50 Biggest Fast Food Chains in America
If your goal is to lose 10 pounds fast or simply adopt a healthier lifestyle, it may seem like there’s a taunting drive-thru just around every corner. While it may appear like those bright Golden Arches are more ubiquitous than gas stations or that Starbucks is stalking you, your go-to fast food chains may not actually be the most prolific across the 50 states.
To find out which quick-service restaurants are most abundant in the land, we consulted QSR Magazine‘s most recent report on the top 50 chains with the most U.S. locations. Read on below to see if the results meet your expectations and then discover which healthy fast food dishes are worth forking into at these nation-spanning chains.
You can find muffalettas, loaded baked potatoes, Caprese paninis, and the endless garden-fresh salad bar at any of the 264 Jason’s Delis across the country.
In-N-Out will only open stores where it can deliver its meat fresh from its distribution centers in California and Texas, making its 319 stores primarily on the West Coast.
Although they’re not quite as charming and historical as the ones in Europe, you can find 384 White Castles here in America.
From humble beginnings in a small town in Mississippi to a neighborhood favorite in 28 states, you can get McAlister’s famous Sweet Tea by the glass or the gallon at any of their 387 locations!
El Pollo Loco
People go crazy for this chicken joint’s signature citrus-marinated, fire-grilled cuts at 460 El Pollo Loco-tions.
Before being purchased by McDonald’s Corporation in 2002, Boston Market’s rapid expansion to 462 locations left the company in a bit of a financial pickle. Failed attempts to spread globally caused Boston Market to reroute into supermarkets rather than opening new stores.
Since 1969, this hamburger and seafood restaurant has expanded from a small joint in Tennessee to 516 locations. In the process, they dropped the burger from their menu, focusing on competing in the seafood niche market alongside brands like Long John Silver’s.
Noodles & Company
With 532 convenient locations ranging from Wisconsin to New York, you can try oodles of noodle combinations or opt for their best-selling Wisconsin Mac & Cheese.
Taco-bout a success story—the first Del Taco opened in California in 1964 and now has 551 fast food joints. If only the tacos were still 19 cents.
Steak ‘n Shake
You can grab a Steakburger at any of Steak ‘n Shake’s 568 locations, although this is the only type of steak you’ll find on the menu. The famous burger is said to be made with a combination of T-bone and sirloin steak, ground like chopped meat.
Although it fell short of In-N-Out when it came in number two for the country’s favorite burger chain, Culver’s boasts a whole 286 more locations than their competitor with 605 across 24 states.
Moe’s Southwest Grill
With 680 locations since it’s small start in Georgia in 2000, one of Chipotle’s biggest competitors is still growing.
This Ontario-based restaurant may have an impressive 683 shops in the U.S., but Tim Hortons is actually Canada’s largest quick-serving chain.
Let’s hear it for the 699 Qdoba locations that don’t charge extra for guac!
You can find the famous chicken and biscuits at any of the 716 southeastern locations.
Of the 806 Whataburgers, the proudest consumers are from Texas, where the chain started back in 1950.
The predominantly southern chain has 816 locations, but no matter where you visit Zaxby’s, it’s still the worst chicken joint in the country.
You can get a fruit smoothie at any of Jamba Juice’s 839 locations, but if your goal is to cut back on bloating sugar, you may want to check out these Eat This!-approved orders first.
Checkers & Rally’s
A 1999 merger helped these fast food chains, who share headquarters in Tampa, Florida, to reach a total of 841 locations in 28 states.
Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, Wingstop has expanded from one small Texas restaurant in 1994 to a chain of 998 locations nationwide.
Firehouse Subs was started by the firemen and police officers of the Sorensen family in 1994. Since then, news of the famous sandwiches caught fire and the franchise has expanded to 1,037 locations in 44 states.
Boasting the title of fourth largest chicken restaurant chain, you can get fried chicken from Church’s at any of their 1,076 locations.
Jersey Mike’s Subs
Despite its name, Jersey Mike’s has expanded way past its original Jersey roots. Today, its 1,187 locations can be found all across the country and are even gaining popularity on the West Coast, especially in Southern California.
Although the pretzel chain is mostly known for their shopping mall stands, Auntie Anne’s originally started at a farmer’s market as a way for founder Anne Beiler to support her husband’s dream of a free family counseling center, and boy did it pay off—the franchise now has 1,300 locations.
When Five Guys started franchising in 2003, the Virginia headquartered company began a period of rapid expansion that has failed to stop since. Today you can enjoy burgers, fries, and a selection of shakes that includes the signature bacon shake, at any of the chains 1,421 locations.
For the freshest pizza around, take-and-bake the Gourmet Delite, Stuffed, or Signature pies—or opt for creating your own—at any of Papa Murphy’s 1,577 locations.
You can pick up your favorite chow mein, orange chicken, fried rice, and more at any of this fast-casual chain’s 1,893 locations, most of which are located in mall food courts. Who doesn’t love Chinese food and shopping?
Originally the St. Louis Bread Company, there are now 2,042 locations serving soup and pasta in hearty bread bowls.
Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen
Whether you opt for the blackened tenders or the popcorn shrimp, be sure to grab the Southern-style fare at any of Popeyes’ 2,084 locations.
Chick-Fil-A snags a spot on America’s favorite fast food chains, and with 2,102 locations, you can “Eat Mor Chikin” in almost every state.
With a little bit of help from their largest investor, McDonald’s, Chipotle expanded from just 16 restaurants in 1998 to 500 by 2005. These days, you can get your favorite Mexican fare from any of the 2,198 locations.
Jack in the Box
Jack in the Box’s deep-fried and fully-loaded taco is a fan-favorite among its 2,255 locations—but that shouldn’t give you the green light to order it.
When craving a cone, most folks opt for a single scoop of either Oreo, vanilla, mint chocolate chip, chocolate, or very berry strawberry at one of the 2,538 Baskin-Robbins shops.
Jimmy John’s expanded its sandwich emporium by 242 stores in a year, climbing up to an impressive 2,647 in cities ranging from Phoenix to Philadelphia.
Carl’s Jr. & Hardee’s
While Carl’s Jr. dominates the West Coast and Hardee’s the east, the sister fast food chains boast 3,011 locations across the nation altogether.
Widely praised for the classic roast beef sandwiches that Arby’s has been slow-roasting since the mid-sixties, the sub shop climbed to 3,358 spots in 2016.
Although Papa John’s prides itself in using “better ingredients” and therefore serving up better pizza than its competitors, its lowly 3,441 locations compared to Pizza Hut and Domino’s aren’t doing the brand justice.
The Oklahoma-based drive-in has 3,557 locations in its homeland where you can grab an All-American Dog, a Chili Cheese Coney, or even splurge with a side of fluffy tots.
Kentucky Fried Chicken’s humble beginnings as a roadside restaurant in Corbin circa 1930 transformed it into a globe-spanning chain, boasting 4,167 U.S.-based locations as of 2016.
Snag one of Little Caesars’ hot-n-ready pies at any of the 4,323 locations. The pizza parlor is the third-largest pizza chain in the country, expectedly trailing behind Pizza Hut and Domino’s.
Dairy Queen may have 4,517 units across the coasts, but the Blizzard sovereign’s fan food is no match for the Frosty and McFlurry.
When Domino’s opened up shop in 1960, the now-global chain consisted of just a single location that was dubbed DomiNick’s. Fast forward six decades later, and the pizza QSR has 5,371 locations under its belt.
Whether you’re craving Mexican for lunch or inebriated and famished at 3 a.m., you can find the dichromatic bell logo tacked on 6,278 storefronts across the U.S.
Dave Thomas founded the fast-food chain with fresh, never frozen beef at the crux of Wendy’s menu—which is likely why the chain has expanded to an impressive 6,537 locations.
Snag a Whopper and a paper crown at any of the 7,161 locations nationwide, up a whole 35 spots from the previous year.
You may swear by Pizza Hut’s loaded cheesy bites pizza and the dessert cookies, but the chain closed 133 shops from 2015 to 2016, clocking in at a total of 7,689 stores.
America runs on Dunkin’, so we expected the doughnut chain to rank in the top five. You can find glazed doughnuts and iced macchiatos at all 8,828 locations.
The U.S. is home to 13,172 Starbucks locations, expanding by 651 stores in just one year.
Surprisingly enough, one of the oldest, most ubiquitous, and most iconic American restaurants isn’t actually the biggest in the U.S. The Golden Arches’ 14,155 locations come as a close second.
The prolific sub shop boasts a whopping 26,744 locations across the nation, beating its closest competitor, Arby’s, by almost eightfold. If you find yourself frequenting the home of the $5-dollar footlong, don’t miss our exclusive report, Every Subway Sandwich—Ranked for Nutrition!