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20 Interesting Fast Food Industry Statistics

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Look outside your window. There’s a good chance that there’s a McDonald’s, KFC, Wendy’s, or something similar in nearby.

The fast-food industry (sometimes called the QSR industry or quick-service restaurant industry) is enormous, but just how large is it? Who are its top players? Do fast-casual restaurants fall in the same category as fast-food servers?

We’ll be answering these questions, and much more, in this delicious breakdown of fast food industry statistics.

Stats on the Fast-Food Industry (Editor’s Pick)

  • The US fast-food industry revenue totals at around $110 billion a year.
  • Fast-food industry statistics expect a growth rate of 7.5% between 2020 and 2024 in the US.
  • 90% of American children go to McDonald’s every month.
  • All of the top ten fast-food brands in 2019 come from the United States.
  • Fast-food industry facts state that the average employee is 29 years old.
  • A McDonald’s Quarter Pounder with Cheese contains 510 calories.
  • The average US fast-food worker earns $1,874 a month.

Fast-Food Industry Market Share

1. The US fast-food industry revenue is around $110 billion a year.

(FoodTruckEmpire)

Given how ever-present fast-food chains are around the United States, it’s little wonder that it rakes in billions of dollars in revenue yearly. However, few people realize the billions that go into these franchises.

The US takes up a sizable percentage of the global fast-food market share, which we’ll be covering next.

2. The global fast-food revenue is greater than $570 billion.

(Franchise Help)

This number is even harder to wrap one’s mind around. Here’s a bit of a perspective on it, though. The earnings of this industry are on par with Poland’s GDP for 2019.

It may get even bigger, however. Some fast-food industry growth estimates point to this sector earning $781 billion by the end of 2020. That’s roughly the GDP that Saudi Arabia put out last year.

Whether that prediction is on the money or not, this industry only seems to get bigger, as you’re about to see…

3. Fast food industry statistics project the industry growth rate of 7.5% every year between 2020 and 2024 in the US

(Statista)

The increasingly busier lifestyles in the States seem to agree with fast-food chains. That’s why fast-food industry analysis projects a healthy 7.5% annual growth rate over the next four years.

It looks like we’ll have to make more time for fast-food franchises in our lives. Speaking of which, let’s take a gander at the most prominent names in the business.

4. McDonald’s, Starbucks, and Yum! are the biggest names in the industry, with market caps of $122.9 billion, $77.2 billion, and $20.6 billion, respectively.

(Investopedia)

Hardly anyone should feel surprised that McDonald’s sits at the proverbial throne of the fast-food industry. Funnily enough, it doesn’t boast the highest number of fast-food restaurants in the US, since that honor belongs to Subway.

Following not-so-close-behind are Starbucks and Yum! The former has around 30,000 locations worldwide, while the latter dots the globe with over 50,000 establishments.

5. American cuisine made up more than 25% of the global fast-food revenue in 2019.

(Grand View Research)

American food (that being burgers, popcorn, fries, doughnuts, nuggets, sandwiches, potato wedges, chicken fries, and more) proved the king of fast food. Fast-food industry facts state that it supplied for more than a quarter of the QSR-indulging world.

While American food is the number one takeout option for the moment, the industry is seeing a quickly-rising contender in the form of Turkish and Lebanese food. These cuisines are growing at a CAGR of 6.4% in the 2020-to-2027 period, according to fast-food industry trends.

Fascinating Fast-Food Facts

Let’s take a look at some quirky, shocking, or otherwise intriguing facts about fast food in general.

6. A McDonald’s Quarter Pounder with Cheese contains 510 calories.

(McDonald’s)

Everybody’s heard that fast food is bad for our health. This isn’t entirely true, since it’s only unhealthy if you eat it on a long-term, regular basis. Junk food, by definition, isn’t something we should eat often.

But what is completely accurate is that it packs quite a caloric punch. For instance, McDonald’s Quarter Pounder has a hefty 510 calories per 100-ish grams, according to fast-food nutrition facts. Meanwhile, an apple boasts around 50 calories at the same weight.

7. 90% of American children go to McDonald’s every month.

(Fast Food Nation: the Dark Side of the All-American Meal by Eric Schlosser)

You probably think of McDonald’s as a staple of childhood revelry, especially on birthdays. And as we can see from the percentage of people who eat fast food, you’re hardly alone.

Nine out of ten kids (predominantly those aged between three and nine) visit their local McDonald’s on a monthly basis. Considering the kid-centric brand image this company has been nurturing for all these years, it makes sense that it attracts so many children.

8. Pizza Hut remains the only fast-food company that has ever delivered into space.

(Spaceflight News)

Here’s one of the more fun facts about fast food. Back in 2000, an astronaut named Yuri Usachev, working aboard the ISS, received the first pizza delivered into space. Working with the Khrunichev center in Moscow, Pizza Hut managed to pull off this amazing feat with flying colors.

Though the fast food industry statistics on the topic are murky, most believe that it cost about $1 million to do this (way more than any tip could cover).

9. Three companies paid a $91,191 fine for spreading fake mutant chicken allegations against KFC.

(Reuters)

A few years back, social media platforms were in a buzz about allegations of KFC genetically altering chickens to have multiple sets of wings and legs. A few pictures were circulated online, stoking the panic even further.

However, these seemingly shocking facts about fast-food mad science were quickly proven to be false

In 2016, KFC won a lawsuit against Yingchenanzhi Success and Culture Communication, Taiyuan Zero Point Technology, and Shanxi Weilukuang Technology, which were evidently complicit in propagating the untrue rumors.

10.  All the top ten fast-food brands in 2019 come from the United States.

(Statista)

The US seems to be gifted at creating fast-food giants. In case you’re curious, fast-food restaurant statistics point to the below as the top 10 names in the industry:

  1. McDonald’s
  2. Starbucks
  3. Subway
  4. Burger King
  5. Taco Bell
  6. Wendy’s
  7. Dunkin’ Donuts
  8. Chick-fil-A
  9. Domino’s
  10. Pizza Hut

The list also sorts these fast-food chains by revenue, going from the most profitable to the least profitable.

Fast Food Industry Statistics - McDonald's

Stats on the Consumers

What about us, the people who relish fast food? Here are some insightful mind snacks for you.

11. McDonald’s sells 75 burgers every second.

(Mashed)

Fast-food consumption statistics really attest to the size of McDonald’s. With a customer base exceeding 68 million people (greater than the population of Spain), the franchise has become a near-indispensable go-to food source. 

12. During 2011-2012, children and adolescents from 12 to 19 have consumed twice as much of their daily caloric intake in fast-food calories as kids aged from 2 to 11.

(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

According to fast-food spending statistics, the “sweet spot” for young fast food appreciation seems to be between 12 and 19. Given that this is roughly the time during which puberty takes place, it makes some sense that this demographic chows down on so much takeout food.

Unsurprisingly, yet again, the majority of them prefer McDonald’s over other establishments. Facts about fast food in America and beyond reveal that as many as 80% of kids consider McD’s their favorite.

13. Canada has more KFC’s per capita than the United States.

(The Economist)

Canadians are often stereotyped as more restrained and moderate than their southern neighbors. However, if we take a look at fast-food statistics, we can see that they’re not really any better than Americans when fast-food consumption is concerned.

Looking at fast-food restaurants per capita by country, we can see that Canada boasts 18.9 KFC franchises per million residents. Meanwhile, the US hosts 14.2 per million.

While we’re still on this topic, there are about 1,400 McDonald’s restaurants in Canada, compared to the US’ 14,000 or more. Mind you, Canada’s population is about ten times smaller than that of the US, so the per capita ratio remains more or less the same.

14. In the US, 7% of millennials consider themselves vegan.

(Global Market Insights)

The vegan movement has gained a lot of ground in recent years. In the US, somewhere around 7% of millennials (born anywhere from the early 1980s to the early 2000s) identify as vegan. 

Naturally, this is leading to a high vegan fast-food growth rate as demand for such food increases. For instance, the rising demand for vegan meat accounted for $ 3.3 billion in 2017-2018. 

And the numbers will only show more promise in time. Increased awareness of the health benefits of eating less meat is also one of the reasons for the growing vegan fast-food revenue.

15. There doesn’t seem to be a correlation between obesity and proximity to fast-food restaurants.

(ScienceDaily)

The idea that living close to something like a Chick-fil-A will put you under a greater risk of obesity makes intuitive sense. However, recent research into fast-food and obesity statistics has not found any connection between proximity to fast-food places and obesity.

A study from Lund University in Sweden, which included over 1.5 million people and performed a fast-food and burger industry analysis, discovered no correlation between living near a fast-food establishment and significant, unhealthy weight gains.

This lack of correlation goes both ways, actually. There is also no connection between losing weight and proximity to gyms, either.

Stats on the Workers

Finally, let’s turn our heads to those toiling at the stoves and soda stations: the fast-food employees.

16. Fast-food industry facts state that the average fast-food employee is 29 years old.

(National Employment Law Project)

The first image that comes to many’s minds when thinking about fast-food workers is that of a teenager. However, this is inaccurate (or at least outdated), as a quick glance at fast-food employee demographics can demonstrate.

Growing unemployment and the growing fast-food industry size have contributed the most to older workers flooding the industry. A quarter of them are older than 25, and over 26% percent have children. Not only that, but as many as half of them work two jobs.

17. California has the most fast-food cooks in the United States.

(U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

California boasts the largest number of fast-food cooks of all the states in the US, sporting well over 100,000 employees. Fast-food stats also indicate that The Golden State pays them anywhere between $24,370 and $29,220 a year.

There are many reasons why this state has the most cooks in this industry. California is the most populous state in the country, which is a major driving factor. But there are other aspects, most of which go beyond the scope of fast-food statistics in America. These could include cultural diversity, general attitudes about food, and more.

18. The number of employees at McDonald’s has dipped since 2016.

(Statista)

Back in 2016, McDonald’s employed around 375,000 people. This was the tail-end of a relatively mild downward trend, seeing that there were 440,000 employees in 2013. 

However, junk-food statistics note that this number began nosediving in 2016, and only around 205,000 people work for the Clown today. 

This dip is actually a part of a broader fast-food industry trend. Much of it has to do with increased automatization and innovations like mobile ordering. In fact, the order-taking is the position under the greatest threat of obsolescence.

19. The average US fast-food worker earns $1,874 a month.

(ZipRecruiter)

The average worker at your local fast-food restaurant earns around $22,000 to $25,000 a year. Contrast that to the national average of $94,800, and you see that fast-food industry financial ratios clearly fall within the minimum wage category.

New York pays its fast-food workers the most, some 30% more than the average. On the other side of the spectrum, Indianapolis seems to pay them the least, around 7% less than the national average.

20. Drive-thrus account for 50 to 70 percent of fast-food sales.

(Smoothie King)

Fast-food drive-thru statistics highlight the importance of drive-thrus and those working there. Seeing that this segment of the QSR business chain rakes in over half the industry’s cash, it’s clearly a pivotal part of the whole machine.

And this amazing impact is exactly what’s driving innovations to the drive-thru experience. This, sadly, is a double-edged sword, since many great solutions here lead to workers becoming obsolete.

Fast Food Industry Statistics - Fast Food Restaurant

Wrapping It All Up

Those are some of the most captivating fast-food industry facts out there—some sweet, some sour, some with a side of mutant chicken.

But what can we learn from looking at these fast-food industry stats

Well, the most obvious insight from these fast food industry statistics is that the whole industry is incredibly large. But it’s also caught in a tide of change. From shifting attitudes about junk food to the introduction of new business solutions, these franchises will have to adapt in challenging new ways.

FAQ

What is QSR?

QSR stands for Quick Service Restaurant, also known as fast-food restaurants. The definition of fast-food restaurants describes offering fast food or junk food with minimal table service. 

How big is the fast-food industry?

The QSR industry earns in excess of $570 billion. Quick-service restaurant industry analysis estimates an even greater revenue by the end of 2020, possibly as high as $781 billion.

What industry is fast food?

Just like every business that’s focused on food and beverages, fast food falls under the hospitality industry. This food is prepared (typically in a restaurant, food truck, street vendor, or store) and serves it quickly and affordably, either in a disposable container or as takeout. QSR industry trends point to fast-food establishments having minimal food preparation time and preheat or precook ingredients to decrease transaction time and costs.

What is the most eaten fast food in America?

Burgers are the most commonly bought kind of fast food in America. QSR market share tells us that McDonald’s is the biggest seller of burgers of all fast-food restaurants.

What kind of market structure is the fast-food industry?

As a whole, the fast-food industry definition would call the QSR market monopolistically competitive. This means that more than a few franchises dominate the entire market, but they still fiercely compete amongst themselves.

What fast-food franchise makes the most money?

McDonald’s earns the most money out of all fast-food companies. It has a market cap of $122.9 billion, and around 38,000 restaurants around the globe. They sell around 75 burgers every second.

Compared to fast-casual establishments, this success is even more pronounced. They take up only 11% of the dining market share, according to the fast-casual restaurant industry analysis.

In case you didn’t know, here’s the fast-casual restaurant definition: a fast-casual restaurant doesn’t offer full table service but a more upscale atmosphere and prepares higher-quality food about as quickly as fast-food restaurants

How much money do Americans spend on fast food every year?

Fast-food advertising statistics show us that marketing and sales strategies deployed by major players in the industry are exceptionally successful. On average, Americans spend about $200 billion dollars on fast food per year. On an individual basis, every American spends somewhere around $1,200 a year on fast food.

How much does the average person spend on fast food?

The amount an average person will spend on fast food depends on the country in which they live. In the US, for example, the average person spends somewhere around $1,200 a year. Meanwhile, someone in Britain will spend an average of €535.

Why is the fast-food industry so successful?

The fast-food industry owes its success to many factors. Their extremely streamlined food preparation and delivery pipeline is definitely one of them. 

The food and servings themselves have been refined to maximize satisfaction and ease of consumption. On top of that, fast-food health statistics warn us that fast food is crammed with fat and sugar, which can be addictive. But perhaps the biggest contribution to this success is the low cost of the food these restaurants offer to their customers.

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