The 50 Biggest Fast Food Chains in America
Sure, it might seem like there's a Starbucks or McDonald's on every corner…but what's even more ubiquitous than the coffee chain or iconic burger restaurant? To find out which quick-service and fast food chains are most abundant in all the land, we consulted QSR Magazine's most recent report on the top 50 chains with the most U.S. locations to determine the biggest fast food chains. Our list is made up of popular fast food chains with many locations nationwide (like Chick-Fil-A, Burger King, and McDonald's) and more regional restaurant chains (like In-N-Out, El Pollo Loco, and Marco's Pizza). If you haven't heard of some of these places before, it might be time to book a trip to that part of the US!
Read on to see if the results meet your expectations, and then discover what the 100 Most Popular Fast Food Items are at these nationwide chains.
You can find muffalettas, loaded baked potatoes, Caprese paninis, and the endless garden-fresh salad bar at any of the 273 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 all of its 328 stores on the West Coast.
Although they're not quite as charming and historical as the ones in Europe, you can find 380 White Castles here in America.
From humble beginnings in a small town in Mississippi to a neighborhood favorite in 26 states, you can get McAlister's Famous Tea by the glass or the gallon at any of their 409 locations!
Before being purchased by McDonald's Corporation in 2002, Boston Market's rapid expansion to 461 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.
El Pollo Loco
People go crazy for this chicken joint's signature citrus-marinated, fire-grilled cuts at 477 El Pollo Loco-tions.
Noodles & Co.
With 478 convenient locations ranging from Wisconsin to New York, you can try oodles of noodle combinations, or opt for their best-selling Wisconsin Mac & Cheese.
Steak 'n' Shake
You can grab a Steakburger at any of Steak 'n' Shake's 511 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.
Taco-bout a success story—the first Del Taco opened in California in 1964 and now has 564 fast food joints. If only the tacos were still 19 cents.
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 643 locations.
Moe's Southwest Grill
With 705 locations since its small start in Georgia in 2000, one of Chipotle's biggest competitors is still growing.
Let's hear it for the 726 Qdoba locations that don't charge extra for guac!
This Ontario-based restaurant may have an impressive 738 shops in the U.S., but Tim Hortons is actually Canada's largest quick-serving chain.
You can find the famous chicken and biscuits at any of the 764 southeastern locations.
Of the 821 Whataburgers, the proudest consumers are from Texas, where the chain started back in 1950.
Marco's Pizza didn't even crack QSR's top 50 list last year. It expanded by 97 units since last year and now has 867 locations nationwide.
Checkers & Rally's
A 1999 merger helped these fast food chains, who share headquarters in Tampa, Florida, to reach a total of 873 spots.
The predominantly southern chain has 890 locations, but no matter where you visit Zaxby's, people are obsessed with their dipping sauces.
Boasting the title of fourth largest chicken restaurant chain, you can get fried chicken from Church's at any of their 1,009 locations.
Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, Wingstop has expanded from one small Texas restaurant in 1994 to a chain of 1,027 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 1,091 locations.
While Carl's Jr. dominates the West Coast and Hardee's the east, the sister fast food chains boast 1,156 locations across the nation altogether.
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 1,311 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 (including the signature bacon shake) at any of the chains 1,321 locations.
Despite its name, Jersey Mike's has expanded way past its original Jersey roots. Today, its 1,343 locations can be found all across the country and are even gaining popularity on the West Coast, especially in Southern California.
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 1,483 locations.
Hardee's ceased operating in tandem with its sister brand, Carl's Jr. in 2018, claiming its own stake on this list. Now that Hardee's is on its own, it goes to show that people love biting into the juicy charbroiled burgers on 1,864 menus across the nation.
You can pick up your favorite chow mein, orange chicken, fried rice, and more at any of this fast-casual chain's 2,011 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 2,043 locations serving soup and pasta in hearty bread bowls.
Chick-Fil-A snags a spot on America's favorite fast food chains, and with 2,225 locations, you can "Eat Mor Chikin" in almost every state.
Whether you opt for the blackened tenders or the popcorn shrimp, be sure to grab the Southern-style fare at any of Popeyes' 2,231 locations.
Jack in the Box
Jack in the Box's deep-fried and fully-loaded taco is a fan-favorite among its 2,251 locations—but that shouldn't give you the green light to order it.
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 2,371 locations.
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 108 stores in a year, climbing up to an impressive 2,755 in cities ranging from Phoenix to Philadelphia.
Although Papa John's prides itself in using "better ingredients" and therefore serving up better pizza than its competitors, its lowly 3,314 locations compared to Pizza Hut and Domino's aren't doing the brand justice.
Widely praised for the classic roast beef sandwiches that Arby's has been slow-roasting since the mid-sixties, the sub shop climbed to 3,415 spots in 2017.
The Oklahoma-based drive-in has 3,593 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 4,109 U.S.-based locations as of 2017.
Snag one of Little Caesars' hot-n-ready pies at any of the 4,332 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 4,455 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 place has 5,587 locations under its belt.
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 5,769 locations.
Whether you're craving Mexican for lunch or inebriated and famished at 3 a.m., you can find the dichromatic bell logo tacked on 6,446 storefronts across the U.S.
Snag a Whopper and a paper crown at any of the 7,226 locations nationwide, up a whole 70 spots from the previous year.
Craving stuffed crust? Pizza Hut's loaded cheesy bites pizza will have you covered.
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 12,538 locations.
The U.S. is home to 13,930 Starbucks locations, expanding by 758 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' 14,036 locations beat out Starbucks but still came in second place.
The prolific sub shop boasts a whopping 25,908 locations across the nation, beating its closest competitor, Arby's, by almost eightfold.
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