Ranked: The Most Popular Fast Food Brands in America
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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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The Biggest Tech Talent Hubs in the U.S. and Canada

6.5 million skilled tech workers currently work in the U.S. and Canada. Here we look at the largest tech hubs across the two countries

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The Biggest Tech Talent Hubs in the U.S. and Canada

The tech workforce just keeps growing. In fact, there are now an estimated 6.5 million tech workers between the U.S. and Canada — 5.5 million of which work in the United States.

This infographic draws from a report by CBRE to determine which tech talent markets in the U.S. and Canada are the largest. The data looks at total workforce in the sector, as well as the change in tech worker population over time in various cities.

The report also classifies which metro areas and regions can rightly be considered tech hubs in the first place, by looking at a variety of factors including cost of living, average educational attainment, and tech employment levels as a share of different industries.

The Top Tech Hubs in the U.S.

Silicon Valley, in California’s Bay Area, remains the most prominent (and expensive) U.S. tech hub, with a talent pool of nearly 380,000 tech workers.

Here’s a look at the top tech talent markets in the country in terms of total worker population:

🇺🇸 MarketTotal Tech Talent% Talent Growth (2016-2021)
SF Bay Area378,87013%
New York Metro344,5203%
Washington D.C. 259,3106%
Los Angeles235,80010%
Seattle189,57032%
Dallas/Ft. Worth187,95015%
Chicago167,5606%
Boston166,4502%
Atlanta145,0807%
Denver117,62023%
Philadelphia115,450 7%
Minneapolis100,9905%
Phoenix99,60018%
Houston98,930-2%
Detroit 93,7705%
Austin 84,68021%
Baltimore79,0008%
San Diego77,780 16%
Raleigh/Durham69,05011%
Portland67,410 28%
South Florida66,660 8%
Charlotte61,95022%
Salt Lake City55,93029%
St. Louis53,9102%
Kansas City52,5000%
Tampa 52,24013%
Columbus50,3904%

America’s large, coastal cities still contain the lion’s share of tech talent, but mid-sized tech hubs like Salt Lake City, Portland, and Denver have put up strong growth numbers in recent years. Seattle, which is home to both Amazon and Microsoft, posted an impressive 32% growth rate over the last five years.

Emerging tech hubs include areas like Raleigh-Durham. The two cities have nearly 70,000 employed tech workers and a strong talent pipeline, seeing a 28% increase in degree completions in fields like Math/Statistics and Computer Engineering year-over-year to 2020. In fact, the entire state of North Carolina is becoming an increasingly attractive business hub.

Houston was the one city on this list that had a negative growth rate, at -2%.

The Top Tech Hubs in Canada

Tech giants like Google, Meta, and Amazon are continuously and aggressively growing their presence in Canada, further solidifying the country’s status as the next big destination for tech talent. Here are the country’s four tech hubs with a total worker population of more than 50,000:

🇨🇦 MarketTotal Tech Talent% Talent Growth (2016-2021)
Toronto289,70044%
Montreal148,90027%
Vancouver115,40063%
Ottawa81,20022%

Toronto saw the most absolute growth tech positions in 2021, adding 88,900 jobs. The tech sector in Canada’s largest city has seen a lot of momentum in recent years, and is now ranked by CBRE as North America’s #3 tech hub, after the SF Bay Area and New York City.

Vancouver’s tech talent population increased the most from its original figure, climbing 63%. Seattle-based companies like Microsoft and Amazon have established sizable offices in the city, adding to the already thriving tech scene. Furthermore, Google is set to build a submarine high-speed fiber optic cable connecting Canada to Asia, with a terminus in Vancouver.

Not to be left behind, Ottawa has also taken giant strides to increase their tech talent and stamp their presence. The country’s capital even has the highest concentration of tech employment in its workforce, thanks in part to the success of Shopify.

Map showing tech employment concentration in the U.S. and Canada

The small, but well-known tech hub of Waterloo also had a very high concentration on tech employment (9.6%). The region has seen its tech workforce grow by 8% over the past five years.

Six out of the top 10 cities by tech workforce concentration are located in Canada.

Evolution of Tech Hubs

The post-COVID era has seen a shifting definition of what a tech hub means. It’s clear that remote work is here to stay, and as workers migrate to chase affordability and comfort, traditional tech hubs are seeing some decline — or at least slower growth — in their population of tech workers.

While it isn’t evident that there is a mass exodus of tech talent from traditional coastal hubs, the rise in high-paying tech jobs in smaller markets across the country could point to a trend and is positive for the industry.

While more workers with great talent, resources, and education continue to opt for cost-friendly places to reside and work remotely, will newer markets like Charlotte, Tennessee, and Calgary see a rise of tech companies, or will large corporations and startups alike continue to opt for the larger cities on the coast?

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Animation: Visualizing U.S. Interest Rates Since 2020

U.S. interest rates have risen sharply after sitting near historic lows. This animation charts their trajectory since 2020.

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Visualizing Interest Rates Since 2020

In March 2020, the U.S. Federal Reserve cut already depressed interest rates to historic lows amid an unraveling COVID-19 pandemic.

Fast-forward to 2022, and the central bank is grappling with a very different economic situation⁠ that includes high inflation, low unemployment, and increasing wage growth. Given these conditions, it raised interest rates to 2.25% up from 0% in just five months.

The above visualization from Jan Varsava shows U.S. interest rates over the last two years along with its impact on Treasury yields, often considered a key indicator for the economy.

Timeline of Interest Rates

Below, we show how U.S. interest rates have changed over the course of the pandemic:

DateFederal Funds Rate (Range)Rate Change (bps)
July 27, 20222.25% to 2.50%+75
June 16, 20221.50% to 1.75%+75
May 5, 20220.75% to 1.00%+50
March 17, 20220.25% to 0.50%+25
March 16, 20200.00% to 0.25%-100
March 3, 20201.00% to 1.25%-150

In early 2020, the Federal Reserve cut interest rates from 1% to 0% in emergency meetings. The U.S. economy then jumped back from its shortest recession ever recorded, partially supported by massive policy stimulus.

But by 2022, as the inflation rate hit 40-year highs, the central bank had to make its first rate increase in over two years. During the following Federal Reserve meetings, interest rates were then hiked 50 basis points, and then 75 basis points two times shortly after.

Despite these efforts to rein in inflation, price pressures remain high. The war in Ukraine, supply disruptions, and rising demand all contribute to higher prices, along with increasing public-debt loads. In fact, a Federal Reserve estimate suggests that inflation was 2.5% higher due to the $1.9 trillion stimulus, an effect of “fiscal inflation.”

Impact on the Treasury Yield Curve

The sharp rise in interest rates has sent shockwaves through markets. The S&P 500 Index has steadily declined 19% year-to-date, and the NASDAQ Composite Index has fallen over 27%.

Bond markets are also showing signs of uncertainty, with the 10-year minus 2-year Treasury yield curve acting as a prime example. This yield curve subtracts the return on short-term government bonds from long-term government bonds.

When long-term bond yields are lower than short-term yields—in other words, the yield curve inverts—it indicates that markets predict slower future growth. In recent history, the yield curve inverting has often signaled a recession. The table below shows periods of yield curve inversions for one month or more since 1978.

Yield Curve Inversion DateNumber of MonthsMaximum Difference (10 yr - 2 yr bps)
Aug 197821 -241
Sep 198013 -170
Jan 19824 -71
Jun 19821 -34
Dec 19886 -45
Aug 19892 -18
Jun 19981 -7
Feb 200010 -51
Feb 20061 -16
Jun 20061 -7
Aug 20067-19
Jul 20222*-48

*Data as of September 9, 2022
Source: Federal Reserve

For example, the yield curve inverted in February 2000 to a bottom of -51 basis points difference between the 10-year Treasury yield and the 2-year Treasury yield. In March 2001, the U.S. economy went into recession as the Dotcom Bubble burst.

More recently, the yield curve has inverted to its steepest level in two decades.

This trend is extending to other countries as well. Both New Zealand and the UK’s yield curves inverted in August. In Australia, the yield spread between 3-year and 10-year bond futures—its primary measure—was at its narrowest in a decade.

What’s On the Horizon?

Sustained Treasury yield inversions have sometimes occurred after tightening monetary policy.

In both 1980 and 2000, the Federal Reserve increased interest rates to fight inflation. For instance, when interest rates jumped to 20% in 1981 under Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, the U.S. Treasury yield inverted over 150 basis points.

This suggests that monetary policy can have a large impact on the direction of the yield curve. That’s because short-term interest rates rise when the central bank raises interest rates to combat inflation.

On the flip side, long-term bonds like the 10-year Treasury yield can be affected by growth prospects and market sentiment. If growth expectations are low and market uncertainty is high, it may cause yields to fall. Taken together, whether or not the economy could be headed for a recession remains unclear.

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