Americans are a fast food bunch, no doubt. The cultural phenomenon began with the drive-thrus of the 1950’s and never looked back. The fast food industry is now a global force, with chains like McDonald’s, KFC, and Burger King operating restaurants worldwide. It has become more than just an American custom; it is a global one.
Let’s take a look at the ten most popular fast food chains in today’s US market:
2011 U.S. sales: $4.05 billion
Number of locations: 1,600
This relative latecomer to the fast food industry has seen great inroads expanding across all parts of the US. Known for their quirky ads featuring cows that persuade people to ‘eat mor chikin’, this Atlanta-based company saw a 13% increase in sales for 2012 over the previous year. Chick-Fil-A also managed to open 64 restaurants last year despite the sluggish economy.
2011 U.S. sales: $4.5 billion
Number of locations: 4,793
Though this restaurant giant now has China as its biggest market, nothing is more American than the Colonel. Sadly, KFC has been losing market share in the US, closing 262 locations last year. So which chain is gaining the most ground on this classic food chain? It’s chicken rival Chick-Fil-A.
2011 U.S. sales: $5.4 billion
Number of locations: 7,595
This long-time American pizza chain favorite shares ties with KFC as part of the conglomerate YUM! Brands portfolio. Despite expanding by 53 units last year in the US, Pizza Hut’s sales numbers stayed surprisingly flat. The growth is in Asia, where like its counterpart KFC, Pizza Hut is doing exceptionally well.
2011 U.S. sales: $5.92 billion
Number of locations: 7,015
Americans run on Dunkin’, at least enough to come in as the 7th most popular fast food chain in the US. The company from Massachusetts expanded by 115 locations last year, while also upping sales despite the tough market. Dunkin’ Donuts is the number two coffee chain in the US behind Starbucks, but its lower prices make it more resilient in this economy.
2011 U.S. sales: $6.8 billion
Number of locations: 5,674
Taco Bell used to be the only large scale Mexican fast food chain in the country. For the last 30 years many new entrants have tried to delude Taco Bell’s client base, but it remains the largest for south-of-the-border cuisine. The company is even going through a renaissance of sorts, offering a wide array of new products and drinks. Sales continue to climb at a slow, steady pace.
2011 U.S. sales: $8.4 billion
Number of locations: 7,231
As far as burger chains go, Burger King faces many tough competitors. This has been evident especially in the last year with BK losing 4% of its sales, despite the fact that many of its rivals have far fewer locations. Biggest gainers at the expense of Burger King’s lagging performance have been Sonic, Jack in the Box, and heavy-hitter Wendy’s.
2011 U.S. sales: $8.5 billion
Number of locations: 5,876
A shift towards greater offerings than burgers has helped Wendy’s surge past rival Burger King in 2012. A new menu, more health-friendly salads, and a large selection of fixings puts Wendy’s at number 4 amongst all fast food chains, despite charging a bit of a premium over its competitors. Notching an increase of 2% for 2012 sales, the little red-headed burger chain is here to stay.
2011 U.S. sales: $9.75 billion
Number of locations: 10,787
Starbucks has been trying to right the ship in its markets by downsizing and cutting costs. The company shuttered over 300 stores last year. The strategy seems to have paid off, as the chain reported an impressive 7.5% increase in sales for 2011. Though they typically command higher prices than competitors, Starbucks is offering more in the way of instant coffee, teas, and foods that may help keep consumers loyal. It also helps that they still have 3,800 more stores than their next biggest rival, Dunkin’ Donuts.
2011 U.S. sales: $11.4 billion
Number of locations: 24,722
Subway has come a long way since its humble beginnings in the upper Northeast. The sandwich chain has more locations worldwide than any restaurant on the planet! Subway’s sales increased a hearty 7.5% last year, while also opening an additional 872 stores nationwide. Clearly low prices and healthy options are a win-win for this fast food chain. Five-dollar Foot-long, anyone?
2011 U.S. sales: $34.2 billion
Number of locations: 14,098
It comes as no surprise that this all-American restaurant is the biggest chain in the US. McDonald’s continues to expand its presence in the United States at a healthy pace, opening 71 new locations last year and growing sales by 5%. With offerings from coffee to smoothies and breakfast burritos to salads, the Golden Arches are a tough competitor to beat.
Source & Full List: Business Insider