Top 10 Largest Fast Food Chains in the World

Love it or hate it, fast food is popular the world over. Fast food consumption has been steadily increasing in the world. Therefore unsurprisingly, the fast food industry is a global billion dollar industry. Perhaps also unsurprisingly, all of the world’s largest fast food chains are American. But the American fast food companies are anything but exclusively active on the American market these days. They have expanded into almost every corner of the world at this point and made fast food a popular eating concept. Consequently, fast food restaurants today are the most popular and frequented restaurants in the world. The following ranks the 10 most popular and largest fast food chains in the world. The ranking is based on the number of locations (franchises) each brand has globally.

The 10 Largest (Fast Food) Restaurant Chains in the World

largest fast food chains in the world

1. Subway

subway - largest fast food chain in the world

No other restaurant chain in the world has as many locations as Subway. The sandwich shop was founded in 1965 in Bridgeport, Connecticut (USA) by friends Fred DeLuca and Peter Buck. The original name of the restaurant was “Pete’s Super Submarines”, but it was renamed into Subway in 1968. The sandwich shop quickly expanded throughout the U.S. Eastcoast and in late 1970s, Subway also arrived in the U.S. Westcoast eventually establishing franchises all over the United States. Locations in Canada followed and starting from 1996, Subway quickly expanded outside of North America. Since 2010, the sandwich shop is now the largest restaurant chain in the world by number of locations, overtaking McDonald’s. Today, it has around 41,500 locations all over the world. Remarkably, the multi billion brand, headquartered in Milford, Connecticut, is still a family-owned business. It is entirely owned by the DeLuca family.

2. McDonald’s

mc donalds - biggest fast food chains in the world

When you think about fast food, chances are you’re immediately thinking about McDonald’s. In many ways, McDonald’s can be seen as the major force that established fast food culture all over the world. The first McDonald’s was opened in 1940 by American brothers Maurice and Richard McDonald in San Bernardino, California (USA). In 1948, businessman Ray Kroc joined the company and it was under his guidance when McDonald’s evolved from a local California hamburger chain into an innovative global fast food mega brand.

The brand quickly expanded all over North America, introducing many innovative products and services which now belong to the fundamentals of every modern-day fast food restaurant. McDonald’s eventually expanded into almost every single corner of the world and became the symbol of globalization. Today, the McDonald’s Corporation has around 37,900 franchises worldwide. The company is now headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. While Subway has overtaken McDonald’s in the number of locations, McDonald’s is still the largest fast food company by revenue. The iconic “M” is also still among the most recognizable brand logos of humanity.

3. Starbucks

Founded in 1971, Starbucks is now the fast food brand with the third most locations in the world. Technically, Starbucks doesn’t mainly sell fast food, but coffee drinks. It is still officially recognized as a fast food restaurant chain and one of the biggest in the world at that. Starbucks was opened by American friends Jerry Baldwin, Gordon Bowker and Zev Siegl. The three wanted to start selling high-quality coffee beans but eventually started to brew and sell their own coffee. Starbucks quickly evolved into a popular coffee shop chain on the U.S. Westcoast and especially in Seattle, Washington where the company was founded and where it is still headquartered. In 1987, the three founders sold Starbucks to their former CEO Howard Schultz. Schultz began to aggressively expand the coffee chain all over the United States and throughout the entire world. By doing so, Starbucks revolutionized the entire coffee business and drinking culture. Today, there are now around 29,900 Starbucks spots worldwide.

4. KFC

fast food chains

The fourth largest fast food chain in the world is also among the oldest still active restaurant chains. KFC stands for Kentucky Fried Chicken. KFC was opened in 1930 by American Harland Sanders in, obviously, Kentucky. In a small town called North Corbin, Kentucky to be exact. Sanders was a former soldier in the U.S. army. Even though he was not a colonel, “Colonel Sanders” became his nickname under which he became known the world over. KFC may be the only global brand which has its founder in its logo. Indeed, Sanders himself became his chicken shop chain’s most valuable and best ambassador. Sanders died in 1980 but the KFC brand lived on and expanded well beyond Kentucky. Today, it is owned by the Kentucky fast food corporation ‘Yum! Brands’ and headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky. There are now 22,600 KFC locations worldwide.

5. Pizza Hut

top 5 fast food chains in the world

Pizza Hut is the fifth largest fast food chain by number of locations. The pizza shop was founded in 1958 by American brothers Dan and Frank Darney in Wichita, Kansas, USA. Pizza Hut managed to quickly expand all over the United States. In 1977, the Darney brothers sold the chain to PepsiCo, which expanded Pizza Hut into the global markets. Today, there are around 18,500 Pizza Hut spots in the entire world, making Pizza Hut the single largest pizza maker and seller on the planet. The company and fast food chain is now based in Plano, Texas. It is another subsidiary of ‘Yum! Brands’, which spun off PepsiCo in 1997.

6. Burger King

burger king - sixth of the largest fast food chains

7. Domino’s

domino's pizza - 7 of the 10 largest fast food chains in the world

8. Dunkin’ Donuts

9. Baskin-Robbins

10. Hunt Brothers Pizza

The 10 Largest Restaurant Chains in the World
(at a glance)

(as of November 2019)

Top 10 Largest Restaurant Chains in the World:
~ 41,500 locations worldwide
~ 37,900 locations worldwide
~ 29,900 locations worldwide
4. KFC
~ 22,600 locations worldwide
~ 18,500 locations worldwide
~ 17,800 locations worldwide
~ 16,300 locations worldwide
~ 11,800 locations worldwide
~ 8,100 locations worldwide
~ 7,500 locations worldwide

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