47+ Fast Food Industry Statistics 2021 [Order Up!]

McDonald’s

Burger King

KFC…

According to Fast Food Nation, 44% of US survey respondents are addicted to fast food.

Hold onto your hats! That’s just a drop in the ocean of fast food industry statistics.

Undoubtedly, the taste — so delicious thanks to additives high in sugar and fat, as well as artificial scents — is burgers’ main appeal. But this type of food also fits perfectly in today’s modern lifestyle. It’s cheap, convenient, and quick to obtain.

Love it or hate it, hooked up or not, you certainly can’t ignore the global fast food industry. Especially when it comes to America.

At $281.7 billion, the US market accounts for 32.7% of the global fast food revenue.

How much is the global industry worth?

Over $885 billion in annual revenue!

Impressed yet?

With 897,683 businesses employing 14.2 million people around the globe, the fast food industry contributes significantly to the world economy. And the global waistline… But that’s a topic for another day.

For now, let’s concentrate on the fascinating fast food industry statistics:

Fascinating Fast Food Industry Statistics (Editor’s Choice):

  • The average primary meal portion size increased by 124% between 1986 and 2016.
  • Yum Brands is currently worth $35.7 billion globally.
  • Global fast food industry revenue will exceed $885 billion in 2021.
  • All of the top ten fast food brands globally in 2020 have their roots in the United States.
  • The 2021 online food delivery market worth is $151,526 billion.
  • China is the largest market for KFC outside of the United States.
  • McDonald’s was the world’s most valuable food brand in 2020.
  • 85% of Americans eat from McDonald’s at least once a year.

Did that whet your appetite? Then let’s dive right into the global and American fast food industry analysis.

First, we’ll start with a short explanation of the three primary service models within the industry. Then we’ll move right on to the hard-hitting stats.

Fast Casual vs Quick Service vs Casual Dining

  • Restaurant models fall into one of three categories:
  • Quick Service
  • Casual Dining
  • Fast Casual

Quick Service Restaurants (QSRs)

They are cheap and cheerful. Examples include McDonald’s, KFC, and Taco Bell.

This model has run-of-the-mill food and limited menus. QSRs will often have tables, but there’s only self-service. Of course, employees take your order and prep the food. And they do it quickly!

There have been some murmurings of cultural degradation. Some people feel that the ethnic food offered in some of these places is inauthentic. For example, while many Americans associate Taco Bell with Mexican cuisine, they’re only experiencing a very tiny part of the nation’s traditional meals, and a lot of the typical fast food items.

Food concerns aside, these restaurants use bold colors and energetic music to get you to eat and leave faster. These are volume businesses.

Casual Dining Restaurants

Examples include Applebee’s and The Olive Garden.

These are usually sit-down restaurants that have a more varied menu. They also often serve alcohol. The difference here is that you’d be more likely to take a date here. They provide a nice night out when consumers are price sensitive.

The atmosphere is more relaxed. Understated decor and music contribute to the ambiance. These restaurants understand that you’re liable to order more if you stay longer. So they’re quite happy to accommodate diners that stay later to maximize the spend per table.

Fast Casual Restaurants

Moving on to a fast-casual restaurants industry analysis.

This model is a hybrid of the previous two. These restaurants have a more varied menu offering some healthy fast food options. You’ll be able to take a date here as well, but you might not be able to order alcohol.

The interior color schemes here tend towards more cheerful, though not to the same extent as is the case with the QSRs.

Fast Food Industry Analysis 2021

Now that we’ve gone through the industry segments, it’s time for our analysis to begin in earnest.
Naturally, we’ll focus most of our attention on the home of fast food – America.

1. The world’s fast food industry revenue will reach $885.1 billion in 2021.

(Source: IBISWorld)

This statistic includes all types of fast food eateries globally.

And the American fast food industry makes up 32.7% of the global market.

We’ll repeat — global market.

2. There were 196,839 franchised QSRs in the United States in 2021.

(Source: IBISWorld)

Running a full-service restaurant comes with many inherent risks and some hefty overheads. Franchise prices are also high, but buyers get a roadmap on how to run the business and an established brand.

The 2021’s number of fast food businesses represents a 1.1% increase from the previous year.

3. The fast food industry yearly revenue in the United States has grown by almost $90 million over the last decade.

(Source: Statista)

Over the last ten years, advancements in technology have made us busier than ever. So ordering a round of fast food is a simple option for dinner, especially when time is short.

The quick-service restaurant industry managed to earn $239 billion in the US for 2020. While impressive, this figure is less than the $273 billion made in 2019. The COVID-19 pandemic impact on business could be to blame for the drop.

4. The QSR industry employed over 4 million people in the US in 2020.

(Source: Statista)

Most of these positions are entry-level and ideal for school leavers or retirees wanting to earn extra money. The pay rates are fairly low, though.

5. The number of people employed in QSR has increased by 35% since 2010.

(Source: Statista)

Considering the robust fast food industry growth statistics, this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.

With society’s increasing focus on moving faster, it makes sense that the QSR is becoming a more popular model. And that’s why they’re finding it necessary to hire more employees.

6. America has the largest number of fast food chains in the world.

(Source: IBISWorld)

Americans had 196,839 fast food restaurant businesses to choose from in 2021.

7. California had the highest number of QSR in the country in 2020.

(Source: Statista / World Population Review)

This is hardly surprising considering that California is the state with the highest population in the United States. Wyoming, the state with the lowest population, has the least number of QSR.

However, in terms of QSR per capita, Hawaii leads the pack with 10,2 restaurants per 10,000 people.

Americans’ Eating Habits

It’s something of a generalization to say that Americans eat poorly. There’s a growing movement in the country to choose healthier food options. But, unfortunately, according to health care spending statistics, the damage is done.

Obesity is an epidemic in the United States, and there are high incidences of the so-called “lifestyle diseases” (like diabetes) across the country.

Yet, it’s not all doom and gloom. If we look at consumer spending statistics, Americans are turning to healthy fast food options more often.

8. 43% of Americans always look for healthy choices when shopping.

(Sources: Statista)

As you’ll see in the graphic below, 43% of US citizens always look for healthy food when they’re stopping. In addition, grocery shopping statistics suggest that a little over a quarter of Americans feel it’s easy to find healthy food.

Fast Food Industry Statistics - An infographic that shows that Americans are more interested in healthy food nowadays

(Source: Statista)

9. The percentage of Americans who eat fast food regularly is 36%.

(Source: Statista)

Over a third of the US population eats fast food daily. That’s about 84.8 million people eating fast food every day!

Most Americans, however, go to their favorite QSR between 1 and 3 times a week, take away statistics show.

10. 39% of Americans look for healthy options at QSRs.

(Source: Statista)

Fast food is generally not the healthiest option. Yet it’s popular.

This is changing slowly, though, as consumer demand for healthier options increases. Fast food consumption among adults is high but also evolving to reflect a healthier eating mindset. Hopefully, this will reflect in the fast food consumption statistics in 2021 and beyond.

10. American obesity rates increased by 17% between 2007 and 2017.

(Source: Statista)

And this is despite the fact that gym memberships were up by 21% and stress levels were down 23% in the period. Perhaps the chart below can shed more light on America’s obesity epidemic:

An infographic of US obesity vs burned calories

(Source: Statista)

11. The US obesity rate was 42.2% in 2020.

(Source: Trust for America’s Health)

And on top of that, another 35% of Americans were overweight.

Could the fact that one in three Americans eats fast food every day be a factor? With the most common fast food ingredients being fat and highly processed carbs, it’s hardly a healthy eating choice.

Considering that just 10% of Americans eat the recommended allowance of vegetables daily, junk food might be a significant factor.

Portion Sizes

Portion sizes globally have been sneaking up.

Are you overeating? Think of it this way – a piece of meat should be no bigger and no thicker than the palm of your hand. So, a burger patty, technically, hits the right note. What about when you order a steak instead of a burger?

Let’s examine the take out statistics that show that portion sizes have been creeping up over the years:

Fast Food Industry Statistics - An infographic that shows that fast food used to be healthier 40 years ago

(Source: Statista)

12. The average main meal portion size increased by 124% between 1986 and 2016.

(Source: Statista)

Fast food facts show that from 1986 to 2016, the average portion size increased from 162 grams to 201 grams. In addition, the calorie count grew by 127% over the same period.

13. The average sides portion size rose 103% between 1986 and 2016.

(Source: Statista)

By comparison, from 1986 to 2016, the calorie count of the sides increased by 124%.

These are somewhat concerning fast food health statistics. Don’t you agree?

14. Dessert portion sizes have increased by 171% between 1986 and 2016.

(Source: Statista)

It’s desserts that have made the most gains in size in the past three decades. What’s more, the number of calories has increased by around 179%.

It’s far from healthy, but refusing a dessert is hard. We’re speaking from experience here.

Fast Food Industry Market Share

We tend to think of fast food brands as rivals fighting for market share. But, would it surprise you to learn that most of the top fast food chains are part of large corporate companies?

Let’s learn more about the brands that we’ve all grown to love.

15. Yum Brands is currently worth $35.7 billion globally.

(Source: Macrotrends)

Yum Brands is the world’s largest conglomerate in the food industry. It has 50,000 locations in 150 countries globally.

And what do Taco Bell, KFC, and Pizza Hut have in common?
Can you guess? That’s right:

A fast food industry analysis shows that they’re all owned by the global conglomerate Yum Brands.

16. Burger King, Tim Hortons, and Popeyes are also all subsidiaries of one big brand.

(Source: Business Insider)

They’re all owned by Restaurant Brands International.
A big happy family.

17. All of the top ten fast food brands globally have their roots in the United States.

(Source: Statista)

America is considered the home of the fast food industry. Considering that the top fast food restaurants had their start in the United States, there’s a good reason for that assumption.

18. Chick-Fil-A was the top brand in America in terms of sales per unit.

(Source: Statista)

The brand is considered one of America’s favorite healthy fast casual restaurants.

But why is it so popular?

Partly due to the increased awareness of trans fats. Chick-Fil-A eliminated them completely from its menu back in 2008.

McDonald’s – Are We Loving It?

McDonald’s is arguably the world’s favorite fast food brand. It’s undoubtedly the most valued brand in 2021. Founded in the 1940s, McDonald’s quickly became popular. In 1954, the brand was “discovered,” and that’s when franchising first came up.

It wasn’t long before McDonald’s was a household name for the vast majority of Americans.

The history of fast food is fascinating. But let’s see what sets this industry giant apart from its competitors.

Fun fact: McDonald’s was originally selling hot dogs, not burgers.

19. McDonald’s was worth $174.04 billion in 2021.

(Source: Macrotrends)

Undoubtedly, the chain has come up with the winning formula. Considering that burgers are one of the most common fast food meals, this is hardly surprising.

20. McDonald’s brought in $19.2 billion in revenue globally in 2020.

(Source: McDonald’s Corp)

This is down from the $21.3 billion reported the previous year.

Is the decline a consequence of the pandemic or an indication that consumers want healthy fast food options instead? Only time will say for sure.

21. McDonald’s franchise sales increased from $41.3 billion in 2006 to $85.18 billion in 2020.

(Source: Statista)

The brand is the firm leader when it comes to franchising. This is reflected in the increasing costs of purchasing a franchise.
In addition, it seems that it’s challenging to match the global need for fast food consumption.

22. McDonald’s comes in first in terms of sales in the United States.

(Source: Technomic)

McDonald’s dominance in terms of fast food market size shows no sign of abating.

The 2020 industry charts position the chain at the top, with $40.5 billion in system sales in the US.

23. Sales at McDonald’s in America accounted for just over 42% of its global revenue in 2020.

(Source: Statista)

Despite the popularity of the brand in the States, the global market accounts for the majority of sales in 2020.

24. McDonald’s spent $654.7 million on advertising in 2020.

(Source: Statista)

This partially accounts for the brand’s value is so high. It also indicates why McDonald’s’ had the highest fast food industry revenue in 2020.

For comparison, Dominos spent just $35.7 million on advertising in the same year.

25. 85% of Americans orders food from Mcdonald’s at least once a year.

(Source: Insider)

McDonald’s is an American institution. Fast food statistics show time and time again that McDonald’s beats out the competition.

26. McDonald’s dropped its company-owned stores from 19.1% in 2012 to just 7% stores in 2020.

(Source: McDonald’s Corp)

We expect McDonald’s to reduce direct ownership of stores even more in the future. Managing a franchise and managing your own fast food companies are two different things. While both can be profitable, once a franchise model matures, it’ll usually be fine for the original store owners to take a step back.

27. McDonald’s dropped its number of employees by 120% between 2012 and 2020.

(Source: Statista)

According to fast food statistics, McDonald’s staff has dropped from 440,000 in 2012 to just 200,000 in 2020.
This is partially a factor of the company reducing the number of stores that it runs. It’s also because technical advancements made it possible to reduce the number of employees required.

28. McDonald’s spent over $300 million on Artificial Intelligence in 2019.

(Source: Fast Company)

McDonald’s has already been using AI to identify when someone using their app comes near their outlet. Now they’re planning to take things to a whole new level.

With its acquisition of AI company Dynamic Yield, McDonald’s aims to identify current trends and use them to capitalize on those trends.

The strategy is to cement its leading position among the top fast food chains in 2020.

Say, for example, that ten clients order a specific side. McDonald’s AI could recommend that side to new clients or create a personalized offer to clients in the area.

The implementation of the smart technology has already paid off, reducing the chain’s speed of service by 30 seconds in 2020.

Burger King

How does this iconic brand stack up in the history of fast food?

Thanks to smart advertising and a focused product offering, pretty well. The company doesn’t come close to the sheer might of McDonald’s, but changing customer attitudes toward health could see it becoming a real challenger.

Fun fact: In Australia Burger King is called Hungry Jack’s.

29. According to the fast food industry revenue 2020 stats, Burger King made $1.6 billion.

(Source: Statista)

After a rough year for the industry, Burger King’s financial performance showed a 10% decrease on 2019’s figures.

30. Burger King was one of the top fast food chains in 2020.

(Source: Statista)

The brand was worth $6,36 billion in 2020.

That makes it number 8 in the top ten most valuable franchises worldwide!

31. There were 18,625 Burger King franchises in 2020.

(Source: Statista)

The chain hasn’t quite achieved the same high fast food market share in 2020 as McDonald’s, though.
Still, not bad. Not bad at all.

32. Burger King curtailed its advertising spend by $4 million between 2017 and 2018.

(Source: Statista/ YouTube/ Good Things Guy)

The company does have some pretty clever advertising tricks, though. For example, Burger King made it possible for clients to order a Whopper for $0.01 as long as they were near McDonald’s.

The company took another swipe at McDonald’s with one of their latest ads. They made the point that their burgers are preservative-free, and so did decompose over time. See for yourself:

It wasn’t long before South African fast food brand, Nando’s, decided to get in on the action.

nandos-whopper

(Source: Good Things Guy)

It’s an open secret that McDonald’s foods have a long shelf life. We experimented at our office with one of their typical fast food items – French fries – leaving a packet in one of the storerooms.

What we found was disturbing. Despite it being a warm summer, the fries looked the same after a week and then after a month. If you didn’t know any better, you’d have assumed that they were leftover from the day before.

Don’t believe us?

Then try it for yourself and let us know what you discovered after a month.

33. Fast food statistics 2020 show that Burger King restaurants have improved their customer satisfaction index by 9 points since 2000.

(Source: Statista)

Burger King’s customer satisfaction index was 76 in 2020. This is impressive because customer service at QSR restaurants is generally mediocre at best. The staff are typically paid minimum wage and asked to work long hours. McDonald’s scores just 70 points.

34. Burger King was the third-largest burger chain in 2020.

(Source: Technomic)

There’s quite a way to go before Burger King catches up with McDonald’s. However, the company ranked among the top fast food restaurants in the US. It took the sixth place with $9.6 billion in sales.

In the burger industry alone, the chain was the third-largest after McDonald’s and Wendy’s.

KFC

KFC is another one of McDonald’s main competitors.

Kentucky Fried Chicken was founded in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1952. “Colonel Sanders” was Harland Sanders. The company switched its name to KFC in the 90s in an attempt to promote a healthier image.

The company offers a range of chicken-based products. However, its fried chicken is still a firm favorite.

Fun Fact: At KFC in Indonesia, KFC menus come with rice and not French fries.

35. According to fast food industry statistics, both KFC and Burger King offer meatless options that promise to be healthier.

(Source: Statista)

Want to know how these two options compare? The chart below explains the differences in more detail.

An image that shows the calories in Burger King and KFC burgers.

(Source: Statista)

36. The KFC brand is worth $5.1 billion globally.

(Source: Statista)

KFC ranks as the world’s third-most famous brand. However, it loses out to McDonald’s and Starbucks for the top two spots.

37. There were more than 25,000 KFC restaurants globally in 2020.

(Sources: Statista)

According to fast food industry statistics, KFC is present in 125 countries around the globe — almost half of the world.

38. Between 2019 and 2020, 896 new KFC outlets opened globally.

(Source: Statista)

Additionally, fast food industry revenue statistics showed that the brand showed strong year-on-year growth during this period.

39. China is the largest market for KFC outside of the United States.

(Source: Statista)

The Chinese like the taste of KFC. They have 5,872 branches across the country.

40. KFC is represented in 1,100 towns across China.

(Source: Business Insider)

Culinary science offers an interesting blend of traditional KFC options and Chinese favorites. Don’t expect to find the same menu that you do in the United States, though. KFC in China offers local dishes such as rice porridge and egg tarts. If you like it spicy, try the Dragon Twister.

Food Delivery

Food delivery options may have played a part in fueling the popularity of fast food options. It’s also one of the most interesting emerging fast food industry trends. And while food delivery is relatively standard today, it’s had a relatively short history. Pizza Hut launched the very first online ordering service in 1994.

It’s a pretty convenient option – just open up the app, order from your favorite restaurant, and pay. A short while later, your food is at the door, and you’re ready to eat. It doesn’t get much more convenient than that.

This section will look at how the food delivery and fast food industries have a mutually supportive role.

41. The online food delivery market will be worth $151,526 million in 2021.

(Source: Statista)

Part of the reason that this industry is so popular is convenience. It cuts a lot of hassle to have your food delivered to the door. We can, therefore, expect impressive revenue growth.

42. Experts predict that the industry will experience a compound annual growth rate of 7.5% between 2020 and 2024.

(Source: Statista)

As society gets busier, it makes sense for us to take advantage of these convenient options. It’s not just the time saved in preparing a meal, but also not having to fight through traffic to get to fast food restaurants or stand in line to get the food.

43. Platform-to-Consumer Delivery models comprise the largest market share, with $62,798 million revenue in 2020.

(Source: Statista)

Platforms like Uber Eats add another layer of convenience for consumers. So it makes sense for the best fast food restaurants to partner with Uber if they don’t offer deliveries themselves.

Clients can order from more than one eatery on one order. In addition, they’re able to order on a secure website from a range of options. Experts predict revenue in the platform delivery sector to reach $79,608 million in 2021.

44. The food delivery model is most prevalent in China.

(Source: Statista)

The forecasts are that revenue from food delivery services in China will bring in $56.936 million in 2021. Experts predict that the market size of the fast food restaurant delivery services will grow exponentially.

45. Uber Eats has a 26% market share in the US.

(Source: Statista)

Uber Eats was a natural extension of the Uber brand. It provides registered drivers with yet another income source.

The company has made great strides in the American market. As a result, the company’s market share had increased from 3% in 2016 to 27% in 2019.

Order Up – We’re Done

Now that you understand more about the fast food industry statistics, you’ll never look at a burger in quite the same way, will you?

There’s no question about it; this multi-billion-dollar industry keeps growing from strength to strength.

As the market continues to mature, it’ll be interesting to see what changes will be forthcoming. The burger war adverts listed above point to an industry-changing its focus to a fresher, healthier model. It’ll be interesting to see what the industry and fast food chains will look like in fifty years.

Food for thought, for sure.

See you around on SpendMeNot, guys!

FAQ

How many fast food restaurants are there in the US?

In 2021, there were 196,839 fast food restaurants in the United States

Who offers the healthiest fast food?

Chipotle offers the healthiest fast food. The chain uses only organic ingredients and offers lots of salads and veggies. Chick-Fil-A comes in second because the food contains no trans fats

Is the fast food industry growing?

The fast food industry is growing in the US. The sector has increased by 1.1% per year on average between 2016 and 2021.

The industry far outpaces the country’s annual economic growth rate. It seems like there’s still plenty of opportunity for growth in the Fast Food Restaurants industry in the US.

How big is the fast food industry in the US?

As of 2021, the US fast food industry is worth $281.6 billion. Business is booming.

Who consumes the most fast food?

Junk food statistics show that Americans consume the most fast food. It’s part of the culture to grab a takeaway once a week or so. Men consume more junk food than women do, particularly when it comes to lunch. Women are more likely to consider junk food as a snack rather than a meal.

Junk food consumption in the United States is on the rise. 

Why?

It’s mostly socioeconomic factors that contributed to the higher consumption of fast food across all race groups. Fast food in America is relatively inexpensive and usually easier to afford than healthy meals. Also, people now work longer hours and so have less time to prepare meals from scratch. 

What percentage of people eat junk food?

37% of Americans eat junk food on any given day.

Want some more junk food facts and statistics?

Dinner is the most common fast food option that Americans choose. Lunch comes in a close second, and breakfast comes in last as the most popular junk food.

How much junk food does the average person eat?

Americans spend $4 out of every $10 of their food budget on junk food. About 40% of the average American’s diet consists of junk food. 

How many times a week does the average American eat fast food?

The average American eats fast food between one and three times a week, fast food industry statistics show. Reasons for this include convenience and merely a desire to enjoy their favorites.

Has fast food consumption increased?

Fast food consumption has increased globally. This is partially due to the global expansion of the industry. It’s also, in part, due to the increase in portion sizes offered by the fast food companies. 

ABOUT AUTHOR

Fiona worked in the retail banking industry for 16 years. She felt that she could put her experience to good use in helping small businesses grow. Web writing was a great fit and sparked a new career for her. She believes that her flexible working schedule gives her more time to spend painting. She loves being at home all day with her schnauzers and her cat. For Fiona, it's furbaby Friday every day of the week.

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