20 Top USA Fast Food Chains & Their Menus

Petr Novák

Hamburgers and hot dogs are as intrinsic to the USA as the Statue of Liberty or Hollywood. Approximately a quarter of the population dines at fast-food restaurants every day. The array of fast-food chains in America is vast, and you can find tips for the best in this article.

20 Top USA Fast Food Chains & Their Menus | © Sarah Stierch / Flickr.com, © angela n. / Flickr.com

Table of Contents
  1. Dining in the USA: What You Need to Know Before You Bite into a French Fry
  2. 20 Fast-Food Places to Eat in the USA
  3. Chipotle Mexican Grill: Burritos, Quesadillas, and Tacos
  4. In-N-Out Burger: Burgers
  5. Shake Shack: Milkshakes and Burgers
  6. Five Guys: Burgers and Hot Dogs
  7. Chick-fil-A: Chicken
  8. Dairy Queen (DQ): Dairy and Burgers
  9. Wendy’s – Burgers and Chicken Sandwiches
  10. Arby’s – Sandwiches
  11. Jack in the Box – Burgers
  12. Carl’s/Hardee’s – Burgers
  13. Subway – Fresh Sub Sandwiches
  14. Burger King – Burgers
  15. McDonald’s – Burgers, Fries, and Coke
  16. Starbucks – Coffee Shops
  17. Dunkin’ – Donuts and Coffee
  18. Krispy Kreme Doughnuts – Doughnuts
  19. KFC/Taco Bell – Chicken and Mexican Cuisine
  20. Pizza Hut: Pizza
  21. Domino’s: Pizza
  22. Little Caesars: Pizza and Bread

Dining in the USA: What You Need to Know Before You Bite into a French Fry

💵 Food Prices at American Fast-Food Restaurants

When visiting a fast-food restaurant, expect to pay an average price of $10.00–$12.00, which includes small fries and a small drink. Upgrading to the largest size typically costs up to $1.00. Prices significantly vary between restaurants and states.

🧾 Tax and Gratuity Not Included

The varying sales tax rates from state to state also affect the price. Food prices on menus and in advertisements are usually quoted without tax. Unlike traditional restaurants, fast-food restaurants do not generally expect you to tip the server.

💲 How to Save Money at an American Fast-Food Restaurant

Never discard your order receipts; you’ll often find discount coupons on them for your next visit. Some establishments may require you to invest a few minutes to fill out a feedback form to obtain a discount. Downloading the chain’s mobile app, which usually has discounts, is also beneficial. In some cases, you can download the app from as far away as the USA.

🕒 Fast-Food Opening Hours in the USA

Most restaurants open early in the morning, offering breakfast menus. They do not close until late at night, providing the option to stop in for a late dinner after a busy day. Some chains operate 24/7, and this information is usually displayed in large letters outside the restaurant.

🥤 Meal Sizes at American Fast-Food Restaurants

One aspect that might surprise you about fast-food restaurants in the USA is the large portion sizes of the food and the massive soda cups. Often, two people can easily share one large meal. A large cup at McDonald’s contains 0.89 liters, but it is not the largest size available. The 7-Eleven diner chain offers the largest drink size: a 3.79-liter cup labeled “Team Gulp.”

⭐ How to Choose a Good Fast-Food Restaurant

The standards set by the chain are one thing, but the reality in restaurants can often differ. When choosing a fast-food restaurant, I recommend checking the ratings and reading a few reviews on Google Maps. If a place has a rating lower than 4.0, expect some drawbacks.

🍔 How to Navigate the Restaurant Menu

Drinks sweetened with artificial sweeteners instead of sugar are labeled “Diet,” and the generic term “soda” is used for sweetened carbonated beverages. “French fries” refers to fried potato strips. Menus that include both a drink and fries are labeled “Meal.”

20 Fast-Food Places to Eat in the USA

The following 20 fast-food restaurants and cafes are probably the most common in the USA. Please take the prices listed as a strong guide, they vary considerably depending on the type of establishment or its location. I last updated the prices on June 18, 2024, please post any inaccuracies in the comments.

  1. 20 Top USA Fast Food Chains & Their Menus | © Jazz Guy / Flickr.com

    Chipotle Mexican Grill: Burritos, Quesadillas, and Tacos

    Chipotle Mexican Grill is my favorite American fast-food joint. Specializing in Mexican cuisine, my personal favorite is the Crispy Corn Chicken Tacos with guacamole. You can tailor your order to your preferences. Chipotle strikes me as healthier than its burger competitors because it uses quality ingredients, often organic. As a result, meal prices are higher.

    The Chipotle Mexican Grill chain was founded in 1993, with all initial locations in Colorado. Interestingly, in contrast to other fast-food restaurants, Chipotle strictly avoids franchises. It owns all of its restaurants, with 3,437 operating in 2024. The vast majority are located in the USA.

    💵 Price per Menu

    The typical price of a meal at Chipotle is $6.50–$7.50. This applies to Burritos, Bowl, Tacos, and Salad. Guacamole usually costs an additional $2.25, and drinks are an extra $2.35.

  2. 20 Top USA Fast Food Chains & Their Menus | © Ryan Kartzke / Flickr.com

    In-N-Out Burger: Burgers

    In-N-Out Burger is a noteworthy fast-food chain that deserves your attention. Compared to, say, Burger King, I’ve found my experiences with In-N-Out Burger in Los Angeles significantly better, with lower prices.

    The signature product is the Double-Double Burger, which includes two patties, two slices of cheddar, onions, lettuce, sliced tomato, and mayo. This recipe has remained unchanged since 1948.

    You’ll find In-N-Out Burger restaurants almost exclusively on the West Coast of the U.S., most often in California. Despite the first restaurant opening in 1948, it is still owned and operated by the Snyder family. In-N-Out Burger does not franchise, and there are no large corporations backing the company. In 2024, only 417 restaurants were in operation, all within the USA.

    💵 Price per Menu

    The Double-Double Burger meal costs $10.15, the Cheeseburger meal is $9.29, and the Hamburger meal is $8.89. The price includes fries and a medium drink.

  3. 20 Top USA Fast Food Chains & Their Menus | © Kanesue / Flickr.com

    Shake Shack: Milkshakes and Burgers

    Shake Shack originated in 2001 as a humble hot dog cart in New York’s Madison Square Park. It obtained a permanent stand permit in 2004 and began constructing its first restaurants in June 2010. By 2024, it boasted 262 locations in the USA and an additional 142 in various countries around the globe.

    The Shake Shack chain derived its name from its unique milkshakes, which are frequently acclaimed. I’m not exactly a shake connoisseur, so their quality is for you to judge. Shake Shack uses 100% USA-slaughtered beef in their burgers. They set themselves apart from competitors by using potato buns and crinkle-cut fries.

    💵 Price per Menu

    Prices at Shake Shack are above those of competitors, but I still recommend a visit to the restaurant. A single ShackBurger costs around $8.39, while a double burger is approximately $11.49. The SmokeShack burger is priced at $10.19, with the double-meat SmokeShack burger at $13.39. A milkshake costs around $6.89.

  4. 20 Top USA Fast Food Chains & Their Menus | © kjarrett / Flickr.com

    Five Guys: Burgers and Hot Dogs

    Fast-food chain Five Guys specializes in high-quality burgers and hot dogs. If you stumble upon this restaurant, I recommend stepping in and sampling the burgers. The superior quality is reflected in the price, but it’s worth it.

    The Five Guys menu may not impress with innovative dish names, but nearly all items can be customized to your preference. Five Guys pays attention to detail, using American cheddar and applewood-smoked bacon. Burgers come in two sizes: the Regular with two patties and the Little with one. An unusual item on the menu is the bacon shake.

    The first Five Guys restaurant was established in Arlington, Virginia in 1986. The first franchises began opening in the USA and around the world in 2003, and the count has been steadily growing since.

    💵 Price per Menu

    Smaller burgers with a single patty range from $5.69 to $7.69, while the larger version with two patties is priced at $2.00. Fries are sold separately, usually costing $3.09 for a small, $4.19 for medium, and $5.79 for large.

  5. 20 Top USA Fast Food Chains & Their Menus | © young shanahan / Flickr.com

    Chick-fil-A: Chicken

    Chick-fil-A is a fast-food chain specializing in chicken meals – nuggets, strips, salads, or sandwiches. The chain utilizes quality ingredients, hence restaurant prices tend to be higher. An intriguing dish from Chick-fil-A is the grilled chicken nuggets, which aren’t coated in breadcrumbs but merely marinated.

    The inaugural Chick-fil-A branch opened on May 23, 1946, in Hapeville, Georgia. By 2024, Chick-fil-A had over 3,000 outlets, primarily in the United States.

    💵 Price per Menu

    The most affordable sandwiches at Chick-fil-A sell for $7.59, roughly the same price as eight pieces of chicken nuggets. A small fries and a small drink are included in the price of the sandwich.

  6. 20 Top USA Fast Food Chains & Their Menus | © Daniel / Flickr.com

    Dairy Queen (DQ): Dairy and Burgers

    The Dairy Queen chain offers a bit of everything. It started as an ice cream and dairy shop in the 1940s. Over time, it added snacks, cakes, chicken wings, and eventually burgers and sandwiches to its menu.

    Signature items on the burger menu are Stackburgers in several variations, their trademark being two to three patties. Personally, I wasn’t overly impressed with Dairy Queen, but perhaps its ice creams with varied sprinkles and toppings will captivate you.

    Signature items on the burger menu include several variations of Stackburgers, their hallmark being two to three burgers. Personally, I wasn’t too impressed with Dairy Queen, but perhaps its ice creams with unusual sprinkles and toppings will win you over.

    As of February 2024, Dairy Queen had a total of 4,455 locations in the USA.

    💵 Prices per Menu Item

    The smallest Blizzard Treat ice cream in all flavors sells for $2.89, small for $3.69, medium for $4.09 and large for $4.69. Burgers at DQ cost $6.00–$8.00, including a drink and fries.

  7. 20 Top USA Fast Food Chains & Their Menus | © Rick Obst / Flickr.com

    Wendy’s – Burgers and Chicken Sandwiches

    Wendy’s is among the five largest fast-food chains in the USA. Its hallmark is the square-shaped burger. The main competitors for Wendy’s are McDonald’s and Burger King.
    The first Wendy’s restaurant opened on November 15, 1969, in Columbus, Ohio. By 2024, Wendy’s had about 7,000 restaurants in 30 countries. Interestingly, Wendy’s doesn’t have a signature burger like the McDonald’s Big Mac or the Burger King Whopper.

    💵 Prices per Menu Item

    The quarter-pound Dave’s Hot ‘n Juicy usually sells for $9.19, the half-pound version for $10.39 and the three-quarter-pound version for $11.59. The price includes cheese, chips, and a drink. For $0.60 you can upgrade to the Medium Combo, and for $1.10 you can upgrade to the Large Combo.

  8. 20 Top USA Fast Food Chains & Their Menus | © Mike Mozart / Flickr.com

    Arby’s – Sandwiches

    Arby’s is a fast-food chain focused on fresh sandwiches that feature roast beef instead of fried patties. Its signature products include roast beef and curly fries. In addition to beef, it also offers chicken, gyros, fish fillets, and brisket.
    The first restaurant opened on July 23, 1964, in Boardman, Ohio, and by 2024, Arby’s had 3,413 restaurants, mostly in the USA. The name Arby’s comes from the initials of the founding brothers (Raffael Brothers).

    💵 Prices per Menu Item

    Most sandwiches sell for $5.69 to $7.69, including small fries and a small drink. For $0.59, you can buy a Make It Medium Meal upgrade, and for $0.99, a Make It Large Meal upgrade.

  9. 20 Top USA Fast Food Chains & Their Menus | © Nyenyec / Flickr.com

    Jack in the Box – Burgers

    Jack in the Box is a chain of burger fast-food restaurants primarily found on the West Coast of the United States. In terms of price and quality, it is average. In addition to burgers, Jack in the Box also offers tacos.
    The first Jack in the Box restaurant opened on February 21, 1951, in California. As of 2024, there were 2,191 restaurants in operation.

    💵 Prices per Menu Item

    The price of burgers at Jack in the Box ranges from $9.99 to $12.99. Small fries and a small drink are included, and for $0.59 you can upgrade to the Medium size, and for $0.99 you can upgrade to the Large size. A budget-friendly option is 2 Tacos for $0.99.

  10. 20 Top USA Fast Food Chains & Their Menus | © Rick Obst / Flickr.com

    Carl’s/Hardee’s – Burgers

    The fast-food chain began as Carl’s Drive-In Barbecue in 1941, introducing burgers to its menu five years later. Carl’s Jr. prepares all its burgers over a fire, the restaurant’s hallmark being the cheerful yellow star in the logo. I personally enjoyed the Guacamole Bacon Angus Burger from the menu.
    Carl’s fast-food outlets are predominantly in the western and southern parts of the USA. In fact, the company was divided in 2018, and the restaurants in the eastern and northern parts of the USA now operate under a different brand. The logo also features a cheerful star, but they bear the Hardee’s name.

    💵 Price per Menu

    Menu prices at both Carl’s and Hardee’s range between $6.69 and $9.09. The price of the menu includes fries and a drink. You can upgrade to medium for $0.59 and large for $0.99.

  11. 20 Top USA Fast Food Chains & Their Menus | © Phillip Pessar / Flickr.com

    Subway – Fresh Sub Sandwiches

    Subway specializes in freshly prepared sandwiches. Customers can either select from a standard menu or create their own. The chain was established in 1965 in Bridgeport, Connecticut. By 2024, Subway had over 37,000 restaurants in 104 countries.
    Personally, I enjoy Subway and occasionally visit one in the USA. Subway offers me a choice between healthy and unhealthy options, provides unsweetened tea as an alternative to sugary sodas, and occasionally introduces limited edition sandwiches to the menu.

    💵 Price per Menu

    There is quite a variance in the prices of the sandwiches. The less expensive Footlong sandwiches (measuring around 30 cm) cost approximately $7.49, while the heartier meat sandwiches are priced around $10.00.

  12. 20 Top USA Fast Food Chains & Their Menus | © Mike Mozart / Flickr.com

    Burger King – Burgers

    Burger King’s menu primarily comprises burgers, spearheaded by the Whopper that includes beef, a sesame seed bun, mayo, lettuce, tomato, pickle, ketchup, and onion. There’s also a Double Whopper and a Triple Whopper with larger portions of meat. Most of the food at Burger King is prepared in advance and then awaits its customer. You can ensure a freshly prepared meal with a simple trick, just add any extra ingredient to your burger. Even if it’s merely a slice of tomato, the burger will be freshly prepared for you.
    Burger King was founded in 1953 in Jacksonville, Florida, originally under the name Insta-Burger King. The name was shortened a year later. By 2024, Burger King operated just under 19,000 restaurants in more than 100 countries. Its main competitor is McDonald’s.

    💵 Price per Menu

    The most famous burger, the Whopper, typically sells for $11.89, the Double Whopper for $13.19, and perhaps 16 chicken nuggets for $4.99. The price includes a small drink and small fries. For $0.60, the menu can be upgraded to medium and for $1.20 to large.

  13. 20 Top USA Fast Food Chains & Their Menus | © Bas&Marie / Flickr.com

    McDonald’s – Burgers, Fries, and Coke

    McDonald’s is arguably the most renowned fast-food company worldwide, with approximately 40,000 restaurants in 120 countries. The core of McDonald’s menu consists of burgers, fries, and cola.
    The first restaurant opened on May 15, 1940, in San Bernardino, California, and today, the site is home to the McDonald’s Museum. The industry experienced a significant boom and shift after 1948 when founding brothers Richard and Maurice McDonald developed a revolutionary quick-service system.

    In the US, McDonald’s faces an interesting challenge, as it is often not a very appealing chain for the younger generation, where “great-grandmothers used to go for a burger.”

    💵 Price per Menu

    A Big Mac Meal typically costs around $7.89, a Quarter Pounder with cheese in the menu is usually priced at $7.99, and 10 chicken nuggets typically cost $12.99. Although prices can fluctuate from state to state, you’ll usually pay between $6.00 and $8.00 for a menu.

  14. 20 Top USA Fast Food Chains & Their Menus | © Unsplash.com

    Starbucks – Coffee Shops

    It wouldn’t be much of an exaggeration to say that there are Starbucks coffee shops on every major street in the US. More often than not, you’ll find not one, but two Starbucks outlets on the same street. As strange as it may sound, both branches benefit from this arrangement. Starbucks often makes smart decisions; its loyalty program, for example, helps fund renovations of its coffee shops.
    The first Starbucks coffee shop opened in Seattle on March 30, 1971. By 2024, it had expanded to 38,038 locations in 86 countries. Starbucks offers customers free internet, often serving as a makeshift office.

    💵 Price of coffee

    Prices at Starbucks are quite high. A Caffe Latte Tall costs around $3.75, a Grande roughly $4.45, and the largest size, Venti, sells for $4.95. Coffees that are more complex to prepare are about $1.00 more expensive.

  15. 20 Top USA Fast Food Chains & Their Menus | © Mike Mozart / Flickr.com

    Dunkin’ – Donuts and Coffee

    Dunkin’ (known as Dunkin’ Donuts until 2022) is not your typical fast-food lunch spot. It’s more like a sweet shop, with doughnuts and coffee at the forefront of the menu. Moreover, the prices of the doughnuts are designed to encourage customers to buy them by the half dozen or dozen.
    Dunkin’ offers a wide variety of doughnut flavors and designs. Among the more unique variations are doughnuts flavored with cinnamon, guava, peanut butter, or coconut. However, all are heavily sweetened. Dunkin’ had around 13,200 locations in 42 countries by 2024. The first shop opened in 1950 in Quincy, Massachusetts.

    💵 Price of donuts

    A single Dunkin’ donut sells for $1.86, 6 doughnuts cost $9.98, and 12 pieces are priced at $17.48. A small coffee usually costs $2.79, medium $3.19, and a large $3.59.

  16. 20 Top USA Fast Food Chains & Their Menus | © Choo Yut Shing / Flickr.com

    Krispy Kreme Doughnuts – Doughnuts

    Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, a competitor to Dunkin’, also primarily offers coffee and vibrant, multi-colored doughnuts. Their menu is divided into glazed, sprinkled, filled, and chocolate-covered doughnuts. The daily menu in the shops varies, and again, the doughnuts are overly sweet for my taste.
    The first Krispy Kreme Doughnuts location opened on July 13, 1937, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. By 2023, Krispy Kreme had about 1,400 locations worldwide.

    💵 Price of doughnuts

    A plain glazed doughnut usually sells for $0.99, a pack of 12 doughnuts is priced at $7.99. The more elaborately decorated doughnuts are priced at $1.09 each or in a pack of 12 for $8.99. Even more expensive are the special edition Krispy Kreme doughnuts, one piece for $1.29 or 12 pieces for $11.39.

  17. 20 Top USA Fast Food Chains & Their Menus | © Mike Mozart / Flickr.com

    KFC/Taco Bell – Chicken and Mexican Cuisine

    Surprisingly, KFC restaurants are not as ubiquitous in the USA as one might imagine. However, there are often KFC/Taco Bell combination restaurants where you can find both menus under one roof. This partnership is enabled by both chains being owned by Yum! Brands.

    The first Taco Bell restaurant opened on March 21, 1962 in Downey, California, and the first KFC, still under the name Sanders Court & Café, opened on March 20, 1930 in North Corbin, Kentucky. The two businesses were merged in 1986 when PepsiCo bought them out.

    💵 Price of food

    Taco Bell’s Crunchy Taco is $2.21, the larger Chicken Quesadilla is $5.96 and the Chicken Burrito, for example, is $2.91.

    A six-pack of chicken wings at KFC usually sells for $9.59, a larger 12-pack is priced at $16.43. The price includes a side dish and a medium drink.

  18. 20 Top USA Fast Food Chains & Their Menus | © Mike Mozart / Flickr.com

    Pizza Hut: Pizza

    Pizza Hut boasts over 6,000 restaurants in the USA alone, with approximately 18,800 worldwide. The first pizza restaurant opened in 1958 in Wichita, Kansas.
    The menu at Pizza Hut does not differ significantly from those of Domino’s and Papa John’s. The pizzas are available in two sizes and with four different crust options. As Pizza Hut operates globally, there’s little incentive for me to specifically visit these restaurants in the USA.

    💵 Price of Pizza

    Prices vary based on the quantity of toppings and the crust choice. A medium pizza generally costs $15.95, a large pizza $18.35, and a single slice of pre-baked pizza can be bought for $4.79–$5.29.

  19. 20 Top USA Fast Food Chains & Their Menus | © Ryan Abel / Flickr.com

    Domino’s: Pizza

    Domino’s, a pizza restaurant chain, was established in 1960 in Michigan. As of 2024, it expanded to 20,591 restaurants worldwide, recognized by its domino-shaped logo. Personally, there’s nothing outstanding that would entice me to specifically visit Domino’s for a meal.
    In addition to pizza, Domino’s also serves sandwiches, pasta, and various chicken dishes.

    💵 Price of Pizza

    Most pizzas are available in three sizes. A regular 10-inch small pizza is $13.99, a medium 12-inch pizza is $16.99, and a large 14-inch pizza is $19.99.

  20. 20 Top USA Fast Food Chains & Their Menus | © Mike Kalasnik

    Little Caesars: Pizza and Bread

    Little Caesars is the third-largest pizza chain in the USA by sales. The chain’s specialty is that all pizzas are pre-baked, ready for customers to pick up at the restaurant. The signature pizza of the chain is the Hot-N-Ready Pizza, featuring spicy sausage slices and pretzel dough pizza edges. The Crazy Bread sticks filled with garlic butter and topped with Parmesan cheese are also worth trying.
    The first Little Caesars location opened on May 8, 1959, in Garden City, Michigan. As of 2024, about 4,203 restaurants are operational in the USA.

    💵 Price of Pizza

    The average price of a pizza at Little Caesars ranges from $9.00 to $12.00, and 8 Crazy Bread bars usually cost $5.00.

💬 Which American fast-food chain caught your attention, and where did you most enjoy your meal? Please share in the discussion. Thank you in advance for all your tips.

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