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You Probably Don’t Know The Brands Taking Over America in 2024

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You Probably Don’t Know The Brands Taking Over America in 2024

Author: David Beren

When it comes to successful brands in America, the list of big names seems to rarely ever change. If it seems like names like Apple, Google, and Amazon are the names we hear the most, it’s because they are often the ones most associated with growth. Thankfully, Yelp is hoping to change this mindset with its own data set looking at the companies that have seen very successful growth strategies from 2022 into 2023.

According to Yelp, these “challenger” brands are defined as “businesses that are not market leaders but aim to compete by disrupting their industry.” Of these brands, Yelp is focused on two categories: restaurant and food. With this in mind, let’s rank the five most notable challenger brands in descending order down to the brand Yelp says has the most consumer interest. 

5. Wawa

Wawa’s popularity shows no sign of slowing down with an 88% increase in customer interest in the Food category.
  • Year Founded: April 1964
  • Locations: 1,032
  • Revenue: $13 billion
  • Employees: 37,000
  • Consumer Interest: +88%
  • Market Cap: N/A

Wawa Is More Than Gas

Wawa Food Market
Wawa’s popularity has grown fast thanks to offering much more than just gas.

A cross between a gas station and a convenience store, Wawa has earned a cult-like following for both its food and prices. Operating mainly along the East Coast, you can find Wawa locations in Florida, Washington, D.C., Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. While Wawa’s origins go back to 1803 as an iron foundry, the gas station we know today was originally established in April 1964. Along with gas, the company is also known for its prepared foods, snacks, dairy products, salads, hoagies, and coffee. 

With over 1,032 locations and more planned, it should come as no surprise consumer interest in Wawa has grown over 88% year-over-year. More specifically, Wawa’s rising interest comes as customers are gravitating toward the company’s “grab-and-go” food offerings. Wawa’s fastest growth came in Virginia, Florida, and New Jersey where Yelp indicates consumer interest surged over 137%. 

Most Popular Wawa Menu Items

Wawa Gas Station
Families you can get a whole and delicious meal at Wawa for less than McDonald’s.
  1. A surprisingly great food place, Wawa’s signature Mac and Cheese is one of its most popular items. 
  2. Wawa is also well-known for its hoagies with Buffalo-Chicken and Italian being two of the best options. 
  3. If you’d prefer a sandwich, you can’t go wrong with Wawa’s Ham-and-Swiss sandwich option, a surprisingly popular menu item. 
  4. Should you want something a little cooler, the Frozen Cappuccino is great on a warm summer day and costs less than competitors. 
  5. When it’s available around Thanksgiving, The Gobbler quickly jumps to the top of Wawa’s menu with cranberry sauce, stuffing, and turkey all in one sandwich.

4. The Habit Burger Grill

The Habit Burger California
With a 29% increase in customer interest, The Habit Burger Grill is growing fast in the restaurant category.
  • Year Founded: 1969
  • Locations: 358
  • Revenue: $402 million
  • Employees: 6,093
  • Consumer Interest: +29%
  • Market Cap: $38.77 billion 

Great Burgers, Fresh Taste

The Habit Burger Grill
The Habit Burger Grill offers a great alternative to McDonald’s and Burger King.

Founded in 1969, The Habit Burger Grill was originally a family-owned business opened by Brent and Bruce Reichard. Growing the business to 24 units, the brothers eventually sold the company to a private equity firm in 2007. The private equity group, Karp Reilly, grew the company to 109 locations by 2014. At this pace, Habit Grill was growing fast enough to be named one of the fastest-growing food chains in the U.S. 

Soon, Habit Burger attracted enough attention that Yum Brands purchased it (NYSE: YUM), the parent company of Taco Bell, KFC, and Pizza Hut. Regardless of the parent company, The Habit Burger Grill’s rising interest according to Yelp shows a 29% increase between 2022 and 2023. With 358 locations, Habit Burger shows no signs of slowing down and it’s also slowly growing its food truck business, which currently has nine locations. 

Most Popular The Habit Burger Grill Items

Habit Burger Charburger
The Double Charburger is the most popular menu item at The Habit Burger Grill.
  1. No visit is complete to The Habit Burger Grill without tasting a Double Charburger complete with two beef patties.
  2. A surprising favorite is the low-calorie Spicy Tempura Green Beans, which are fried in a tempura batter, drizzled with a red pepper sauce and a 7-spice pepper blend. 
  3. If you want something a little more spicy in your life, go with the Spicy Crispy Chicken Sandwich which has jumped in popularity since its introduction 6 months ago. 
  4. The Habit Burger Grill has plenty of great shakes but it’s the Mocha Malt that rises above the rest. 
  5. Should you want something with beef that isn’t a burger, go with the Tenderloin Steak Sandwich and thank us later. 

3. LongHorn Steakhouse

One of the more popular steakhouses, LongHorn Steakhouse is quickly becoming the most popular.
  • Year Founded: August 1981
  • Locations: 563
  • Sales: $2.5 billion
  • Employees: 150,000
  • Consumer Interest: +38%
  • Market Cap: $18.268 billion

LongHorn Steaks Are Great

A 38% interest increase from 2022 to 2023 shows LongHorn is heading in the right direction in the restaurant category.

A popular American casual dining restaurant, LongHorn Steakhouse is owned and operated by Darden Restaurants (NYSE: DRI). Headquartered in Orlando, Florida, LongHorn is quite successful having generated more than $2.5 billion in sales in 2023. Originally founded in 1981, the restaurant is known for its large selection of steaks, burgers, chicken, and steak dishes. 

Along with its popular meat, there is a lot of customer loyalty in favor of LongHorn’s baby back ribs. As part of the Darden Restaurant family, which also owns Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse has added over 50 new locations in the last few years. The company has also indicated in its most recent annual report that it plans to add 15 more locations in 2024 which will only help the 38% increase in customer interest. 

Popular LongHorn Steakhouse Menu Items

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  1. The Outlaw Ribeye is a bone-in made-to-order steak cooked on a char grill. 
  2. The Parmesan Crusted Chicken is a popular menu item that offers two six-ounce chicken breasts with a Parmesan-crusted topping. 
  3. Flo’s Filet is the most popular menu item at LongHorn Steakhouse with a tender taste and outstanding flavor. 
  4. If you’re a New York Strip fan, this 12-ounce LongHorn staple is a true delight. 
  5. Of course, you have to finish your meal with the Chocolate Stampede dessert complete with six different chocolate types. 

2. Scooter’s Coffee

Scooter’s Coffee is rising fast with a 51% rising interest year-over-year in 2023.
  • Year Founded: 1998
  • Locations: ~1,000
  • Revenue: ~$649 million
  • Employees: ~ 960
  • Consumer Interest: +51%

Good Coffee, Big Interest

Scooter's Coffee Drive Thru
The most popular Scooter’s Coffee locations are drive-thru only.

Founded by Don and Linda Eckles in 1998, it’s estimated that Scooter’s Coffee will reach the 1,000-location mark sometime in 2024. Headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska, Scooter’s Coffee is focused on creating a truly great customer experience. The first type of Scooter’s location can be a 660-foot kiosk, large enough for a few workers, and the necessary coffee-making equipment. The second type of location is a coffee house with both the company’s signature drive-through and a small seating area inside for customers.

Interestingly, the company has changed its name a few times but hasn’t hurt brand building. The original name, Scooter’s Java Express, lasted until 2001 when another change happened. The new “Scooter’s Coffeehouse” would last until 2011 when the current “Scooter’s Coffee” name and logo were put in place. Regardless of the logo, the company believes it should have “Amazing People, Amazing Drinks…Amazingly Fast!” 

Popular Scooter’s Coffee Menu Items

Scooter's Coffee Menu
Popular Scooter’s Coffee menu items include smoothies, cookies, and pastries.
  1. Scooter’s signature drink, the Caramelicious, is an easy choice for first-timers or those making their 1,000th trip as it can be hot, iced, or blended. 
  2. Go with a coffee classic with a Mocha drink with its rich chocolatey taste. 
  3. Scooter’s Smoothies are perfect for a hot summer day and can be made with plenty of fruity flavors. 
  4. If you need a quick bite with your drink, go with the Egg & Cheddar Biscuit sandwich. 
  5. Last but not least, a visit to Scooter’s isn’t complete without the company’s signature Chocolate Chip cookie. 

1. CAVA 

CAVA Restaurant
With a 54% rising interest from 2022 to 2023, CAVA is the fastest-growing restaurant by consumer interest according to Yelp.
  • Year Founded: 2010
  • Locations: 309 
  • Revenue: $729 million
  • Employees: 8,100
  • Consumer Interest: +54%
  • Market Cap: $7.268 billion (April 14, 2024) 

CAVA Is Delicious 

CAVA Rockville
CAVA is the largest Mediterranean-based fast-food restaurant in the U.S.

Founded in 2010, CAVA is a Mediterranean-focused fast-food restaurant chain with a casual atmosphere. Going public in June 2023, CAVA currently trades under NYSE: CAVA. Currently the largest restaurant operator in the Mediterranean category in the U.S., Cava is also well-known for its line of dips, spreads, and dressings sold in grocery stores around the U.S. The parent company selling the dips not only owns the CAVA restaurant locations but also Zoe’s Kitchen which was purchased in 2018. 

What’s most important in the Cava story is how much interest in the brand has grown. According to Yelp’s data, consumer interest in Cava has grown 54% between 2022 and 2023. This increased consumer interest is due in part to the company’s incredibly tasting pitas and bowls. Ordering at CAVA is very similar to Chipotle where you have a walk-along order system with two to three people preparing your food. 

Popular CAVA Menu Items

CAVA Maryland
CAVA has some very popular menu items and a Chipotle-like ordering system.
  1. For starters, go with the Market Spice Bowl, which is believed to be the current best-selling item and includes some of the most popular ingredients the company offers. 
  2. The Lemon Chicken Bowl is another popular favorite. Just hold the corn. 
  3. The Spicy Lamb Meatball Pita is a great alternative to the all-to-common items filled with meat, chicken, and beef. 
  4. Making your own Green and Grains bowl is a big favorite since you can customize every topping CAVA offers. 
  5. Choose the Tahini Caesar Bowl with custom ingredients if you want to enjoy CAVA’s grilled chicken along with a bevy of other toppings. 

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