America’s Highest-Grossing Fast-Food Chains Slideshow
February 28, 2012
#1 McDonald’s; Oak Brook, Ill.: $32.4 billion
Number of U.S. locations: 14,000
Chicken McNuggets and Big Macs will always be synonymous with McDonald’s, but the mega-chain has aggressively targeted a more health-minded crowd in recent years with menu items like market-fresh salads and fruit smoothies — not to mention an overhaul of their kids meals. Good news for fans of the seasonal Shamrock Shake: For the first time in the brand’s history the green-hued vanilla confection is available in all locations nationwide throughout March.
#2 Subway; Milford, Conn.: $10.6 billion
Number of U.S. locations: 24,885
Footlong subs are now part of Americans’ culinary lexicon thanks to Subway, the sandwich shop that traces its roots back to 1965. While you can indulge in, say, a meatball sub at 9 a.m., most recently the popular franchise operation introduced Fresh Fit egg-white breakfast sandwiches with the likes of steak, black forest ham, and cheese on flatbread and light, wheat English muffins for fewer than 200 calories.
#3 Burger King; Miami: $8.4 billion
Number of U.S. locations: 7,000+
Burger King and McDonald’s have long been the Pepsi and Coke of the fast-food world, but the home of the Whopper has a plethora of loyalists for its flame-broiled burgers and Original Chicken Sandwich nestled in a sesame seed bun. The sandwich, a staple since 1979, has since diversified to include an Italian version with mozzarella and marinara sauce, and a smoked bacon-topped club. Through March 5, it’s buy one, get one free at locations nationwide.
#4 Starbucks; Seattle: $8 billion
Number of U.S. locations: 4,118
Coffee connoisseurs may frequently gripe over Starbucks’ over-roasted beans, but the little Pike Place storefront-that-could remains America’s top choice for a cup of joe — or a whipped cream-laden Frappuccino that’s more dessert than beverage. The company seems to be betting that their new lighter-bodied Blonde Roast will attract a different legion of caffeine seekers.
#5 Wendy’s; Dublin, Ohio: $7.9 billion
Number of U.S. locations: 6,000
While its competitors frequently updated their menus with flashy new food offerings, Wendy’s stayed true to the "old-fashioned" hamburger popularized in its classic "Where’s the Beef?" ads. Last fall, that all changed with a long-awaited retooled recipe. The premium Dave’s Hot ‘N Juicy has more cheese, a thicker patty, crinkle-cut pickles, and a toasted and buttered bun. The biggest shock? Saying goodbye to the brand’s famous white onions, which were replaced with red ones.
#6 Taco Bell; Irvine, Calif.: $6.9 billion
Number of U.S. locations: 5,600
For many, their first taste of "Mexican" food came courtesy of Taco Bell, in the form of, say, Nachos Bellgrande or a crispy Chalupa Supreme-Beef. The $5 Buck Box, filled with a Beefy Crunch Burrito, Crunchwrap Supreme, Crunchy Taco, and a medium soft drink sure isn’t healthy, but famished lunch-goers will be hard-pressed to find a better value. Plus, with Taco Bell testing their new Cantina Bell menu (their attempt at cornering the Chipotle market) at select locations, healthier options at this chain are not far away.
#7 Dunkin’ Donuts; Canton, Mass.: $5.4 billion
Number of U .S. locations: 7,015
Dunkin’ Donuts has come a long way since their Munchkins and French Cruller days. Now, there’s a menu of bakery sandwiches (available all day), like the brand-new turkey, Cheddar, bacon, and ancho chipotle sauce on a French roll. Good news for home brewers: DD’s coffee, a cult favorite of sorts on the East Coast, is now available in K-Cup form for the Keurig.
#8 Pizza Hut; Plano, Texas: $5.4 billion
Number of U.S. locations: 6,000+
Stumbling upon a vintage "Red Roof" surely elicits memories of Pizza Hut’s thick-crusted personalized pan pies — served at a table topped with a jukebox. These days, however, the chain is more fast food than family dining room, serving calzone-like Pepperoni P’Zones and delivering carb-packed $10 Dinner Boxes of pizza, breadsticks, and cinnamon sticks to your door.
#9 KFC; Louisville, Ky.: $4.7 billion
Number of U.S. locations: 4,700+
A bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken’s namesake (and mashed potatoes and a flaky biscuit or two) is typically what keeps the crowds coming for takeout here. The Colonel has most recently expanded his comfort food lineup to include a wintry pot pie (pictured), a mélange of chunky chicken and diced vegetables set in a buttery crust.