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The 50 Most Popular Fast Food Chains in America



This article is published in collaboration with Visual Capitalist

by Carmen Ang



The 50 Most Popular Fast Food Chains in America


Millions of Americans eat at fast food restaurants every day—and they now have more options at their disposal than ever before.


From burgers to pad thai, there’s a quick service restaurant that’ll satisfy almost any appetite. With all this choice, which fast food chains are the most popular among consumers?


Using data from QSR Magazine, today’s infographic ranks the top 50 largest fast food chains in the U.S. by sales in 2019, providing insight into the types of foods Americans have been craving.


Fast Food Chains Ranked, by Revenue


In 2019, the 50 largest fast food chains in the U.S. generated over $200 billion in revenue. How do these quick service giants stack up against each other?

Showing 1 to 10 of 50 entries


Unsurprisingly, McDonald’s comes in at number one with over $40 billion in sales. Despite a scandal involving its former CEO, McDonald’s still managed to significantly outsell its peers—the company made almost double that of the second-largest fast food chain, Starbucks.


But don’t worry, Starbucks did just fine for itself. With $21 billion in sales, the Seattle-based coffee chain saw a 5% increase compared to its numbers in 2018.


Top Selling Fast Food Categories


Based on the ranking, it’s clear that Americans still love their McDonald’s. But are burgers, in general, the most popular fast food item?


In short—yes. Burgers are king. Here’s a look at how burgers, pizza, chicken, and other food categories measure up:


Burger joints remain the most popular fast food option among consumers—14 of the 50 chains on the list are classified as burger restaurants, with $80 billion in collective sales.


Snacks come in at second place, with a total of $36 billion in revenue. Boasting a broad variety of foods from iced coffee to donuts and ice cream, six of the restaurants on the list are included in this category. Starbucks is the most popular, followed by Dunkin’ and Dairy Queen respectively.


While the chicken and sandwich categories both have nine restaurants included in the ranking, chicken restaurants outsold sandwiches by almost $1 billion. This is largely due to Chick-fil-A, which makes up more than a third of all chicken restaurant sales included in the ranking.


COVID Closures


It’s important to note that these numbers reflect the fast food industry before the devastating impacts of COVID-19. The global pandemic has forced many fast food restaurants to adapt, and it’s also triggered a number of restaurant shutdowns.


For instance, McDonald’s is set to permanently close 200 of its 14,000 U.S. locations, and Dunkin’ will be closing 450 restaurants by the end of 2020. Starbucks has also announced it’s planning to permanently shut down up to 400 locations by mid-2021.


With online sales more important than ever, the chains with a strong digital presence may be in a better position to weather the storm. Chains with physical distancing options, such as drive-throughs, could also recover quicker.


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