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50 Largest Restaurant Chains in America

Are the most popular restaurants in America the most successful?

Some of the most popular restaurant chains in the country aren't the most successful. While customers may report how much they like (or dislike) a restaurant on surveys, the true way to tell whether a restaurant is popular or not is to look at where those customers put their money—not where they put their mouth.

That's why we consulted Nation's Restaurant News' 2020 Top 200 report on the top 50 chains with the highest systemwide total sales to determine the largest popular restaurant chains in America. Every year, NRN compiles the data for this report to reveal an "in-depth look at the health of the industry and the performance of its biggest players."

Our list—ranked from lowest to highest in sales—is made up of popular restaurant chains with many locations nationwide (like Chick-fil-A, Burger King, and McDonald's) as well as regional restaurant chains (like Culver's, Zaxby's, and Wawa).

Read on to see if the results actually meet your expectations, and then discover what the 100 Most Popular Fast Food Items are at these nationwide chains.

50

BJ's Restaurant & Brewhouse

BJs brewery and restaurant
designs by Jack/Shutterstock

Total sales: $1.6 billion

Despite having just 200 locations, BJ's found a spot on the same list as fast-food giants like McDonald's and Subway, with the California-based restaurant and brewery pulling in $1.6 billion in sales last year.

49

Dave & Buster's

Dave busters
Shutterstock

Total sales: $1.33 billion

Although Dave & Buster's—an arcade that doubles as a restaurant—landed among the top 50 restaurants with the highest total sales, that doesn't mean the restaurant chain is as successful as you may think. After coronavirus hit, the restaurant had to close all 137 locations and may have to declare bankruptcy—just like these 6 Beloved Restaurants That Have Filed for Bankruptcy.

48

Bojangles'

Bojangles cajun filet biscuit
Courtesy of Bojangles'

Total sales: $1.33 billion

Bojangles' famous chicken and biscuits are a staple in the southeast.

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47

Jersey Mike's

Jersey mikes philly cheesesteak sub order 17 facebook
Jersey Mikes/Facebook

Total sales: $1.34 billion

Despite its name, you can find Jersey Mike's locations all across the country.

46

Wingstop

Wingstop
Shutterstock

Total sales: $1.46 billion

Wingstop expanded from one small Texas restaurant in 1994 to a chain of 1,027 locations nationwide.

45

Raising Cane's Chicken Fingers

Raising cane's restaurant
Shutterstock

Total sales: $1.47 billion

This chicken fingers chain earned the top spot on the list of 10 Fastest-Growing Restaurant Chains in America You Need to Try.

44

Carl's Jr.

Carl's Jr moonshine burger
Carl's Jr./Facebook

Total sales: $1.47 billion

People love Carl's Jr.'s charbroiled burgers enough to spend $1.4 billion of their hard-earned cash at the burger chain.

43

Red Robin

outside of a red robin restaurant
Shutterstock

Total sales: $1.50 billion

After a solid year of over a billion dollars in sales, this beloved burger chain could be shutting its doors for good.

42

Five Guys

Five guys burger fries milkshake
Courtesy of Five Guys

Total sales: $1.66 billion

Burgers, fries, and shakes is a recipe for success.

41

LongHorn Steakhouse

longhorn steakhouse
Jonathan Weiss/Shutterstock

Total sales: $1.73 billion

With steak prices upwards of $30, it's no wonder Longhorn pulls in $1.7 billion a year.

40

Golden Corral

golden corral restaurant
Shutterstock

Total sales: $1.75 billion

Golden Corral pulled in over a billion in sales last year, but will the buffet chain be able to keep the pace after coronavirus?

39

Culver's

Culvers
Shutterstock

Total sales: $1.80 billion

You may have never heard of Culver's but it's actually the second most popular burger chain in the country.

38

Zaxby's

Zaxbys chicken wing plate with ranch in center
Zaxbys/Facebook

Total sales: $1.94 billion

People are obsessed with this southern chain's chicken and dipping sauces.

37

Hardee's

hardees
Shutterstock

Total sales: $2.03 billion

Hardee's consciously uncoupled from its sister brand, Carl's Jr. in 2018, and apparently that wasn't a bad decision based on the burger chain's sales.

36

Jimmy John's

Jimmy johns Vito
Courtesy of Jimmy John's

Total sales: $2.11 billion

Subs are a lunch staple, and Jimmy John's impressive sales prove it.

35

The Cheesecake Factory

The cheesecake factory sign
Shutterstock

Total sales: $2.16 billion

We would have expected to see The Cheesecake Factory rank higher on this list based on the fact that they have over ten times the number of menu items as many restaurants on this list.

34

Red Lobster

Red lobster restaurant
Shutterstock

Total sales: $2.22 billion

Lobster is expensive, and people still love to order it at this seafood chain.

33

Wawa

wawa storefront
Eric Glenn/Shutterstock

Total sales: $2.33 billion

Wawa might be the most regional chain on this list—having locations in only seven states—but the gas station convenience store is one of the most profitable restaurant chains in the country. And if you've ever ordered a hoagie from the store, you'd know why.

32

Whataburger

Whataburger burger and fries
Courtesy of Whataburger

Total sales: $2.56 billion

Texans love their Whataburgers so much that the chain's 800 locations still sell over $2.5 billion in burgers.

31

7-Eleven

7 eleven
Love Solutions/Shutterstock

Total sales: $2.63 billion

Unsurprisingly, selling food at gas stations where almost everyone has to stop is a great strategy.

30

Outback Steakhouse

outback steakhouse storefront
Shutterstock

Total sales: $2.64 billion

How much of those billions of dollars do you think can be attributed to the Bloomin' Onion?

29

Papa John's

Papa john's pizza restaurant
Shutterstock

Total sales: $2.66 billion

Apparently using "better ingredients" helps Papa John's make better money.

28

Denny's

Dennys
Shutterstock

Total sales: $2.78 billion

Despite their pancakes regularly appearing on our The 20 Worst Restaurant Breakfasts in America, customers still flock to Denny's for breakfast.

27

Texas Roadhouse

texas roadhouse sign at sunset
Shutterstock

Total sales: $3.02 billion

Honey cinnamon butter on fluffy rolls plus an early dine menu? It's no wonder Texas Roadhouse pulls in billions a year.

26

Cracker Barrel Old Country Store

cracker barrel
Shutterstock

Total sales: $3.07 billion

Cracker Barrel is no doubt one of the most beloved restaurant chains in the country, and customers love to spend their dough at the Old Country Store.

25

Chili's

chilis
Shutterstock

Total sales: $3.10 billion

With nightly drink specials, customers love to hang out and eat at their local Chili's.

24

IHOP

IHOP storefront
Shutterstock

Total sales: $3.30 billion

The beloved breakfast chain may have pulled in an impressive $3.3 billion last year, but many IHOP locations have had to shut down after coronavirus hit, landing the 24-hour restaurant a spot on our list of 7 Popular Restaurant Chains Struggling to Survive.

23

Jack in the Box

Jack in the Box burgers and fries
Jack in the Box/Facebook

Total sales: $3.50 billion

Something tells us Jack in the Box's famous curly fries have something to do with their stellar sales.

22

Buffalo Wild Wings

Buffalo wild wings restaurant sign
Shutterstock

Total sales: $3.67 billion

We wonder how many wings customers had to eat for Buffalo Wild Wings to make over $3 billion in a year.

21

Dairy Queen

Dairy queen
Shutterstock

Total sales: $3.75 billion

Dairy Queen's Blizzards are a fan-favorite, but this iconic menu item is no match for the Frosty and McFlurry.

20

Little Caesars

Little Caeasars
Shutterstock

Total sales: $3.76 billion

Little Caesars is the third-largest pizza chain in the country, and also ranks third in total sales.

19

Popeyes

Popeyes chicken strips
Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen

Total sales: $3.81 billion

After their new fried chicken sandwich went viral, Popeyes' sales went through the roof.

18

Arby's

Arby's restaurant at night
Shutterstock

Total sales: $3.88 billion

Arby's has the meats, and sales show that customers definitely want the meats.

17

Panda Express

Panda Express
Facebook/Panda Express

Total sales: $3.95 billion

Panda Express has just over 2,000 locations, which makes it even more impressive that the Chinese chain can hang with the fast-food chains that have tens of thousands of locations.

16

Olive Garden

Olive garden store front
Shutterstock

Total sales: $4.02 billion

We're sure that this pasta chain does well year-round, but we have to wonder if Olive Garden's Endless Pasta Pass is a big contributor to their billions in total sales.

15

Applebee's

applebees
Shutterstock

Total sales: $4.09 billion

The neighborhood bar and grill's rib and chicken finger offerings satisfy customers across the country.

14

KFC

KFC exterior
Shutterstock

Total sales: $4.55 billion

One of the oldest fast food restaurants—having been established in 1930—Kentucky Fried Chicken is still as successful as ever.

13

Sonic Drive-In

Sonic Drive Thru
jeepersmedia/Flickr

Total sales: $4.69 billion

This total sales number is pre-COVID, and we'd bet on the fact that it'll soar over the next year as drive-in restaurants were in the best position to keep sales thriving when dining rooms had to close.

12

Chipotle

Chipotle tacos
Chipotle Mexican Grill/Facebook

Total sales: $5.51 billion

With recent menu innovations like queso and quesadillas, Chipotle is satisfying customers and its sales show it.

11

Pizza Hut

Pizza hut
Shutterstock

Total sales: $5.56 billion

Everyone loves pizza, and Pizza Hut's loaded cheesy bites pizza help to pull in even more customers—and sales—than other pizza chains.

10

Panera Bread

panera bread
Shutterstock

Total sales: $5.98 billion

What was originally the St. Louis Bread Company, Panera rakes in cash thanks to their healthy menu options.

9

Domino's

Domino's pizza sign
Shutterstock

Total sales: $7.04 billion

Domino's regular promotions pay off. Customers end up buying more food when they can get a discounted medium pizza, and that translates to over $7 billion in annual sales.

8

Dunkin'

Dunkin doughnuts storefront restaurant
Lynn Watson/Shutterstock

Total sales: $9.93 billion

Dunkin'—which recently dropped the "Donuts"—from their name, is a breakfast mainstay nationwide. To find out what is worth ordering at the chain, read up on The Best & Worst Dunkin Donuts Coffee Orders For Weight Loss.

7

Wendy's

wendys spicy chicken sandwich
Wendy's/Facebook

Total sales: $9.76 billion

Wendy's sassy Twitter account and fresh—never frozen—beef make this fast-food chain immensely profitable.

6

Subway

Subway chicken bacon ranch melt
@Subway/Twitter

Total sales: $10.20 billion

This sub shop boasts tens of thousands of locations across the nation, making it the most prolific fast-food chain in the country, but Subway only ranks sixth for total sales.

5

Burger King

Burger king burger chicken nuggets fries and cookie
Burger King/Facebook

Total sales: $10.20 billion

Burger King just edges out Subway with over 10 billion dollars of annual sales. Do you think their Impossible Whopper is what pushed them over the edge?

4

Taco Bell

Rob Wilson/Shutterstock

Total sales: $11.29 billion

With options for everyone from omnivores to vegetarians, Taco Bell's versatile menu and late-night hours definitely help the taco chain drive billions of dollars of sales.

3

Chick-fil-A

Chick fil a spicy deluxe sandwich fries soda
Courtesy of Chick-fil-A

Total sales: $12.67 billion

As one of America's favorite fast food chains, Chick-Fil-A pulled in over $12 billion last year—an impressive feat when you consider that the nationwide chicken chain is only open six days a week.

2

Starbucks Coffee

Starbucks caramel frappuccino
Courtesy of Starbucks

Total sales: $22.28 billion

The coffee chain may be shuttering 400 locations over the next year and a half, but the company will also be opening hundreds of new stores with a pickup-based model. The company's ability to quickly pivot and adopt to a changing world post-COVID will likely contribute to Starbucks' high total sales moving forward.

1

McDonald's

International mcdonalds restaurant
Shutterstock

Total sales: $40.41 billion

It's no surprise that one of the oldest, most ubiquitous, and most iconic American restaurants is the largest chain restaurant in the U.S. The Golden Arches' has the second-most locations in the states (behind Starbucks), so it makes sense that it should be easiest enough to pull in the most amount of cash. To see where your other favorite restaurants land in terms of locations, don't miss our report: The 50 Biggest Fast Food Chains in America.

Olivia Tarantino
Olivia Tarantino is a senior editor of Eat This, Not That!, specializing in nutrition, health, and food product coverage. Read more