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7 Fast Food Chains Opening New Locations This Year

Customers have been flocking to these chains amid the pandemic, prompting growth and expansion.

The coronavirus pandemic has eliminated nearly all indoor dining options and raised concerns about food sanitation, leaving many independent restaurants no choice but to shut down. Even larger fast-food chains took a hit: hundreds of restaurant locations across the country were forced to close as delivery and takeout became more and more popular.

But while some franchises are hurting, others have been able to capture the added takeout and drive-thru traffic, prompting plans for expansions. With many local businesses closing their doors, well-backed chains are seizing the opportunity to move into the vacated real estate. The following brands have had a better year than most, and have opened new locations.

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Del Taco

del taco storefront

The popular Mexican chain originated in California but has quickly taken the Midwest by storm: with 9 restaurants already open in Michigan, Del Taco went on to open its first location in Bellefontaine, Ohio at the end of October, and plans to add even more throughout the state. Del Taco CEO John Cappasola says the company has recovered from any COVID-19 related struggles.

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leftys cheesesteak
Lefty's of Sterling Heights/ Facebook

With takeout and drive-thru options and very few competitors, this unique sandwich chain has seen rapid success in 2020. Founded in Michigan in 2012, Lefty's will soon be opening more locations in California and Texas as well. The company's goal is to expand to 40 locations by the end of this year, 75 by the end of 2021, 150 by the end of 2022, and 1,000 by 2027.

Papa John's

Papa johns

In September, Papa John's announced their plan to open 1,380 restaurants by 2026: 1,200 internationally and 180 in North America, with dozens of them located in Philadelphia and New Jersey. The pizza chain has seen a steady increase in sales since March, likely due to their strong delivery business and fan-favorite items.


Wingstop restaurant exterior
Courtesy of Wingstop

Wingstop recently celebrated the opening of its 1,500th restaurant, located in Las Vegas. With a footprint reaching across 44 states, the company announced they are increasing their net openings in 2020 from 120-130 to 135-140. CEO Charlie Morrison said, "The strength of our development pipeline is key for long-term success as we grow the brand to achieve our stated goal of 6,000 plus global restaurants and continue building a top 10 global restaurant brand."



Many buffet-style franchises have gone out of business this year due to concerns over food contamination. However, Saladworks has opened more than 20 locations thanks to a new partnership with ShopRite grocery stores, and plans to expand by 20 to 30 more stores before 2021.. The chain has their employees tossing salads and making sandwiches behind a glass barrier in order to ensure food safety.

P.F. Chang's

pf changs

Nearly 20 P.F. Chang's locations are opening in New York and Chicago in the next few months. However, these new spots will be P.F. Chang's To Go, carry-out-only versions of the popular chain restaurant. Despite extending temporary layoffs this year, a spokesperson for P.F. Chang's said that, with dine-in options and delivery reemerging, the company is at almost 90% of pre-pandemic staffing.


whataburger sign

With over 600 stores in Texas alone, Whataburger recently announced their plans for a major expansion, focusing particularly on Kansas City, Missouri, and Tennessee. The popular burger chain has restaurants mainly in the southern United States, but some are hopeful that more will eventually open throughout the country.

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Kara Murray
Kara Murray is a freelance writer based in Connecticut. Read more about Kara