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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Mapped: 2023 Inflation Forecasts by Country

Inflation surged on a global scale in 2022, hitting record-level highs in many countries. Could it finally subside in 2023?

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2023 Inflation

Mapped: 2023 Inflation Forecasts by Country

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Inflation surged on a global scale in 2022, hitting record-level highs in many countries. Could it finally subside in 2023?

In the above infographic, we look to answer that question using the World Economic Outlook report by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Not Yet Out of the Woods

While the IMF predicts that global inflation peaked in late 2022, rates in 2023 are expected to remain higher than usual in many parts of the world. Following the 8.8% global inflation rate in 2022, the IMF forecasts a 6.6% rate for 2023 and 4.3% rate for 2024 based on their most recent January 2023 update.

For the optimists, the good news is that the double-digit inflation that characterized nearly half the world in 2022 is expected to be less prevalent this year. For the pessimists, on the other hand, looking at countries like Zimbabwe, Venezuela, Turkey, and Poland may suggest that we are far from out of the woods on a global scale.

Here are the countries with the highest forecasted inflation rates in 2023.

Country / RegionProjected Annual Inflation % Change 2023
🇿🇼 Zimbabwe204.6%
🇻🇪 Venezuela195.0%
🇸🇩 Sudan76.9%
🇦🇷 Argentina76.1%
🇹🇷 Turkiye51.2%
🇮🇷 Islamic Republic of Iran40.0%
🇱🇰 Sri Lanka29.5%
🇪🇹 Ethiopia28.6%
🇸🇷 Suriname27.2%
🇸🇱 Sierra Leone26.8%
🇸🇸 South Sudan21.7%
🇭🇹 Haiti21.2%
🇬🇭 Ghana20.9%
🇵🇰 Pakistan19.9%
🇳🇬 Nigeria17.3%
🇾🇪 Yemen17.1%
🇲🇼 Malawi16.5%
🇵🇱 Poland14.3%
🇲🇩 Moldova13.8%
🇲🇲 Myanmar13.3%
🇭🇺 Hungary13.3%
🇧🇾 Belarus13.1%
🇰🇬 Kyrgyz Republic12.4%
🇬🇳 Guinea12.2%
🇲🇳 Mongolia12.2%
🇪🇬 Egypt12.0%
🇦🇴 Angola11.8%
🇰🇿 Kazakhstan11.3%
🇸🇹 São Tomé and Príncipe11.2%
🇷🇴 Romania11.0%
🇺🇿 Uzbekistan10.8%
🇦🇿 Azerbaijan10.8%
🇹🇲 Turkmenistan10.5%
🇸🇰 Slovak Republic10.1%
🇨🇬 Democratic Republic of the Congo9.8%
🇿🇲 Zambia9.6%
🇪🇪 Estonia9.5%
🇲🇪 Montenegro9.2%
🇧🇩 Bangladesh9.1%
🇬🇧 United Kingdom9.0%

While the above countries fight to sustain their purchasing power, some parts of the world are expected to continue faring exceptionally well against the backdrop of a widespread cost-of-living crisis. Many Asian countries, notably Japan, Taiwan, and China, are all predicted to see inflation lower than 3% in the upcoming year.

When it comes to low inflation, Japan in particular stands out. With strict price controls, negative interest rates, and an aging population, the country is expected to see an inflation rate of just 1.4% in 2023.

Inflation Drivers

While rising food and energy prices accounted for much of the inflation we saw in 2022, the IMF’s World Economic Outlook highlights that core inflation, which excludes food, energy, transport and housing prices, is now also a major driving factor in high inflation rates around the world.

Drivers of Inflation
What makes up core inflation exactly? In this case, it would include things like supply chain cost pressures and the effects of high energy prices slowly trickling down into numerous industries and trends in the labor market, such as the availability of jobs and rising wages. As these macroeconomic factors play out throughout 2023, each can have an effect on inflation.

The Russia-Ukraine conflict and the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are also still at play in this year’s inflation forecasts. While the latter mainly played out in China in 2022, the possible resurgence of new variants continues to threaten economic recovery worldwide, and the war persists in leaving a mark internationally.

The confluence of macroeconomic factors currently at play is unlike what we’ve seen in a long time. Though the expertise of forecasters can give us a general understanding, how they will actually play out is for us to wait and see.

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