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The #1 Fastest Growing Restaurant Was Just Announced—And It's Not McDonald's

The fast-growing chain opened 72 locations last year alone and saw a huge surge in consumer interest.
FACT CHECKED BY Justine Goodman

Many of America's biggest restaurant chains are always working to grow even larger by opening new locations, boosting sales, and attracting more and more diners to their fanbases. But new data shows that one chain is currently growing faster than all of the others—and it's not one of the preeminent brands you might expect like McDonald's.

Yelp recently set out to compile its first-ever list of the 50 fastest-growing brands in America, considering both restaurant chains and a wide variety of retailers. The review site said its data science team used a "blended metric" that included net new openings, consumer interest, and Yelp searches from 2022 to 2023 to assemble the ranking. The fast-casual eatery Cava ended up topping all of the other businesses on the list, cementing it as Yelp's fastest-growing restaurant chain and overall brand right now.

Established in 2010, Cava specializes in better-for-you, Mediterranean-style foods such as customizable salads, grain bowls, and pita wraps. Yelp said that Cava's "vision of introducing a new, healthier dining option to a wider audience has enabled it to become one of the fastest-growing businesses."

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Cava exterior
rblfmr / Shutterstock

The chain opened 72 net new restaurants in 2023 alone, representing 30% growth from the prior year. Cava, which filed to go public in May last year, also saw a 54% increase in consumer interest nationwide from 2022 to 2023, according to Yelp. In addition to stealing the crown as the overall fastest-growing brand right now, Cava was also named the fastest-growing brand in several individual states such as California, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Alabama.

Though Cava is best known for its bowl meals, unique sips like the Blueberry Lavender drink (190 calories) have also proven quite popular among customers.

"Yelp's review insights revealed that CAVA's beverages…are what keep customers coming back. Yelp users continually praise these drinks for their taste, quality, and customization options," the new report noted.

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Cava operated 309 restaurants across the United States as of the end of 2023 and has no plans of slowing down its rapid growth. The chain announced earlier this year that it expects to add more than 45 additional locations by the end of 2024. Additionally, CEO Brett Schulman told Yahoo Finance Live in February that they have a longer-term goal of reaching 1,000 restaurants by 2032.

Scooter's Coffee, Longhorn Steakhouse, The Habit Burger Grill, and the convenience store chain Wawa, respectively, followed behind Cava in the new Yelp list. Plenty of other recognizable names were also present further down in the ranking, such as Olive Garden (9th place), Sprouts Farmers Market (11th place), Panera Bread (17th place), Crumbl Cookies (40th place), and Costco (43rd place). Consumers interested in seeing the full list and other key findings should check out the comprehensive report on the Yelp website.

Zoe Strozewski
Zoe Strozewski is a News Writer for Eat This, Not That! A Chicago native who now lives in New Jersey, she graduated from Kean University in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Read more about Zoe