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This Unexpected State Has the Most Fast-Food Restaurants In America

With a fast-food joint for every 1,025 residents.

The state of Hawaii ranks 40th in terms of population, with about 1,416,000 residents, according to the United States Census Bureau. It comes in 43rd in terms of total square mileage, a number which includes some 4,500 square miles of water. And having been granted statehood in 1959, it is the 50th state to have joined the Union.

But there is one unexpected distinction for which the Aloha State currently holds the number one spot: the state has far and away the highest number of fast food restaurants per capita, according to data assembled by (Related: 8 Grocery Items That May Soon Be in Short Supply.)

Hawaii has 97.5 fast food locations per 100,000 residents, which translates to one McDonald's, Subway, Taco Bell, or other fast food outlet per every 1,025 people who live in Hawaii. Only one other state comes even close to the same concentration of fast food spots, and that's New York. The Empire State has 92.3 fast restaurants per 100,000 residents.

Averaged together, most states have closer to 80 fast food restaurants per 100,000 residents, while the only other noncontiguous state, Alaska, ranks the lowest in fast food locations per capita, with just under 62 fast food locations per 100,000 Alaskans.

Part of the reason Hawaii tops the list are its high concentrations of certain fast-food brands but also a wide variety of others which are present in smaller numbers. By contrast, most other states have a high concentration of some chains but few or even zero locations of others (several states lack even a single Dunkin' location, for example).

So what are the most common fast food chains you'll come across in Hawaii? Subway holds the #1 spot, followed closely by Starbucks and McDonald's.

Interestingly, Hawaii has a low prevalence of obesity compared to the rest of the United States, according to America's Health Rankings for 2020. It may be that those fast-food restaurants are primarily there for the tourists.

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Steven John
Steven John is a freelancer writer for Eat This, Not That! based just outside New York City. Read more about Steven