Yelp Data Reveals Fastest Growing Brands

The comeback of the food court and the impact of small treats were among the trends uncovered in Yelp’s first-ever Fastest Growing Brands report, which ranks brands that are growing the fastest on and off of Yelp. 

The top five food businesses that saw increases in consumer interest are: 

  • CAVA: +54 percent
  • Scooter’s Coffee: +51 percent
  • LongHorn Steakhouse: +38 percent
  • The Habit Burger Grill: +29 percent

Wawa: +88 percent

The list highlights Challenger brands, which are not market leaders but aim to compete by disrupting their industry and make up more than 70 percent of the brands on the list. To compile the report, Yelp’s data science team looked at net new business openings, consumer interest and user searches to create a blended metric that ranks brands by how quickly they’re growing year over year from 2022-2023. 

Among the report highlights:

  • Nostalgia is striking a chord with millennials and Gen Z with food courts are exploding back on the scene with more than 30 percent of the businesses on the list can be found in traditional malls. 
  • Many brands typically associated with malls, such as Cinnabon and Panda Express, are growing quickly. 
  • Americans are nostalgic for Midwestern comfort foods, from brands like Culver’s and Freddy’s. 
  • Businesses serving little treats like Crumbl Cookies and Dutch Bros are booming.

The list also dives into those businesses that are growing the quickest by state and by geographical region. Looking regionally, the Midwest and South are on a caffeine kick, while the coasts are the most health-conscious.


To delve more into the results, Modern Restaurant Management (MRM) magazine connected with Kadecia Ber, Yelp’s advertising trends expert and director of enterprise solutions

Why do you feel these brands resonate with diners?

Many of the businesses on the list resonate with diners because they have successfully filled a customer need in an impactful way. Brands like Scooter’s Coffee and Wawa, with their drive-thru food pickup locations, emphasize speed and customer service to keep customers moving through their day. They know their customers are time crunched, in their cars, maybe on their lunch break  or on the way to work or school, and want their food and drinks quick and on-the-go. Others, like Crumbl Cookies, have a unique business model with a revolving menu that’s consistently introducing new items that encourage customer loyalty. 

Did you notice any similarities in these Challenger brands?

Challenger brands are playing by a new set of rules that are different from the more established industry players. They’re quick to scale and adopt a test-and-learn mentality, which in the case of businesses like Raising Cane’s and Crumbl Cookies, has kept their menus fresh and helped them carve out a niche. 

What are some basic trends the data uncovered? 

In the data, we’re seeing trends like the return of mall food courts, which is being driven primarily by the younger generations. Over 30 percent of the businesses on the list – including Cinnabon, Wetzel’s Pretzels, Panda Express and more – can be found in malls, and the food court might again become a central meeting place for younger folks. 

We’re also seeing many brands on the list that are known for having a strong social media presence – like Cava, Raising Cane’s and Crumbl Cookies. These are businesses that grew up with social, and rather than adopting it, ingrained it into their marketing from the start. By partnering with influencers or introducing new menu items on their video channels, these businesses have amassed significant followings of loyal customers that look forward to engaging with the brands.

In similar fashion, businesses that sell what Gen Z calls “little treats” are growing fast. These are brands like Dutch Bros, Nothing Bundt Cakes and Insomnia Cookies that sell relatively inexpensive indulgences that can provide a quick serotonin boost to close out the day. Sometimes you need to treat yourself, and these businesses are seeing it pay off in their growth.=

Did any results surprise you?

I was personally excited to see brands that are prioritizing healthier dining options – like Cava and Playa Bowls – were included on the list. As I make meal choices for myself and my family, brands that incorporate fresh fruits and vegetables are always at the top of the list. These businesses are integrating healthy eating into their identity, and making the health of their customers a priority.

What can other brands learn from these results?

We hope that brands can use the data, insights and trends in the report to better understand their markets and learn from each others’ growth. We also want them to understand why managing their reputation and engaging their audiences online on platforms like Yelp is critical. 

How crucial is a brand’s social media presence and what can they do to get optimum results?

Social media is an important element of a brand’s strategy. While social platforms allow brands to push organic messages to businesses, community-driven platforms like Yelp do something even more important; they allow businesses to gather and respond directly to customer feedback. This engagement not only shows that you care about your customers’ experiences but also helps to spotlight and continuously improve the quality of your offerings.