Ranked: The Most Popular Fast Food Brands in America

fast food brands ranked by systemwide sales in 2021

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Ranked: The Most Popular Fast Food Brands in America

Ever since the McDonald brothers created the concept of fast food in 1940, the restaurant’s golden arches have continued to beckon customers to its quick, cheap, and tasty meals.

McDonald’s is still the most popular fast food brand in America today—with $46 billion in systemwide sales last year.

This graphic uses data from a report on America’s top 50 fast food chains by Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) Magazine. The popular brands are sized by their 2021 systemwide sales and broken down into six broad categories: Burger, Chicken, Snack, Pizza, Sandwich, and Global.

Note: a number of these figures are estimates. Unofficial figures are noted in the graphic with an asterisk.

The Most Popular Fast Food Companies

It’s indisputable that McDonald’s is America’s favorite fast food restaurant, if not the world’s. McDonald’s sales are almost double the second the place restaurant’s, Starbucks—totaling $46 billion compared to the coffee shop’s $24 billion.

Here’s a closer look at the numbers:

Rank Company Systemwide Sales (2021) Category
#1 McDonald’s $46.0 billion Burger
#2 Starbucks $24.3 billion Snack
#3 Chick-fil-A $16.7 billion Chicken
#4 Taco Bell $12.6 billion Global
#5 Wendy’s $11.1 billion Burger
#6 Dunkin’ $10.4 billion Snack
#7 Burger King $10.0 billion Burger
#8 Subway $9.4 billion Sandwich
#9 Domino’s $8.6 billion Pizza
#10 Chipotle $7.5 billion Global
#11 Sonic Drive-In $5.8 billion Burger
#12 Panera Bread $5.7 billion Sandwich
#13 Pizza Hut $5.5 billion Pizza
#14 KFC $5.1 billion Chicken
#15 Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen $4.8 billion Chicken
#16 Dairy Queen $4.5 billion Snack
#17 Arby’s $4.5 billion Sandwich
#18 Panda Express $4.5 billion Global
#19 Little Caesars $4.2 billion Pizza
#20 Jack in the Box $4.1 billion Burger
#21 Papa Johns $3.5 billion Pizza
#22 Whataburger $2.7 billion Burger
#23 Culver’s $2.5 billion Burger
#24 Raising Caine’s $2.4 billion Chicken
#25 Jimmy John’s $2.3 billion Sandwich
#26 Wingstop $2.3 billion Chicken
#27 Zaxby’s $2.2 billion Chicken
#28 Jersey Mike’s $2.2 billion Sandwich
#29 Hardee’s $2.1 billion Burger
#30 Five Guys $2.1 billion Burger
#31 Carl’s Jr. $1.6 billion Burger
#32 Bojangles $1.5 billion Chicken
#33 In-N-Out Burger $1.2 billion Burger
#34 Firehouse Subs $1.0 billion Sandwich
#35 Krispy Kreme $996 million Snack
#36 Pel Pollo Loco $973 million Chicken
#37 Tropical Smoothie Cafe $948 million Snack
#38 Del Taco $931 million Global
#39 Checkers/Rally’s $931 million Burger
#40 Marco’s Pizza $899 million Pizza
#41 McAlister’s Deli $869 million Sandwich
#42 Qdoba $835 million Global
#43 Papa Murphy’s $809 million Pizza
#44 Church’s Chicken $776 million Chicken
#45 Shake Shack $775 million Burger
#46 Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburger $759 million Burger
#47 Tim Hortons $687 million Snack
#48 Baskin-Robbins $686 million Snack
#49 Moe’s $661 million Global
#50 White Castle $615 million Burger

Most of the top 20 restaurants are extremely well known, like Chick-fil-A in third place and Taco Bell in fourth. Some of these chains, however, will be unrecognizable depending on which part of the U.S. you live in. While Bojangles is ubiquitous in the Southeast, for example, many on the West Coast may have never heard of it.

Some of the lower ranking restaurants include Shake Shack (#45), White Castle (#50), and the Canadian-founded Tim Hortons (#47).

Fast Food Industry Trends

America’s fast food industry is expected to generate $331 billion in sales in 2022, and many restaurants are capitalizing on trends shaped in part by the pandemic.

Fast food companies are already somewhat ideal for pandemic conditions with drive-thrus, fast service, and a model that doesn’t encourage sitting down to eat.

Looking to the future, Starbucks, for example, has claimed 90% of its new stores will feature drive-thrus. Digital sales and transactions that limit contact, making fast food even more quick and convenient, are growing as well. Starbucks’ mobile order service has grown 400% over the last five years. And in 2021, the delivery side of their business grew 30% year-over-year, according to the QSR report.

Additionally, the report featured 50 up-and-coming fast food companies to watch in the industry. Here’s a look:

Rank Company Systemwide Sales (2021) Category
#1 Smoothie King $602 million Snack
#2 Habit Burger $600 million Burger
#3 Auntie Anne’s $576 million Snack
#4 Captain D’s $567 million Seafood
#5 Steak ‘N’ Shake $539 million Burger
#6 Portillo’s $526 million Snack
#7 Jamba $505 million Snack
#8 Schlotzsky’s $332 million Sandwich
#9 Krystal $323 million Burger
#10 Fazoli’s $298 million Global
#11 Pizza Ranch $279 million Pizza
#12 Scooter’s Coffee $263 million Snack
#13 Penn Station $258 million Sandwich
#14 Chicken Salad Chick $255 million Chicken
#15 Mountain Mike’s $254 million Pizza
#16 Smashburger $253 million Burger
#17 Cinnabon $224 million Snack
#18 Wetzel’s $219 million Snack
#19 Donatos $211 million Pizza
#20 Newk’s $208 million Sandwich
#21 Bonchon $173 million Chicken
#22 Waba Grill $170 million Global
#23 The Human Bean $109 million Snack
#24 Capriotti’s $108 million Sandwich
#25 Great Harvest Bread Company $108 million Sandwich
#26 Teriyaki Madness $90 million Global
#27 Roy Rogers $82 million Burger
#28 Pizza Guys $79 million Pizza
#29 Mooyah $71 million Burger
#30 Salsarita’s $68 million Global
#31 Dog Haus $67 million Snack
#32 Gold Star $61 million Burger
#33 Hawaiian Bros $55 million Global
#34 Honeygrow $55 million Global
#35 Robeks $50 million Snack
#36 PJ’s Coffee of New Orleans $46 million Snack
#37 Kolache Factory $46 million Snack
#38 Juice it Up! $43 million Snack
#39 Happy Joe’s $38 million Pizza
#40 Rusty Taco $35 million Global
#41 Wing Zone $34 million Chicken
#42 Swig $29 million Snack
#43 Pickleman’s $29 million Sandwich
#44 Killer Burger $17 million Burger
#45 Wing Snob $15 million Chicken
#46 Sobol $13 million Global
#47 Bad Ass Coffee of Hawaii $12 million Snack
#48 Asian Box $11 million Global
#49 Sauce on the Side $9 million Global
#50 Mici Italian $6 million Global

Some of these are well-established fast food joints that are simply growing their sales, like Cinnabon, while others are newer to the scene.

America’s Favorite Fast Food

Using the ranking’s food categories, we calculated the total sales in each category from the top 50 to figure out which foods are America’s favorites. The winner is evidently burgers, with $92.2 billion in collective sales. Here’s a look at the breakdown:

Rank Food Category Category Cumulative Sales
#1 Burger $92.2 billion
#2 Snack $42.5 billion
#3 Chicken $36.7 billion
#4 Global $27.0 billion
#5 Sandwich $25.9 billion
#6 Pizza $23.5 billion

Sales at Burger restaurants were more than double the runner-up, which was Snacks. After all, nothing is more American than a classic hamburger and fries.

The post Ranked: The Most Popular Fast Food Brands in America appeared first on Visual Capitalist.

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