Starbucks Is Third-Largest Restaurant Chain, Technomic Says

Starbucks Corp. (SBUX) has sprinted past Burger King Holdings Inc. and Wendy’s/Arby’s Group Inc. to become the third-largest U.S. restaurant chain by sales, says industry tracker, Technomic Inc.

Seattle-based Starbucks passed the milestone last year when sales increased 8.7 percent to $9.07 billion, according to an estimate by the Chicago-based firm. Technomic data include sales from company stores and from store licensees.

In 2009, Starbucks was the fifth-largest U.S. restaurant chain, says Technomic. Starbucks has about 11,000 stores in the U.S. and about 5,600 international locations.

“There is no doubt that Starbucks has made a tremendous comeback from a couple of years ago, when they were struggling quite a bit,” said Jack Russo, an analyst at Edward Jones & Co. in St. Louis. “As the economy recovers, people have a little bit more money to spend on premium-type product. They should continue to benefit from an improving economy.”

McDonald’s Corp. (MCD) was the biggest restaurant chain with $32.4 billion in sales, and Subway came second with $10.6 billion, according to a Technomic report this month. Burger King and Wendy’s/Arby’s placed fourth and fifth, respectively.

Sales at the 500 largest U.S. restaurant chains gained 1.8 percent to an estimated $234 billion last year, Technomic said.

Starbucks yesterday reported a 20 percent increase in second-quarter profit as more customers visited the company’s U.S. coffee shops. Sales at U.S. stores open at least 13 months rose 7 percent during the quarter, the chain said.

The shares had increased more than fivefold since their November 2008 low, compared with a 90 percent rise for restaurant companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index. McDonald’s gained 47 percent over the same time. Starbucks fell 31 cents, or 0.8 percent, to $36.88 today in Nasdaq Stock Market trading.

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