Most of America's biggest fast-food chains have recovered from their pandemic losses as the dust settled and restrictions eased. Only two major national chains are yet to see the light at the end of the tunnel. And when all its competitors are seeing a major sales growth that's surpassing 2019 levels, it's becoming more difficult to blame the pandemic for their struggles.
The two top stars, Chick-fil-A and Chipotle, are seeing their sales skyrocketing. Chick-fil-A did 30% better compared to its sales in 2019 and Chipotle had a whopping 34% sales increase during that same time, according to the data company Technomic's Top 500 Chain Restaurant Report for 2022. In stark contrast, Subway and Burger King are still struggling to get back to their pre-pandemic sales levels.
Subway, America's largest chain by unit count, did manage to grow its sales by 13% in 2021. However, the company is still worse off than it was in 2019. The pandemic hit the home of the footlong sandwich hard, and the brand closed between 2,200 and 2,400 locations in the U.S. in 2020. During that same time period, its sales plummeted from $10.2 billion to $8.3 billion. In fact, the company has been on a downward spiral for a while, with a 25% decline in business between 2012 and 2017.
Subway has also struggled to keep its head above water when it came to controversial headlines. The company has been accused of everything from bad business practices with franchisee owners to faking the ingredients in its tuna.
Burger King is another chain that has been steadily moving down the fast-food hierarchy. Once the second-largest burger chain in America, Burger King is now ranking at number three, falling below Wendy's in popularity.
Prior to Burger King's fall from grace, the burger slinger was second in competition only to McDonald's. Its lacking reputation and a laundry list of failed marketing campaigns, however, have contributed to its uneven sales performance in the last decade.
Additionally, the chain just got hit with a class-action lawsuit claiming their Whoppers are too small. The suit accuses Burger King of misrepresenting its iconic burger in advertisements by depicting it as 35% larger than it really is. While the case is ongoing, it may spell further trouble for its image.
Want the tea about what's really going on at Subway and Burger King? Check out 9 Secrets America's Most Controversial Fast-Food Chain Doesn't Want You To Know and This Major National Burger Chain Is Falling Out of Favor with Customers, Data Shows.