Everybody has strong opinions on fast food. The court of public opinion can change a fast food restaurant‘s standing based on a whole host of factors, including menu prices and overall quality.

Every year, research firm Technomic tracks the popularity of restaurant chains across the United States and ranks them based on national sales. They just released their 2023 repor, and the top ten just might surprise you.

  1. McDonald’s ($53.1 billion, up 9%)

  2. Starbucks ($31.6 billion, up 12.5%)

  3. Chick-fil-A ($21.6 billion, up 14.7%)

  4. Taco Bell ($15 billion, up 8.2%)

  5. Wendy’s ($12.3 billion, up 5.1%)

  6. Dunkin’ ($11.9 billion, up 5.7%)

  7. Burger King ($11 billion, up 6.6%)

  8. Subway ($10 billion, up 2.1%)

  9. Chipotle ($9.9 billion, up 15.3%)

  10. Domino’s ($9 billion, up 3.1%)

Compared to the 2022 report, the ranking hasn’t changed much. The only exception is Chipotle, which moved up from tenth to ninth place. The chains in the top ten spots grew at a faster rate than the other 410 companies in the report and account for 44% of all sales.

Restaurant Business, the sister company of Technomic, reports that the primary reasons behind the overall growth were higher prices and more restaurant locations. The 500 restaurants on the list had a net increase of 4,000 new locations across the country—the fastest rate of growth in seven years.

The report found that, on average, restaurant prices increased by 7.1%. Restaurant Business suggests that the increase in prices and number of locations indicate that “consumers either visited chain restaurants less often or ordered lower-priced options or some combination of both.”

McDonald’s position as the top restaurant chain in the United States has been consistent since Technomic started their annual report. But the list has shifted over the past several years. In the 2014 report, Pizza Hut was the biggest pizza chain—only to be replaced by Domino’s. Subway has experienced a steep drop in the ranking, moving from the number three spot in 2014 to eighth place in 2023.

The biggest shift in restaurant popularity belongs to Applebee’s. The casual chain was the 10th most popular restaurant in 2014 and has since fallen off the list entirely. Restaurants like TGI Fridays and Red Lobster have struggled recently, too. And if the 2023 Technomic list, which now exclusively features fast food and fast casual restaurants, is any indication, the era of the sit-down chains seems to be coming to a close.

Did your favorite restaurant make this list? Let us know in the comments.

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