit sandwiches - Instagram / maplestreetbiscuitcompany

It may be one of the newer chains of the group, but since starting in Jacksonville, Florida in December 2012, Maple Street Biscuit Company has never looked back. Biscuits made from scratch every day are something you can count on at all of Maple Street's 59 locations, but it's that extra touch of creativity that took business at Maple Street Biscuit Company to another level. In 2016, a biscuit sandwich called The Squawking Goat was shown on the Food Network show "Guilty Pleasures," and it brought Maple Street Biscuit Company exposure. The Squawking Goat is named as such due to the herbed goat cheese medallion and fried chicken slathered in pepper jelly.

Innovations like The Squawking Goat, Frittaffles (waffle iron baked omelets), and of course, homemade biscuits caught the attention of mega-chain Cracker Barrel, which purchased Maple Street Biscuit Company in 2019 for $36 million. Once under the Cracker Barrel umbrella, Maple Street nearly doubled its storefronts, with 26 new locations opening in less than four years. For now, Maple Street Biscuit Company is largely concentrated in the South, but with multiple locations popping up in Ohio, new ventures in other parts of the country seem probable.

Chicken Salad Chick

Chicken salad plate with fruit
Chicken salad plate with fruit - Instagram / chickensaladchick

Basing an entire restaurant concept around chicken salad might seem too simplistic, but Alabama-grown Chicken Salad Chick is onto something. In addition to being the only fast-casual chain restaurant to specialize in this modest food, Chicken Salad Chick is poised to grow in 2024 and beyond. Founder Stacy Brown based the idea of Chicken Salad Chick on the fact that everyone's chicken salad preferences tend to be quite different. Brown's chicken salad repertoire includes fruity and nutty, savory, spicy, and traditional flavors. Sandwiches, salads, or just a scoop or two served with fresh fruit and crackers make for a satisfying lunch. Pimento cheese and egg salad are also on the menu so that non-chicken eaters can enjoy lunch here too.

There are more than 230 Chicken Salad Chick restaurants dotting the Southeast — but growth is already in the works for 2024. On the wings of a 20% increase since 2021, Chicken Salad Chick has plans to open 18 future locations in Texas, a state where 30 Chicken Salad Chick venues already exist. New Mexico will get its first taste of the franchise in the spring of 2024 when Chicken Salad Chick arrives in Albuquerque as part of a southwest expansion plan that will include five future locations.

Jersey Mike's Subs

Long sub sandwich
Long sub sandwich - instagram / jerseymikes

A few years ago, Jersey Mike's Subs was still unknown in some areas, but that is rapidly changing. There are 2,659 Jersey Mike's Subs restaurants spread throughout all 50 states and Washington, D.C., plus international locations in Ontario, Canada and Guadalajara, Mexico. Submarine sandwiches were something of a novelty in 1956 when Mike's Subs (as Jersey's Mike's was called then) opened in Point Pleasant, New Jersey. The shop had been a fixture on the Jersy Shore for over a decade when an ambitious 14 year old named Peter Cancro was hired to wrap subs. When Mike's Subs went up for sale three years later, Cancro secured a loan with the help of his football coach and became the shop's new owner.

Cancro wasted no time opening additional Mike's Subs locations, putting emphasis on customer interaction and customizable subs. Jersey Mike's became so popular that franchising began in 1987. With high-quality meats and cheeses sliced to order, fresh-baked bread, and a menu that encourages customers to "get it the way you like it," we're not surprised Jersey Mike's has grown to the level it has. Cancro remains heavily involved in the business, setting up training programs for franchisees and helping raise millions for charity. When it comes to growth in 2024, Cancro has a sky's the limit approach, telling Entrepreneur magazine that Jersey Mike's could ultimately "open as many as 8,000 to 10,000 stores in the U.S."

First Watch

brunch food at First Watch
brunch food at First Watch - Instagram / firstwatch

Breakfast, long believed to be the most important meal of the day, is also the most popular, with 62% of Americans naming it as their favorite meal. And with brunch culture showing no signs of slowing, First Watch, the breakfast and lunch chain that opened in 1983, is reaping the benefits. Back when First Watch was a single location in Pacific Grove, California, the company's focus was on fresh, seasonal foods and restaurant hours that didn't involve late-night shifts for employees. By the mid-1980s, First Watch's headquarters moved to Bradenton, Florida and the company's commitments to quality food and work-life balance continued even as business began to grow. In recent years, First Watch has expanded its presence in the fast-casual market by 10% each year, and by the fall of 2023, its 500th location was opened.

There's no shortage of accolades either. First Watch was included in the top four of Yelp's Most Loved Brands of 2023 and was the highest ranked in the restaurant category. It made Newsweek's list of "The 100 Most Loved Workplaces in America" in 2022 and 2023, thanks to prioritizing employees' mental health and offering mentorship programs. Menu items like breakfast tacos, housemade granola, a fresh juice bar, brunch cocktails, and a seasonal menu show off First Watch's artisanal appeal while demonstrating a clear understanding of what people want for breakfast.

MOD Pizza

Exterior of Mod Pizza
Exterior of Mod Pizza - Instagram / modpizza

A successful chain starts with a vision, and in the case of MOD Pizza, that vision is focused as much on people as it is on making good food. Based in Seattle, Washington, MOD Pizza opened in 2008 and was community-minded from the get-go. MOD is known for hiring and retaining employees who face disadvantages in their job search due to previous criminal convictions, intellectual and developmental disabilities, or other barriers. This inclusive hiring process is the force behind the MOD Opportunity Network (MOD O.N.), the company's national program that works with nonprofit organizations to connect employees with the relevant support systems they need to maintain long-term employment. MOD O.N. launched in the spring of 2023 and is implemented in 29 cities across 11 states. It is the first program of its kind in the chain restaurant industry.

MOD, which stands for "made on demand" allows patrons to customize their pizza with unlimited toppings at no extra cost. Options like salad, a side of garlic bread, dessert, and draft beer or wine round out the menu. From 2014 to 2016, MOD Pizza grew from 31 locations to 190 and is one of America's fastest-growing chain restaurants with over 550 locations in 29 states. Owners Ally and Scott Svenson plan to push MOD's total restaurant count to 1,000 units by 2024. As for MOD O.N., the Svensons aim to expand the program to no fewer than 21 states by 2024's end.

Methodology

We looked at statistics regarding the current fastest-growing chains in America, as well as these chains' current number of locations, rate of expansion, and plans for growth in 2024. Forward-thinking business practices, company culture, and customer loyalty also factored into which restaurants we included in the feature.

Read the original article on Mashed.