When you think about the biggest money-makers in fast food, your mind probably instantly jumps to McDonald’s. Those Golden Arches are recognized around the globe, and it makes a whopping $37.5 billion in U.S. sales alone every year, making it the most successful fast-food restaurant in the country, according to 2017 data in a QSR revenue report. A big part of its success is the fact that it has more than 14,000 stores around America, each working into that grand total. But each individual store actually doesn’t make as much as some of its competition.
If you’ve done the math, you might already have realized that spreading that $37.5 billion among 14,000 U.S. branches means each McDonald’s store makes just under $2.7 million in a year. It’s definitely nothing to sniff your nose at, but that’s not the highest revenue in fast food. Plus, it’s also not the most common restaurant.
To be in the fast-food chain making the most money per store, you’ll have to eat mor chikin. That’s right: Chick-fil-A stores are the highest earners in the industry. With only about 2,225 stores around the country making a $9 billion total, each one rakes in $4.1 million in a year. That’s a lot of chicken! And that’s even more impressive when you consider the fact that the chain is closed on Sundays. For comparison, every KFC makes about $1.2 million in a year.
Experts attribute its success to solid top-down management: Chick-fil-A is picky about who it will let operate a restaurant (owners aren’t supposed to have any other business ventures, meaning they can put their heart and soul into the chicken chain), and those leaders, in turn, foster a friendly, family-like environment. Workers are in it for the long haul, and their good attitude makes for a more pleasant experience for customers too.
Only two other fast-food chains make more money per store than McDonald’s, according to the QSR report. Panera Bread—arguably in another fast-casual category—squeaks just above Mickey D’s with about $2.7 million a year, and there’s even a burger chain that beats out the home of the Big Mac. Texas chain Whataburger has only 821 stores, but each one makes about $2.8 million annually. Apparently, the big guys don’t always come out on top.