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12 Largest Fast Food Chains in the World

hands holding a cheeseburger

The globe’s hunger for fast food has given rise to enormous empires of flavor in a world where convenience meets cravings. Take a culinary trip with us as we explore the world’s largest fast food chains’ intricate patterns. This inquiry dives into the dynamic environment of quick eats and iconic menus, from the golden arches that call hungry souls globe to the scorching grills of beloved favorites. These taste gurus have not only provided food, but have also redefined eating standards, shaped civilizations, and permanently altered the culinary landscape. Join us on this enticing journey where tradition and innovation mix on the plates of millions of people worldwide and where the language of pleasure is spoken in billions served.

McDonald’s

McDonald's
Source: Instagram

Oner restaurant that will readily pop up anywhere you go is the good old golden arches, McDonald’s. Not only is this restaurant popular in the United States, but it has a growing presence globally. The number of McDonald’s is multiplying by the day, with new locations opening frequently. There are over 40,000 restaurants as of this article. You can find McDonald’s in China, Japan, France, and many other countries. The menu in those areas will vary to include popular food items specific to those regions. However, there will always be something on the menu that speaks to your taste buds, no matter where you are. I personally love their delicious golden hashbrowns on the breakfast menu in the US. 


Subway

Subway
Source: Instagram

After the multitude of unhealthy snack foods that you commonly enjoy on a road trip, stopping somewhere that offers healthier options can be enticing. With their famous slogan of “Eat Fresh,” Subway offers just that. You can choose between many healthy menu options, including salads and wraps. Subway has an assortment of sub sandwiches to choose from as well, with everything from standard turkey breast to chicken teriyaki. I love their chicken teriyaki sauce. The restaurant also offers kids meals with smaller portions, kid-friendly drinks, and a small prize. Newer buildings have drive-thrus built into their design, allowing you to order your meal inside your car and continue on your way. Subway is one of the cheapest restaurants to franchise, which is part of why there are over 36,000 locations.


Starbucks

Starbucks
Source: Instagram

Everyone needs caffeination. Thankfully, Starbucks is widely available for you to grab a cup of joe or a snack. The company has many choices of coffee, drinks, and light meal or snack options. As of 2021, there were over 33,000 Starbucks in operation worldwide. New stores are added frequently, so that number is continually growing. You have various options for ordering Starbucks when on the go. You can order the traditional way via their drive-thru or in stores. However, many locations now offer pick-up ordering where you select your items, pay through the Starbucks app, and grab your items from the counter when you reach the store. My favorite item at Starbucks is the Caramel Frappuccino, but I haven’t had a chance to try all of their secret menu drinks yet.

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KFC

KFC
Source: Instagram

As one of the Yum! Brands restaurants, you will find KFC in most corners of the world, with roughly 25,000 locations. While the restaurant was founded in Louisville, Kentucky, it quickly became popular in many foreign countries. The KFC menu features fried chicken and other southern American fare. In fact, after the United States, the two highest ranking countries for KFC profits are China and Japan. Another interesting fact about KFC is its position in Japanese customs. Many residents of Japan have a tradition of eating KFC fast food on Christmas day. This event has become so popular that families must order their meals weeks ahead of time in busier cities to guarantee it for December 25th.


Burger King

Burger King
Source: Instagram

Another internationally known burger joint is Burger King, with almost 20,000 locations. People worldwide correlate the name with char-broiled burgers and onion rings. Those who frequent the eatery will also quickly recognize the restaurant’s mascot, a staple in the company commercials and marketing materials. While you can dine at Burger King when traveling internationally, prepare yourself for a limited menu and different entree options. Although you will still recognize many items available for order, there will be a few regional specialties that may not strike your fancy. Although, the Dulce de Leche pie on Mexico’s dessert menu sounds very appealing!


Domino’s Pizza

Domino’s Pizza
Source: Instagram

If you are looking for delicious pizza, the number of Domino’s available to meet that need worldwide is expansive – around 18,000 restaurants as of today. Domino’s has over 18,000 restaurants globally, adding over 1,000 new stores in just one year. The familiarity that comes with Domino’s when you’re traveling to a new country or destination can help ease some of the anxiety about your trip. Depending on your location, you may not have access to the usual menu items as you do at home, but you’ll always find an assortment of speciality pizzas. However, no matter where you are in the world, you can get a meal that reminds you of home when you stop at Domino’s.  


Pizza Hut

Pizza Hut
Source: Instagram

Another top contender when you’re craving pizza on vacation is Pizza Hut. With 17,000 locations throughout the United States and several countries, you can enjoy it wherever you go. While the ingredients available may vary depending on the region, you are guaranteed to find Pizza Hut toppings that fulfill your cravings. Another thing to consider when enjoying Pizza Hut overseas is that the dimensions differ from what you’ve come to expect in the United States. They are often much smaller and unable to feed as many people. Remember, if you’re ordering for a group, you may want to order additional food to compensate. If you don’t like pizza, most Pizza Hut locations also offer delicious hot wings as well. 

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Dunkin’ Donuts

Dunkin’ Donuts
Source: Instagram

The ultimate breakfast includes a stop at Dunkin’ Donuts for sweet pastries and coffee before heading back out. What’s more, most airports have caught on to this trend and have included the establishment in their terminal restaurant line-up. Whether grabbing a quick dozen for the road or stopping for a driving break, Dunkin’ Donuts has you covered. Some locations have a walk-up window that makes the ordering process seamless. You may also find that the Dunkin’ Donuts you visit also has a Baskin Robbins inside. Donuts and ice cream? How can you pick just one!


Hunt Brothers Pizza

Hunt Brothers Pizza
Source: Instagram

What’s unique about Hunt Brothers Pizza is that you won’t come up to a physical restaurant that bears its name when you visit. Instead, you will find their products within convenience stores and corner markets. The company, founded in Nashville, Tennessee, provides hot dishes like pizza and wings at gas stations. Although Hunt Brothers Pizza is prominent in convenience stores, they aren’t everywhere. You can only find their products in 28 states. Furthermore, they don’t have any international locations. For those who stop in for a bathroom break or to fill up their car, grabbing a slice of Hunt Brothers Pizza is a convenient way to grab something to eat on the way out.


Taco Bell

Taco Bell
Source: Instagram

Taco Bell is the largest Mexican-American fast food chain in the world, with almost 8000 locations. You can find Taco Bell locations in 26 countries outside of the US, although that only accounts for around 300 of their stores. Taco Bell is known for serving up affordable burritos, tacos, their signature Crunchwraps, and much more. Taco Bell is affiliated with Yum! Brands, which also owns KFC and some other American fast food restaurants. This is one of my favorite stops for food when I’m hungover, or when I’m craving a burrito or nachos. Taco Bell also has a great breakfast menu!


Wendy’s

Wendy's
Source: Instagram

Another well-known fast food option is Wendy’s. Known for their giant hamburgers and fresh fries, they serve a large number of travelers each day. The great thing is that you won’t only be limited to a Wendy’s meal when in the United States. The restaurant is also present in 29 additional countries and territories. Getting food from Wendy’s while on a road trip is a breeze. You can pull up and order through the drive-thru, opt to eat in their dining room, or even call ahead of time and have it delivered curbside to your vehicle. Your food is made fresh once you arrive, so it’ll be piping hot once it makes it to you.

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Baskin-Robbins

Baskin-Robbins
Source: Instagram

You always need an ice cream stop when you’re on the go. Whether a long road trip or a destination abroad, ice cream is a sweet treat that makes the experience all the better. Baskin-Robbins, while not as expansive as other eateries on this list, is located in many international countries and throughout the United States. The beauty of the establishment being an international franchise is that you can try various flavors. You may discover that Vietnam has a great taste you didn’t know about until you visited. It’s a great treat and a learning experience! You should try their delicious ice cream milkshakes. They’re chunky and divine! 


Chipotle Mexican Grill

Chipotle Mexican Grill
Source: Instagram

Although Chipotle Mexican Grill is considered fast food, you won’t find a drive-thru for quick ordering. Instead, you will enter the restaurant and select what options you’d like from a buffet of ingredients. There are items you can order from the menu and customize to your needs, or you can make up your own combination as you go. You will primarily find Chipotle Mexican Grill in the United States, with its headquarters residing in Delaware. However, they have 40 international locations as well. You can currently enjoy the cuisine in the countries of Canada, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany.

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Written by Brian Nagele

Brian attended West Virginia University, then started his career in the IT industry before following his passion for marketing and hospitality. He has over 20 years experience in the restaurant and bar industry.

As a former restaurant owner, he knows about running a food business and loves to eat and enjoy cocktails on a regular basis. He constantly travels to new cities tasting and reviewing the most popular spots.

Follow him on LinkedIn, Instagram, Quora, Google Guide and Facebook.