Fast food restaurants made their debut in 1912, and they’re more popular than ever 100+ years later. The fast food industry is worth about $199 billion in the United States alone. By the end of 2020, experts estimate that their worth will be a whopping $223 billion.
Hamburgers are classic staples among the world’s most popular fast food chains. The costs of production are fairly low, so many burger chains have found great success. The top-earning burger chains generate billions in annual revenue.
Is your go-to burger joint one of the top-earning establishments? The ten biggest burger chains in the world are featured below. From fun facts to annual revenue, you’ll learn all there is to know about these iconic fast food joints.
McDonald’s is the leading burger chain worldwide and the second-largest fast food chain overall. In 1940, the first McDonald’s restaurant opened in San Bernardino, CA. Fifteen years later, the company was purchased and became a franchise.
The Big Mac is McDonald’s signature burger and has been a staple menu item since 1968. It launched in Pittsburgh locations in 1967 before quickly gaining nationwide attention. It remains one of the restaurant’s most in-demand items.
A Big Mac costs an average of $3.99 in the United States. Based on the prices of all top ten burger chains, McDonald’s falls right in the middle.
McDonald’s generated a revenue of $21.08 billion in 2019. This is 20 times more revenue than the second-biggest burger chain.
As of 2019, there were 38,695 McDonald’s restaurants located in 119 countries throughout the world. International locations have unique culturally relevant menus featuring shrimp burgers, poutine, and more.
2. Burger King
Burger King comes in second as the world’s biggest burger chain and the fifth-largest fast food chain. The company launched in 1953 in Jacksonville, FL, and added the signature Whopper burger to its menu in 1957.
Over 50 years later, the Whopper is still one of the chain’s most popular menu items. Prices for the classic burger in the U.S. range from about $3.48 to $4.19. The cost is comparable to their main competitor, McDonald’s.
Burger King generated $1.78 billion in revenue based on 2019 annual reports. Data shows a seven percent increase in revenue from 2018 to 2019.
The latest data reports that Burger King has 18,838 locations in more than 100 countries and U.S. territories. The company opened just over 1,000 new locations between 2018 and 2019.
Wendy’s ranks third among the biggest burger chains in the world. The company started in 1969 in Columbus, Ohio, by selling its trademark square burgers and malt milkshakes. By 1976, there were 100 Wendy’s locations in the United States.
The signature ‘Dave’s Hot n’ Juicy Single’ ¼ pound cheeseburger costs about $4.19 at U.S. locations. Wendy’s menu prices are slightly higher than the two leading burger chains but less expensive than most others.
In 2019, Wendy’s reported annual revenue was $1.7 billion. This sum was an increase of 7.49% from their 2018 earnings.
Wendy’s has 6,788 locations in 30 countries worldwide. Over 5,800 of the burger chain’s locations are based in the United States.
4. Sonic Drive-In
Sonic Drive-In is an American fast food chain known for its classic diner-style menu and milkshakes. The company – commonly just called ‘Sonic’ – was founded in 1953, but operated under the name Top Hat until 1957.
Many Sonic locations use carhops on rollerskates to fit the company’s old-school vibe. A regular Sonic Cheeseburger is the company’s signature burger and costs about $3.89. Their prices are comparable to other leading burger chains.
Sonic Drive-In’s annual revenue was $423.59 million in 2018. Based on data from 2009 to 2018, the company has experienced a decline in revenue.
As of 2020, there are 3,450 Sonic locations in 46 states throughout the U.S.
5. Dairy Queen
In 1940, Dairy Queen began as a single restaurant in Joliet, Illinois. The original menu consisted of soft-serve ice cream and other frozen treats.
The company grew steadily and had 100 locations by 1946. In 1955, Dairy Queen expanded with more than 2,600 locations and an expansive lunch and dinner menu.
The ‘GrillBurger’ is considered the company’s classic burger. A ¼ pound Grillburger with cheese costs about $3.59. This competitive price point is lower than many of its competitors.
Dairy Queen’s reported annual revenue was $94.37 million in 2019. This is a significant increase from their 2018 annual revenue of $71.62 million.
There are over 6,800 Dairy Queen locations in the United States and nearly 30 more countries.
6. Jack In The Box
Jack In The Box debuted in 1951 as a hamburger stand in San Diego, CA. The company is well-known for its clown mascot and gained popularity as the first drive-thru with a two-way intercom system.
Jack In The Box’s most popular product is their signature taco, but they’re still well-known for their hamburger. A Classic Buttery Jack costs about $4.79, so it’s a bit pricier than many other burger chains.
In 2019, Jack In The Box reported annual revenue of $950.11 million. Despite a slight increase from 2018, the company’s revenue has declined over the last five years.
In 2019, Jack In The Box had over 2,200 locations in 21 states throughout North America.
Whataburger is much smaller than most fast food chains, but they’re an iconic burger joint in the southern U.S. The company was founded in 1950 in Corpus Christi, Texas.
Whataburger was a family-owned company until 2019. They have significantly fewer locations due to lack of franchising, but they’re still considered a cult classic in America.
‘Whataburger’ is the signature burger and averages $3.09. This budget-friendly price appeals to burger lovers who crave quality and affordable fast food meals.
As of April 2018, Whataburger has 824 locations throughout the Southern U.S. including Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona.
Hardee’s was founded in 1960 in Greenville, NC, and comes in eighth place among the biggest burger chains. The fast food establishment has the same parent company as Carl’s Jr, which also ranks among the top ten burger chains.
The famous ‘Thickburger’ and Hardee’s Made From Scratch Biscuits are iconic menu staples. For over 40 years, Hardee’s locations produce hand-made biscuits every 15 minutes for their breakfast menu.
A ⅓ pound Original Thickburger costs an average of $6.86 in the United States. Compared to the other biggest burger chains, this price point is higher than average.
Hardee’s annual revenue was $571.55 million based on data from 2018.
There are 1,800 Hardee’s restaurants in the U.S and 14 additional countries. About 300 of the company’s locations are in Asian and Middle Eastern countries.
9. Carl’s Jr.
Carl’s Jr. launched in 1941 in Los Angeles, California. Entrepreneur Magazine listed the burger chain in 54th place among its Top Franchise 500 list in 2016.
‘Famous Star’ is Carl’s Jr.’s most popular burger. A Famous Star With Cheese averages $4.49 at U.S. locations. Their price points are a bit higher than other leading burger chains.
Carl’s Jr.’s most recent official financial reports are from 2012. The latest data from Dun & Bradstreet reports that the company’s annual revenue is $530,532.
Carl’s Jr. has over 1,500 locations in the United States and 30 countries throughout the world. More than 200 of its locations are in Mexico, and California is home to many of Carl’s Jr. locations.
10. Five Guys
Five Guys lands in 10th place among the top ten biggest burger chains worldwide. The restaurant was first launched in Arlington, VA in 1986. Between 1986 and 2001, five more locations opened in Virginia and Maryland.
Further locations opened in the U.S. and international countries starting in 2003. Despite having fewer locations than competitors, Five Guys grew rapidly over a short timespan.
A regular hamburger is Five Guys signature burger, and it costs about $6.19 to $6.99. This price range makes Five Guys the most expensive burger chain among the top ten list.
As of 2016, there are 1,500 Five Guy’s locations throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. The company has 1,500 additional locations in development.
It’s easy to see that burger chains dominate the fast food industry. For several decades, burger joints have found success throughout the world. Their menus have expanded over time, but the classic ‘burger and fries’ is still a favorite pick.
At less than $7 per burger, the top ten biggest burger chains in the world can’t be beaten. Whether you’re craving a simple hamburger or something hefty, you’ll find what you crave at one of these iconic fast food restaurants.