Statistics About the Fast Food Industry

fast food industry statistics

The fast food industry, a cornerstone of American dining habits, commands attention with its staggering revenue figures and vast network of restaurants. Beyond the sheer scale of operations, the industry's ability to adapt to changing consumer preferences and external challenges like the recent pandemic highlights its resilience and strategic agility.

As we delve into the statistics surrounding this multifaceted industry, one can't help but wonder about the nuanced insights and trends that underlie these impressive numbers, painting a picture of an ever-evolving landscape that continues to shape the way we eat.

Key Takeaways

  • Fast food industry revenue in the U.S. reached $256 billion in 2020.
  • Over 200,000 fast food restaurants operate in the U.S., catering to strong consumer demand.
  • Healthier options are gaining popularity, with 39% choosing healthier fast food items.
  • The global fast food market is projected to grow to $931.7 billion by 2027, indicating significant industry expansion.

Fast Food Revenue and Market Size

Fast food industry revenue in the U.S. has seen significant growth, reaching $256 billion in 2020. This substantial figure underscores the enduring popularity and economic importance of fast food establishments in the country. The U.S. quick service restaurant industry market size has been on a steady upward trajectory, with quick service eating place sales amounting to a whopping $442.3 billion USD. This growth is indicative of the strong consumer demand for convenient, affordable, and quick dining options provided by fast food chains.

The substantial revenue generated by the fast food industry highlights its significant contribution to the overall food sector in the U.S. The industry's ability to adapt to changing consumer preferences, technological advancements, and market trends has played a crucial role in sustaining its growth and profitability. Moreover, the convenience offered by fast food establishments, coupled with diverse menu options and efficient service, has solidified their position as a cornerstone of the American dining landscape.

Number of Fast Food Restaurants

The United States saw an excess of 200,000 fast food restaurants operating throughout the country in 2020. This staggering number highlights the significant presence and popularity of fast food establishments in the U.S.

McDonald's, a global fast food giant, contributes to this number with approximately 39,000 locations worldwide. Within the U.S., there are over 192,000 franchised fast food establishments, showcasing the prevalence of franchise models in the industry.

Subway holds the distinction of being the largest franchised store in the U.S., boasting an impressive 20,622 locations. This widespread presence of fast food restaurants not only caters to consumer demands but also plays a crucial role in the economy by employing around 3,450,120 individuals in the fast food industry in the U.S.

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These statistics underscore the immense scale and impact of the fast food industry on both consumers and the workforce.

Consumer Fast Food Habits

Consumer habits regarding fast food consumption provide valuable insights into the preferences and behaviors of adults in the United States.

Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, the fast food industry has remained resilient, with 36.6% or 84.4 million adults in the US consuming fast food daily.

The convenience of delivery and drive-through services has been particularly advantageous during Covid, leading to a significant increase in online orders for pickup and delivery by almost 12%.

On average, an adult consumes 836 calories per fast food meal, highlighting the importance of making informed choices when dining out.

Interestingly, lunch orders have surged by 18% during the pandemic, indicating a shift in meal preferences among consumers.

These statistics underscore the enduring popularity of fast food in American culture and the evolving habits that shape the industry's landscape.

Health Trends in Fast Food

Amidst shifting consumer preferences and an increased focus on health-conscious choices, the fast food industry is witnessing a noticeable trend towards healthier menu options. Research indicates that 39% of people are now opting for healthier fast food choices, showcasing a growing inclination towards nutritious alternatives. Additionally, 30% of fast food restaurants have started offering healthier items on their kids' menus, responding to parents' desires for nutritious options for their children.

The average fast food meal currently contributes to 37% of daily calorie intake, underscoring the necessity for more nutritious menu selections. Recognizing this need, major chains like McDonald's have been proactive in introducing healthier food options, resulting in the average menu item being 12% lower in calories compared to 2013. Furthermore, the industry is embracing the trend by incorporating plant-based items and modernizing classic dishes to align with the evolving dining habits of health-conscious consumers. These initiatives reflect a positive shift towards promoting healthier choices within the fast food landscape.

Fast Food Industry Employment

The fast food industry plays a pivotal role in employment trends, offering job opportunities to millions of individuals in the United States.

With over 3,450,120 people employed in the sector as of 2020, the fast food industry significantly contributes to the job market.

This employment impact highlights the importance of fast food chains in creating and sustaining job opportunities for many Americans.

Employment Trends

Employment in the fast food industry in the United States currently encompasses approximately 3.45 million individuals. The significance of fast food industry jobs is highlighted by occupational employment and wages data, showcasing its role in the workforce.

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Fast food chains play a crucial part in job creation and offering employment opportunities across the nation. The sheer number of Subway locations in the U.S. further underlines the industry's substantial impact on employment.

As the fast food sector continues to expand, it brings about a surge in job opportunities for many individuals, contributing to the overall employment trends in the country.

Job Opportunities

With the fast food industry expanding rapidly, numerous job opportunities are being created for individuals across the United States. Currently, the industry provides employment to approximately 3,450,120 individuals in various roles within fast food establishments. Occupational employment and wages data underscore the importance of these jobs, showcasing their significant contribution to the workforce.

Fast food chains play a crucial role in job creation and employ a substantial number of people throughout the country. For instance, Subway, the largest franchised store in the U.S., serves as a prime example of the industry's impact on employment opportunities.

As the fast food sector continues to grow, it continues to generate more job prospects, offering employment to a diverse range of individuals nationwide.

Fast Food and COVID-19 Impact

Amid the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the fast food industry swiftly pivoted to rely heavily on drive-thru and delivery services to meet consumer demand and ensure safety. This shift in consumer behavior led to a significant increase in online orders for pickup and delivery, rising by almost 12% during the pandemic. However, foot traffic to fast food restaurants saw a sharp decline of 45% since the lockdown measures were implemented.

To adapt to the changing landscape, fast food restaurants implemented various safety measures and contactless options to serve customers. As a result, lunch orders experienced a notable 18% increase as consumer habits shifted towards more convenient and safer dining options. The industry's ability to quickly adjust its operations and cater to the evolving needs of consumers showcases its resilience in the face of unprecedented challenges brought about by the global health crisis.

Fast Food Industry Growth and Trends

The fast food industry is continually evolving, with growth patterns, emerging market trends, and shifts in consumer preferences driving its trajectory.

Understanding these dynamics is crucial for industry stakeholders looking to capitalize on opportunities and navigate challenges effectively.

Industry Growth Patterns

Demonstrating consistent expansion and profitability, the fast food industry has displayed notable growth trends in recent years. The industry's remarkable growth can be illustrated by the following statistics:

  • The global fast food market is projected to reach an impressive $931.7 billion by 2027.
  • The US fast food industry experienced a steady growth rate of 1.1% per year between 2016 and 2021.
  • In 2021 alone, the market size of the fast food industry is estimated to increase by a significant 8.9%.
  • Fast food restaurants have consistently shown continuous revenue growth over the years, indicating sustained consumer demand and market strength.
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These figures underscore the industry's resilience and potential for further expansion in the future.

Emerging Market Trends

After showcasing consistent growth patterns and profitability, the fast food industry is now witnessing notable emerging market trends that signal continued expansion and evolution in the sector.

With the global fast food market projected to reach $931.7 billion by 2027 and an expected 8.9% increase in market size in 2021, the industry is on a strong upward trajectory. Post-pandemic, there has been a significant rise in demand for dining out, further fueling the growth of fast food establishments.

The US fast food industry is also poised for growth at a rate of 4.6% CAGR, indicating a positive outlook. Additionally, American fast food chains expanding to over 100 countries globally highlight the industry's international growth potential, paving the way for new market opportunities.

Consumer Preference Shifts

An intriguing transformation in consumer preferences is currently reshaping the landscape of the fast food industry, influencing its growth and trends significantly. This shift is evident in various ways:

  1. Rise of Health-Conscious Choices: Consumers are increasingly opting for healthier menu options, leading to the introduction of more nutritious alternatives by fast food chains.
  2. Emphasis on Sustainability: There is a growing demand for sustainable practices in the industry, prompting companies to focus on eco-friendly packaging and sourcing.
  3. Preference for Convenience: With busy lifestyles, consumers are gravitating towards fast and convenient dining experiences, driving the popularity of quick-serv restaurants.
  4. Exploration of Diverse Flavors: Ethnic cuisines and unique flavor profiles are gaining traction, encouraging fast food establishments to diversify their menu offerings.


In conclusion, the fast food industry in the United States has shown resilience and adaptability in the face of changing consumer preferences and the challenges of COVID-19. With a focus on digital transformation, menu innovation, and catering to health trends, the industry is poised for continued growth and success.

The sheer size and revenue of the industry, along with its ability to quickly pivot in response to external factors, demonstrate its importance in the American economy.