The Most Popular Fast Food Brands in America

by Business 19 April 2024

most visited fast food restaurant

Fast food is a flourishing and advantageous industry in the USA. In 2022, the sector grossed revenues worth USD 380 billion, standing on the shoulders of McDonald’s, Starbucks, Chick-fil-A, and others. However, you will get mixed reviews if you ask an American: what’s the most popular fast food restaurant? This article analyses dynamic market factors and reviews people’s choices to explore the no. of most visited fast food restaurant in the US.

There are dynamic factors contributing to this exponential growth of the fast food sector. However, the undaunting love for the most popular fast food places is above all. However, McDonald’s remains the most visited fast food restaurant in America. 

The American fast food industry is highly competitive. All leading fast food brands try to generate value for customers in various ways. The best brands have the right product and cater to the right target customers. 



What is the most popular fast food in America? You could say a Big Mac. The legacy of burger’s popularity among adolescents in America is unparalleled. However, McDonalds has matched it’s taste with every American’s taste buds. Mathew Wilson from Yahoo Finance confirmed that: 

“McDonald’s sells around 75 hamburgers every second here in the US1”

McDonald’s used the sales maximization theory to open a staggering 13500 stores in the US, out of 40,000 stores globally. So, they emerged as the most visited fast food chain in the USA. 



Starbucks is the most popular fast food restaurant among the “up-market” consumer segment in the USA. For instance, 42% of Starbucks customers earn over USD 90000 annually.    

The premium product portfolio is not their only USP. You can order a Starbucks coffee quickly and conveniently from your home. In addition, it is the most visited fast food restaurant, specializing in gourmet coffee. 



Chick-fil-A is the third most popular fast food restaurant in the USA. As coffee to Starbucks, chicken sandwiches are to Chick-fil-A. VP of Chick-fil-A, Steve Robinson, affirmed that the company’s brand strategy is based on brand relevance and an empowered workforce. The operators at Chick-fil-A stores can customize your orders just the way you like.  

Taco Bell

YahooFinance ranks Taco Bell as the 8th most popular fast food place2. A portfolio of 6778 US stores helps Taco Bell increase its sales exponentially. Additionally, they offer you a whole range of vegetarian options. According to Gallup, 4% of Americans are vegetarians3, same as 22% of the global population. Certainly, Taco Bell has selected the right target market for differentiation.



Wendy’s specializes in America’s favorite food- cheeseburgers. However, they are trying to create a global brand based on their global-to-local strategy. So, you will find jerk chicken on their menu in Jamaica, but refried beans are a popular listed item on Wendy’s menu in Central America. 

Factors Contributing to Popularity

All successful American fast food brands have their unique business strategies. Some specialize in product features, while others excel in their business strategies. Similarly, all emerging brands are trying to create new differentiators every day. 

Menu Variety and Taste

Menu variety and taste

Most brands ranking globally as the most popular fast food places have cracked the right product mix. The right menu helps to create an association with the most prospective target customers. You might be confused when choosing chicken sandwiches from Wendy’s or Chick-fil-A, but the brands can attract the right customers through their menu variety. 

Most fast food businesses fail as they cannot serve tasty food in the shortest period. However, brands like McDonald’s, Chipotle, and Popeyes have curated the taste of their products.

Accessibility and Convenience

Accessibility and convenience

People expect the same quality and service from brands like Taco Bell, Wendy’s, or McDonald’s wherever they go. Therefore, accessibility is one of the biggest parameters for the most popular fast food restaurants. 

The annual drive-thru report of the QRS magazine stated that Taco Bell has the fastest drive-thru service in the fast food domain4. Likewise, Chick Fill offers customers the most dynamic customization options during POS. 

Brand Recognition and Loyalty

Brand recognition and loyalty

If you ask someone: what is your most visited fast food restaurant, you will get different answers every time. However, their answers would include selected brand names only. It reflects brand recognition and loyalty. Around 17% of US-based customers want to revisit Panda Express. In other words, Panda Express has high brand loyalty. 

Marketing Strategies and Promotions

Marketing strategies and promotions

Most brands use marketing intelligence systems to collect and interpret information on stakeholder behavior. The most popular fast food place in the USA preferably has the most attractive discount offer. For example, in 2018, McDonalds brought back their “2 for $5” deal to create FOMO among US customers. 

This offer increased the sales and the number of unit customers of the brand. You might receive many emails with personalized offers from a popular fast food restaurant on your email or social media. This is a promotional tactic used by fast-food brands to attract customers. 

Impact of Globalization on the Fast Food Industry

Impact of Globalization on the Fast Food Industry

The most significant impact of globalization on fast food is better growth opportunities and more incredible competitive rivalry. Globalization also creates familiar food tastes across customer demographics. 

Expansion of International Fast-food Chains

Expansion of international fast-food chains

You might be craving Mexican Chipotle from New York. There are many like you. Due to globalization, the most visited fast food restaurant in any country maintains a global supply chain. Most importantly, they have access to the means/resources required to recreate the authentic taste of Mexican Chipotle in a NY outlet. As a result, your most popular fast food place can focus on international expansion due to its global supply chain. 

Franchising Opportunities and Economic Growth

Franchising opportunities and economic growth

McDonald’s success shows the potential of the franchising model of business. It is the most visited fast food restaurant, as they have the most franchised stores in the world. While you accept a McDonald’s, Wendy’s, or Popeyes franchise, their brand awareness increases the chance for your business to succeed. 

Employment Opportunities and Local Economies

Employment opportunities and local economies

The fast food business’s exponential growth worldwide helps boost local economies. The CEO of Popeyes said that:

“Franchising is at the heart of a thriving economy, because it lowers risk for start-ups and creates a large number of entry-level and management jobs5.”

The empowerment of the local economy also increases the purchasing parity of local customers. 

Prominent Fast Food Companies

All successful fast food companies have some fundamental growth factors. Evaluating these factors is essential to finding the best American fast-food brands. Some of the most prominent brands are McDonalds, Starbucks and KFC.

McDonald’s Corporation

McDonalds is the most visited fast food brand for most fast food lovers. One hundred fifty million customers around the globe would name a McDonald’s burger if asked- what’s the most popular fast food? McDonald’s has the least wait time and the most lucrative drive-thru facility across most stores. 

Starbucks Corporation

Starbucks capitalizes on solid customer loyalty. You feel special when the barista calls out your name and hands you the coffee tub with your name printed. The brand also uses the partnership model to open stores in untapped global markets. In addition, Starbucks is ranked as the second most visited fast-food restaurant, with international sales of $24.3 billion (about $75 per person in the US) (about $75 per person in the US). 

Yum Brands Inc.

To talk of a company that gained disruptive growth through a multi-brand strategy, Yum Brands is the only name that comes to mind. Yum Brands is the parent company of Pizza Hut, KFC, and Taco Bell. All these brands have unique sales, customer acquisition, and branding strategies. However, Yum Brands is the most visited fast food restaurant chain, with a multi-brand profile. 


KFC and fried chicken are inseparable. Have you ever wondered what the most popular fast-food restaurants serving fried chicken are? KFC would undoubtedly top the chart. The brand has 3540 stores in the USA, and you are probably a big fan of their crispy chicken bowl, too.

The emerging fast-food brands in America have high prospects of future growth. Some of them also challenge the front liners. The section below studies some of the exciting characteristics of emerging brands. 

Jersey Mike’s

Sandwich lovers would undoubtedly take the name Jersey Mike’s, after Wendy’s, if asked: what is the most popular fast food? They offer you all possible combinations in your sandwich and retain the same taste and quality in every combination. They are relatively new and trying to build a Pan American brand with 1129 locations. 


Hardee’s does not only specialize in your favorite beef hamburgers. However, they are also trying to create a visible brand with 1628 stores globally. 

Panera Bread

Panera Bread earned high brand awareness due to their “free wifi hotspots” and unique concept of a “bakery cafe.” They are trying to take the same legacy forward with 2166 global stores. 

Panda Express

Good food and a disciplined growth plan allowed Panda Express to increase its brand awareness in the USA to 82%. They have opened 2194 stores, and you might have encountered one. Above all, this solid physical presence sharply increases customer awareness. 

Jack in the Box

A prominent retail network of 2265 stores is why you hear about Jack in the Box every then and now. Moreover, they are famous for their diverse menu options, which include all-day breakfast items. 


Baskin Robins has created a global brand by popularising their 31 unique flavors. You can try any of these flavors at a BR store before you buy. Baskin Robins operates successfully in the US market with a portfolio of over 2524 stores. 

Jimmy Johns

In addition to its 3,059 locations, Jimy Johns is also famous for its unique product names. You are probably a fan of either ‘Freaky Fast or ‘Freaky Fresh’ from JJs. 


Arby’s is another brand famous for its Angus beef sandwiches. They already have 3,142 US-based stores. They have introduced a portfolio of premium American favorites-roasted beef, turkey, and more to create a global brand. 

Papa John’s

As an emerging fast food chain, Papa John’s has achieved steady growth with 3375 stores in the USA. They have included global favorites like pizzas and chicken wings in their menu. 


Americans will always debate about the most visited fast food restaurant. However, all the frontline brands contribute to the food culture of America. Most popular fast food places are the brands with a great marketing strategy of a popular product portfolio. America’s fast food market is rapidly growing and remains open to competition. Market leaders understand customer demands well and have created the right product mix for the American market.

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Ankita Tripathy loves to write about food and the Hallyu Wave in particular. During her free time, she enjoys looking at the sky or reading books while sipping a cup of hot coffee. Her favourite niches are food, music, lifestyle, travel, and Korean Pop music and drama.

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