For those of us who call North America home, for better or worse, fast food franchises are everywhere. Whether you live in a major city or a small town in the middle of nowhere, chances are, there’s a Mickey D’s somewhere nearby. While fast food has been known to expand one’s waistline, it’s also (in most cases) an accessible option that’s usually budget-friendly. The previous two points are just a couple of the reasons fast food has become such a lucrative industry.
How lucrative, you ask? Well, to give you a better idea, let’s take a look at the ten most valuable fast food brands in the world, based on info from Statista.
10 Taco Bell ($6.1 Billion)
Taco Bell’s origin dates back to 1962 when a man by the name Glen Bell opened the first location in Downey, California. The popular franchise has gone on to create an iconic talking Chihuahua, the Doritos Locos Taco, and plenty of budget-friendly options for after- hour diners.
These days, the popular Mexican quick-service chain has well over 7,000 locations worldwide. Russia, the Middle East, and South America are just a few of the places one can expect to find a Taco Bell restaurant. This global fast-food success story has become a very valuable brand, which is worth an impressive $6.1 billion.
9 Chipotle ($6.2 Billion)
The fact that they’ve become such a major part of the fast-food landscape makes it easy to forget that Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc has only been around since 1993 – that’s 26 years for those trying to do the math. The company was started by Culinary Institute of America grad Steve Ells, who opened the first location in Denver, Colorado.
Thanks to the help of investors like McDonald’s, the fast-casual chain has taken off and has approximately 2,500 locations globally. One can even expect to find Chipotle stores in European hot spots like France, the United Kingdom, and Germany. In total, the publicly traded company is worth roughly $6.2 billion.
8 Tim Horton’s ($6.6 Billions)
Tim Hortons Inc is a Toronto-based company that has the distinction of being the largest fast-food chain in Canada. The quick-service franchise has been serving coffee and doughnuts since 1964, when it was founded by a former pro hockey player named Tim Horton.
At present, the popular doughnut joint has over 4,800 venues worldwide. The overwhelming majority, around 3,800 locations, are located in Tim Hortons’ home country of Canada. There are also over 800 shops in the United States and a handful in places like the United Kingdom and the Middle East. With a net worth of around $6.6 billion, Tim Hortons is the eight most valuable fast-food franchise on the planet.
7 Burger King ($7.0 Billion)
As the home of the flame-broiled whopper, Burger King has become one of the most recognized fast-food brands in the game. It’s predecessor, Insta-Burger King was founded in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1953. The first “Insta-free” Burger King was opened about a year later in Miami. The company has managed to garner plenty of attention over the years with their slightly creepy “King” mascot, and more recently, their plant-based Impossible Whopper.
This notoriety has helped the franchise become a global player, that now has approximately 18,000 locations spanning the globe. As one of the world’s top quick-service burger joints, BK is worth an estimated $7 billion.
6 Pizza Hut ($7.5 Billion)
Originally founded in Wichita, Kansas, by brothers Dan and Frank Carney, the first Pizza Hut opened its door in 1958. The quick-service stop is known for its Italian-American cuisine – particularly their pizza. The Hut is now a global franchise that is part of Yum! Brands, Inc. The corporation also owns other prominent brands, including Taco Bell, Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), and WingStreet.
As of late-2018, there are about 18,431 stores up and running, thus making Pizza Hut the largest Pizza chain in existence – in terms of locations. The Yum! subsidiary is worth around $7.5 billion, making in the second most valuable pizza brand behind only our next entry.
5 Domino’s Pizza ($9.5 Billion)
Back in 1960, in the city of Ypsilanti, Michigan, brothers Tom and James Monoghan purchased a local pizza chain called DomiNick’s for about $1400. Little did they know at the time, the franchise would go on to become the most fiscally successful pizza brand ever created. Known for iconic advertising characters like the Noid and speed delivery times, Dominos has become nothing short of a pizza powerhouse.
These days, Dominos is a global operation that boasts over 16,000 stores worldwide. China, Ireland, and Panama are some of the many locations around the world where one can find a Dominos Pizza. The franchise is currently valued at $9.5 billion.
4 Subway ($17.1 Billion)
Bridgeport, Connecticut, is a seaport city that happens to be the place where the Subway franchise was born, way back in 1965. For around $1,000, a gentleman by the name of Fred DeLuca opened a sandwich shop called “Pete’s Super Submarines,” which would morph into the largest sub franchise in existence. The brand is known for its signature footlong sandwiches and promoting itself as a healthy alternative to traditional fast-food options.
With over 41,500 locations worldwide, the sandwich maker is the largest single-brand restaurant chain on Earth. They also happened to be worth a cool $17.1 billion, making Subway the fourth most valuable identity of it's kind.
3 KFC ($17.2 Billion)
KFC (aka Kentucky Fried Chicken) happens to be the oldest brand on our list. In 1930, the popular fried chicken chain got its start in a little town called North Corbin, which is located in the state of Kentucky. It was started by Harland (aka Colonel) Sanders, who remains the company’s mascot to this day, and was originally called Sanders Court & Café.
The small-town restaurant has transformed into the most lucrative chicken chain in the business and now boasts over 22,600 restaurants globally. It’s the most valuable franchise in Yum! Brand's arsenal, with a net worth of approximately $17.2 billion.
2 Starbucks ($45.8 Billion)
Having been founded in 1971, Starbucks is a relative newcomer compared to most of the other brands on our list. That being said, what started out as a relatively small coffee shop in Seattle, Washington, has become the second most valuable quick service franchise ever created. The upscale chain’s concept of targeting quality-minded coffee enthusiasts has been nothing short of a major success.
The global coffee king now has somewhere in the neighborhood of 28,218 locations worldwide, as of 2018. The company reportedly opened an average of 2 stores daily between 1987 and 2007. This rapid expansion is one of the many reasons Starbucks is valued at $45.8 billion.
1 McDonald’s ($130.3 Billion)
Since its founding back in 1940, McDonald's has gone on to become the ultimate fast-food success story. Seventy-nine years ago, when the brother-sister duo of Richard and Maurice McDonald opened the first store, they probably never imagined their company would one day employ around 1.7 million people – making it the world’s second-largest employer. Today, McDonald's logo, the Golden Arches, can be found in well over a hundred countries.
In total, there are around 37,855 McDonalds locations that are doling out millions of burgers daily. Valued at around $130.3 billion, Mickey D’s is far and away to most lucrative quick-service brands around.