Americans eat about 50 billion burgers per year. Put another way, that’s three burgers per week for every man, woman and child. Put still another way, that’s about 153 burgers per year, per person. And put another way, that’s a lot of burgers. And while the burger is perhaps the most distinctly American food, its reach is now global with major U.S. chains easily found around the world.
OK, so technically the Germans invented the burger, but it was Americans who perfected it and, later, mass-produced it. Today, burgers account for 40 percent of all sandwiches sold, from the bite-size burgers sold at the nation’s oldest burger chain (White Castle), to the mass-produced and massively profitable versions churned out by the billions (McDonald’s).
The food industry trade journal QSR rates the biggest fast-food chains every year. We broke out 16 chains that make their money on burgers, ranked them by U.S. sales for 2019, then took a deeper dive to figure out the underpinnings of their success. The top three offer no surprises, but tread deeper into the list and you're likely to find innovative upstarts and maybe even a burger chain you haven’t heard of. Yet.