Best 2011-2014 Fast Casual Restaurants

U.S. Restaurant Movers & Shakers - Growth, Innovation, Responsibility

Fast casual restaurants in the U.S. have positioned themselves between fast food restaurants and casual dining restaurants. Generally this means that, just like fast food restaurants, full service is not available in the fast casual dining room. But unlike fast food restaurants, the quality and price of the fast casual food is higher, much like casual dining restaurants. While the line between fast food restaurants and fast casual restaurants is usually pretty clear, the difference between fast casual restaurants and casual dining restaurants is sometimes not as clear and just a matter of opinion.

So what are the top restaurants in the fast casual segment of the restaurant industry? According to the annual ranking list published by, the top fast casual restaurant chains are the fast casual brands and concepts that have the best growth, innovation, and social responsibility. These are the fast casual chains in the U.S. restaurant industry that are defining the niche, and creating trends that other new and existing fast casual restaurant are following. refers to the top fast casual restaurant chains as the "Movers and Shakers" of the restaurant industry.

What follows is a comparison of the Top 50 Fast Casual Movers and Shakers for 2014, 2013, 2012, and 2011 according to the FastCasual annual ranking report. This three-year comparison reveals which fast casual restaurants are still hot and which are not, which restaurant chains are getting closer to the leading edge and which ones are getting less influential.

This list is arranged according to the ranking number assigned to it by the decision-makers at when compared to a total of 100 other fast casual restaurant chains each year. Under each ranking number are the restaurants that were given that ranking each year.

It might be assumed that the 2014 Movers & Shakers list would be filled with restaurants chains that are relatively new, with fresh concepts that have never been seen in the U.S. retail restaurant industry.  But "new" is definitely not the common thread in the 2014 Restaurant Movers & Shakers.  To the contrary, the restaurant chains that Fast Casual Magazine ranked highest for growth, innovation, and social responsibility in 2014 are largely well-known, seasoned brands which have already received many retail best practice accolades in the history of their chains.


What follows is a four-year comparison of the Top 50 U.S. Restaurant Movers & Shakers, according to the annual ranking list published by Fast Casual Magazine.  The list is arranged according to ranking numbers and shows which U.S. restaurant chains have been assigned which ranking numbers when compared to all U.S. based restaurant chains for the past four years. 

Top 10 U.S. Restaurants Movers & Shakers Comparison 2011-2014:


2014 - Smashburger
2013 - Fazoli’s
2012 - Smashburger, Headquartered in Denver, CO
2011 - Firehouse Subs


2014 - Chipotle
2013 - McAlister’s Deli
2012 - Zoes Kitchen, Headquartered in Birmingham, AL
2011 - Wildflower Bread Company


2014 - Faxoli's
2013 - Freebirds World Burrito
2012 - Firehouse Subs, Headquartered in Jacksonville, FL
2011 - Genghis Grill


2014 - Freebirds World Burrito
2013 - Firehouse Subs
2012 - Zoup!, Headquartered in Southfield, MI
2011 - Mooyah


2014 - Burger 21
2013 - Chipotle
2012 - Freebirds World Burrito, Headquartered in Emeryville, CA
2011 - Five Guys Burgers & Fries


2014 - Luna Grill
2013 - Freshii
2012 - Chipotle Mexican Grill, Headquartered in Denver, CO
2011 - Go Rama, Headquartered in Chicago, IL


2014 - Modmarket
2013 - Penn Station East Coast Subs
2012 - Five Guys Burger and Fries, Headquartered in Lorton, VA
2011 - Chipotle Mexican Grill


2014 - Zoes Kitchen
2013 - MOOYAH Burgers & Fries
2012 - Freshii, Headquartered in Toronto, Canada
2011 - Tom & Eddie's


2014 - McAlister's Deli
2013 - Bruegger’s Bagels
2012 - Wildflower Bread Company, Headquartered in Scottsdale, AZ
2011 - Wow Bao


2014 - Firehouse Subs
2013 - Zoes Kitchen
2012 - Go Roma, Headquartered in Chicago, IL
2011 - Au Bon Pain