7 Fast-Food Franchises Had More Sales Than Chick-fil-A Last Year. Can You Name Them?

These seven restaurants totaled nearly $100 billion in U.S. sales in 2017.
7 Fast-Food Franchises Had More Sales Than Chick-fil-A Last Year. Can You Name Them?
Image credit: Taco Bell
Entrepreneur Staff
Associate Editor, Contributed Content
4 min read

No fast-food franchise hauled in sales numbers like Chick-fil-A did on a per-unit basis, according to “The Big Chart” from QSR. Each location of the chicken restaurant averaged more than $4 million in sales last year (for a total of $9 billion in sales), well ahead of the runner-up, Whataburger (around $2.8 million).

However, the chart also noted that there were relatively few Chick-fil-A locations across the country -- 2,225. For comparison, that’s almost exactly half as many units as Dairy Queen had (4,455).

Only seven companies managed to create higher sales numbers than Chick-fil-A overall, creating a combined total of nearly $100 billion in U.S. sales alone.

1. McDonald’s

McDonald's is the No. 1 franchise on our franchise 500, and it had the highest sales total of any fast-food restaurant by a considerable margin. It brought in more than $37 billion in U.S. sales alone -- more than the second, third and fourth restaurants on the list combined.

Franchise 500 information

  • CEO: Steve Easterbrook
  • Business headquarters: Oak Brook, Ill.
  • Franchising since: 1955
  • Initial investment: $1,008,000 to $2,214,080
  • Initial franchise fee: $45,000
  • New units in 2017: 507 units (1.4 percent)
  • Training: 6 to 24 months on the job, 75 hours in the classroom
  • Marketing support: Co-op advertising, ad templates, national media, regional advertising, social media, loyalty program/app

Related: Quiz: How Much Do You Really Know About McDonald's?

2. Starbucks

Starbucks ranked second in the QSR report by bringing in more than $13 billion in U.S. sales in 2017. In large part, this was due to the fact that there were 13,930 Starbucks in the U.S. last year, which ranked third overall among all fast-food franchises. The only two that had more were McDonald’s (14,036) and the No. 3 restaurant.

Starbucks is not part of the Franchise 500.

Related: You Can't Buy a Starbucks Franchise: Here's Why and What You Can Do Instead

3. Subway

Did you know that Subway is the most common fast-food franchise in America? There were 25,908 of them in 2017, and this helped bolster the sandwich restaurant’s ranking. Even though Subway ranked 49th out of 50 restaurants in per-unit sales, it still brought in about $10.8 billion in U.S. sales last year.

Franchise 500 information

  • CEO: Trevor Haynes
  • Business headquarters: Millford, Conn.
  • Franchising since: 1974
  • Initial investment: $150,050 to $328,700
  • Initial franchise fee: $15,000
  • New units in 2017: -222 units (-0.5 percent)
  • Training: 20 hours on the job, 80 hours in the classroom
  • Marketing support: Co-op advertising, ad templates, national media, regional advertising, social media, SEO, website development, email marketing, loyalty program/app

Related: How a 17-Year-Old With $1,000 Started Subway and Became a Billionaire

4. Burger King

Burger King is the last entry to bring in 10 figures in U.S. sales last year. The burger joint had a little more than $10 billion in sales, ranking fourth overall in that category and sixth in total units (7,226).

Burger King is not part of the Franchise 500.

Related: The 5 Best Burger Franchises You Can Buy (and How Much They Cost)

5. Taco Bell

Taco Bell ranked 17th in per-unit sales ($1.5 million) and seventh in total number of units (6,446). That combination helped Taco Bell to nearly $9.8 billion in sales in 2017, good for fifth among all fast-food restaurants.

Franchise 500 information

  • CEO: Brian Niccol
  • Business headquarters: Irvine, Calif.
  • Franchising since: 1964
  • Initial investment: $525,100 to $2,622,400
  • Initial franchise fee: $25,000 to $45,000
  • New units in 2017: 218 units (3.4 percent)
  • Training: 400 hours on the job, 8 hours in the classroom
  • Marketing support: Co-op advertising, ad templates, national media, regional advertising

Related: The 5 Best Taco Franchises You Can Own Today

6. Wendy’s

Wendy’s is the third burger restaurant on this list, and it earned nearly $9.3 billion in 2017. The company, which has become known nearly as much for its snarky Twitter feed as its food, averaged about $1.6 million in sales at each of its 5,769 locations.

Wendy’s is not part of the Franchise 500.

Related: Want to Be More Like Wendy's on Twitter? Here's What the Company's CMO Says to Do.

7. Dunkin’

Dunkin' ranks in the top three of the Franchise 500 for the second consecutive year, and it was in the top seven in U.S. earnings, according to the QSR report. The beverage-focused chain hauled in about $192 million more than Chick-fil-A, or about $9.2 billion total.

Franchise 500 information

  • CEO: Nigel Travis
  • Business headquarters: Canton, Mass.
  • Franchising since: 1955
  • Initial investment: $228,620 to $1,691,200
  • Initial franchise fee: $40,000 to $90,000
  • New units in 2017: 346 units (2.9 percent)
  • Training: 219 to 324 hours on the job, 68 to 73 hours in the classroom
  • Marketing support: Co-op advertising, ad templates, national media, regional advertising, social media, SEO, website development, email marketing, loyalty program/app
Related: Why Dunkin' Donuts Is Removing 'Donuts' From Its Name

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