10 hot restaurant brands that could be the next Shake Shack

Source: Sweetgreen

Are you eating at the next big restaurant? You might be.

Every year Fishbowl, a restaurant data firm, compiles a list of up-and-coming brands that it expects will take the food industry by storm and your favorite local spot could be on the list.

This year, the company combed through data that assessed restaurants' social ratings from sites like Facebook, Yelp and Trip Adviser as well as how often customers frequent the chains and positive buzz words in reviews to determine the top 10 emerging restaurant brands in the U.S.

"I think it is the most diverse this list has been," Katherine Dalton, a Fishbowl analyst, told CNBC.

These brands face a fiercely competitive dining market but have already sparked intense loyalty among their customers.

Previous brands that have graced Fishbowl's annual list include Shake Shack and Sweetgreen, which have both been rapidly expanding.

These 10 brands could be the next big restaurant chain:

10. Cava Grill

An equity trader quits his career and beefs up a Mediterranean food brand.
Source: Cava

This Mediterranean fast-casual concept was first launched in Washington, D.C. seven years ago as a spinoff to the full-service Cava Mezze.

It's been steadily expanding since. The concept, which serves customizable grain bowls, salads and pitas, operates nearly 50 restaurants in 10 cities, nearly double the number of locations it had open when Fishbowl's survey was posted last year.

The chain already has plans to open at least 16 more locations.

9. HopCat


Founded in Michigan, this upscale tavern focuses on American craft beer, ciders and local flavors. Each of its locations feature about 100 taps and an above-average bar menu.

While HopCat is known for its alcohol, its French fries are quite possibly its most notable menu item. The restaurant's Crack Fries have been featured on Food Network and come battered in light beer and a sprinkle of black pepper seasoning. Toppings like cheese sauce, jalapenos and onion can be added.

HopCat currently has about 16 locations, and each new restaurant is welcomed by customers. When its second location opened there were more than 1,000 people waiting to get inside, Dalton said.

8. Mendocino Farms

Mendocino Farms

This fast-casual sandwich and salad chain first opened in Los Angeles 13 years ago and has slowly spread throughout California.

Mendocino Farms touts a seasonal menu with locally sourced ingredients and was founded with the purpose of turning it into a neighborhood gathering place.

Dalton said that Mendocino Farms is expected to have another big growth year. It currently has about 20 locations, with plans to open at least four more sites. Whole Foods Market took a minority stake in the restaurant chain in 2015. Mendocino Farms has used that investment to continue its growth.

7. Lazy Dog

Lazy Dog

Lazy Dog is a family-friendly, and yes, dog-friendly, restaurant on the West Coast. The restaurant is modeled on a ski lodge, offering a warm, comfortable vibe to customers.

Diners will get to taste a little bit of everything at Lazy Dog. The menu is eclectic and ranges from sandwiches and Cajun fries to hush puppies and tortilla soup.

Currently, Lazy Dog has about 20 restaurants.

6. La Colombe Cafe

La Colombe Coffee

An independent coffee roaster and cafe, La Colombe Cafe was founded in Pennsylvania in 1994. Since then, it has expanded to 30 locations in New York, Illinois and California, with the goal of opening 100 stores nationwide.

La Colombe Cafe has an industrial setting, with the roastery equipment situated in the cafe like a brewery. While it doesn't currently make its own food, Dalton said that the brand partners with local bakeries to bring in fresh goodies to diners.

5. Tupelo Honey

Tupelo Honey
Source: Tupelo Honey

Tupelo Honey is a restaurant chain that seeks to reinvent southern classics while sourcing its ingredients from regional farmers, distillers and brewers.

The company has been around for 15 years, and has just as many restaurants. These locations are scattered in seven different states. Dalton said that Tupelo Honey has really focused on its brand before it has considered expanding its business.

4. Firebirds Wood Fired Grill

Firebirds Wood Fire Grill

Firebirds Wood Fire Grill is a "polished casual" restaurant, according to Dalton. The chain, which currently has about 45 locations, is a step up from traditional casual dining restaurants, occupying a space just below fine dining, she said.

Firebirds offers burgers, steaks, grilled chicken and fish, with bold flavors. Dalton said that the restaurant chain uses flavor as a way of driving customers in the door.

3. Harvest Seasonal Grill

Harvest Seasonal Grill

No matter which of Harvest Seasonal Grill's eight locations you visit, your food is guaranteed to have come from a 50-mile radius, Dalton said.

The restaurant chain, which is expected to open two more sites, partners with local farmers on its supply.

Like Firebirds, Dalton calls Harvest Seasonal Grill a "polished casual" restaurant, meaning it's just a step above traditional sit-down chains.

2. Bareburger


If you are looking to expand your burger menu outside of the traditional beefy sliders, Bareburger is restaurant for you.

This burger joint serves up organic meat, including beef, bison, turkey, elk and duck, as well as pesticide-free produce. It's even partnered with Impossible Foods to bring the Impossible Burger, a meatless burger that "bleeds," to all 43 of its locations.

1. True Food Kitchen

A salmon dish from True Food Kitchen.
Source: True Food Kitchen

True Food Kitchen bills itself as a healthy, chef-driven and seasonal restaurant. Founded in Phoenix, the restaurant offers sustainable, local and organic meals, including vegan and vegetarian options.

Dalton described True Food Kitchen as being more than just a meal, but a lifestyle. While the restaurant provides health-conscious food, it doesn't sacrifice flavor.

"Food should make you feel better — not worse — and you shouldn't have to sacrifice taste to live a healthier lifestyle," the company touts on its website.