KFC is the top chicken chain, based on 2011 U.S. systemwide sales, according to QSR magazine’s “QSR 50″ ranking that rates the top quick-service and fast casual brands in the United States.  KFC has been busy gobbling up international markets, especially in China, where it now has more than 3,700 units.  That international direction may explain its stumble domestically, which included a $200 million drop in sales.  But the company has a new “chef chicken officer” Aaron Person to help keep the innovation torch glowing, QSR magazine said.  KFC is also turning its eye to sustainable operations.

Chick-fil-A, ranked number two,  added nearly $500 million to its domestic sales over 2010 and this year launched a new kids’ menu, which offers Grilled Chicken Nuggets and applesauce and restricts kids’ beverages.  The chain is also investing in sustainable operations at several new stores.

Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen added new menu items that helped drive the chain’s growth in 2011 as it grew by a net 58 stores and nearly $100 million over 2010 as well as adding better-for-you alternatives, including the return of its Naked Chicken Tenders. Church’s Chicken has a new CEO Jim Hyatt and has launched a new social customer relationship management campaign.  The chain also made waves by closing all of its Nashville-area stores for 18 hours to put employees through a customer service boot camp.

Zaxby’s big news is its new store prototype, an overhaul that shapes the exterior like a farmhouse and offers a more spacious interior.  At Bojangles, new unit openings helped the Southern stalwart cross the 500-unit line.  Boston-based private equity firm Advent International acquired Bojangles last summer but said it will maintain the chain’s identity and still focus growth primarily in the Southeast.

El Pollo Loco launched a new ad campaign and became one of the inaugural members of the National Restaurant Assocation’s Kids LiveWell program.  New Boston Market CEO George Michel, who joined the chain in late 2010, focused on marketing efforts after inheriting a brand deep into a systemwide overhaul, including new menu items, upgraded customer service, and the addition of carving stations, among other changes.

 

Company/Chain Name 2011 U.S. Systemwide Sales (millions) 2011 U.S. Average Sales per Unit (thousands) Total Units in 2011
1. KFC $4,500.0 $940.0 4,780
2. Chick-fil-A $4,051.0 $2,893.5 1,606
3. Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen

$1,720.0

$1,133.8 1,627
4. Church’s Chicken $864.3 $698.6 1,212
5. Zaxby’s $840.0 $1,597.2 540
6. Bojangles’ $767.4 $1,600.1 506
7. El Pollo Loco $545.0 $1,425.0 394
8. Boston Market $532.0  $1,102.0 481