Millions of Americans eat at fast food chains every day, and there are more fast food restaurants available than ever before.
From pad Thai to burgers, there’s a fast food restaurant that will curb any craving. With all of these choices available in the USA, which fast food chains are the most popular?
Based on data from QSR Magazine, here are the top 10 most popular fast food restaurants in the USA based on 2019 sales.
Top 10 Most Popular Fast Food Chains in USA
Based on QSR Magazine’s data, which lists the 50 top fast food chains in the USA, the biggest fast food chains generated over $200 billion in revenue in 2019 alone. But how did these fast food chains stack up against each other?
Let’s take a closer look at the top 10 fast food chains in 2019.
Company Category U.S. Sales, Billions (2019)
McDonald’s Burger $40.41
Starbucks Snack $21.55
Chick-fil-A Chicken $11.00
Taco Bell Global $11.00
Burger King Burger $10.30
Subway Sandwich $10.00
Wendy’s Burger $9.87
Dunkin Donut Snack $9.22
Domino’s Pizza $7.10
Panera Bread Sandwich $5.93
It’s no surprise that McDonald’s is number one on the list with over $40 billion in revenue. You can see from the chart above that they made nearly double what Starbucks made, the second most popular fast food chain in the USA based on sales.
Top Selling Categories for Fast Food Chains
From the ranking, you can see that Americans still love McDonald’s. But, in general, are burgers the most popular fast food category item?
The short answer is yes. Burgers are the most popular fast food item. Here’s a quick look at how chicken, pizza, burgers, and other fast food items measured up in 2019 based on revenue:
Burgers are still the most popular fast food chains among Americans – 14 of the 50 fast food chains on the list mentioned above are burger restaurants and have a collective sales of $80 billion.
The snack category came in second place, with a collective revenue of $36 billion. The snack category consists of iced coffee, ice cream, and donuts, and six restaurants are on the top 50 fast food chains in the USA list.
The sandwich and chicken categories both have nine restaurants on the list. But, chicken restaurants outsold sandwiches by around $1 billion due to Chick-fil-A making up more than a third of all sales for chicken restaurants in the ranking.
How 2020 Impacted Fast Food Chains
While the fast food industry suffered in 2020, fast food chains still had a better year than most industries.
The top 500 fast food chains in the USA, according to the foodservice research company Technomic, endured around an eight percent revenue loss in 2020, which is much smaller than their independent and dine-in competitors. Some of these fast food chains even saw a growth in their revenues!
The revenue growth could be due to advances in a digital presence and efficient, contactless transactions. All of which were extremely important during the pandemic.
Closer Look at Some of the Top Fast Food Chains
Let’s take a closer look at some of the top fast food chains on the list above. This section also looks at 2020 ratings because while most things stayed the same, one fast food chain made strides to beat the competition.
The popularity of McDonald’s is unshakeable. The largest fast food chain remains the most popular fast food restaurant in the USA based on sales. People know a McDonald’s restaurant by the golden arches they see when driving down the road.
Starbucks is the second most popular fast food chain in the USA, even though it saw significant losses in 2020 – more than 13 percent in sales losses in 2020 alone. However, it’s still much more popular than its competition: Dunkin’.
This Atlanta-based fast food chain continues to be one of the top restaurants in the USA, placing third in 2019. Chick-fil-A serves the most popular chicken items in the USA compared to its competitors KFC, Wingstop, and Popeyes.
Taco Bell is number four on the list. It lasted through the pandemic of 2020 with a zero percent change in earnings thanks to innovation with their menu and efficient contactless transactions.
Wendy’s is number seven on the 2019 list, but in 2020, it ranked number 5, beating out Burger King and Subway. Wendy’s is now considered the second most popular burger chain in the USA after McDonald’s, which could be due to the launch of their breakfast menu.
The top 10 most popular fast food chains in the USA based on sales in 2019 are McDonald’s, Starbucks, Chick-fil-A, Taco Bell, Burger King, Subway, Wendy’s, Dunkin’, Domino’s, and Panera Bread.
In the USA, people love burger restaurants. Burger restaurants are the most popular fast food items and will continue to be the most popular for years, thanks to the number one favorite fast food chain McDonald’s.
Americans love the convenience of fast food restaurants because if they have a craving, they can find a fast food restaurant chain that will fix that craving quickly and cheaply. So, it’s no wonder that fast food chains make up over $200 billion in revenue in the United States!
These fast food chains saw changes in 2020 because of the pandemic, but most could stay in the same position on the ranking list. However, one fast food chain made strides and beat out the competition to rank two spots higher in 2020 than they did in 2019, and that would be Wendy’s.
It will be extremely interesting to see how fast food chains in the United States ranked in 2021 when the rankings come out! Will a fried chicken restaurant break the top 10? Will Dairy Queen’s ice cream push it to the top? Or will pizza places, like Pizza Hut or Papa John’s, make a move? We’ll have to wait to find out.