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Five Guys Burgers and Fries was the fastest-growing US restaurant chain in 2010, a year marked by a return to sales growth by the nation’s biggest brands, according to market research firm Technomic Inc.

Systemwide sales at the 500 largest chains in the United States rose 1.8 percent to $234 billion in 2010, after falling 0.8 percent to $230 billion in 2009, the firm found in its annual Technomic Top 500 report.

More than half the foodservice chains included in the Top 500 recorded sales increases in 2010, Technomic said. Only 231 chains reported annual sales declines last year, compared with 283 chains that posted sales decreases in 2009.

“We are pleased to see improvements in the U.S. economy begin to translate into improved performance for the leading restaurant chains,” said Ron Paul, president of Technomic. “The industry has a lot of ground to recover and still faces many challenges. But our latest findings on 2010 chain performance are certainly encouraging.”

fastest growing restaurant brands 2010

Fastest growing restaurant brands 2010

The top 500 chains’ international-sales growth outperformed their collective domestic business in 2010. International sales were up 3.1 percent, compared with 1.8 percent in the United States.