5 Biggest American Food Chains Around The World

Americans might get a bad rap around the world for their obsession with fast food and super sized portions, but in reality, they’re not the only ones who enjoy receiving their dinners via drive-thru.

American fast-food chains have left a massive footprint on the globe, and many have even expanded their menus to fit local tastes. Film buffs will remember that John Travolta famously explained the difference between a McDonald’s American “Quarter Pounder” and a French “Royal,” but the differences in menus go much deeper than just the names. In Israel, diners can order McKebabs, and in Mexico a breakfast favorite is McMolletes.

Clearly, there’s high demand for quick-fix food far outside the borders of the US of A. In fact, the 5 biggest American fast food chains overseas are not only a mere presence internationally - they tend to dominate even their host countries. So whatever we might say about American cuisine, the figures show that a few American culinary exports have taken over the restaurant world. These 5 instantly-recognized food chains are the most dominant American restaurants abroad.

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5 Starbucks: 5727 International Restaurants

  • Country who loves it most: Japan

In some cities in America, it’s impossible to walk two blocks without passing at least one Starbucks. While it’s nowhere near the size of McDonalds or Subway internationally, the rate at which this coffeehouse giant is growing makes it a top contender on this list. After its humble start in Seattle in 1971, Starbucks first expanded outside of the US in 1996 with a location in Tokyo, and celebrated its 1,000th Japanese store opening just last year.

Starbucks adapts well to Japanese culture, serving tea beverages made from local ingredients, and honoring traditions with store designs inspired by the iconic tea houses and Japanese gardens. As far as appealing to a more modern customer base, Japanese Starbucks also offers fun beverages like the Crunchy Cookie Frappuccino – which blends an entire cookie into the drink – and Mango Passion tea, which probably wouldn't have even been dreamed of in your grandmother's tea house.

4 Pizza Hut: 5,890 International Restaurants

  • Country who loves it most: China

Pizza Hut’s always making headlines with their international menu items. Think England’s recent hot dog stuffed pizza or the Crown Crust pizza with cheeseburger-filled crusts. But the award for country who loves this chain most definitely goes to China. There, Pizza Hut is fancy. Like, really fancy.

Rather than the typical fast food vibe of the joint in America, in China you’ll see booths, lamps and signs with cursive phrases like “gusto,” actual porcelain plates and silverware and full, multi-page menus. It’s less of a “pick up the pizza when you don't want to pay delivery” stand with the occasional dine-in customer, and more of an Olive Garden that serves lots of pizza, in China.

In addition to traditional Pizza Hut menu items Americans are accustomed to, Chinese customers can choose from Escargot, clam chowder covered breads, octopus with quail egg and more. Most Chinese Pizza Huts also serve wine and cocktails to go with your quick-serve dinner.

Another country doing Pizza Hut right? Singapore.  Known for their outrageous fast food creations, Singapore produces a signature menu item known simply as the “Double Sensation.” It’s a pizza divided into two separate rings – an outer ring of crust stuffed with melted cheese and an inner ring stuffed with chicken sausage – which itself is also stuffed with cheese. Between these two rings is basically a “trash can pizza” with an assortment of veggie and meat toppings, and at the center is an entirely different pizza featuring Alfredo sauce, chicken and veggies. With a cherry on top. (Really.)

3 Subway: 10,109 International Restaurants

  • Country who loves it most: Canada

While it doesn't take the number 1 spot when it comes to international units, Subway is actually the largest sandwich franchise in the world. With more than 40,000 locations (most of which are in the U.S. and Canada), Subway may soon replace McDonald’s as the iconic quick-service restaurant.

Subway prides itself on offering the same menu items around the world and only offers a few menu changes to fit cultural or religious needs in different locations. For example, menus in Canada and the U.S. are virtually identical, but in India customers can choose between other options like the Chicken Seekh sandwich or a Corn 'n' Peas sub.

2 KFC: 11,798 International Restaurants

  • Country who loves it most: China

Compared to many other franchises in America, KFC doesn't really seem that big. But travel to China, and you'll be shocked to see that images of the Kentucky Colonel are even more prevalent than the iconic Chinese image of Chairman Mao.

It’s a little strange to imagine people in China wolfing down a bucket of famous fried chicken and a side of slaw and beans.  But it makes a lot more sense when you remember that at its core, it’s just another well-marketed international business.

Owned by Yum! Brands (which also owns Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and several other fast food chains), KFC knows exactly what it’s doing in China. They’ve partnered with local vendors to use authentic Chinese flavors in their secret recipes and added a slew of localized items to their menus. Customers can order seasonal veggies like bamboo shoots and lotus root instead of traditional American sides, congee (rice porridge) and sesame flatbread for an early morning breakfast on the go – among many, many other localized options.

1 McDonald's: 18,710 International Restaurants

  • Country who loves it most: Japan

It comes as no surprise that McD’s boasts more international units than any other fast food chain, but it’s especially loved in Japan.

There are several notable differences between the Golden Arches in America and in Japan. Firstly, it’s a little more upscale. You’ll notice the staff is a little more customer-service aware, the space is cleaner and it’s just less of a “fast and dirty” meal, and more of a dining experience.

The second difference is portion sizes. One large order of fries in America is roughly equivalent to two mediums in Japan. And don’t even ask about supersizing.

Finally, the menu is customized with Japanese flavors. Customers can order anything from a Teriyaki McBurger with a side of Seaweed Shaker fries, to the Ebi Filet-O (fried shrimp patty on a bun). They’ve also got a number of novelty menu items that seemingly should be available in America but aren’t yet, including the Mega Muffin, MegaMac and more.

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