Ranked: The Most Popular Quick Service Restaurants in America

December 7, 2021

Fiorella Riccobono

Millions of Americans eat at fast food restaurants every day—and they now have more options at their disposal than ever before.

From french fries to coffee drinks, there’s a quick service restaurant that’ll satisfy almost any appetite. With all of these options, which fast food chains are the most popular among consumers?

Using data from Premise, the global insights platform, we have aggregated consumer preference data into the types of foods Americans have been craving.

French fries 

Earlier this year, Premise searched for the best french fries in the country, so we asked 100 Contributors across the United States to help us rate french fries. Our Contributors visited 10 fast-food chains: Arby’s, Burger King, Chick-fil-A, Five Guys, Hardee’s, In-N-Out, McDonald’s, Popeyes and Wendy’s. They were tasked with ordering medium french fries and reporting back on taste, texture, temperature, and price.

So, who offers the french fries with the most satisfying taste? We found out. Of these 10 fast-food chains (Arby’s, Burger King, Chick-fil-A, Five Guys, Hardee’s, In-N-Out, McDonald’s, Popeyes and Wendy’s), these 3 offer most satisfying french fries:

  1. Chick-fil-A
  2. Arby’s
  3. Shake Shack

Not only is Chick-fil-A the french fry with the most satisfying taste, but it is also the most affordable, averaging $1.99 for a medium fry. 

We also asked 100 of our contributors what they look for in their fries:

  • 60% say the taste is the most important factor
  • 21% say the temperature is the most important
  • 16% say the texture 
  • 2% say the price 
  • 1% say other factors make a truly satisfying fry 

See the in-depth findings here.

Fried Chicken 

While a solid order of fries can make or break an order, tensions run high when it comes to fried chicken sandwiches. Juicy, spicy, crunchy and fingerlickin’ good. Back in 2019, there was baffling hype around Popeyes’ chicken sandwich – but is it the best fried chicken in 2021? This past month, we asked Contributors which fast-food restaurants have the best fried chicken sandwich, and over 20,000 of our Contributors voted. 

Over ⅓ of participants (35%) say Chick-fil-A has the best fried chicken sandwich, and Popeyes was in second place, with KFC winning a distant third.

We also asked, “What is the most important aspect of a great fried chicken sandwich?”. The taste was overwhelmingly the most important detail (64%), followed by crunchiness (21%), then price (6%).

Finally, we asked, “Approximately how often do you eat fast food?” More than half of Contributors (53%) are eating fast food weekly. ¼ are consuming fast food monthly.

So, Chick-Fil-A is the crowned king in both categories.

Coffee

Earlier this year, we gathered some Starbucks data just in time for Pumpkin Spiced Latte season on how local coffee store owners will have to think outside the box to compete with the coffee giant’s evolving business.

We asked 250 Contributors across the country to order a medium drink from either Starbucks or their local coffee shop and report back on their experiences. 

Here is what we learned from 250 coffee drinkers:

  • 66% of contributors decided to go to Starbucks over a local coffee shop when given a choice.
    • Overwhelmingly, the Contributors who went to Starbucks did so out of convenience. 
      • 97% of Starbucks customers who order on the app would go elsewhere if they were notified on the Starbucks App that they were out of the ingredients that go into their drink order
      • People are 35% more likely to order a Chai or Matcha at Starbucks than a local coffee shop.
  • Overwhelmingly, the Contributors who went to a local coffee shop did so out of price (more affordable)
    • Customers are 1.2x more likely to stay an hour sitting at a local coffee shop than a Starbucks coffee.
    • Customers at local coffee shops care more about ambiance than those who go to Starbucks. 
    • Customers who drink coffee in local coffee shops care about ethical coffee 2x more than those who go to Starbucks.
  • Starbucks drinks were enjoyed marginally more than drinks ordered at a local coffee shop.

While many coffee enthusiasts may still prefer the vibe of their local coffee shop, coffeehouse owners may need to rethink how they differentiate themselves now that Starbucks is encroaching on their turf. 

Not only did we ask where you buy your coffee, we also wanted to know your favorite order. With the US holiday season upon us again, the newest Premise Topic of the Week is coming in hot… and best enjoyed in a large mug next to a fire.

Last week, we asked Premise Contributors to tell us your favorite holiday drink.

After nearly 17,000 responses from Contributors residing across the U.S., the findings are in.

Here are three takeaways we learned from asking Americans about their favorite (non-alcoholic) holiday beverage in 2021.

According to 16,941 responses, two drinks in our list tied for the title of favorite holiday beverage at 16% of the vote apiece: Eggnog Latte and the famous, maybe infamous, Pumpkin Spice Latte.

Coming in second and third were Peppermint Hot Chocolate and Hot Apple Cider — two traditional entries that, frankly, I thought were each capable of running away with it. 

Which type of beverage do you crave most during the holidays?

  1. TIE – Pumpkin Spice Latte & Eggnog Latte (16% each)
  2. Peppermint Hot Chocolate (15%)
  3. Hot Apple Cider (14%)
  4. I don’t like holiday drinks (14%)
  5. Peppermint Mocha (11%)
  6. Other (9%)
  7. Pumpkin Cold Brew (2%)
  8. Maple Oat Latte (2%)

The result is a resounding victory for Pumpkin Spice Latte, a drink whose online notoriety has made it a cultural bedrock in some circles — an emblem of everything cozy about the onset of fall and winter — while earning it derision elsewhere. As with everything these days, being highly divisive has done no disservice to the popularity of #PSL, as our Topic of the Week proves.

Basic or not, Pumpkin Spice Latte has demonstrated it is here to stay.

Lattes reign supreme

Joining Pumpkin Spice in the top spot is a fellow latte — the dark horse candidate Eggnog Latte — and adding 2% of the vote is the final latte, Maple Oat.

All together, lattes captured 36% of the vote. It’s a strong showing for a type of coffee drink not usually associated with cold weather so much as with upscale, cosmopolitan cafes. Which brings us to:

Starbucks owns holiday beverages

Perhaps the most striking result from our survey was about where people choose to get their holiday beverages from: overwhelmingly, it is from Starbucks.

The Seattle-based coffee juggernaut was voted the go-to source for holiday beverages by over one-third of our Contributor community and almost 70% more than the runner-up, Dunkin’. Third place was local coffee shops.

The data suggests that Starbucks, probably buoyed by the viral fame of Pumpkin Spice Latte, has a near-lock on the holiday beverage market.

Holiday beverage consumers splurge for better taste

According to our data, consumers choose holiday beverages based on one quality above all others: taste.

Not cost, not convenience, not even caffeine content. Purely taste. So not only is Starbucks America’s coffee joint of choice, but they are also serving up 2021’s favorite holiday drink. 

‘Tis the season to indulge—that’s how the saying goes, right? Bells are ringing, children singing, and if you’re choosing to celebrate the holidays with copious calorie consumption, we’re not here to judge. From holiday drinks to fried chicken, we got you covered on how to optimize your quick service order.

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