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Most Common Fast Food Chains in North Carolina

Credit: iStock

Reinette LeJeune

It was in the 1950’s that fast food restaurants rose to fame, with the 60’s bringing about the American highway system. The combination of these two factors mixed seamlessly together for a new form of American culture – traversing long open roads for hours at a time, and finding respite in the pit stops at fast food chains along the way. This new on-the-go lifestyle and car-centric infrastructure lead to many beloved chains such as McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, etc.  growing and expanding through the decades to meet the demand of travelers. 

In recent years, however, Americans have grown more conscious of just how unhealthy some fast food options are, leading to new demands for cleaner, healthier fast food options. Rather than ignoring these new concerns, many restaurants pivoted to introduce healthier, plant-based options to their menus and evolve with the times. This had led to a new reinvigoration for fast food, especially with the high prices that come with seeking out organic foods. 

Recently, Stacker compiled a list of the most common fast food chains in the state of North Carolina using data from the Friendly City Lab at Georgia Tech. Do take note that these chains are ranked by the number of locations in North Carolina in 2021. Of course, with the prolonged presence of the pandemic since 2020, many restaurants have shuttered, and as such, these figures are expected to differ from the current actual count. Fast food, fast casual, and coffee chains were considered for the list. Data was available for 20,889 restaurants in North Carolina, of which 9,868 are chain restaurants.

#20: Panera Bread, 82 locations.

#19: Dairy Queen, 89 locations.

#18: Zaxby’s, 107 locations.

#17: Jersey Mike’s Subs, 135 locations.

#16: Arby’s, 149 locations.

#15: Waffle House, 157 locations.

#14: (Tie) Papa John’s Pizza, 173 locations.

#13: (Tie) KFC, 173 locations.

#12: Chick-fil-a, 174 locations.

#11: Starbucks, 195 locations.

#10: Hardee’s, 237 locations. 

#9: Burger King, 241 locations.

#8: Pizza Hut, 256 locations.

#7: Taco Bell, 257 locations.

#6: Wendy’s, 261 locations.

#5: Dunkin’ Donuts, 283 locations.

#4: Domino’s Pizza, 305 locations.

#3: Bojangle’s, 333 locations.

#2: McDonald’s, 470 locations.

#1: Subway, 804 locations.