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:
|Rank||Company||Systemwide Sales (2021)||Category|
|#4||Taco Bell||$12.6 billion||Global|
|#7||Burger King||$10.0 billion||Burger|
|#11||Sonic Drive-In||$5.8 billion||Burger|
|#12||Panera Bread||$5.7 billion||Sandwich|
|#13||Pizza Hut||$5.5 billion||Pizza|
|#15||Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen||$4.8 billion||Chicken|
|#16||Dairy Queen||$4.5 billion||Snack|
|#18||Panda Express||$4.5 billion||Global|
|#19||Little Caesars||$4.2 billion||Pizza|
|#20||Jack in the Box||$4.1 billion||Burger|
|#21||Papa Johns||$3.5 billion||Pizza|
|#24||Raising Caine's||$2.4 billion||Chicken|
|#25||Jimmy John's||$2.3 billion||Sandwich|
|#28||Jersey Mike's||$2.2 billion||Sandwich|
|#30||Five Guys||$2.1 billion||Burger|
|#31||Carl's Jr.||$1.6 billion||Burger|
|#33||In-N-Out Burger||$1.2 billion||Burger|
|#34||Firehouse Subs||$1.0 billion||Sandwich|
|#35||Krispy Kreme||$996 million||Snack|
|#36||Pel Pollo Loco||$973 million||Chicken|
|#37||Tropical Smoothie Cafe||$948 million||Snack|
|#38||Del Taco||$931 million||Global|
|#40||Marco's Pizza||$899 million||Pizza|
|#41||McAlister's Deli||$869 million||Sandwich|
|#43||Papa Murphy's||$809 million||Pizza|
|#44||Church's Chicken||$776 million||Chicken|
|#45||Shake Shack||$775 million||Burger|
|#46||Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburger||$759 million||Burger|
|#47||Tim Hortons||$687 million||Snack|
|#50||White Castle||$615 million||Burger|
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:
|Rank||Company||Systemwide Sales (2021)||Category|
|#1||Smoothie King||$602 million||Snack|
|#2||Habit Burger||$600 million||Burger|
|#3||Auntie Anne's||$576 million||Snack|
|#4||Captain D's||$567 million||Seafood|
|#5||Steak 'N' Shake||$539 million||Burger|
|#11||Pizza Ranch||$279 million||Pizza|
|#12||Scooter's Coffee||$263 million||Snack|
|#13||Penn Station||$258 million||Sandwich|
|#14||Chicken Salad Chick||$255 million||Chicken|
|#15||Mountain Mike's||$254 million||Pizza|
|#22||Waba Grill||$170 million||Global|
|#23||The Human Bean||$109 million||Snack|
|#25||Great Harvest Bread Company||$108 million||Sandwich|
|#26||Teriyaki Madness||$90 million||Global|
|#27||Roy Rogers||$82 million||Burger|
|#28||Pizza Guys||$79 million||Pizza|
|#31||Dog Haus||$67 million||Snack|
|#32||Gold Star||$61 million||Burger|
|#33||Hawaiian Bros||$55 million||Global|
|#36||PJ’s Coffee of New Orleans||$46 million||Snack|
|#37||Kolache Factory||$46 million||Snack|
|#38||Juice it Up!||$43 million||Snack|
|#39||Happy Joe's||$38 million||Pizza|
|#40||Rusty Taco||$35 million||Global|
|#41||Wing Zone||$34 million||Chicken|
|#44||Killer Burger||$17 million||Burger|
|#45||Wing Snob||$15 million||Chicken|
|#47||Bad Ass Coffee of Hawaii||$12 million||Snack|
|#48||Asian Box||$11 million||Global|
|#49||Sauce on the Side||$9 million||Global|
|#50||Mici Italian||$6 million||Global|
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:
|Rank||Food Category||Category Cumulative Sales|
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.
Ranked: The World’s Top Diamond Mining Countries, by Carats and Value
Who are the leaders in rough diamond production and how much is their diamond output worth?
Ranked: World Diamond Mining By Country, Carat, and Value
Only 22 countries in the world engage in rough diamond production—also known as uncut, raw or natural diamonds—mining for them from deposits within their territories.
This chart, by Sam Parker illustrates the leaders in rough diamond production by weight and value. It uses data from Kimberly Process (an international certification organization) along with estimates by Dr. Ashok Damarupurshad, a precious metals and diamond specialist in South Africa.
Rough Diamond Production, By Weight
Russia takes the top spot as the world’s largest rough diamond producer, mining close to 42 million carats in 2022, well ahead of its peers.
Russia’s large lead over second-place Botswana (24.8 million carats) and third-ranked Canada (16.2 million carats) indicates that the country’s diamond production is circumventing sanctions due to the difficulties in tracing a diamond’s origin.
Here’s a quick breakdown of rough diamond production in the world.
|5||🇿🇦 South Africa||9,660,233|
|10||🇸🇱 Sierra Leone||688,970|
|18||🇨🇮 Cote D'Ivoire||3,904|
|19||🇨🇬 Republic of Congo||3,534|
Note: South Africa’s figures are estimated.
As with most other resources, (oil, gold, uranium), rough diamond production is distributed unequally. The top 10 rough diamond producing countries by weight account for 99.2% of all rough diamonds mined in 2022.
Diamond Mining, by Country
However, higher carat mined doesn’t necessarily mean better value for the diamond. Other factors like the cut, color, and clarity also influence a diamond’s value.
Here’s a quick breakdown of diamond production by value (USD) in 2022.
|5||🇿🇦 South Africa||$1,538M|
|9||🇸🇱 Sierra Leone||$143M|
|19||🇨🇬 Republic of Congo||$0.20M|
|20||🇨🇮 Cote D'Ivoire||$0.16M|
Note: South Africa’s figures are estimated. Furthermore, numbers have been rounded and may not sum to the total.
Thus, even though Botswana only produced 59% of Russia’s diamond weight in 2022, it had a trade value of nearly $5 billion, approximately 1.5 times higher than Russia’s for the same year.
Another example is Angola, which is ranked 6th in diamond production, but 3rd in diamond value.
Both countries (as well as South Africa, Canada, and Namibia) produce gem-quality rough diamonds versus countries like Russia and the DRC whose diamonds are produced mainly for industrial use.
Which Regions Produce the Most Diamonds in 2022?
Unsurprisingly, Africa is the largest rough diamond producing region, accounting for 51% of output by weight, and 66% by value.
|Rank||Region||Share of Rough|
Diamond Production (%)
|Share of Rough
Diamond Value (%)
However diamond mining in Africa is a relatively recent phenomenon, fewer than 200 years old. Diamonds had been discovered—and prized—as far back as 2,000 years ago in India, later on spreading west to Egyptian pharaohs and the Roman Empire.
By the start of the 20th century, diamond production on a large scale took off: first in South Africa, and decades later in other African countries. In fact between 1889–1959, Africa produced 98% of the world’s diamonds.
And in the latter half of the 20th century, the term blood diamond evolved from diamonds mined in African conflict zones used to finance insurgency or crime.
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