10 Largest Fast Food Chains in the U.S. by Location

Update 05/10/2013: We have released a new 2013 update. Check out Largest Fast Food Chains in the U.S. 2013.

What are the 10 biggest fast food chains in the United States?

  1. Subway - 23,336 U.S. Locations
  2. McDonald's - 14,000 U.S. Locations
  3. Starbucks - 11,000 U.S. Locations
  4. Pizza Hut - 7,566 U.S. Locations
  5. Burger King - 7,233 U.S. Locations
  6. Dunkin' Donuts - 6,500 U.S. Locations
  7. Wendy's - 5,877 U.S. Locations
  8. Taco Bell - 5,604 U.S. Locations
  9. Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) - 5,162 U.S. Locations
  10. Domino's Pizza - 4,927 U.S. Locations

 

Methods

 

A friend posed this question to me earlier today. My first reaction was to scamper off to Google in search of a quick answer. However, after five minutes of fruitless searching, two things occurred to me:

  • One, my friend isn't stupid; surely he has already searched Google.
  • Two, I work for a small business search engine. I have access to a database of 16 million U.S. business listings. Clearly, this is why my friend asked me in the first place.

I decided to use our own database as a jumping off point. While 16 million business listings seems pretty comprehensive, it may overlook fast food locations that settled inside of malls, book stores and retail shops. Thus, my first step was to query our own database for the 15 chains with the most locations nationwide:

  1. Subway - 20,886 U.S. Locations
  2. McDonald's - 13,516 U.S. Locations
  3. Starbucks - 7,147 U.S. Locations
  4. Pizza Hut - 7,001 U.S. Locations
  5. Burger King - 6,834 U.S. Locations
  6. Taco Bell - 5,996 U.S. Locations
  7. Wendy's - 5,893 U.S. Locations
  8. Domino's Pizza - 5,501 U.S. Locations
  9. Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) - 5,325 U.S. Locations
  10. Dunkin' Donuts - 5,008 U.S. Locations
  11. Quizno's - 4,040 U.S. Locations
  12. Dairy Queen - 4,001 U.S. Locations
  13. Arby's - 3,572 U.S. Locations
  14. Sonic Drive-In - 3,375 U.S. Locations
  15. Papa John's Pizza - 3,029 U.S. Locations

As much as I would have liked to deem this list the official top 15 and call it a day, college has left me an absolute sucker for primary sources. So, I used the above list of 15 as a starting point and chased down the real numbers from each chain's website, press releases or annual SEC filing.

  • How Many Subways are there in the U.S.?

    According to Subway's International Locations page (as of June 27th, 2010), the restaurant chain has 23,336 locations in the United States.

  • How Many McDonald's are there in the U.S.?

    From a June 2010 McDonald's press releaseMcDonald's USA, LLC, is the leading foodservice provider in the United States serving a variety of wholesome foods made from quality ingredients to more than 26 million customers every day. Nearly 90 percent of McDonald's 14,000 U.S. restaurants are independently owned and operated by local business men and women.
  • How Many Starbucks are there in the U.S.?

    From a January 2010 Starbucks' press release: Currently, recycling capabilities vary considerably from city to city and county to county. This presents a significant barrier for a bu siness with more than 11,000 retail locations in the U.S. alone.
  • How Many Pizza Huts are there in the U.S.?

    From Yum Brands' 2009 Year End SEC Filings: Pizza Hut operates in 92 countries and territories throughout the world. As of year end 2009, Pizza Hut had 7,566 units in the U.S., and 5,715 units outside of the U.S. Approximately 8 percent of the U.S. units and 25 percent of the non-U.S. units are operated by the Company.
  • How Many Burger Kings are there in the U.S.?

    From Burger King's 2009 Year End SEC Filings: As of June 30, 2009, we owned or franchised a total of 11,925 restaurants in 73 countries and U.S. territories, of which 1,429 restaurants were Company restaurants and 10,496 were owned by our franchisees. Of these restaurants, 7,233 or 61% were located in the United States and 4,692 or 39% were located in our international markets.
  • How Many Taco Bells are there in the U.S.?

    From Yum Brands' 2009 Year End SEC Filings: Taco Bell operates in 20 countries and territories throughout the world. As of year end 2009, there were 5,604 Taco Bell units in the U.S., and 251 units outside of the U.S. Approximately 23 percent of the U.S. units and 1 percent of the non-U.S. units are operated by the Company.
  • How Many Wendy's are there in the U.S.?

    From Wendy's parent company, the Wendy's Arby's Group 2009 Year End SEC Filings: At January 3, 2010, there were 6,541 Wendy’s restaurants in operation in the United States and in 21 foreign countries and U. S. territories... As of January 3, 2010, Wendy’s had 136 company owned and 235 franchised restaurants in Canada and 293 franchised restaurants in 20 other countries and U.S. territories.
    After a little number crunching (6,541 Worldwide Wendy's Locations - 664 Foreign Wendy's Locations), we get our total number of U.S. Wendy's locations: 5,877.
  • How Many Domino's Pizza are there in the U.S.?

    From Domino's Pizza 2009 Year End SEC Filings: The domestic stores segment, which is comprised of 4,461 franchise stores and 466 Company-owned stores, generated revenues of $493.6 million and income from operations of $121.5 million during our fiscal year ended January 3, 2010, which we refer to herein as 2009.
    A quick bit of addition gives us our total number of U.S. Domino's Pizza locations: 4,461 domestic franchise stores + 466 domestic company stores = 4,927 U.S. Locations
  • How Many KFCs are there in the U.S.?

    From Yum Brands' 2009 Year End SEC Filings: KFC operates in 108 countries and territories throughout the world. As of year end 2009, KFC had 5,162 units in the U.S., and 11,102 units outside the U.S., including 2,872 units in mainland China. Approximately 17 percent of the U.S. units and 31 percent of the non-U.S. units are operated by the Company.
  • How Many Dunkin' Donuts are there in the U.S.?

    From a May 2010 Dunkin' Donut's press release: Dunkin' Donuts is the largest coffee and baked goods chain in the world, selling one billion cups of hot and iced coffee and more than 900 million donuts and Munchkins™ donut hole treats every year. Today, there are more than 6,500 restaurants in 35 U.S. states and the District of Columbia and more than 2,600 international restaurants in 30 countries.
  • How Many Quiznos are there in the U.S.?

    From a February 2010 Quiznos press release: For nearly 30 years, Quiznos has had a laser focus on providing consumers with the best soups, salads, cookies, and subs to satiate any appetite. Using premium-quality ingredients, Quiznos offers creative, chef-inspired recipes for sandwiches, soups and salads at its more than 4,000 restaurants in North America.
  • How Many Dairy Queens are there in the U.S.?

    From a March 2010 Dairy Queen blogToday there are more than 5,600 Dairy Queen stores in the United States, Canada and 19 other foreign countries.
    And from May 2010 Dairy Queen blog:
    There are currently more than 550 DQ locations in 19 countries outside the United States and Canada.
    Finally, from Dairy Queen's FAQ:
    What Canada province has the most Dairy Queen restaurants? Ontario has the most Dairy Queen restaurants with 184 locations currently in operation.
    5,600 total locations minus 550 locations outside of U.S. and Canada minus at least 184 Canadian locations equals = roughly 4,866 U.S. locations.
  • How Many Arby's are there in the U.S.?

    From Arby's parent company, the Wendy's Arby's Group 2009 Year End SEC Filings: As of January 3, 2010, the Arby’s restaurant system was comprised of 3,718 restaurants... As of January 3, 2010, Arby’s had 122< franchised restaurants in Canada and 3 other countries.
    After a little number crunching (3,718 Worldwide Arby's Locations - 122 Foreign Arby's Locations), we get our total number of U.S. Arby's locations: 3,596.
  • How Many Sonic Drive-Ins are there in the U.S.?

    From Sonic's 2009 Year End SEC Filings: Sonic operates and franchises the largest chain of drive-in restaurants in the United States. As of August 31, 2009, the Sonic system was comprised of 3,544 drive-ins
  • How Many Papa John's are there in the U.S.?

    From Papa John's 2009 Year End SEC Filings: At December 27, 2009, there were 3,469 Papa John’s restaurants in operation, consisting of 614 Company-owned and 2,855 franchised restaurants operating domestically in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico and in 29 countries.... As of December 27, 2009, we had 688 Papa John’s restaurants operating in 29 countries.
    After a little number crunching (3,469 Worldwide Papa John's Locations - 688 Foreign Papa John's Locations), we get our total number of U.S. Papa John's locations: 2,781.