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Ranked: The Most Popular Fast Food Brands in America

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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:

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

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:

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

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:

RankFood CategoryCategory Cumulative Sales
#1Burger$92.2 billion
#2Snack $42.5 billion
#3Chicken$36.7 billion
#4Global$27.0 billion
#5Sandwich$25.9 billion
#6Pizza$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.

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Ranked: Top 10 Single-Day Market Cap Gains

Nvidia broke the record for the largest single-day market cap gains after adding nearly $250B on Feb. 22, 2024.

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The 10 Biggest Single-Day Market Cap Gains

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.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. tech stocks have led in terms of market cap gains, sometimes boosting their valuations by hundreds of billions of dollars in a single day.

In this graphic, we’ve ranked the largest single-day gains ever recorded, using data from Bloomberg.

Top 10 List

The top 10 list includes just 5 companies, and all are based in the U.S.

RankDateCompanySingle-day
Market Cap Gain
(USD billions)
1Feb 22, 2024NVIDIA$247.0
2Feb 2, 2024Meta$196.8
3Nov 10, 2022Apple$190.9
4Feb 4, 2022Amazon$190.8
5May 25, 2023NVIDIA$184.1
6Jan 28, 2022Apple$178.9
7Jul 31, 2020Apple$169.0
8Oct 28, 2022Apple$150.5
9Mar 13, 2020Microsoft$150.4
10Apr 26, 2023Microsoft$148.3

To put these massive gains into context, consider this: As of May 2023, the average market cap of an S&P 500 company was $30.4 billion.

Meta’s $197B Record Didn’t Last Long

On Feb 2. 2024, Meta set a new record for the largest single-day gain after reporting strong quarterly earnings, as well as announcing $50B in share repurchases and its first ever dividend payment.

This record lasted only 20 days, however, as Nvidia’s massive Q4 2024 earnings beat sent it to all-time highs. The firm is now nearing a $2T valuation, firmly placing it among the world’s most valuable corporations.

More on Nvidia’s Earnings…

Nvidia reported $12.3B in net income during Q4 2024, which is 769% higher than the same quarter last year. Revenues are also up 265% from last year, largely driven by demand for its AI chips like the H100 Tensor Core GPU.

Nvidia’s earnings have seemingly shifted the AI craze into another gear, boosting other chip stocks like AMD and Super Micro Computer (SMCI) to double-digit % gains for the day (Feb 22).

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