Ranked: the 50 Most Popular Fast Food Chains in America
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Ranked: The 50 Most Popular Fast Food Chains in America

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U.S. Fast Food Sales in 2019 Infographic

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The 50 Most Popular Fast Food Chains in America

Millions of Americans eat at fast food restaurants every day—and they now have more options at their disposal than ever before.

From burgers to pad thai, there’s a quick service restaurant that’ll satisfy almost any appetite. With all this choice, which fast food chains are the most popular among consumers?

Using data from QSR Magazine, today’s infographic ranks the top 50 largest fast food chains in the U.S. by sales in 2019, providing insight into the types of foods Americans have been craving.

Fast Food Chains Ranked, by Revenue

In 2019, the 50 largest fast food chains in the U.S. generated over $200 billion in revenue. How do these quick service giants stack up against each other?

RankCompanyCategoryU.S. Sales, Billions (2019)
1McDonald'sBurger$40.41
2StarbucksSnack$21.55
3Chick-fil-AChicken$11.00
4Taco BellGlobal$11.00
5Burger KingBurger$10.30
6SubwaySandwich$10.00
7Wendy'sBurger$9.87
8Dunkin'Snack$9.22
9Domino'sPizza$7.10
10Panera BreadSandwich$5.93
11ChipotleGlobal$5.52
12Pizza HutPizza$5.38
13KFCChicken$4.82
14Sonic Drive-InBurger$4.69
15Arby'sSandwich$3.89
16Little CaesarsPizza$3.85
17Panda ExpressGlobal$3.80
18Dairy QueenSnack$3.76
19Popeyes Louisiana KitchenChicken$3.75
20Jack in the BoxBurger$3.51
21Papa John'sPizza$2.66
22WhataburgerBurger$2.56
23Jimmy John'sSandwich$2.11
24Hardee'sBurger$2.07
25Zaxby'sChicken$1.84
26Culver'sBurger$1.73
27Five GuysBurger$1.66
28Raising Cane'sChicken$1.47
29WingstopChicken$1.40
30Carl's Jr.Burger$1.39
31Jersey Mike'sSandwich$1.34
32Bojangles'Chicken$1.29
33In-N-Out BurgerBurger$1.00
34Steak 'n ShakeBurger$0.93
35El Pollo LocoChicken$0.89
36QDOBAGlobal$0.85
37Checkers/Rally'sBurger$0.86
38Firehouse SubsSandwich$0.86
39Del TacoGlobal$0.85
40Tim HortonsSandwich$0.84
41Moe'sGlobal$0.79
42Papa Murphy'sPizza$0.75
43McAlister's DeliSandwich$0.72
44Jason's DeliSandwich$0.71
45Church's ChickenChicken$0.70
46Shake ShackBurger$0.63
47Marco's PizzaPizza$0.63
48Baskin-RobbinsSnack$0.63
49Tropical Smoothie CaféSnack$0.58
50Auntie Anne'sSnack$0.56

Unsurprisingly, McDonald’s comes in at number one with over $40 billion in sales. Despite a scandal involving its former CEO, McDonald’s still managed to significantly outsell its peers—the company made almost double that of the second-largest fast food chain, Starbucks.

But don’t worry, Starbucks did just fine for itself. With $21 billion in sales, the Seattle-based coffee chain saw a 5% increase compared to its numbers in 2018.

Top Selling Fast Food Categories

Based on the ranking, it’s clear that Americans still love their McDonald’s. But are burgers, in general, the most popular fast food item?

In short—yes. Burgers are king. Here’s a look at how burgers, pizza, chicken, and other food categories measure up:

Burger joints remain the most popular fast food option among consumers—14 of the 50 chains on the list are classified as burger restaurants, with $80 billion in collective sales.

Snacks come in at second place, with a total of $36 billion in revenue. Boasting a broad variety of foods from iced coffee to donuts and ice cream, six of the restaurants on the list are included in this category. Starbucks is the most popular, followed by Dunkin’ and Dairy Queen respectively.

While the chicken and sandwich categories both have nine restaurants included in the ranking, chicken restaurants outsold sandwiches by almost $1 billion. This is largely due to Chick-fil-A, which makes up more than a third of all chicken restaurant sales included in the ranking.

COVID Closures

It’s important to note that these numbers reflect the fast food industry before the devastating impacts of COVID-19. The global pandemic has forced many fast food restaurants to adapt, and it’s also triggered a number of restaurant shutdowns.

For instance, McDonald’s is set to permanently close 200 of its 14,000 U.S. locations, and Dunkin’ will be closing 450 restaurants by the end of 2020. Starbucks has also announced it’s planning to permanently shut down up to 400 locations by mid-2021.

With online sales more important than ever, the chains with a strong digital presence may be in a better position to weather the storm. Chains with physical distancing options, such as drive-throughs, could also recover quicker.

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Misc

10 Travel Destinations for Post-Pandemic Life

Excited to get back to travelling the world? This infographic highlights the 10 most popular tourist destinations.

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10 Travel Destinations for Post-Pandemic Life

On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization formally classified the COVID-19 outbreak as a pandemic. The resulting travel bans decimated the tourism industry, and international air travel initially fell by as much as 98%.

Almost two years later, travel is finally back on the table, though there are many restrictions to consider. Regardless, a survey conducted in September 2021 found that, as things revert to normalcy, 82% of Americans are looking forward to international travel more than anything else.

To give inspiration for your next vacation (whenever that may be), this infographic lists the 10 most visited countries in 2019, as well as three of their top attractions according to Google Maps.

Bon Voyage

Here were the 10 most popular travel destinations in 2019, measured by their number of international arrivals.

CountryNumber of international arrivals in 2019 (millions)
🇫🇷 France*90.0
🇪🇸 Spain83.5
🇺🇸 U.S.79.3
🇨🇳 China65.7
🇮🇹 Italy64.5
🇹🇷 Turkey51.2
🇲🇽 Mexico45.0
🇹🇭 Thailand39.8
🇩🇪 Germany39.6
🇬🇧 United Kingdom39.4

*Estimate | Source: World Bank

France was the most popular travel destination by a significant margin, and it’s easy to see why. The country is home to many of the world’s most renowned sights, including the Arc de Triomphe and Louvre Museum.

The Arc de Triomphe was built in the early 1800s, and honors those who died in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. In 1944, Allied soldiers marched through the monument after Paris was liberated from the Nazis.

The Louvre Museum, on the other hand, is often recognized by its giant glass pyramid. The museum houses over 480,000 works of art, including Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.

Art isn’t the only thing that France has to offer. The country has a reputation for culinary excellence, and is home to 632 Michelin-starred restaurants, the most out of any country. Japan comes in at second, with 413.

While You’re There…

After seeing the sights in Paris, you may want to consider a visit to Spain. The country is the southern neighbor of France and is known for its beautiful villages and beaches.

One of its most impressive sights is the Sagrada Familia, a massive 440,000 square feet church which began construction in 1882, and is still being worked on today (139 years in the making). The video below shows the structure’s striking evolution.

At a height of 172 meters, the Sagrada Familia is approximately 52 stories tall.

Another popular spot is Ibiza, an island off the coast of Spain that is famous for its robust nightlife scene. The island is frequently mentioned in pop culture—Netflix released an adventure/romance movie titled Ibiza in 2018, and the remix of Mike Posner’s song I Took a Pill in Ibiza has over 1.4 billion views on YouTube.

Beaches Galore

If you’re looking for something outside of Europe, consider Mexico or Thailand, which are the 7th and 8th most popular travel destinations. Both offer hot weather and an abundance of white sand beaches.

If you need even more convincing, check out these links:

Expect Turbulence

Under normal circumstances, hundreds of billions of dollars are spent each year by international tourists. According to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTCC), this spending accounted for an impressive 10.4% of global GDP in 2019.

Travel restrictions introduced in 2020 dealt a serious blow to the industry, reducing its share of global GDP to 5.5%, and wiping out an estimated 62 million jobs. While the WTCC believes these jobs could return by 2022, the emerging Omicron variant has already prompted many countries to tighten restrictions once again.

To avoid headaches in the future, make sure you fully understand the rules and restrictions of where you’re heading.

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Misc

Which Values Children Should Be Encouraged to Learn, By Country

Which qualities do people think are most important for children to learn? The answer differs from country to country.

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Qualities Children Should Learn

Many of the values we prioritize as adults were instilled in us during our childhood days.

They’re called our formative years for a reason—from when we’re born up until we’re about eight years old, our brains are easily molded and remain highly sensitive to external influences and environments. But depending on where you grew up, you may have been exposed to different values during your childhood compared to someone from another place.

These visualizations by Anders Sundell illustrate the most important values people think children should learn at home, across more than 80 different countries.

Methodology

Sundell used data from the World Values Survey, an international survey that interviews hundreds of thousands of participants from across the globe. Respondents were asked to pick up to five qualities they believe are the most desirable for children to have:

  • Good manners
  • Independence
  • Hard work
  • Feeling of responsibility
  • Imagination
  • Tolerance and respect for other people
  • Thrift, saving money
  • Determination and perseverance
  • Religious faith
  • Unselfishness
  • Obedience

Sundell took the survey data and calculated the proportion of people in each country that selected each quality. From there, he took the top qualities and created three separate plot graphs to show the contrast between them.

Let’s look at the importance that countries placed on different values, including (1) independence and obedience, (2) unselfishness and religious faith, and (3) hard work and imagination.

1. Independence vs Obedience

Nordic countries value independence greatly, and find obedience to be a less important quality to instill in children.

Independence_vs_Obedience

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Other available data also supports that adults in Nordic countries value independence. According to Eurostat, the most common age to leave home in Sweden is between 17 and 18—nearly a decade sooner than the average age across the EU (26 years old).

Denmark’s average age to leave home is also below the European average, at 21 years old.

On the other end of the spectrum, countries like Iraq and Egypt believe obedience is much more important for children to learn.

2. Unselfishness vs Religious Faith

Bangladesh, Egypt, and Jordan all place a strong emphasis on faith, and fall on the far right of this graph.

unselfishness_versus_faith

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Islam is a strong influence in all three of these countries. In Bangladesh and Jordan, it’s the official state religion. And while Egypt is a secular country, a majority of citizens identify as Muslim—about 90% of the population.

Interestingly, places like the U.S. and Hong Kong fall right in the between, placing relatively equal importance on religion and unselfishness.

3. Hard Work vs Imagination

Left-leaning Nordic countries like Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Finland think imagination is more important for children to learn than hard work.

Hardwork_versus_imagination

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Interestingly, Japan also scored high for imagination, seeing it was a more important value to teach children than hard work. This is despite the fact that the country has an international reputation for being a hardworking country, where even taking an extended vacation can be frowned upon. Then again, Japan has a reputation for producing wildly creative works of art that are popular internationally (anime, for instance).

As expected, countries and cultures contain multitudes, and can often seem paradoxical and complex to those who try to codify them.

What qualities do you think are most important, and what countries surprised you with their placements?

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