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Ranked: The 50 Most Popular Fast Food Chains in America



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)
4Taco BellGlobal$11.00
5Burger KingBurger$10.30
10Panera BreadSandwich$5.93
12Pizza HutPizza$5.38
14Sonic Drive-InBurger$4.69
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
23Jimmy John'sSandwich$2.11
27Five GuysBurger$1.66
28Raising Cane'sChicken$1.47
30Carl's Jr.Burger$1.39
31Jersey Mike'sSandwich$1.34
33In-N-Out BurgerBurger$1.00
34Steak 'n ShakeBurger$0.93
35El Pollo LocoChicken$0.89
38Firehouse SubsSandwich$0.86
39Del TacoGlobal$0.85
40Tim HortonsSandwich$0.84
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
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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Visualized: Which Coastal Cities are Sinking the Fastest?

Many major coastal cities are experiencing local land subsidence where underground soil and rock collapse, causing the surface above to sink.



A cropped map and ranking of the fastest sinking coastal cities in the world by local land subsidence.

Which Coastal Cities Are Sinking the Fastest?

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.

With sea levels rising, there is cause for concern about the livability of major coastal cities—often huge centers of trade and commerce, and homes to millions of people.

But an overlooked area is how coastal cities are themselves sinking—a phenomenon called relative local land subsidence (RLLS)—which occurs when underground materials, such as soil, rock, or even man-made structures, compact or collapse, causing the surface above to sink.

This can exacerbate the effects of rising sea levels (currently averaged at 3.7 mm/year), and is a useful metric to track for coastal communities.

Creator Planet Anomaly, looks at the top 10 cities ranked by the peak subsidence velocity. This graphic is based on a paper published by Nature Sustainability, which used satellite data to track land subsidence changes in 48 high-population coastal cities located within 50 kilometers of the coastline. Their data collection spanned six years from 2014 to 2020.

ℹ️ Interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR) utilizes two images taken at different times, which are then compared to create an interferogram. This interferogram illustrates changes in land motion relative to a reference point in the satellite’s line-of-sight over time. By analyzing a series of these interferograms, researchers can estimate the long-term velocity of the ground’s surface for each city.

In that time period, they found that 44 of the cities they studied—many of them massively populated, developed megacities, built on flat, low-lying river deltas—had areas sinking faster than sea levels were rising.

The 10 Fastest Sinking Coastal Cities

One of the top cities on the list is Tianjin, China with a population of more than 14 million people, which has areas of the city experiencing peak RLLS velocities of 43 mm a year between 2014–2020. The median velocity is much lower, at 6 mm/year, which means some areas are sinking much faster than the overall metropolitan area.

Tianjin is bordered by Beijing municipality to the northwest and the Bohai Gulf to the east. In June 2023, large cracks appeared on Tianjin’s streets, caused by underground land collapses, a byproduct of extensive geothermal drilling, according to the local government.

RankCityCountryPeak Velocity
Median Velocity
1Tianjin🇨🇳 China436
2Ho Chi Minh City🇻🇳 Vietnam4316
3Chittagong🇧🇩 Bangladesh3712
4Yangon🇲🇲 Myanmar314
5Jakarta🇮🇩 Indonesia265
6Ahmedabad🇮🇳 India235
7Istanbul🇹🇷 Turkey196
8Houston🇺🇸 U.S.173
9Lagos🇳🇬 Nigeria172
10Manila🇵🇭 Philippines172

Ho Chi Minh City (population 9 million) in Vietnam also faces similar RLLS rates as Tianjin though its median velocity is much higher at 16 mm/year.

Chittagong, Bangladesh, Yangon, Myanmar, and Jakarta, Indonesia, round out the top five fastest sinking coastal cities by relative land subsidence. They all face a similar web of contributing factors as the authors of the paper note below:

“Many of these fast-subsiding coastal cities are rapidly expanding megacities, where anthropogenic factors, such as high demands for groundwater extraction and loading from densely constructed building structures, contribute to local land subsidence.” — Tay, C., Lindsey, E.O., Chin, S.T. et al.

In fact, Indonesia has ambitious plans to relocate its sinking capital, Jakarta, to another island, a move that could cost the Indonesian government more than $120 billion. This comes after the forecast that one-third of Jakarta could be submerged as early as 2050. Aside from the regular flooding, Jakarta is also extremely prone to earthquakes.

Why Measure Local Land Subsidence?

The researchers of this report argue that local land subsidence is largely underestimated in relative sea level rise assessments and is crucial for the sustainable development of coastal areas.

The data they’ve collected—peak velocity versus median velocity—also allows them to identify specific areas and neighborhoods in cities that are undergoing rapid subsidence and thus facing a greater exposure to coastal hazards.

In New York, for example, their results suggested that subsidence is only localized west of Breezy Point and “should not be extrapolated eastward along the coast” of Long Island.

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