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5 Biggest Fast-Food Chains in the World

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Jose Karlo Mari Tottoc
·6 min read
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In this article we discuss the 5 biggest fast-food chains in the world. If you want to read our detailed analysis about the fast-food industry, go directly to the 10 Biggest Fast-Food Chains in the World.

5. Pizza Hut, Owned by: Yum! Brands, Inc. (NYSE: YUM)

Pizza Hut first opened its doors in Wichita, Kansas, in 1958. Founded by two student brothers, Dan and Frank Carney, the chain started with just $600 and is now a multi-billion dollar company. Pizza Hut is mainly a pizza shop and includes kinds of pasta, wings, breadsticks, and different desserts on its menu. Recently, Pizza Hut has also partnered with Beyond Meat Inc (NASDAQ: BYND) to cater to the rising health trends worldwide. This new collaboration aims to provide plant-based meat pizzas to its customers. Pizza Hut is the subsidiary of Yum! Brands, which is the largest restaurant company in the world and the parent company of KFC and Taco Bell as well. Like other biggest food chains, Pizza Hut also works on a franchise model, and the franchisees work closely with the consultants from Yum! Brands. There is a specific training program for the franchisees before opening up the new restaurant.

Though Pizza Hut has opened branches in over 100 countries, including Armenia, Iceland, and Russia, the U.S. remains the largest Pizza Hut market, with over 7,000 restaurants. Pizza Hut is also the largest buyer of cheese globally and accounts for 3% of U.S. cheese production. The company uses around 300 million pounds of cheese annually. In 1994, Pizza Hut was one of the first companies to develop online ordering, the service used by almost all restaurants today. The Hut has also delivered pies into space with the help of the resupply rocket; the action caused them over a million dollars. Though the company had to 1,745 of its branches due to the pandemic in 2020, it plans to open in over 125 locations over three years. As of 2021, Pizza Hut has over 18,000 outlets spread over 100 countries. Despite this closure of restaurants in 2020, Pizza Hut increased its same-store sales in the U.S division to 8% in Q4, the highest since 2010, which was 10%.

4. KFC, Owned by: Yum! Brands, Inc. (NYSE: YUM)

KFC was founded in 1952 by Colonel Sanders and Pete Harmen in Salt Lake City, Utah. KFC is one of the oldest fast-food chains in the world. What started as a chicken shop is now famous for its rare and exclusive fried chicken worldwide. KFC’s marketing plan and strategy involve the innovative idea of catering to the countries’ local taste where it plans to open up its outlets.

KFC has around 6,600 outlets in China because it offers a distinctive menu which is not part of any of other KFC’s outlet in the world. Along with the signature fried chicken, KFC outlets in China also deal with China-specific options like egg tarts, Dragon Twister, and rice porridge. Not only that, but KFC in China has also opened up the KPRO, which caters to the country’s health-conscious audience. The menu of KPRO only includes salads, sandwiches, and fresh juices. This unconventional approach used by KFC made it dominant over the fast-food industry in China. KFC has over 24,104 outlets worldwide and has generated $27.9 billion in 2020 compared to $26.2 billion in 2019.

3. Starbucks Corporation (NASDAQ: SBUX)

Starbucks cannot be technically placed in a fast-food list but is officially recognized as one of the world’s fastest-growing coffeehouse chains. It was founded in 1971 by Jerry Baldwin, Gordon Bowker, and Zev Siegl, in Pike Place Market, Seattle. The initial business plan of Starbucks involved selling high-quality coffee beans. Now, Starbucks deals with hot and cold beverages and coffee in over 32,900 locations worldwide.

Starbucks’ unique marketing strategy of personalized name coffee mugs has widely contributed to its popularity among the people. This admiration can be assured by the fact that Starbucks uses around 2.3 billion paper cups every year. Starbucks has a wide range of menu with over 87,000 drink combinations. Starbucks’ revenue breakdown shows that the beverages of the chain are responsible for generating more revenue compared to the other items on the menu list. In 2020, the beverages alone generated around $14.34 billion, and the food items amounted to $3.8 billion. However, Starbucks was hit hard by the pandemic and suffered a loss in revenue, resulting in an 11.27% drop in sales growth. The year 2020 shows a fall of revenue to $23.5 billion, down from $26.5 billion in 2019.

2. McDonald's Corporation (NYSE: MCD)

McDonald’s was founded by two brothers, Richard and Maurice McDonald, in 1940, making it one of the world’s oldest fast-food chains. The brothers started the restaurant with a simple nine-items menu. McDonald’s very first menu was barbecue-themed and changed over the course of years. Today, the most favorite products on their menu list are Egg McMuffin, Baked Apple Pie, French Fries, Happy Meal, and their signature Big Mac. The popularity of McDonald’s can be seen from the fact that it serves around 68 million customers daily and sells approximately 4,500 hamburgers every single minute globally. What contributes to the popularity of McDonald’s is its consistency, innovation, and skills that they impart to the employees.

McDonald’s can be taken as the most profitable fast-food chain globally, with a net worth of $170 billion. It generated around $19.2 billion in 2020, which decreased from $21.8 billion in 2019. The rapid expansion of restaurants across the world stands on its model of franchising. McDonald’s has nearly 38,695 outlets worldwide, of which 93% are franchise-operated.

1. Subway, Owned by: Franchise World Headquarters, Inc.

Subway is one of the most famous fast-food chains in the world. It opened its first branch in the USA in 1965, and the number has now swollen to 41,600 worldwide. Formerly known as ‘Pete’s Super Submarine,’ it sold salads and submarine sandwiches. Subway can be taken as the first of its kind fast-food chain that matches the pace of today’s health-conscious audience. It has become the ultimate favorite of customers globally due to its diet-focused menu. Subway’s unique marketing has always contributed to its revenues. In 2000, Subway launched a campaign with Jared Fogle, who claimed to have reduced 200 pounds by eating Subway. The campaign was a hit and the sales grew by 20% after the first commercial aired.

Subway is flexible in terms of location compared to other fast-food chains because it relies on reheating the precooked food and does not require a full-fledged kitchen. According to the reports, Subway collects 8% of revenue from each franchise without owning a single outlet. Due to this explosive growth, Subway generated a slightly increased revenue of around $10.4 billion in 2020 compared to $10.2 billion in 2019.

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