The Top 50 Fast-food chains in America
Based on the fast-food chains in America, it’s clear that Americans still love McDonald’s. But burgers are the most popular fast food item. Yes! burger is the king.
More than 36 percent of American adults ate fast food on a given day between 2013 and 2016, according to a report on fast-food in America consumption by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and there’s no reason to think that our intake has decreased. However much we might claim to disdain the fast-food chains in America that purvey fast food on nutritional and/or aesthetic grounds, the fact is that a lot of us find it pretty irresistible.
The most iconic fast-food chains in America
As with most indulgences, the best game plan for enjoying it is simply not to indulge too much. Eating fast food every day is not a good strategy for long and healthy life. On the other hand, will an occasional cheeseburger or pizza or bucket of fried chicken kill you? Probably not. If and when you do join the line at McDonald's or pull up to the Sonic Drive-In window, what should you choose? That’s a matter of personal taste, of course, and there’s plenty of variety out there, even beyond the obvious. In addition to their core menus, pizza chains sell chicken wings; burger chains sell fish sandwiches; doughnut chains sell bagels.
1. Jason's Deli
You can find muffalettas, loaded baked potatoes, Caprese paninis, and the endless garden-fresh salad bar at any of the 273 Jason's Delis across the country.
In-N-Out will only open stores where it can deliver its meat fresh from its distribution centers in California and Texas and in other fast-food chains in America, making all of its 328 stores on the West Coast.
The prolific sub-shop boasts a whopping 25,908 locations across the nation, beating its closest competitor, Arby's, by almost eightfold.
Surprisingly enough, one of the oldest, most ubiquitous, and most iconic fast-food chains American fast-food restaurants isn't the biggest fast-food in America The Golden Arches' 14,036 locations beat out Starbucks but still came in second place.
The U.S. is home to 13,930 Starbucks locations, expanding by 758 stores in just one year.
6. Dunkin' Donuts
fast-food chains in America runs on Dunkin', so we expected the doughnut chain to rank in the top five. You can find glazed doughnuts and iced macchiatos at all 12,538 locations.
7. Pizza Hut
Craving stuffed crust? Pizza Hut's loaded cheesy bites pizza will have you covered with the fast-foodin America.
8. Burger King
Snag a Whopper and a paper crown at any of the 7,226 locations nationwide, up a whole 70 spots from the fast-food chains in America.
9. Taco Bell
Whether you're craving Mexican for lunch or inebriated and famished at 3 a.m., you can find the dichromatic bell logo tacked on 6,446 storefronts across the fast-food chains in America.
Dave Thomas founded the fast-food chains in America with fresh, never frozen beef at the crux of Wendy's menu—which is likely why the chain has expanded to an impressive 5,769 locations.
When Domino's opened up shop in 1960, the now-global chain consisted of just a single location that was dubbed Dominick's. Fast forward six decades later, and the pizza place has 5,587 locations under its fast-food chains in America.
12. Dairy Queen
Dairy Queen may have 4,455 units across the coasts, but the Blizzard sovereign's fan food is no match for the Frosty and McFlurry.
13. Little Caesars
Snag one of Little Caesars' hot-n-ready pies at any of the 4,332 locations. The pizza parlor is the third-largest pizza fast-food chains in America, expectedly trailing behind Pizza Hut and Domino's.
Kentucky Fried Chicken's fast-food chains in America humble beginnings as a roadside fast-food in America 1930 transformed it into a globe-spanning chain, boasting 4,109
15. Sonic Drive-In
The Oklahoma-based drive-in has 3,593 locations in its homeland where you can grab an All-American Dog, a Chili Cheese Coney, or even splurge with a side of fluffy tots.
Widely praised for the classic roast beef sandwiches that Arby's has been slow-roasting since the mid-sixties in the fast-food chains in America, the sub shop climbed to 3,415 spots in 2017.
17. Papa John's
Although Papa John's prides itself in using "better ingredients" and therefore serving up better pizza than its competitors, its lowly 3,314 locations compared to Pizza Hut and Domino's aren't doing the brand justice.
18. Jimmy John's
Jimmy John's expanded its sandwich fast-food chains in America emporium by 108 stores in a year, climbing up to an impressive 2,755 in cities ranging from Phoenix to Philadelphia.
When craving a cone, most folks opt for a single scoop of either Oreo, vanilla, mint chocolate chip, chocolate, or very berry strawberry at one of the 2,538 Baskin-Robbins shops.
With a little bit of help from their largest investor, McDonald's, Chipotle expanded from just 16 fast-food in America in 1998 to 500 by 2005. These days, you can get your favorite Mexican fare from any of the 2,371 locations.
21. Jack in the Box
Jack in the Box's deep-fried and fully-loaded taco is a fan favorite among its 2,251 locations—but that shouldn't give you the green light to order it.
Whether you opt for the blackened tenders or the popcorn shrimp, be sure to grab the Southern-style fare at any of Popeyes' 2,231 locations.
Chick-Fil-A snags a spot among fast-food chains in America, and with 2,225 locations, you can "Eat Mor Chikin" in almost every state.
24. Panera Bread
Originally the St. Louis Bread Company, there are now 2,043 locations serving soup and pasta in hearty bread bowls.
25. Panda Express
You can pick up your favorite chow mein, orange chicken, fried rice, and more at any of this fast-casual chain's 2,011 locations, most of which are located in mall food courts. Who doesn't love Chinese food and shopping?
Hardee's ceased operating in tandem with its sister brand, Carl's Jr. in 2018, claiming its stake on this list. Now that Hardee's is on its own, it goes to show that people love biting into the juicy charbroiled burgers on 1,864 menus across the nation.
27. Papa Murphy's
For the freshest pizza around, take and bake the Gourmet Delite, Stuffed, or Signature pies—or opt for creating your own—at any of Papa Murphy's 1,483 locations.
28. Jersey Mike's
Despite its name, Jersey Mike's has expanded way past its original Jersey roots. Today, its 1,343 locations can be found all across the country and are even gaining popularity on the West Coast, especially in Southern California.
29. Five Guys
When Five Guys started franchising in 2003, the Virginia-headquartered company began a period of rapid expansion that has failed to stop since. Today you can enjoy burgers, fries, and a selection of shakes (including the signature bacon shake) at any of the chains’ 1,321 locations.
30. Auntie Anne's
Although the pretzel chain is mostly known for its shopping mall stands, Auntie Anne's originally started at a farmer's market as a way for founder Anne Beiler to support her husband's dream of a free family counseling center, and boy did it pay off—the franchise now has 1,311 locations.
31. Carl's Jr.
While Carl's Jr. dominates the West Coast and Hardee's on the east, the sister fast-food chains in America 1,156 locations across the nation altogether.
32. Firehouse Subs
Firehouse Subs was started by the firemen and police officers of the Sorensen family in 1994. Since then, news of the famous sandwiches caught fire and the franchise has expanded to 1,091 locations.
Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, Wingstop has expanded from one small Texas restaurant in 1994 to a chain of 1,027 locations nationwide.
34. Church's Chicken
Boasting the title of the fourth-largest chicken fast-food in America you can get fried chicken from churches at any of their 1,009 locations.
The predominantly southern chain has 890 locations, but no matter where you visit Zaxby's, people are obsessed with their dipping sauces.
36. Checkers & Rally's
A 1999 merger helped these fast-food chains in America, which share headquarters in Tampa, Florida, to reach a total of 873 spots.
37. Marco's Pizza
Marco's Pizza didn't even crack QSR's top 50 list last year. It expanded by 97 units since last year and now has 867 locations nationwide.
Of the 821 Whataburgers, the proudest consumers are from Texas, where the chain started back in 1950.
You can find the famous chicken fast-food chain and biscuits at any of the 764 southeastern locations.
40. Tim Hortons
This Ontario-based fast-food restaurant may have an impressive 738 shops in the U.S., but Tim Hortons is Canada's largest quick-serving chain.
Let's hear it for the 726 Qdoba locations that don't charge extra for guac!
42. Moe's Southwest Grill
With 705 locations since its small start in Georgia in 2000, one of Chipotle's biggest fast-food in America competitors is still growing.
Although it fell short of In-N-Out when it came in number two for the country's favorite burger chain, Culver's boasts a whole 286 more locations than their competitor with 643 locations.
44. Del Taco
Taco-bout is a success story—the first Del Taco opened in California in 1964 and now has 564 fast food joints. If only the tacos were still 19 cents.
45. Steak 'n' Shake
You can grab a Steakburger at any of Steak 'n' Shake's 511 locations, although this is the only type of steak you'll find on the menu. The famous burger is said to be made with a combination of T-bone and sirloin steak, ground like chopped meat.
46. Noodles & Co.
With 478 convenient locations ranging from Wisconsin to New York, you can try oodles of noodle combinations, or opt for their best-selling Wisconsin Mac & Cheese.
47. El Pollo Loco
People go crazy for this chicken joint's signature citrus-marinated, fire-grilled cuts at 477 El Pollo Loco-tions.
48. Boston Market
Before being purchased by McDonald's Corporation in 2002, Boston Market's rapid expansion to 461 locations left the company in a bit of a financial pickle. Failed attempts to spread globally caused Boston Market to reroute into supermarkets rather than opening new stores.
49. McAlister's Deli
From humble beginnings in a small town in Mississippi to a neighborhood favorite in 26 states, you can get McAlister's Famous Tea by the glass or the gallon at any of their 409 locations!
50. White Castle
Although they're not quite as charming and historical as the ones in Europe, you can find 380 White Castles here fast-food chain in America.
Some estimate the fast-food in America industry’s revenue to be about $200 billion in America and $570 billion globally. Looking only at this list of the top 30, one can see that the revenue of fast-food restaurants is fairly high compared to other types of restaurants.