NEW YORK — Shares of Noodles & Co. are soaring in their first day of trading on the Nasdaq.

The casual restaurant chain raised $96.5 million in its initial public offering of stock. Shares priced at $18 each, above the $15 to $17 it predicted earlier this week.

Noodles & Co. was founded in 1995 and serves noodle bowls, salads, soups and sandwiches. The company, which is based in Broomfield, Colo., has 345 locations in the U.S. If it maintains its current growth rate, Noodles & Co. could grow to 2,500 restaurants over the next 15 to 20 years.

Casual restaurant chains have grown in popularity, led by companies such as Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. and Panera Bread Co. People like them because they feel they're getting better quality food than they'd get at traditional fast-food chains, without having to pay a lot more.

Noodles CEO Kevin Reddy and Chief Operating Officer Keith Kinsey both previously worked at Chipotle.

The company's stock, trading under the ticker "NDLS," more than doubled in price Friday to $36.74. That puts Noodles & Co. on track to post the biggest first-day trading gain since Splunk Inc.'s debut in April 2012.