The Most Popular Fast Food Restaurants in America

Business Insider

Americans love fast food. The top 15 fast food chains in the nation raked in a combined $115 billion in sales last year, and their 105,000 total stores blanket the landscape.

We asked food industry research firm Technomic to put together a list of the biggest fast food brands in America. They're defined as LSRs — "limited service restaurants" — which include burger joints, sandwich shops, coffee cafés, pizza places and more.

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(calgaryreviews/Flickr)

#1 McDonald's

2011 U.S. sales: $34.2 billion
Number of locations: 14,098

McDonald's unsurprisingly takes the prize for the biggest fast food chain across the U.S.  Sales increased by about 5% last year, the company opened up 71 new locations and recently appointed a new CEO. There's just no stopping the Golden Arches.

[Related: Over the top burgers]

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(busbeytheelder/Flickr)

#2 Subway

2011 U.S. sales: $11.4 billion
Number of locations: 24,722

Subway, which has the most locations globally of any restaurant on the planet, is the number one quick sandwich shop in the U.S. It saw a 7.5% increase in profits, and a whopping 872 new locations were opened up last year alone.

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(Paul Davidson/Flickr)

#3 Starbucks

2011 U.S. sales: $9.75 billion
Number of locations: 10,787

Starbucks' profits surged by 7.5% last year even though the company decided to close more than 300 locations around the country. Starbucks still has almost 3,800 more units open than Dunkin' Donuts, and it's starting to expand its store brands with Evolution Fresh and Tazo tea.

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(Screengrab from wendys on YouTube)

#4 Wendy's

2011 U.S. sales: $8.5 billion
Number of locations: 5,876

Sales at hard-charging Wendy's increased by 2% last year amidst a marketing revamp that has lifted it into the number two burger spot.

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#5 Burger King

2011 U.S. sales: $8.4 billion
Number of locations: 7,231

Burger King ranks third in the competition for the top fast food burger restaurant in the nation. It's having trouble, though. Last year, sales dropped by nearly 4% and the chain was passed by a certain red-headed rival.

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(othermore/Flickr)

#6 Taco Bell

2011 U.S. sales: $6.8 billion
Number of locations: 5,674

Taco Bell, the only top fast food Mexican restaurant in the country, is going through a big turnaround. A bunch of crazy new products have hit the menus, including the infamous — and incredibly successful — Doritos Locos Tacos.

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(Hope Photography)

#7 Dunkin' Donuts

2011 U.S. sales: $5.92 billion
Number of locations: 7,015

Sales at Dunkin' Donuts increased steadily last year and the company opened up 115 new locations. This Massachusetts-based company is the number two coffee café behind Starbucks.   

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#8 Pizza Hut

2011 U.S. sales: $5.4 billion
Number of locations: 7,595

Funny enough, sales at Pizza Hut stayed exactly the same last year even though the company opened up 53 new units. The red roof company currently holds the title for most popular fast food pizza in the nation.

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(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

#9 KFC

2011 U.S. sales: $4.5 billion
Number of locations: 4,793

Sales at KFC fell steadily last year and the Colonel had to close 262 locations. The company almost had to forfeit its title as the leading chicken chain to Chick-Fil-A.

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(Sonnett/Flickr)

#10 Chick-Fil-A

2011 U.S. sales: $4.05 billion
Number of locations: 1,600

Chick-Fil-A saw a 13% increase in sales this year yet it still fell short of beating out its top competitor, KFC. This Atlanta-based company opened 64 new units last year alone.

[Related: Marketers Now Track Shoppers' Retinas]

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(keaggy.com/Flickr)

#11 SONIC Drive-Ins

2011 U.S. sales: $3.68 billion
Number of locations: 3,531

Known for its retro 1950's style drive-in, SONIC is currently the fourth most popular fast food burger restaurant in the nation. Though the company had to close several locations last year, sales did increase.

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(YouTube/TheDenverEgotist)

#12 Domino's Pizza

2011 U.S. sales: $3.4 billion
Number of locations: 4,907

This well-known pizza chain made a name for itself in the 1960s in Ann Arbor, Michigan but now is a household name across the country. The company closed 22 stores last year.

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(cadillacjr2002/Flickr)

#13 Panera Bread

2011 U.S. sales: $3.30 billion
Number of locations: 1,480

Panera Bread, a chain of fast-casual cafes that began in St. Louis, opened exactly 100 new locations across the United States last year.  It's considered to be a healthy alternative to the classic fast food joint and a segment leader.

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(wEnDaLicious/Flickr)

#14 Arby's

2011 U.S. sales: $3.03 billion
Number of locations: 3,484

Arby's, best known for its roast beef and curly fries, was forced to close 39 units this year but still managed to increase profitability in its remaining locations. 

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(BrownGuacamole/Flickr)

#15 Jack in the Box

2011 U.S. sales: $3.01 billion
Number of locations: 2,221

Jack in the Box is the fifth most popular fast food burger joint in the United States, but with direct competitors like McDonalds and Burger King, this California-born chain only saw a 1% growth in profit last year.

Source: Technomic

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