Americans love fast food. So much so that around 40% of us consume it every day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Young adults, ages 20 to 39, are most likely to reach for the ready-to-eat meals, followed by middle-aged adults.
The fast food industry has been under attack as criticism of its unhealthy menu items has intensified. Even though prices of French fries, cheeseburgers, and chicken wings have remained relatively low, especially compared to other restaurant options, consumer preferences shifted to healthier choices such as wraps, sandwiches, and salads prepared with fresher ingredients.
To address shifting consumer preferences, some quick-service restaurants have begun to offer healthier items, but mostly fast food chains concentrate on low prices — and now they are staging a comeback. They have performed much better so far in 2018 than in the last five years, with sales increasing by 3.8% to $256 billion industry-wide. Low prices and convenience keep people coming back.
To identify America’s favorite regional fast-food chains, 24/7 Wall St. analyzed more than 70,000 fast food restaurants across the United States. To be considered, fast-food chains needed to have 10 or more establishments and at least 3.5 out of 5 stars on Yelp. If several restaurants have very close ratings, the one with the most reviews ranked higher.
In order to avoid the large national restaurant chains and focus on regional chains, we excluded from our analysis fast-food chains with locations in more than three geographical regions. For the purposes of this list, fast-food restaurants are defined as places that sell a limited number of food that is usually ready to eat, prepared in bulk in advance and kept hot, or only takes a few minutes to be prepare.