Restaurant industry in the U.S. - statistics & facts

The restaurant industry in the United States has seen healthy growth over the past few decades, despite challenges caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. As a leading contributor to the global restaurant market, the U.S. quick service restaurant (QSR) industry's output has increased by over 50 percent since 2007, reaching an all-time high of approximately 283 billion U.S. dollars in 2020. The output of the U.S. full service restaurant industry experienced similar growth in recent years and reached a total of over 80 billion U.S. dollars in 2020. For many in the U.S., restaurants have become an essential part of everyday personal and professional life. Millions depend on the hospitality sector for employment, however, the number of employees in the U.S. restaurant industry declined significantly in 2020 amidst the series of nationwide restaurant restrictions and closures caused by the health crisis.

Most popular restaurant chains in the United States

Some restaurant chains, especially QSRs, have become household names in both the U.S. and globally. McDonald's was by far the leading restaurant chain in the United States in terms of sales, followed by Starbucks and Chick-fil-A. In 2021, the global fast food giant was also the most valuable quick service restaurant brand worldwide. With an estimated brand value of approximately 155 billion U.S. dollars and annual sales of over 40 billion U.S. dollars, McDonald’s surpassed all other leading burger franchises, including Burger King and Wendy's. In terms of sales, the company also outperformed the most successful U.S. fine dining chains. Overall, QSRs have experienced steady growth over the past few years following the ever-increasing consumer appetite for quick and affordable meals. Today, the number of QSR establishments in the U.S. stands at an all-time high, and while many locations had to close their doors at least temporarily in 2020, drive-thru and delivery infrastructures have enabled restaurants to resume operations during the pandemic.

The future of the U.S. restaurant industry: is delivery taking over?

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a significant impact on the restaurant industry in the United States. While full service restaurants faced competition before the pandemic due to the fast food phenomenon and overall saturation of the market, the shift away from sit-down dining due to the pandemic accelerated this even further in 2020. Visits to full service restaurants in the United States declined by almost 50 percent, whereas quick service restaurants were not as severely affected. In light of this situation, small eateries and leading FSR chains expanded their digital presence and introduced delivery services to stay afloat. During the first weeks of the pandemic, most U.S. consumers who ordered food online did so directly through the restaurant’s website, but a significant amount also used third-party food delivery services, such as DoorDash or Uber Eats. Today, the marketplace for food delivery and takeaway is soaring, and the number of smartphone food delivery app users in the U.S. alone is forecast to grow to over 50 million users by 2023.

Key figures

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Quick service restaurants

Full service restaurants

Interesting statistics

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Restaurant industry in the U.S.

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Restaurant industry in the U.S. - statistics & facts

The restaurant industry in the United States has seen healthy growth over the past few decades, despite challenges caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. As a leading contributor to the global restaurant market, the U.S. quick service restaurant (QSR) industry's output has increased by over 50 percent since 2007, reaching an all-time high of approximately 283 billion U.S. dollars in 2020. The output of the U.S. full service restaurant industry experienced similar growth in recent years and reached a total of over 80 billion U.S. dollars in 2020. For many in the U.S., restaurants have become an essential part of everyday personal and professional life. Millions depend on the hospitality sector for employment, however, the number of employees in the U.S. restaurant industry declined significantly in 2020 amidst the series of nationwide restaurant restrictions and closures caused by the health crisis.

Most popular restaurant chains in the United States

Some restaurant chains, especially QSRs, have become household names in both the U.S. and globally. McDonald's was by far the leading restaurant chain in the United States in terms of sales, followed by Starbucks and Chick-fil-A. In 2021, the global fast food giant was also the most valuable quick service restaurant brand worldwide. With an estimated brand value of approximately 155 billion U.S. dollars and annual sales of over 40 billion U.S. dollars, McDonald’s surpassed all other leading burger franchises, including Burger King and Wendy's. In terms of sales, the company also outperformed the most successful U.S. fine dining chains. Overall, QSRs have experienced steady growth over the past few years following the ever-increasing consumer appetite for quick and affordable meals. Today, the number of QSR establishments in the U.S. stands at an all-time high, and while many locations had to close their doors at least temporarily in 2020, drive-thru and delivery infrastructures have enabled restaurants to resume operations during the pandemic.

The future of the U.S. restaurant industry: is delivery taking over?

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a significant impact on the restaurant industry in the United States. While full service restaurants faced competition before the pandemic due to the fast food phenomenon and overall saturation of the market, the shift away from sit-down dining due to the pandemic accelerated this even further in 2020. Visits to full service restaurants in the United States declined by almost 50 percent, whereas quick service restaurants were not as severely affected. In light of this situation, small eateries and leading FSR chains expanded their digital presence and introduced delivery services to stay afloat. During the first weeks of the pandemic, most U.S. consumers who ordered food online did so directly through the restaurant’s website, but a significant amount also used third-party food delivery services, such as DoorDash or Uber Eats. Today, the marketplace for food delivery and takeaway is soaring, and the number of smartphone food delivery app users in the U.S. alone is forecast to grow to over 50 million users by 2023.

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