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5 Regional Fast-Food Chains Customers Are Flocking To

These highly-regarded brands don't need the national stage to garner a cult following.

Just as different parts of the country tend to have their own, often unique cuisines, such as spicy Cajun food in Louisiana, or BBQ and Tex-Mex in Texas, the same holds true for fast-food chains.

The popularity of regional fast-food chains, those only found in certain parts of the country, has been steadily growing in recent years with brands that prefer to keep their footprint smaller but their food in high demand.

Here's a look at five regional fast-food chains that are all scoring points with customers while experiencing increased sales, more foot traffic, and regional expansions.

And don't miss 5 Steakhouse Chains Customers Are Flocking To.

1

Culver's

culver's exterior
Red Herring / Shutterstock

Best known for its ButterBurgers, frozen custard, chicken sandwiches, and hand-battered fish, Culver's is a regional favorite that has been serving up midwestern hometown hospitality since 1984.

The chain has grown to more than 800 locations across 25 states and is ranked #2 in sales growth among the 10 largest burger chains in the U.S., according to the Technomic Top 500 Chain Restaurant Report.

Thrillist called Culver's "The best regional fast-food chain in the country," singling out its ButterBurger, cheddar cheese sauce, and even its coffee. It was also named a favorite chain among millennials by Restaurant Business.

As a private company, Culver's doesn't disclose quarterly earnings, but the burger slinger can regularly be found at the top of fast-food rankings—this year it took fifth place in USA Today's annual favorite regional fast-food chains list.

Culver's most recent revenue estimates are upwards of $3.2 billion.

2

In-N-Out Burger

in-n-out burger restaurant
Michael Gordon/Shutterstock

Founded in 1948, the venerable In-N-Out Burger has developed something of a cult following by focusing on a simple menu of fresh, not-frozen burgers, hand-cut fries, and real ice-cream shakes.

Being a privately-held company with no franchised restaurants, the company doesn't disclose yearly earnings but Restaurant Business estimated the chain's sales were $1.073 billion in 2020.

QSR Magazine ranked In-N-Out number 33 on its 50 Big Chart, an annual ranking of fast-food restaurant companies by their system-wide sales.

In-N-Out fans continue to sing the chain's praises on social media. Customer Bradley Evan said on In-N-Out's Facebook page, "I used to come and eat here every day after High School growing up but then moved out of state where there are no locations. The first thing I do when I come back to SoCal is go straight to one of your locations." And he isn't the only one!

The chain was also included on USA Today's 10 best regional fast-food chains list.

So what's In-N-Out's secret? Reportedly, the company limits its restaurant locations based on proximity to its meat distributors, thereby maintaining its commitment to using only fresh, never-frozen beef and other top-quality ingredients.

The chain currently has 365 restaurants in seven states, concentrated mostly in California and Nevada.

3

Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers

freddy's frozen custard & steakburgers
Kristi Blokhin / Shutterstock

Much like Culver's, Freddy's is making its regional presence known with its simple yet popular menu consisting of single and double burgers, chicken, hot dogs, and frozen custard. Popular meals, such as the Bacon and Cheese Double Combo, include a side and medium drink for about $8.

Just this year, the chain announced new growth saying it will add a total of 64 new Freddy's locations to new and existing markets including Chicago, Illinois, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, and California.

Moreover, the company recently announced the opening of its first airport location in the Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City. As part of its overall expansion, Freddy's plans to double its size within the next four years, which would bring its total restaurant count to 800 by 2026.

Founded in 2002 in Wichita, Kan., by two brothers, Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers has more than 430 locations across 36 states nationwide.

4

Habit Burger Grill

habit burger grill
Felipe Sanchez / Shutterstock

Habit Burger Grill, with its award-winning chargrilled burgers, chicken, sandwiches, salads, sides, and desserts, is quickly becoming a "habit" with its dedicated customers.

Parent company Yum! Brands reported that Habit grew its systemwide sales by 17% in the first quarter of this year while also opening 13 new restaurants in the U.S. and Cambodia. Same-store sales also increased 3% this year as compared with the same time period last year.

Customers awarded the chain four out of five stars in America's Favorite Restaurant Chains 2022 Awards, based on food taste, quality, and ingredient transparency, among other factors. The chain prides itself on serving simple, high-quality food coupled with reasonable prices and great service.

Founded in California in 1969, the chain now has close to 300 restaurants across the country and abroad.

5

PDQ

pdq restaurant
Nolichuckyjake / Shutterstock

PDQ, or People Dedicated to Quality, has built its reputation on serving high-quality and tasty chicken sandwiches, tenders, salads, and handcrafted shakes.

The chain took third place on USA Today's 10 best regional fast-food chains list, and has also been praised by former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow, who is part of an investment group that now owns seven PDQ locations in Florida.

PDQ was founded in 2009 in Florida by Nick Reader and Bob Basham, an original founder of Outback Steakhouse. The chain now has 65 franchise locations in Florida, New York, New Jersey, and North and South Carolina.

Alan Krawitz
Alan Krawitz is a veteran New York-based journalist with 25 years of experience working for a variety of media outlets including Newsday, Zenger News, and Long Island Press. Read more