Fast Casual dining is killing traditional fast food. Here are 10 investor-backed companies taking aim at McDonald's and its peers.

McDonald’s (NYSE: MCD, Mkt. Cap: $92.6B) recent earnings report disappointed investors, as earnings dropped 21% in Q4, and customer traffic fell 4.1% in the US. They cited their menu as being a large driver of this slump, as consumer tastes have shifted towards healthier options.

This trend is one that has taken over the restaurant industry, as more cutting-edge “fast casual” concepts like Chipotle continue to increase market share, leading to an overall 550% sales growth in fast casual food since 1999.

fast casual sales growth

Source: Washington Post

We used CB Insights data on financings into private restaurant groups (including franchisees like Goldco and WKS Restaurant), to identify some of the key investor-backed players looking to compete with McDonald’s and other incumbent fast food players.

As McDonald’s and its traditional fast food peers look to re-think how they attract customers, these restaurant groups are taking advantage of the fast casual trend and a more health conscience diner. Our list ranges from companies leading the “better burger” concept like Smashburger, to premium salad chains like Sweetgreen to farm-to-table concepts like Dig Inn Seasonal Market and Lyfe Kitchen.

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See the full list below.

 smashburger logo


Smashburger is the pioneer of the “better burger” concept and offers fresh, premium burgers, sandwiches, salad, and shakes. The company localizes its menu in every market with regionally inspired burgers, sides, and craft beers.
HQ Location: Denver, CO
Total Funding: $86.5M
# of Locations: 250+
Select Investors: Consumer Capital Partners, Golub Capital

Protein Bar

Protein bar specializes in doing “healthy…tastier” with high-protein food that can be served in a quick manner.
HQ Location: Chicago, IL
Total Funding: $49.6M
# of Locations: 20
Select Investors: Catterton Partners


Sweetgreen is an all-healthy fast food chain specializing in salads and frozen yogurts, and sources from local and organic ingredients from farmers.
HQ Location: Washington DC
Total Funding: $47.0M
# of Locations:  32
Select Investors: Revolution LLC, Danny Meyer, Daniel Boulud
 chopt logo

Chop’t Creative Salad Co.

Chop’t claims to be the creator of the premium salad segment. Their expansive menu of salads and wraps as well as featured seasonal options with local produce further reinforce their position as the premium provider of salads.
HQ Location: New York, NY
Total Funding: $41.4M
# of Locations27
Select Investors: Morehead Capital
 lyfekitchen edit

Lyfe Kitchen

Lyfe Kitchen serves local and organic foods to deliver convenient and affordable healthy options mostly under 600 calories ranging from salads to flatbreads to sandwiches.
HQ Location: Palo Alto, CA
Total Funding: $35.0M
# of Locations: 15
Select Investors: TomorrowVentures
 diginn logo

Dig Inn Seasonal Market

Dig Inn Seasonal Market aims to democratize the farm-to-table movement by offering locally sourced, seasonal ingredients in ther meals at a reasonable price.
HQ Location: New York, NY
Total Funding: $21.5M
# of Locations: 10
Select Investors: Wexford Capital, Monogram Capital
 bgood logo


b.good focuses on “real food” which includes sourcing from “real people, not factories”. Their main products are healthier burgers, salads, and shakes.
HQ Location: Malden, MA
Total Funding: $8.54M
# of Locations: 18
Select Investors: Undisclosed
 epicburger logo 1

Epic Burger

Epic Burger is the contempory version the classic American burger joint. Their mission is to serve non-processed, all natural food at a reasonable price, starting with their hamburgers.
HQ Location: Chicago, IL
Total Funding: $7.32M
# of Locations: 7
Select Investors: Cue Ball Capital
 justsalad logo edit

Just Salad

Just Salad serves health, fast, and creative food alternatives that are made from local, organic, and non-GMO ingredients delivered every morning. They mainly serve salads, sandwiches, and bowls.
HQ Location: New York, NY
Total Funding: $6.0M
# of Locations: 22
Select Investors: Undisclosed
 lemonade group logo

Lemonade Restaurant Group

Lemonade is best described as a modern cafeteria serving seasonal SoCal comfort food. Guests grab a tray, pick the portion size, choose from a buffet of healthy prepared dishes
HQ Location: Los Angeles, CA
Total Funding: $6.0M
# of Locations: 16
Select Investors: KKR, The Horowitz Group


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  • Fergun Connell

    Fast Casual is a pretty interesting case. It’s an obvious compromise between two types, but I guess this compromise worked in a way.