CHICAGO — Limited-service hamburger industry domestic sales increased by 4.1% in 2008 to $64 billion, outperforming the total limited-service restaurant segment’s growth of 3.2%, according to a new Technomic study, "2009 Technomic Top 50 Limited-Service Hamburger Chains Restaurant Report."

Making up the vast majority of the market were the Top 50 hamburger chains, which totaled $62.8 billion in sales and growth of 4.4%. These results were primarily driven by strong concept positioning and introducing new premium burgers by the industry’s leaders.

Last year, the burger industry showed there was more than one route to staying relevant and growing sales in a weak economy, said Darren Tristano, executive vice-president.

"Fast-casual chains strengthened their gourmet burger positioning and benefited from consumers trading down from casual restaurants," he added. "Traditional quick-service chains stepped up to premium burgers, and consumers responded well. In the future, the leaders will be those who continue to closely monitor market opportunities and watch how competitors respond."