Top 25 best fast-food chains in America

In the US, fast food started to take off in the 1950s and has since grown into a $255 billion industry. These restaurants, which are widely recognised as representing American culture, elicit a surprising amount of passion from patrons, many of whom have developed cult-like loyalty. Which chain, though, is the best? One of the ultimate apps for Starbucks Partners, and I am sure that you also know about it. But the Starbucks Teamworks app is still a curiosity that is known yet.

A definitive list of the top fast food establishments in America was created by Business Insider in collaboration with Restaurant Business, a media outlet and industry expert in the food service sector. We evaluated nearly 100 of the biggest US chains using exclusive data gathered by Restaurant Business and its sister research company Technomic. We graded them using the three factors we believed to be the most indicative of all-around fast-food excellence: financial performance, customer satisfaction, and overall value. Among other metrics, our calculations took into account consumer satisfaction scores, average sales at each location, and sales growth. Explore the methodology in more detail here.

As a result, a number of fast-food giants, including McDonald’s and Taco Bell, failed to make the top 25 in our ranking despite having towering sales figures. According to Restaurant Business, consumers prefer more specialised and local brands that provide a higher-quality experience, including fresh, sustainable ingredients, at a reasonable price.

See the top 25 fast-food restaurants in America for 2016 by continuing to read

25. Qdoba Mexican Eats

Queso Mexicano
Office location: Lakewood, Colorado

Sales in the US: $745 million

US locations total 670.

Rank 18 for financial performance

40th place for customer satisfaction

73 Value rank

Although Qdoba’s sales increased by 9% in 2015, Chipotle, which experienced growth at almost the same rate, continues to be compared to it constantly. The history of the two colossal burrito chains is really fairly similar: Qdoba was established in Colorado in 1995, two years and four miles after its now-failing rival.

But in an effort to set itself apart, Qdoba declared last October that it would revamp its restaurants and expand its menu, which features tacos, salads, burritos, and quesadillas, based on a new iteration of its ideal customer, a woman named Quentessa, who is “naturally magnetic” and leads “a story-filled life.”

24. Ben & Jerry’s

Banana & Jerry’s
Commons at Wikimedia
Administrative centre: South Burlington, Vermont

USD 78 million in sales

The US has 235 places.

89th place for financial performance

4 out of 5 for customer satisfaction

Rank by value: 1

Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield repurposed an abandoned gas station into a scoop business after completing a $5 ice cream-making course at Penn State. Innovative ice cream flavours like Cherry Garcia, Phish Food, and Americone Dream have made Ben & Jerry’s famous.

After over 40 years in operation, the ice-cream veterans continue to develop innovative strategies for delivering their most cherished goods to clients. The business said it will begin “flipping” three of their traditional tastes in May 2016. For instance, the taste Half Baked has been altered to Totally Baked; the ice cream and baked product combinations will be switched from brownies in chocolate to cookie dough in vanilla.

23. Fuddruckers

Food chain Fuddruckers
Headquarters: Texas, Houston

USD 253 million in sales.

Locations in the US: 173

77th place for financial performance

Score for customer satisfaction: 8

Rank by value: 25

Fuddruckers takes pride in its never-frozen patties, baked-from-scratch buns, and DIY topping bar, all of which guarantee that customers receive precisely what they want out of their burgers.

Fuddruckers has amassed a large following of devoted fans who come to the company for its juicy hamburgers and crisp sesame buns, giving the restaurant a top Technomic customer satisfaction rating despite declining US sales — down 1.2% last year.

22. Five Guys Burgers and Fries

Burger from Five Guys
Posted on Flickr by chief huddleston
Headquarters: Virginia’s Lorton

Sales in the US: $1.32 billion

1,215 sites in the US

Rank 22 for financial performance

22 for customer satisfaction

Value position: 86

Former bond trader Jerry Murrell and his family launched a burger establishment in Washington, DC, in 1986 with the intention of preparing hamburgers and fries using the highest-quality products. The restaurant was named after Murrell and his four kids.

Despite having a relatively straightforward menu, Five Guys offers more than 250,000 different ways to order a burger. All fries are fried with peanut oil, and the eating areas of each establishment are lined with barrels of traditional peanuts, making them inaccessible to anybody with peanut allergies.

22. Five Guys Burgers and Fries

Potbelly burger
Sandwich potbelly/Facebook
Headquarter location: Chicago, Illinois

$380 million in US sales

Locations in the US: 396

62 for financial performance

18th place for customer satisfaction

Rank by value: 17

Potbelly was an antique store when it first debuted in 1977. The business changed into a neighbourhood lunch place when the young couple who managed it decided they wanted to provide lunch to its clients. Bryant Keil, a businessman, purchased Potbelly in 1996 and transformed it into a franchise; he resigned as CEO in 2008 and is no longer engaged.

In addition to serving sandwiches and fresh cookies now, every Potbelly location features a potbelly burner and carefully chosen trinkets as a nod to the chain’s past

21. Potbelly Sandwich Shop

Beef Camper
Facebook/Pollo Campero USA
Office location: Dallas, Texas

US sales: $96,000,000.

US restaurants number 58.

63 for financial performance

16th place for customer satisfaction

Rank by value: 17

Pollo Campero is by far the smallest chain to be on the list, with less than 100 locations. However, customers enjoy the casual chicken restaurant, giving it high marks for customer satisfaction and praising it for being a good bargain.

Authentic Latin tastes and flawless service set Pollo Campero apart from other “better chicken” restaurants like Wingstop and Raising Cane’s. Meals are delivered on actual plates with real cutlery. The brand was first established in Guatemala in 1971.

19. Jamba Juice

Fruit Juice
Twitter/Jamba Juice
Administration: Emeryville, California

Sales in the US: $539 million

Locations in the US: 818

Rank 72 for financial performance

14th place for customer satisfaction

Value score: 5

Jamba Juice was established in 1990 in a seaside community in California, years before the popular green smoothie and healthy lifestyle fads of today. The smoothie stand has held onto its popularity throughout the years despite limited expansion.

Greek yoghurt energy bowls and a large number of fresh fruit and vegetable smoothies have been added to the chain’s menu. But the Wheatgrass shot, a liquefied piece of grass plucked from the on-site grass garden and high in vitamin K, may be Jamba Juice’s most notorious product.

18. Papa Murphy’s Pizza

Murphy’s Papa
McDonald’s and Facebook
Office location: Vancouver, Washington

$880 million in US sales

1,496 locations in the US

73 for financial performance

3 for customer satisfaction

Rank by value: 31

After Papa Aldo’s and Murphy’s Pizza merged, a pizza franchise was launched in 1995. The company sells “take and bake” pies, which are baked in the customer’s home oven after being manufactured to order.

Customers may choose from the iconic pies, such as the Spicy Fennel Sausage and Chicken Bacon Artichoke, or they can design their own pie by selecting the dough, sauce, and toppings. The idea is a success even if it may not sell as many pies as Domino’s or Pizza Hut. The only pizza business to rank in the top 25 is Papa Murphy’s, which receives high ratings for customer satisfaction.

17. Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches

J. Jimmy’s
Facebook page for Jimmy John
Headquarters: Illinois’ Champaign

USD $2.02 billion in sales.

2,450 sites in the US

Rank 38 for financial performance

25th place for customer satisfaction

Rank by value: 28

Customers at Jimmy John’s rave about the chain’s famous sandwiches and “freaky quick” delivery service. In 1983, Jimmy John Liautaud created the first store in order to defy his father’s demands that he serve in the military. In exchange for a loan of $25,000 from Papa Liautaud, he agreed not to enlist if the restaurant made a profit in the first year. Indeed, the gourmet sub business flourished, and he gradually spread throughout the nation.

Franchises of Jimmy John’s make a commitment to sustainability by working with vendors that uphold high standards for ethical and sustainable food practises. Each JJ’s shop is constructed and maintained by the company using labour from nearby companies.

16. Schlotzsky’s

Facebook/ Schlotzsky’s
Headquarters are in Atlanta, Georgia.

$320 million in US sales

350 sites in the US

Rank 55 for financial performance

13th place for customer satisfaction

Rank by value: 43

According to Technomic, the typical customer order at Schlotzsky’s costs slightly over $11. Although it is expensive for a sandwich restaurant, the higher-quality options keep consumers happy. More than a dozen traditional sandwiches are available at Schlotzky’s, along with oven-baked pastas, flatbreads, soups, salads, gourmet pizzas, and Cinnabon sweets.

Having been in business for more than 40 years, Schlotzsky’s has started upgrading its locations to include “Juice Bars,” which are electrical charging stations for computers and phones.

15. Chipotle Mexican Grill

Headquarters: Colorado’s Denver

USD $4.42 billion in sales

1,987 sites in the US

Rank 26 for financial performance

24th place for customer satisfaction

70 Value Rank

At the conclusion of 2015, the massive fast-casual chain suffered an E. outbreak of coli in many of its eateries. Chipotle continues to adhere to its “food with integrity” philosophy of serving fresh, high-quality ingredients free of preservatives despite a decline in revenues at the beginning of 2016.

Tacos, burritos, bowls, and salads at Chipotle are all created to order on an assembly line. However, in April 2016, the business said it was exploring introducing chorizo as a meat option to help entice people back.

14. Moe’s Southwest Grill

Southwest Grill Moe’s
Facebook/Southwest Moe’s Grill
Headquarters are in Atlanta, Georgia.

USD 638 million in sales.

Locations in the US: 637

Rank 32 for financial performance

Ranking for customer satisfaction: 27

Rank by value: 19

Moe’s Southwest Grill, a potent rival to Chipotle, is becoming known for its flavorful burritos, tacos, and nachos and is rising to prominence. It dethroned reigning champion Chipotle by being crowned Fast Casual Mexican Restaurant of the Year by the Harris Poll’s annual Brand of the Year Awards.

Moe’s, an abbreviation for musicians, outlaws, and entertainers rather than a real person, runs a

“innovation centre” in Georgia where it tests out new menu items like a fajita steak quesadilla.

13. Panera Bread/Saint Louis Bread Co.

Pando’s Bread
Facebook / Panera
Headquarters: Missouri’s St. Louis

Sales in the US: $4.8 billion

1,955 locations in the US

Rank 12 for financial performance

23 for customer satisfaction

Rank by value: 43

With its radical redesign, known as Panera 2.0, the soup, salad, and sandwich bakery and café has become a regular feature in food news over the past few years. In order to reduce crowds and cut down on food wait times, several restaurants have recently installed digital ordering kiosks. To stay ahead of the curve and appeal to a new generation of customers, the chain is heavily relying on a digital-utilization revolution.

Interestingly, Panera Bread was initially a division of Au Bon Pain, a company that is now a rival, but as it began to show signs of growth, executives decided to place a bet on it. Saint Louis Bread Co. and Paradise Bakery & Café are now part of the franchise.

12. Whataburger

Office location: San Antonio, Texas

$2 billion in US sales

Locations in the US: 791

Rank one for financial performance

33 for customer satisfaction

Rank by value: 37

The inventor of Whataburger, Harmon Dobson, wanted to make a burger so large that diners would need two hands to handle it. As soon as they took a taste, they would exclaim, “What a burger! Thus, Whataburger was established in 1950.

Only 10 states have Whataburger restaurants, yet the franchise has ardent followers. A guy who had the Whataburger logo tattooed on his arm received ten years of free meals from the restaurant chain.

11. Zaxby’s

Headquarters: Georgia’s Athens

sales in the US: $1.48 billion

Locations in the US: 748

Rank 7 for financial performance

Rank 21 for customer satisfaction

65 Value Rank

Zaxby’s is renowned for its mouthwatering wing sauce and crinkle-cut fries. It was founded by two boyhood friends to fill the need left by the absence of excellent wing restaurants in their Georgia hometown. Customers also applaud the restaurant’s famous salads, which are a menu item that few fast-food chains have been able to gain widespread popularity.

The $1.5 billion business has swiftly grown in the last year: revenues are up 18%, and the firm added roughly 90 additional sites, bringing their total to 748.

10. Jason’s Deli

deli Jason’s
Instagram/Deli Jason’s
Headquarters: Texas, Beaumont

USD $654 million in sales.

There are 262 restaurants in the US.

Rank 34 for financial performance

12th place for customer satisfaction

15 Value Rank

Jason’s Deli has prioritised nutrition over the last ten years, removing all artificial trans fat, most artificial MSG, and colours, dyes, and tastes from their meals. Additionally, the restaurant offers more than a dozen USDA-certified organic products in addition to fresh fruit that is delivered to its sites six days each week.

Over the course of its 40-year existence, the family-owned firm has opened locations in 30 states in the South and the Midwest.

9. Culver’s

Headquarters: in Wisconsin’s Prairie du Sac

sales in the US: $1.2 billion

There are 559 restaurants in the US.

Rank two for financial performance

26th place for customer satisfaction

Rank by value: 37

According to Technomic, the typical order at Culver’s costs close to $9.50, which is somewhat more expensive than the average burger establishment. ButterBurgers, the chain’s signature burger that gets its name from the glaze of butter that coats the bun, and the frozen custard might just make it worthwhile.

Despite the fact that there are more than 500 eateries, finding a Culver’s may be challenging because they are mostly in the Midwest. However, this does not imply that business is difficult for the chain. Sales at Culver’s increased by 15.5% in 2015, and they are second only to Whataburger in terms of financial success.

7. McAlister’s Deli

Burger joint The Habit
The Habit Burger Grill and Facebook
Headquarter: Irvine, California

USD 251 million in sales.

There are 142 restaurants in the US.

Rank 20 for financial performance

Score for customer satisfaction: 10.

Rank by value: 36

The West Coast restaurant Habit Burger Grill had a significant uptick in popularity last year, as seen by a 43% increase in sales. Consumer Reports’ study determined that the tiny regional chain’s burgers tasted the finest in America, besting rivals like Shake Shack, In-N-Out, and Five Guys.

Habit Burger isn’t finished yet. With ambitious aspirations to establish 2,000 outlets, up from its current 142, the firm intends to continue its growth outside of the West Coast.

7. McAlister’s Deli

deli McAlister’s
McCalister’s Deli and Facebook
Headquarters: Mississippi’s Ridgeland

Sales in the US: $548 million

There are 361 restaurants in the US.

Rank 28 for financial performance

Ranking for client satisfaction: 11.

Value position 12

The deli chain, with headquarters in Mississippi, specialises in regional and local American specialties, such as The New Yorker sandwich, which is made with corned beef, pastrami, and Swiss cheese on rye, and the West Coast Bánh M, which is McAlister’s version of the Vietnamese classic. It is also known for its sweet tea.

The majority of McAlister’s restaurants are located in the Southeast of the US, however the chain is searching for franchise partners in a number of Wisconsin and Colorado areas to expand farther west.

  1. Krystal Kreme
    Krystal Kreme
    Linkedin/Krispy Kreme
    Headquarters: North Carolina, Winston-Salem

USD $708 million in sales.

There are 294 restaurants in the US.

Rank 35 for financial performance

Score for customer satisfaction: 7

Value score: 9

Vernon Rudolph, the creator of Krispy Kreme, utilised a recipe that a New Orleans cook had given him to create and market doughnuts to nearby grocery shops in 1937. Rudolph dug a hole in the wall to launch his first retail shop when consumers started asking to buy the delights directly as the aroma of freshly made donuts filled the streets.

Although Krispy Kreme may be most known for its iconic glazed doughnut, the company revealed intentions to begin offering “edible coffee delights” in May 2016 – bars that closely resemble the chain’s coffee and doughnut combinations.

6. Krispy Kreme

Subs from Jersey Mike’s
Facebook and Jersey Mike’s Subs
Office location: Manasquan, New Jersey

USD 675 million in sales.

There are 1,046 restaurants in the US.

Rank 24 for financial performance

Score nine for customer satisfaction

Rank by value: 16

Last October, Jersey Mike’s Subs celebrated the launch of its 1,000th site, and since then, it has expanded its fleet by over 50 additional locations. The quickly expanding sandwich restaurant intends to keep up its rapid growth, with 2,000 sites worldwide targeted by 2019.

Technomic has ranked Jersey Mike’s in the top 10 for customer satisfaction. It is well known for their handmade sandwiches made with premium ingredients.

4. Firehouse Subs

Subs from King’s Hawaiian Firehouse
Social media/FireHouse Subs
Office location: Jacksonville, Florida

USD 649 million in sales.

There are 943 restaurants in the US.

Rank 31 for financial performance

1 for customer satisfaction

Rank by value: 13

Firehouse Subs is taking on Subway, its biggest rival, with bold-flavored sandwiches piled high with premium meats and cheeses, and it plans to double the number of its restaurants by 2020. The chain’s sales increased by 17% to $110 million in 2015, and it opened 93 new locations. But quality didn’t suffer; Firehouse earned the No. 1 ranking for customer satisfaction of all the fast-food chains.

The Florida-based franchise was founded in 1994 by a pair of brothers and former firefighters who sought to bring the enthusiasm and appetite of the firehouse to their restaurants. The chain’s charitable arm has donated $18 million from sales and in-store donations to more than 1,300 organisations benefiting first responders.

3. In-N-Out Burger

in n out
Flickr/Laine Trees
Headquarter: Irvine, California

US sales: $615 million

Number of US restaurants: 313

Financial performance rank: 40

Customer satisfaction rank: 5

Rank by value: 1

In 1948, the first drive-through hamburger shop in California was established. Even now, some seven decades later, the menu is still limited to only five products. Loyal customers are aware that they may order from the not-so-secret menu, which includes dishes like a protein-style burger and grilled cheese, if they wish to increase their selection.

There’s a solid reason why In-N-Out is exclusive to the West Coast. All of the chain’s locations must be 300 miles or less from the distribution centres since it prides itself on offering premium products devoid of additives or preservatives. East Coasters, I apologise.

2. Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers

Chicken fingers from Raising Cane’s
Headquarters: Louisiana’s Baton Rouge

Sales in the US: $567 million

There are 249 restaurants in the US.

Financial performance score: 6

6th place for customer satisfaction

Rank by value: 34

Excellent chicken strips are the sole focus of Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers’ menu. But Cane’s special tangy sauce, a blend that patrons can’t get enough of, is what really keeps fans hooked.

Despite the menu’s limitations, business is booming—sales were up 26% last year. The chain has expanded from its roots in Louisiana across the South and Midwest.

1. Chick-fil-A

A Chick Fil A
Headquarters are in Atlanta, Georgia.

USD $6.29 billion in sales

1,950 restaurants in the US

Rank two for financial performance

2 for customer satisfaction

Value score: 4

As the only fast-food restaurant to place in the top five for financial performance, customer happiness, and value, Chick-fil-A takes the title of best in America.

This Southern staple is the biggest food chain on our list and the eighth-largest in the US by sales. It just launched its first store in New York City. To better compete with rivals, the company serving fried chicken has lately expanded its menu by include items like a kale and broccolini salad, a premium coffee line, new sauces, and a barbecue-bacon sandwich.

Chick-fil-executives’ A’s anti-gay marriage attitude generated public controversy in 2012, although several of its locations began supporting LGBT pride activities the following year. However, Chick-fil-A attracts a lot of consumers with its Southern politeness, where a “Thank you! ” has been greeted with a fervent “It’s my pleasure! for about 70 years.


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