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Visualizing America’s Most Popular Fast Food Chains

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Most Popular Fast Food Joints in the U.S.

Visualizing America’s Most Popular Fast Food Chains

Fast food is big business in America. From national chains to regional specialties, the industry was worth $331.4 billion as of June 2022.

Which fast food brands are currently dominating this space? This graphic by Truman Du uses data from Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) Magazine to show the most popular fast food chains across America.

The Most Prevalent Fast Food Chains, by Store Count

Each year, QSR Magazine puts together a report that ranks America’s top 50 fast food chains. It uses a number of metrics to determine this, including total sales (which we’ve covered in a previous article), average-unit volume (AUVs), and growth figures.

For this graphic, Du zoomed in on a specific metric from the report—the number of stores that each fast food chain has across the country. Here are the top 50 chains, and the number of restaurants they each have across America:

RankBrandTotal U.S. Stores (2021)
1Subway21,147
2Starbucks15,450
3McDonald's13,438
4Dunkin'9,244
5Burger King7,105
6Taco Bell7,002
7Domino's6,560
8Pizza Hut6,548
9Wendy's5,938
10Dairy Queen4,339
11Little Caesars4,181
12KFC3,953
13Sonic Drive-in3,552
14Arby's3,409
15Papa Johns3,164
16Chipotle2,966
17Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen2,757
18Chick-Fil-A2,732
19Jimmy John's2,657
20Panda Express2,334
21Baskin-Robbins2,317
22Jack in the Box2,218
23Jersey Mike's2,100
24Panera Bread2,080
25Hardee's1,734
26Wingstop1,534
27Five Guys1,390
28Papa Murphy's1,240
29Firehouse Subs1,140
30Carl's Jr.1,058
31Tropical Smoothie Café1,039
32Marco's Pizza1,002
33Zaxby's908
34Church's Chicken892
35Whataburger873
36Culver's837
37Checkers / Rally's834
38Bojangles773
39Qdoba739
40Moe's659
41Tim Hortons637
42Del Taco600
43Raising Cane's567
44McAlister's Deli505
45El Pollo Loco481
46Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers420
47In-N-Out Burger370
48Krispy Kreme358
49White Castle349
50Shake Shack243

Subway takes first place with over 20,000 restaurants across the country—that’s more stores than all the other sandwich chains on the list put together.

Subway’s popularity is reflected in its sales figures, as well—in 2021, Subway generated about $9.4 billion in sales, about double its closest rival Arby’s.

Second on the list is Starbucks, with more than 15,000 stores across America. Despite a rough 2020, the coffee chain managed to turn things around in 2021, making more than $24 billion in sales that year.

The iconic burger joint McDonald’s comes in third, with more than 13,000 restaurants across the country. While the restaurant has fewer stores than Starbucks and Subway, it generated $46 billion in 2021 sales, which is more than Subway and Starbucks combined.

The “Stay in Your Lane” Curse

As the report shows, quick service restaurants are a popular dining option across America, and the successful ones have the potential to generate billions of dollars each year.

However, QSRs are not without their struggles. One difficulty facing fast food chains is the fact they’re often siloed into specific verticals—once a QSR establishes its niche, it can be difficult for that chain to branch out and successfully launch different menu items.

Take McDonald’s McPizza for example, which was launched in the mid 1980s and tested for a decade or so before being widely discontinued by 2000. Various factors contributed to its demise, but one major issue was the pizza’s relatively long cook-time of sixteen minutes.

Innovation in the Fast Food Industry

While fast food restaurants may have difficulty diversifying their menus, there’s still tons of innovation happening in the industry, especially when it comes to optimizing service and cutting wait times for customers.

For example, Starbucks’ mobile order and pay service, which allows customers to order from their phone, has grown 400% over the last five years. And in 2021, the McDonald’s app was downloaded 24 million times.

It’ll be interesting to see what changes in the next decade, as fast food companies continue to invest in their digital offers and tech support.

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This article was published as a part of Visual Capitalist's Creator Program, which features data-driven visuals from some of our favorite Creators around the world.

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Retail

The World’s Top Retail Companies, by Domestic Revenue

As price pressures and e-commerce reshape shopping behaviors, we show the top retail companies by domestic revenue around the world.

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This circle graphic shows the world's top retail companies by domestic revenue.

The World’s Top Retail Companies, by Domestic Revenue

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

The retail sector plays a vital role in powering economies, contributing $5.3 trillion annually to America’s GDP alone.

Moreover, the industry is America’s biggest private-sector employer, responsible for one of every four jobs, or 55 million employees. Yet in today’s challenging consumer environment, retailers are facing higher e-commerce penetration and inflationary pressures—across an industry notoriously known for razor-thin margins.

This graphic shows the world’s top retail companies by domestic revenue, based on data from the National Retail Federation.

Methodology

To be included in the rankings, companies must engage in a goods-for-consumer resale business accessible to the public and have direct selling operations in a minimum of three countries.

The rankings include both publicly and private companies, and are based on the most recent 52-week period analyzed by the National Retail Federation between January and March 2024. All revenue figures were converted to U.S. dollars.

Ranked: The Top 10 Global Retailers by Domestic Sales

Here are the leading retailers worldwide based on domestic sales as of 2023:

RankingRetailerDomestic Retail Revenue
(USD)
Share of Total Retail RevenueHeadquarters
1Walmart$532.3B85%🇺🇸 U.S.
2Amazon.com$250.0B70%🇺🇸 U.S.
3Costco$175.4B75%🇺🇸 U.S.
4The Home Depot$142.0B94%🇺🇸 U.S.
5Walgreens Boots Alliance$105.1B89%🇺🇸 U.S.
6Alibaba$91.5B97%🇨🇳 China
7Apple$70.9B87%🇺🇸 U.S.
8Aeon$64.3B93%🇯🇵 Japan
9Schwarz Group$56.5B32%🇩🇪 Germany
10Rewe$55.5B75%🇩🇪 Germany

Walmart towers ahead as the world’s largest retailer with $532 billion in domestic revenue—more than Amazon.com and Costco combined.

Known for its everyday low prices, Walmart achieves a competitive advantage through pricing goods approximately 25% cheaper than traditional retail competitors. Overall, groceries make up more than half of total sales. While its main customer base is often low and middle-income shoppers, the retail giant is seeing a surge in sales from higher-income customers as shoppers seek out lower grocery prices.

E-commerce giant, Amazon, is the second-biggest retailer globally, commanding nearly 40% of online retail sales in America. Since 2019, the number of Amazon employees has grown from 800,000 to over 1.5 million in 2023.

While the company has tried to introduce online grocery platforms to the market, it has largely fallen flat given its clunky system in a highly competitive market.

Like Amazon, China’s e-commerce juggernaut, Alibaba, stands as a leading global retailer. Overall, 97% of revenues were generated domestically through online marketplaces Taobao and Tmall. In recent years, the company has focused on international expansion, delivering products to 11 markets including America, in just five days.

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