CHICAGO — Although the economy slipped in 2008, the Top 200 Canadian restaurant chains managed to grow sales by 3% while decreasing their number of stores by 0.7% to 22,530 units, according to the new 2009 Technomic Top 200 Canadian Chains Restaurant Report. Totaling sales of $22.8 billion, the Top 200 Canadian chains accounted for more 50% of the Canadian restaurant industry.

Findings include:

  • Tim Horton’s was again leading in sales with an estimated total of $4.2 billion in 2008, growing 7.7% over 2007. U.S. quick-service chains McDonald’s and Subway ranked second and third, with $2.7 billion and $1 billion respectively in estimated sales.
  • Limited-service restaurants grew sales by 2.5% over 2007 to $16 billion, accounting for 70.1% of the Top 200 Canadian chains’ sales. The segment’s 19,323 units made up 85.8% of the Top 200 total store count, showing a decline of -0.6% from the previous year. Although fast-casual restaurants are a relatively small portion of limited-service sales at 1.9%, their sales grew 11.7%. Chains to watch are U.S. players Panera Bread and Chipotle Mexican Grill, both of whom expanded into Canada last year.
  • The largest clusters within limited-service for 2008 were the hamburger category with $4.6 billion in sales, donuts with $4.3 billion and other sandwiches at $1.8 billion.
  • The fastest growing limited-service clusters were Asian at 14.5%, Mexican at 7.3% and Donut with 7.1% growth. Major contributors in these clusters were Tim Horton’s, growing at 7.7% (Donut), Sushi Shop and Thai Express at 40% and 51.2% respectively (Asian), and Taco Del Mar at 32.4% (Mexican).
  • Full-service restaurants represented 29.9% of the Top 200 chain sales, or $6.8 billion, growing 4.2% over 2007. The number of stores declined by 1.1% to 3,207, accounting for 14% of the Top 200 chains’ total units.

"The Top 200 Canadian chains continue to grow sales while shedding underperforming units by focusing on the value proposition for the customer," says Darren Tristano, Technomic executive vice-president. "It’s not just about pricing. The leaders have retooled their menus in many cases with local and organic fare, stepped up value-oriented limited-time promotions, and revamped restaurant décor. The limited-service category, and in particular the fast-casual segment, continues to benefit from the value focus and trade downs from full service."