Big Data: 620,000 restaurants

In this Friday, Sept. 16, 2016, photo, a man walks by a Ruby Tuesday restaurant in New York's Times Square. Ruby Tuesday is being bought by private-equity firm NRD Capital, in a deal that will take the struggling restaurant chain private. Like other sit-down restaurant chains, Ruby Tuesday has had a hard time attracting diners who are increasingly eating at cheaper, faster and more casual places. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
AP Photo/Mary Altaffer
Ruby Tuesday in Times Square.

620,000: That’s the number of restaurants in the United States, The New York Times reported this past week. In recent years, the number of chain dining spots in particular has grown twice as fast as the population, but not because Americans’ appetite is bottomless. Rather, big-time investors poured billions of dollars into the sector, and restaurant brands figured out how to expand rapidly while pushing the hassles and risks of operating individual locations upon their franchisees. As Ruby Tuesdays and Outback Steakhouses proliferated on Main Street, Wall Street got good returns, at least for a time. But the chain-restaurant bubble may be popping, as marketers realize that the average person can still eat only so many onion mums and buffalo wings.