10 Biggest Fast Food Chains in the U.S. (by Location)

What are the 10 largest fast food restaurants in the United States?

Here are the biggest names in the quick-service and fast-casual industry by number of locations:

  1. Subway - 25,903 U.S. locations
  2. McDonald's - 14,157 U.S. locations
  3. Pizza Hut - 7,756 U.S. locations
  4. Dunkin' Donuts - 7,200 U.S. locations
  5. Burger King - 7,183 U.S. locations
  6. Starbucks - 6,866 U.S. locations
  7. Wendy's - 6,186 U.S. locations
  8. Taco Bell - 5,695 U.S. locations
  9. Domino's Pizza - 4,928 U.S. locations
  10. KFC - 4,618 U.S. locations

Runners up included (by U.S. locations): #11 Dairy Queen 4,548, #12 Little Caesar’s 3,987, #13 Sonic 3,556, #14 Arby’s 3,400, #15 Papa John’s 3,131, #16 Baskin- Robbins 2,400, #17 Jack In The Box 2,250, #18 Quizno’s 2,137, #19 Chick-fil-A 1,700, #20 Panera 1,643, and #21 Chipotle 1,445.

Research Methods

All current publicly available data was relied upon. In compiling the data, the first step was to look at the QSR 50 Report (published in August 2012) as a starting point, and then query our own database of over 16 million U.S. businesses to come up with an initial top-25 list of fast-food chains by location.

Top Fast Food Chains in the U.S.

The 2011-2012 fast-food landscape, based on total U.S. store numbers, looked like this:

  1. Subway - 24,722
  2. McDonald's - 14,098
  3. Pizza Hut - 7,600
  4. Dunkin' Donuts - 7,015
  5. Starbucks - 10,821
  6. Burger King - 7,231
  7. Wendy's - 6,594
  8. Dairy Queen - 6,187
  9. Taco Bell - 5,670
  10. Domino's Pizza - 4,907
  11. KFC - 4,780
  12. Arby's - 3,437
  13. Sonic Drive-In - 3,561
  14. Little Caesar's - 3,518
  15. Papa John's - 3,001
  16. Quizno's - 2,503
  17. Baskin-Robbins - 2,457
  18. Jack in the Box - 2,221
  19. Chick-fil-A - 1,606
  20. Panera Bread - 1,541
  21. Hardee's - 1,921
  22. Popeye's - 1,627
  23. Panda Express - 1,420
  24. Papa Murphy's - 1,283
  25. Chipotle Mexican Grill - 1,225

Using this top-25 list, I was able to track down more current numbers for each chain from combing over SEC filings, press releases and company websites. Chains which provided location updates in their quarterly filings were at an advantage to those who only reported these numbers annually.

Some of the chains were not as transparent as others. I found that Quizno’s and Little Caesar’s keep their numbers closest to vest, while the Dunkin Brands, Arby’s, and Chick-fil-A only provided approximations for their U.S. location totals.

How many Subways are there in the U.S.?

According to Subway's locations page (as of May 13, 2013), the restaurant chain has 25,903 locations in the United States.

Number of U.S. stores open as of May, 2013: 25,903

Subway operates a total of 39,362 restaurants in 102 countries.

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

According to the 10-K Annual Report (Filed: Feb 25, 2013) in 2012, McDonald's Corporation opened a total of 1,404 traditional restaurants and 35 satellite restaurants (small, limited-menu restaurants for which the land and building are generally leased), and closed 269 traditional restaurants and 200 satellite restaurants.

Number of U.S. stores open as of December 31, 2012: 14,157

Per the 10-Q Quarterly Report (Filed: May 1, 2013), McDonald’s has 34,565 restaurants in 119 countries, and as of March 31, 2013 , 27,970 were licensed to franchisees (including 19,893 franchised to conventional franchisees, 4,420 licensed to developmental licensees and 3,657 licensed to foreign affiliates ("affiliates") – primarily Japan) and 6,595 were operated by the Company.

How many Pizza Huts are there in the U.S.?

According to the 10-K Annual Report (Filed: Feb 20, 2013) the parent company Yum Brands, Inc. is the world’s largest quick service restaurant (“QSR”) company with over 39,000 units in more than 125 countries. Primarily through Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and KFC.

Number of U.S. stores open as of Dec 31, 2012: 7,756 (approx 6% company-owned).

Pizza Hut operates in 97 countries and territories throughout the world.

How many Dunkin' Donuts are there in the U.S.?

According to the Dunkin' Donuts company snapshot page, the baked goods and coffee chain has over 7,000 locations in the United States. A 2013 press release (Reuters) puts that number closer to 7,200.

Number of U.S. stores open as of Jan, 2013: roughly 7,200

There are about 7,200 Dunkin' Donuts in the United States and more than 3,100 elsewhere. In 2013, Dunkin' Donuts plans to open 330 to 360 net new stores in the United States.

How many Burger Kings are there in the U.S.?

According to the 10-K Annual Report (Filed: Feb 22, 2013), Burger King Worldwide, Inc. is the world’s second largest fast food hamburger restaurant chain as measured by the total number of restaurants.

Number of U.S. stores open as of Dec 31, 2012: 7,183

Per the 10-Q Quarterly Report (Filed: April 26, 2013), as of March 31, 2013, Burger King owned or franchised a total of 13,001 restaurants in 88 countries and U.S. territories. Of these restaurants, 382 were company-owned restaurants and 12,619, or approximately 97% of all Burger King restaurants, were franchised.

How many Starbucks are there in the U.S.?

According to the 10-K Annual Report (Filed: Nov 16, 2012), Starbucks Corporation operates in 60 countries with 12,903 locations in the Americas (as of Sept 20, 2012).

Number of U.S. stores open as of Sept 20, 2012: 6,866

Per the 10-Q Quarterly Report (Filed: April 30, 2013), as of March 31, 2013, Starbucks had a total of 18,868 locations (12,995 in the US, Canada, Chile, Brazil, and Puerto Rico).

How many Wendy's are there in the U.S.?

According to the 10-K Annual Report (Filed: Feb 28, 2013), Wendy’s is the world’s third largest quick-service restaurant company in the hamburger sandwich segment with 4,759 franchised, and 1,427 company-owned U.S. locations as of Dec 30, 2012.

Number of U.S. stores open as of Dec 30, 2012: 6,186

Per the 10-Q Quarterly Report (Filed: May 8, 2013), as of March 31, 2013, the Wendy’s restaurant system was comprised of 6,544 restaurants, of which 1,427 were company-owned.

How many Taco Bells are there in the U.S.?

According to the 10-K Annual Report (Filed: Feb 20, 2013) the parent company Yum Brands, Inc., is the world’s largest quick service restaurant (“QSR”) company with over 39,000 units in more than 125 countries. Primarily through Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and KFC.

Number of U.S. stores open as of Dec 31, 2012: 5,695 (approx 18% company-owned)

Taco Bell operates in 27 countries and territories throughout the world.

How many Domino's Pizza are there in the U.S.?

According to the 10-K Annual Report (Filed: Feb 28, 2013) Domino's Pizza, Inc. is the #1 pizza delivery company in the United States with a leading international presence. Over the past three years, Domino's Pizza has added over 1,200 net stores worldwide, and as of December 30, 2012, had 10,255 stores worldwide with the U.S. units consisting of 4,540 franchise stores, and 388 company-owned.

Number of U.S. stores open as of Dec 30, 2012: 4,928

As of December 30, 2012, Domino's Pizza consisted of 9,867 franchised stores, 46% of which were located in the U.S., with an average of four stores per franchisee. Nine franchisees operate more than 50 stores, with the largest domestic franchisee operating 135 stores.

No updates found in their recent 10-Q Quarterly Report (Filed: April 30, 2013).

How many KFCs are there in the U.S.?

According to the 10-K Annual Report (Filed: Feb 20, 2013) the parent company Yum Brands, Inc., is the world’s largest quick service restaurant (“QSR”) company with over 39,000 units in more than 125 countries. Primarily through Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and KFC.

Number of U.S. stores open as of Dec 31, 2012: 4,618 (approx 5% company-owned)

KFC operates in 120 countries and territories throughout the world.

How many Dairy Queen’s are there in the U.S.?

According to Entrepreneur’s 2013 Franchise 500 report, Dairy Queen’s location total for 2012 was 6,216 (4,548 U.S., 646 Canadian, and 1,019 International).

Number of U.S. stores open as of 2012: 4,548

Dairy Queen is one of the largest fast food shops in the world, with more than 6,000 restaurants in the United States, Canada and 18 other countries.

How many Sonic’s are there in the U.S.?

According to the 10-K Annual Report (Filed: Oct 26, 2012), Sonic Corp consisted of 3,556 coast-to-coast locations in 43 states (3,147 franchised, 409 company-owned). In the fiscal year of 2012, Sonic opened 37 drive-Ins.

Number of U.S. stores open as of Aug 31, 2012: 3,556

No updates found in their recent 10-Q Quarterly Report (Filed: April 5, 2013).

How many Arby’s are there in the U.S.?

From an Arby’s press release (April 29, 2013), “Atlanta-based Arby’s Restaurant Group, Inc. is the second largest quick-service sandwich chain in the U.S. with more than 3,400 restaurants system wide.”

Number of U.S. stores open as of April 29, 2013: roughly 3,400

How many Papa John’s are there in the U.S.?

According to the 10-K Annual Report (Filed: Feb 28, 2013), Papa John’s International, Inc. had 2,483 franchised, and 648 company-owned stores.

Number of U.S. stores open as of Dec 30, 2012: 3,131

Per the 10-Q Quarterly Report (Filed: May 7, 2013), as of March 31, 2013, there were a total of 4,197 Papa John’s restaurants (699 Company-owned and 3,498 franchised) operating in all 50 states and 34 countries.

How many Jack In The Boxes’ are there in the U.S.?

According to the 10-Q Quarterly Report (Filed: Feb 21, 2013), Jack In The Box, Inc had 1,704 franchised, and 551 company-owned stores.

Number of U.S. stores open as of Jan 20, 2013: 2,255

According to the 10-K Annual Report (Filed: Nov 21, 2012), Jack in the Box operates and franchises more than 2,800 quick-service restaurants and Qdoba Mexican Grill fast-casual restaurants.

How many Quiznos are there in the U.S.?

According to Entrepreneur’s franchise report, Quizno's location total for 2012 was 2,795 (2,137 U.S., 431 Canadian, 222 International, and 5 company-owned).

Number of U.S. stores open as of 2012: 2,137 franchise units

Note: Not sure how many of the 5 company-owned locations are U.S.-based, so the total could be as high as 2,142. Quizno's Wikipedia page claimed 4,000 US locations, but that number was unverifiable and I suspect it has not been updated since the company faced widespread store closures beginning in 2011. If they were a contender for the top-10, I would have spent some time crawling the company’s location finder for a more up-to-date number.

Based in Denver, Quizno's has locations in 50 states and 30 countries, including Puerto Rico, Canada, the United Kingdom, Japan and Australia. Quizno's has 300 restaurants in Canada, and 100 worldwide. After Subway, they are the second-largest submarine sandwich shop chain in North America.

How many Chick-fil-A's are there in the U.S.?

According to Chick-fil-A's Company Fact Sheet (Updated: Aug, 2012) they have over 1,700 locations in 39 states.

Number of U.S. stores open as of Aug, 2012: over 1,700

Chick-fil-A has steadily grown to become the second largest quick-service chicken restaurant chain in the United States.

How many Hardee's are there in the U.S.?

According to the 10-Q Quarterly Report (Filed: Dec 12, 2012) the parent company CKE Restaurants, Inc. (no longer publicly traded) reported a total of 1,936 locations (1,230 domestic franchised, 236 internationally franchised, and 470 company-owned).

Number of U.S. stores open as of Nov 5, 2012: 1,700

The Hardee's franchise website (as of May 13, 2013), claims the company franchises more than 1,900 quick-service restaurants in 30 U.S. states and nine countries. In the Americas (US, Canada, Chile, Brazil, and Puerto Rico), 279 stores were opened during 2012, and 45 were closed.

Entrepreneur's 2013 Franchise 500 List estimated the total Hardee's U.S. franchises at 1,227 (236 international 236, 467 company-owned).

How many Panera's are there in the U.S.?

According to the 10-K Annual Report (Filed: Feb 15, 2013), Panera Bread's national bakery-cafe concept has a total of 1,652 Company-owned and franchise-operated bakery-cafe locations in 44 states, and Ontario, Canada (9 locations). As of December 25, 2012, Panera Bread consisted of 809 Company-owned bakery-cafes and 843 franchise-operated.

Number of U.S. stores open as of Dec 25, 2012: 1,643

Per the 10-Q Quarterly Report (Filed: April 24, 2013), as of March 26, 2013 Panera had a total of 1,673 total locations, but it was not indicated how many of these additional units were U.S. based.

How many Chipotle's are there in the U.S.?

According to the 10-K Annual Report (Feb 8, 2013) Chipotle’s Co. had a total of 1,399 U.S. stores open as of Dec 31, 2012.

However, per the 10-Q Quarterly Report (Filed: April 19, 2013), as of March 31, 2013, Chipotle operated 1,458 restaurants, including one ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen, five restaurants in Canada, six in London, England, and one in Paris, France. And with a little math we have an update.

Number of U.S. stores open as of March 31, 2013: 1,445

How many Little Caesar's are there in the U.S.?

According to Menuism, a restaurant review site that publishes online menu data for the company, there are a total of 3,987 Little Caesar's Pizza locations in United States (as of May 9, 2013). It’s unclear how current or accurate this information is.

How many Baskin-Robbins are there in the U.S.?

According to the Dunkin Brands website (as of May 13, 2013), the ice cream specialty shop chain has roughly 2,400 outlets in the U.S.

Number of U.S. stores open as of year’s end 2012: roughly 2,400

Baskin-Robbins is the world’s largest chain of ice cream specialty shops with more than 6,000 outlets in 49 countries.